Summary: The life of faith and the promises of God
Standing on the Promises of God
Story has it that J. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary of old to China, went to a bank in England to open up an account for the China Inland Mission. While filling out the application he came across a question asking him to designate his assets. Taylor wrote in the blank, “ten pounds and the promises of God.” Hudson Taylor was a great man of faith, and the foundation for Taylor’s life of faith was the promises of God.
Every step on the journey of faith is a step upon the promises of God. The promises of God are stepping-stones upon the path of life that enable God’s people to move forward in the life of faith.
It was the promises of God in the first three verses of chapter twelve that enabled Abram to take a step of faith towards the Promised Land. It was the promises of God that saved Abram when he took a different path, a path that was not lined with the stepping-stones of God’s promises. It was the promises of God that gave Abram the victory over the four kings in the fourteenth chapter. It will be the promises of God in the fifteenth chapter that enables Abraham to continue on his journey of faith.
The promises that are declared by God in chapter fifteen are not new promises. The promises that are declared are God’s continued confirmation of promises given to Abraham in the twelfth chapter. It will be God’s continual confirmation and reassurance of his promises that will keep Abraham going in the right direction.
Chapter fifteen is a pivotal chapter both in the narrative of the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis as well in the story of God’s great plan of redemption for all humanity. It is important to the narrative because it transitions the narrative of Abraham from focusing on the promises land to focusing on the promises seed. Up to this point in the story the focus has been the Promised Land, but now, especially after chapter fifteen, the focus will be on the promises seed or heir of Abraham.
Even greater is the importance of this chapter is the story of God’s unfolding plan of redemption. The fifteenth chapter of Genesis is mentioned three times in the New Testament, twice by the apostle Paul and once by the apostle James. In all three occurrences we find them defending justification by faith as well as the nature of true saving faith.
The promises that Abraham was able to stand on in the fifteenth chapter are promises that all who are on the journey of faith can stand on. One person has rightly said that the promises of God are the Christian’s “Magna Charta of liberty, they are the title deeds of his heavenly estate. They are the jewel room in which the Christian’s crown treasures are preserved.” The first observation that we make is that God’s people stand on God’s supernatural promises.
I. Standing on God’s Supernatural Promises
God’s people are most vulnerable to temptation and discouragement after great victories one by the Lord. Abram, after making a great declaration of no-compromise to the king of Sodom would become discouraged and somewhat dismayed. God, knowing Abram’s thoughts and feelings would address them soon after the great battle of chapter fourteen, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.” Before we notice the nature of the word of God that came to Abram, it would do well to recognize the means by which Abram received this word.
The text tells us that the word of the Lord came to Abram “in a vision.” This type of vision was one such way that God’s prophets would receive a word from the Lord. The manner in which Abram receives the word in this verse suggests that Abram represents a prophet, a title that would be specifically given to Abram in subsequent chapters.
In addition, the vision that brought about the word was familiar with other instances within the Bible were God’s word was used to bring encouragement to certain people or certain groups. Two such cases are found in the book of Genesis with Isaac and Jacob. In both instances the Lord is calming fears as well as encouraging his people. In the New Testament three such occurrences take place with the apostle Paul in the book of Acts. God’s vision to Abram that brought his word would come to calm his fears as well as encourage him.
The very first thing the word of God addresses is Abram’s fear, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear.” Now, this is not the first time we find fear in the Bible. One only has to go to the third chapter of Genesis to find fear, but the fear is different. The fear in Genesis three is a fear that comes when one has disobeys a holy God. Adam heard the voice of the Lord in the garden and he was afraid. But Abram did not need to fear, instead the voice of the Lord tells him, “Do not fear.”