For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. – Romans 4:3-5
At one time or other, you may have had occasion to pack up the family and move to another part of the country. That often happens when there is a job change, or for additional schooling. It’s a lot of hard work just to get things packed and loaded into the truck. Then there’s the trip to the new home – lots of emotions, friends left behind, unknown challenges yet ahead. Wears you out just thinking about, right? Abram and Sarai went through a similar experience, although they weren’t able to rent a U-Haul truck. God called Abram to leave plush Ur go and go to rugged Canaan, so they packed up his extended family and as much of their belongings as possible, said goodbye to their beautiful home, and off they went. Soon they arrived in Shechem, and the real adventure began.
Growing up, Abram may not have realized the kind of life he would experience, but when he obeyed the call of God, his heart engaged with faith in God’s plan. Whether by upbringing with his father Terah, or simply the enabling power of God, Abram came to be a capable leader, straight and strong, ready to hear and obey God’s leading.
The events we have looked at already in Genesis describe the nomadic travels of this great man of God. We also get to see how he wasn’t perfect, made some poor decisions. His faith in God however did not waver, and God remained his friend and continued to speak with him and guide his paths.
- Abraham was a Man of Faith
- He Leads the Bible’s Hall of Faith – Hebrews 11:8-19
- Personal communication with God – when the Bible says God spoke to Abraham, does it mean Abraham heard God’s voice? Look at the passages where this happens, it never suggests that is was anything short of a real voice – for example: Gen. 15:5, 7, 8, 13; 17:1, 9
- Make note of Abraham’s positive response to God – 12:7-8, 13:4,18 – Abraham’s heart (“ears”) were turned towards God, ready to hear if God spoke; and he always started with agreement (sometimes faltered in the execution…)
- His unflinching faith is shown by facing difficult challenges – a very long trip to Canaan, rescuing foolish Lot, Isaac’s sacrifice
- He attained great victories – Gen. 14:14-15
- He made made difficult choices – Gen. 13:8
- Living a life of worship & faith – Gen. 13:4
- Abraham is a bit of a quandary
- A good man will want to provide for your family, but Abraham ran ahead of God, and chose to step away from integrity in order to supposedly protect him and his family – 12:11-13; 20:1-2,5
- Laughter is good, but they slipped into weak faith. We all laugh for joy, but not this time – 17:17; 18:10-15
- We want to take initiative in doing God’s work, but Abram & Sarai disregarded God’s model of man and wife, and missed the point of the miraculous – Gen. 16:1-9; 21:8-13
- We also want to be nice to the neighbors, but making agreements of obligation and partnership with unbelievers is never right – Gen.20:1-2; 21:22-23
- The good news according to Jesus… Jn. 8:56, Abraham was a visionary
- A Life of Obstacles
- Sarai was barren and incapable of producing an heir (Gen.11:30).
- Famine in Canaan, which God had told him he would inherit as a blessing from God (Gen 12:10).
- Abram’s life was in danger in Egypt (Gen.12:11-20).
- Abram’s nephew (heir?), Lot, strove with him over the land (Gen.13).
- Abram entered a war and could have died (Gen. 14:1-16)
- Abram’s life was in danger from retaliation in the Promised Land (Gen.15:1).
- God ruled Eliezer out as Abram’s heir (Gen.15:2-3).
- Hagar, Sarai’s servant, bore Abram a son, Ishmael; then when Ishmael was 14, Sarai forced them to leave (Gen.16:6; 21:12-14).
- Abimelech threatened Sarai’s reputation and child in Gerar (Gen. 20)
- Abram had two heirs (Gen. 21:8-11).
- God commanded Abram to slay his heir (Gen. 22).
- Abram could not find a proper wife for his heir (Gen. 24:5).
More About The Abrahamic Covenant:
Certified and Defended – Gen. 15
- 15:1, great words from God, but note v2…
- “After these things… rejecting the king of Sodom’s offer; Abraham instead gives offering to Melchizedek whom he recognizes as a priest of the One True God
- God required this context of faith from Abraham in order to move forward
- “Don’t fear!“ – Apparently from v.2 Abraham still had trepidation, fear or agitation about something that may happen, can take you from apprehension to dread
- This passage is a major statement of God’s covenant with Abraham, anchored in “Do not be afraid… I am your shield… exceedingly great reward.” Then finalized with Abraham’s being declared righteousness as a result of faith in this covenant God.
- Eliezer is Abraham’s servant – he may be in Gen 24:2 as well
- Gen. 15 – Two encounters between God and His friend:
- The First Encounter : The Vision in 15:1-8
- This encounter is God’s promise regarding Abraham’s seed
- God dealt with Abraham’s desire for God to accept Ishmael as the Seed Bearer, and God made it clear that was not His plan
- Abraham considered his age to be a problem and only saw a man-centered solution; God saw otherwise
- God showed him the stars as an expression of the expanse of his descendants in God’s plan
- This vision ends with the foundational statement of Abraham’s faith and God declaring him righteous – possibly the single greatest statement in the Bible – Paul repeats it in Romans 4.
- The Second Encounter : The Covenant in 15:9-21
- Abraham asks God for a way to understand the certainty of God’s promise that he will inherit the promised land
- God volunteered to make a covenant with Abraham and guarantee the promise by Himself
- This ritual that occurs here was recognized by various cultures to attest to a covenant between parties; they would cut the animals down the middle and both parties would walk between them
- God’s Guarantee – This was not a sacrifice – There is no fire, no statement of sin being covered – the act usually expresses a condition that both participants must fulfill – but only God passed through the middle of the animal pieces, he was bound to guarantee on His own
- God’s statement of guarantee includes a listing of the 10 nations that will be conquered within the boundaries which God describes here
- This event is the formal “cutting” or establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant
- The First Encounter : The Vision in 15:1-8
Bible Study Journal:
What does Hebrews 6:13-15 teach us about this event?
Justification by Faith
- Justification is the core doctrine of our Christian faith
- Anticipated by the Old Testament Law and the sacrifices which provided a temporary “covering” for sin, Paul’s letter to the Romans is the eloquent and complete elaboration of our “once for all” Redemption now delivered by our Great Savior (Heb. 9-10).
- Genesis 15:6, Abraham is declared righteous
- This great verse becomes a critical focal point of the Old Testament and really for all of Scripture
- Imputed righteousness (treasure placed into your “account” with no effort of your own) displaces your previous guilty condition, permanently establishing you as guilt-free before the Judge, God Himself – Rom. 3 :24-25;
- This new status (not state or conduct, which is sanctification, our ongoing being made righteous by the Holy Spirit) comes to you by faith alone, Eph. 2:8-9
- Abraham was declared righteous in spite of his sin – there was plenty of “exceptions” for Abraham but grace prevailed
- See also; Rom.1:17; 4:1-8; 5:13-14; Gal.2:15-16; 3:6-11; Rom. 4:3; James 2:21-24; Heb. 10:38
- OT use – Lev. 7:18; 17:4; Num 18:27; Psa 145:17
- The Bible makes it clear that Imputed Righteousness (salvation) comes by faith alone in all of the ages of man’s history
- Righteousness – the root meaning is a measuring reed or ruler; so sin is any deviation from the standard of God’s own righteousness
- God’s “initiating love” is the requirement for salvation, not human resources – so, declared by God to have “no deviation“
- Now, On to the Christian Life
- 6:11 – “Reckon” yourselves dead to sin but alive to God!
- The same understanding of “declaring it to be so” in a final sense of the word
Study this week:
- What problem did Abraham have with God’s promise in Gen.15:2-3?
- Name two other Bible passages where 15:6 is referred to.
- What specific promise did God make with Abraham in 15:18-21?
- Why did Sarai think she needed to come up with an alternative plan (16:1-2)?
- Who speaks with Hagar in the desert? (16:7-12)
- Why is the meaning of Ishmael’s name important? (16:11-12)
- Find the name of God given in each verse below, note the Hebrew words used and describe what it means about God’s character:
- How is laughter used in Gen. 17:17 and 18:12, and why does it occur in this account?