LIVING BY FAITH
"Faith That Holds Up" Genesis 15
Jerry A. Collins
Many times I have seen and heard people give up on God. Thinking they had a legitimate beef, they had had enough of waiting on God, doing it Godís way and left their spouse for the arms of another; got into debt; took their revenge; caved into the temptation; pursued success and ignored family; justified shady business deals for the financial return. It is possible to become impatient with God and His promises, especially when we have doubts about Godís integrity and dangers that threaten Godís promises from being fulfilled in our lives. For instance, because you see little change in your marriage after praying and waiting for what you believe to be a reasonable amount of time, you can doubt Godís Word about marriage and facing the danger that you may be unhappy for the rest of your life, leave your marriage for something better. In this case and in every case when we decide against Godís Word, we are giving up on God.However, God wants us to trust Him.
He does not want us deciding against His Word and giving up on Him. It is going to take faith to wait for His promises but faith is exactly what God is looking for and it is faith that makes us acceptable to God! In Genesis 15 we will see that God requires faith in spite of the doubts and dangers that may threaten the fulfillment of His promises to us. In essence, we need a faith that holds up!
1. GOD's PROMISES TO US ARE SUPERNATURAL AND ENDURING 15:1-6
The tension we experience when Godís promises to us seem delayed by suffering and difficulty can be resolved while we wait for God to fulfill His promises to us.
A. God promises protection and provision 1
So far the Lord has appeared to Abram at least on three different occasions (12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17. Each time the Lord promised Abram to protect him and provide for him. Here in 14:1 God does the same thing again. We may conclude that the Lordís instruction to Abram not to fear may have arisen from second thoughts he had in the aftermath of the preceding battle. On numerous occasions throughout the Bible, God commands His servants not to be afraid. (Isaac Gen. 26:24; Moses Num. 21:34; Joshua 8:1; 10:8; Ahaz 7:4; Israel Sa. 41:10, 13-14; Jer. 30:10; Eze. 3:9; Joel 2:21; Zep. 3:15-17; Haggai 2:5; Zech. 8:13, 15; Luke 5:10; 8:50; 12:7, 32; Acts 27:24; Rev 1:17). It seems that being afraid is associated with Godís promises to us. We can become fearful while we are waiting on God to do what He promised He would do, protect and provide for us. Our fear can make us impatient with God.
B. We are often impatient for Gods promises 2-3
Abrams speech is a lament about what it would be that God would give him since he is currently childless. It is clear that he interpreted the reward from God as the promise of a child. The absence of a child complicated the matter of the inheritance. Under the prevailing custom, if Abram died childless his household servant would become his heir. That's why he mentions Eliezer as if the writing is on the wall and he is about to inherit him. Abrams complaint is that he continues childless! He seems to be asking the Lord for confirmation of his faith. Things seem to heading toward a different conclusion than the promise God had made to him. Circumstances seem to be overriding the promise of God for his own child.
We too become impatient with God and feel we have to let Him in on what going on. As if God needs to be brought up to speed about the threats to the promises he has made to us! God does not work on our timetable. The fulfillment of His promises to us are never threatened. He is as sure as His Word. The problem is not with God but with us. God is never late and He is always on time. I have been anxious about the move we are making not because there is any reason to be since my God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and can continue to supply the income necessary to mortgage this new house. He has given us this good gift and He will supply for us. He has promised to do that. But even with the promise of Gods provision for us I have been fearful about how that provision will come. But how it comes is not my responsibility. Believing that it will come is! Much of our worry, anxiety and impatience with God is because we are assuming responsibility God never intended for us to have. Even God cannot steer a parked car but as we obey Gods Word and step out in faith trusting His promises to us, God will take care of His end of the deal. That's what Abram will learn and that is what we must learn.
C. God gives His Word to fulfill His promise 4-5
The Lords reply strongly overrules Abrams fear. To emphasize the magnitude of the fulfillment, the Lord takes him outside to gaze into the night sky for his posterity would be as innumerable as Ďthe stars of the heavensí compared with 13:16 Ďas the dust of the earthí. Here we see the abundance of the promise and a call to even greater faith from this one who stands childless. God gives no alternative to the arrangement. Simply His same word Abram must believe.
We have the same word from God today. We can read it, and read it, and read it. It is there in black and white for us to mull over and feed our faith on and obey. God has sworn by His own Word and has left Himself open to scrutiny about whether he can be trusted. Your fear about your circumstances and your doubts about Gods promises can be overruled only as you keep the Word of God as the main thing. Today we want the Bible and psychology; the Bible and feelings; the Bible and circumstances; the Bible and tradition. We have all we need in God's Word and we must believe even if psychology, feelings, circumstances and traditions say otherwise. Especially if they say otherwise. That's why god affirms His Word and not abrades feelings or circumstances that motivate Abrades fear.
D. God credits faith in His promises with righteousness 6
This does not necessarily mean that Abeam came to faith here for the first time. Hebrews 11:8 asserts that he left Our by faith in Genesis 11:31. This is simply a report of the fact Abeam believed and for that belief God had credited him with righteousness. Since Abeam considered the promise dependable He became acceptable in Gods eyes. In other words, righteousness is the correct action and attitude before God. Abeam accepted the Word of the Lord as true and so was acceptable to God.
We cannot please God and be acceptable to him without faith. Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please Him..." We are pleasing to God as we express continual confidence that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek him. Abeam is a man like that as Hebrews 11 attests. What is amazing is that no circumstances have changed with this confirmation. He is still childless, the promise is still unfulfilled but his faith holds up and God confirms it as so. Faith operates in the realm of the unknown and unfulfilled. It is in this sphere while still waiting for the fulfillment in faith that we become pleasing to God! That we become acceptable to Him and righteous in His eyes. This is what God is looking for. This is valuable to God.
2. GOD GUARANTEES IN SPITE OF THREATS 7-21
A. God reassures us when in doubt 7-11
The Lord reveals Himself as the great deliverer and benefactor of the land. This mention raises doubts in Abrades mind and God acts to assure him through a covenant as a guarantee of His Word of promise. Today God has guaranteed His promises to us with a covenant by His own blood. Jesus sacrifice guarantees that His word is sure and can be trusted.
B. Nothing can destroy the promises 12-16
In this section the promises are a sure thing but there will first be a long period of enslavement and opposition. This is seen both symbolically and verbally. The birds of prey and darkness are ominous and the announcement in Vs 13-16 clarify that his posterity will be enslaved and oppressed by a foreign nation 400 years before the fulfillment. Everything in Godís time. Abrades seed would surely get the land but not until justice completely fulfilled. The oppression and enslavement was not a threat to fulfillment--it was part of the divine plan! God's promise of a son and prediction of a peaceful death no doubt set Abrades mind at ease.
C. Lord swears by Himself that His promises will be realized 17-21
In the oven and torch Lord reveals Himself. The images of fire, burning relate to Gods zeal and unapproachable holiness. God binding himself by the symbols to fulfill His oath. Since He could swear by none greater, He swore by Himself.
1. We can trust without proof of fulfillment
2. We can trust in spite of prospects that threaten fulfillment
3. We can trust fulfillment of promises since God assures them in cot with Christ
4. We cannot know Gods plan but we do know His will. His plan is what happens and when and His will is in the Word.
5. We live by faith in God not by sight