Summary: God’s covenant with Abram
March 16, 2008
We’re studying the grace and sovereignty of God in the life of Abram through the book of Genesis. God called Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the Promised Land. His nephew, Lot, was with him, and (if you’ll remember from last time) he was carried away by invaders in a political war.
Well, Abram heard about what happened to his nephew so he gathered up his allies and rescued Lot and returned home. He was the hero of the day!
You’d think that at this point Abram was on top of the world: he’s following God on this great journey and he’s just been given a major military victory against the mighty Elamites.
But we see that this isn’t the case:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great."
Now, why is Abram afraid?
Some think it’s because he’s afraid the Elamites will regroup and come for another battle, but the context of chapter 15 is God’s promise to Abram for, not only a son, but innumerable descendants and for the Promised Land. God says, “Your reward shall be very great,” but Abram can’t understand how so when he doesn’t have a natural-born son:
2Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3And Abram said, "Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
Abram realizes that he’s followed God this far to be made into a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3), but so far there hasn’t been any forward progress. To be the father of many he first has to be the father of one.
As it is, Eliezer will inherit all God has given, and I think Abram doubts (and fears) that maybe this trip has been for nothing. You know, he’s getting older, and he’s starting to wonder whether he’ll ever have a son to possess the land he’s been promised.
He looks at his circumstances with his own logic (just as Lot had done, 13:10), and he can’t see how things will work out.
4Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir."
Here we see the divine decree of God. Eliezer is not God’s choice; God has chosen Isaac to be the heir, and He’ll see it through.
5And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
Not only is Abram promised a natural son, he’s promised innumerable descendants!
Picture Abram in his doubt and fear; he’s worried about having one son, but God says, “Count the stars!” How pitiful that he worried about something as simple as having one son when the One who counts the number of the stars and gives them all names (Psalm 147:4) promised nations from him!
Abram couldn’t create a son for himself any more than he could count the stars, but God can do anything, and Abram comes to this realization:
6Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Now, we remember that his belief (his faith) is a gift which is given to him by God in the first place (Heb. 12:2), and by this gift, Abram was justified (Rom. 5:1).
It says here that God reckoned it to him as righteousness. Now, notice that the text doesn’t say that “Abram was considered righteous,” but that God reckoned (or credited) faith “as righteousness.”
It’s true that Abram is considered righteous simply because he’s in Christ, but here we see that his righteousness is given to him by God as a credit.
This is an important point because Paul uses it in Romans 4 to show that righteousness was given to him before he was circumcised: Before he was a circumcised Jew, Abram was an uncircumcised Gentile! He was one who did not pursue righteousness (Rom. 9:30), yet he received it by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
So, God promises a son and many descendants, and Abram believes Him.
7And He said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it."
Again, I think Abram is still in doubt, and he’s afraid maybe this trip is for nothing:
8He said, "O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?"
He’s saying, “How can I know for sure that this will happen?”