I. The Promises.
Gen 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great."
• God renews His promise. Abram renews his practice of worshiping and meeting with God.
• God said, “Did you see how I gave you those five kings with no losses?
• “Stick with me and two things you can count on: my protection and my reward, which is great.
II. The Problem.
Gen 15:2-3 But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir."
• Abram basically said, “God, all you promise is really not important to me if I don’t have a child.
• “Right now, a servant’s child is going to be the heir of what you give me, and that just doesn’t light my fire.”
III. The Provision.
Gen 15:4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: "This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir."
• God answer him and said, “No, your own son, one from your body, will be the owner of what I give you.”
IV. The Precision.
Gen 15:5 And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
• “Let me show you something, Abram. Count the stars. Take your time. When you’re finished, or if you give up, just let me know.”
• In an article written in 2004, it was estimated that there were 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone. According to the European Space Agency.
• Kind of makes you proud, doesn’t it, that being our home galaxy and all.
• The estimates were that there were that many galaxies, too, with that many stars in each galaxy.
• The last number I read, there are more than 1027 stars.
• That means there are more stars than there are grains of sand on the planet earth.
• Go figure. We live in a huge universe.
• In Abram’s days, before coal powered electrical plants, fuel burning factories, carbon emitting cars and other pollution, you could look up in the sky and see many more stars with the naked eye.
• OK, I said it, the N word, naked. Just kidding.
• I suspect Abram gave up quickly and God said, “So shall your family be across the earth.”
V. The Process.
Gen 15:6-7 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 7 And he said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess."
• Abram said, “OK, Lord, I am going to believe the best I can.”
• Sometimes the best we can is all we can. We need God to help us believe.
VI. The Petition.
Gen 15:8 But he said, "O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?"
• Now, I want to remind you that Abram didn’t have the Bible.
• He didn’t have Hebrews 11:1, which said, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
• The less of the Word of God people had in their days, the more they had to see to believe completely.
• For us, we have the Word of God.
• Rom 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
• Abram asked, “Show me something, God. How can I believe more?”
VII. The Proof.
Gen 15:9 He said to him, "Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."
Gen 15:10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half.
Gen 15:11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
• God said, “OK, I will give you another object lesson.
• “Take a three year old heifer, a female three year old goat, a ram that is three years old, a turtledove and a young pidgin.
• “Now cut up the big stuff and stack it up and wait.”
• Some buzzards looked down and thought they would grab some of the meat for a snack.
• Abram chased them away.
• I am not going to go into what the different animals could have represented or what the dividing the big animals and leaving the birds whole means.
• Not many commentaries agree, and there are some good sermons on them for later.
VIII. The Particulars.
Gen 15:12-21 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."
• Abram watches the animal carcuses until he slips into sleep.
• He has a deep dream about the future.
• In this, God lays out His whole plan for Abram and the new nation.
• They will be nomads, travelers, until captured in Egypt for 400 years.
• However, Israel will come out of Egypt with great wealth.
• Abram would die a free man, however, at a good old age.
• After the 400 years, when God has stomached enough of the Canaanites, or Ammorites, as it says in the text, Israel will come back.
• Abram then wakes up and looks at the dead animals.
• There is a sacrifice with a fire Abram didn’t light.
• He sees the fire passing through the dead animals carcuses, miraculously.
• Then he knows. He hears God’s promise.
• God said, I am going to give you the land from here to there. From sea to shining sea.
• Four quick lessons from this passage:
1. Sometimes faith isn’t the absence of doubt, but obeying despite them.
• Abram believed God, and it was counted as righteousness.
• But he had his doubts. “How is this going to happen God? I’m childless.”
• Sometimes, we have doubts.
• Just as Abram believing God counted as righteousness, Abram obeying God amidst doubts was counted as faith.
• We forget that part of the formula sometimes.
• When you have doubts, obey God. That is faith.
• ILL. G. Campbell Morgan had already enjoyed some success as a preacher by the time he was 19 years old. But then he was attacked by doubts about the Bible. The writings of various scientists and agnostics disturbed him (e.g., Charles Darwin, John Tyndall, Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer). As he read their books and listened to debates, Morgan became more and more perplexed. What did he do? He cancelled all preaching engagements, put all the books in a cupboard and locked the door, and went to the bookstore and bought a new Bible. He said to himself, "I am no longer sure that this is what my father claims it to be--the Word of God. But of this I am sure. If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself." The result? "That Bible found me!" said Morgan. The new assurance in 1883 gave him the motivation for his preaching and teaching ministry. He devoted himself to the study and preaching of God's Word.
2. Sometimes God waits until His actions are otherwise an impossibility.
• This adds fun and adventure to the Christian life.
• Bill Gothard teaches this to be “the death of the vision,” and it is seen here.
• Why did wait so long for Abram and Sarai to have a child?
• He waited until it was impossible otherwise.
• Why? Because He is an egotistical, self-centered, glory-hogging God?
• No, because we are egotistical, self-centered, glory-hogging people, and always have been.
• All of the great battles in the Bible were against impossible odds.
• Gideon’s 300 men defeated an uncountable army of Midianites.
• Samson, with a jawbone of a donkey, slew 1000 trained soldiers.
• Ill. I want you to imagine with me, Lee Adams is going to buy me a new (let’s go for it) Aston Martin One, priced just under $2 million.
• What if I say, “Lee, I can’t let you pay for the whole thing. Here, here is $10.”
• Now, I pull into the Church parking lot riding in this dream machine.
• You say, “Wow, how did you score that sweet ride?”
• I could say, “Well, I manage my finances real well and Lee Adams helped.”
• “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph. 2:8-9.
• In something as impossible for us as our own salvation, God knew if we could add one thing to it, we would take credit for it.
• That’s just the way humans fallen by sin do.
• God works when we say, “OK, God, you take care of this problem. I will just obey what you ask me to do.”
• If we don’t, He will have to get us to a point to where we know only He can do it.
3. God is never happy with our substitutes.
• Abram said, “He, God, the promises won’t be that great because they will all go to Eliezer of Damascus.”
• God said, “I have a better way than that. I don’t need your recommendations.
• God told Abram that He never gives second-best. He is a top-shelf supplier.
• I am so glad that God is that way. Philippians 4:19.
4. Sometimes God shares specifics, but usually He doesn’t.
• God got down to the nitty-gritty with Abram, telling him the future.
• What He told Abram ended up later being Israel’s history.
• Sometimes God lays things out plain and clear.
• Usually, however, He doesn’t
• See, God wants to delight us with surprise and faithfulness.
• For a Christian, there is nothing more joyful than believing God, and then seeing God keep His promises in surprising ways.
• This is another way God makes it fun for us; surprises that prove His faithfulness.