And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus?
And Abram continued, Look, You have given me no child; and [a servant] born in my house is my heir.
Genesis 15:2-3 (AMP)
God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16) and that they would bring blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:1-3). But Abraham and Sarah were still childless; and if Abraham died, the only heir he had was his “chief of staff”—Eliezer. (He may be the servant mentioned in Genesis 24:2.) Lot was no longer in the picture, and Abraham’s other relatives were 500 miles away in Mesopotamia.
What had happened to the promise?
Abraham’s concern was not just for himself and his wife, though like all Eastern couples, they wanted children. His concern was for the working out of God’s plan of salvation for the whole world. God had a glorious plan, and God made a gracious promise, but God seemed to be doing nothing! Abraham and Sarah were getting older, and time was running out.
Though we must never complain of God, yet we have leave to complain to him; and to state all our grievances. It is ease to a burdened spirit, to open its case to a faithful and compassionate friend. Abram’s complaint is, that he had no child; that he was never likely to have any; that the want of a son was so great a trouble to him, that it took away all his comfort. If we suppose that Abram looked no further than outward comfort, this complaint was to be blamed. But if we suppose that Abram herein had reference to the promised Seed, his desire was very commendable.
One of the basic lessons in “the school of faith” is:
God’s will must be fulfilled in God’s way and in God’s time.
God did not expect Abraham and Sarah to figure out how to have an heir; all He asked was that they be available so He could accomplish His purposes in and through them. What Abraham and Sarah did not realize was that God was waiting for them to be “as good as dead” so that God alone would receive the power and glory.
It is good to share your concerns with the Lord, even if what you say seems to evidence unbelief or impatience in your heart. God is not deaf to your questions or unconcerned about your feelings. He did not rebuke Abraham; instead, He gave him the assurances that he needed.
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.
1 Peter 5:7 AMP
Now the word of the LORD came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.”
He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that ⌊numerous⌋.”
Genesis 15:4-5 (HCSB)
God made it clear that Abraham alone would be the father of the future heir. Heirship depends on sonship (Rom. 8:14-17). Then God dramatically assured Abraham that this one heir would be the father of so many descendants that nobody would be able to count them. Even when life is dark, you can still see the stars. Someone has well said, “When the outlook is bleak, try the uplook.” Abraham had been looking around, trying to solve his problem; but the answer lay in looking up.
About 30,000 stars are listed in the General Catalog used by astronomers, but it is estimated that there are 100 billion more! God did not say that Abraham would have that many descendants but that, like the stars, there would be too many to count. Whether Abraham looked down at the dust (Gen. 13:14) or up at the stars, he would recall God’s promise and have confidence. This promise was repeated to Abraham (Genesis 22:17) and reaffirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26:4).
And he [Abram] believed in (trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to) the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness (right standing with God).
Genesis 15:6 (AMP)
Promises do us no good unless we believe them and act on them. Abraham had already trusted God’s promise and proved it by leaving home and going to Canaan (Heb. 11:8). But Genesis 15:6 is the first reference in the Bible to Abraham’s faith. It is the John 3:16 of the Old Testament; and for this reason, the New Testament writers use it to illustrate salvation by faith.
There are only five words in the Hebrew original of Genesis 15:6, but what a wealth of meaning they contain. The verse is quoted three times in the New Testament: Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:3; and James 2:23.
The three key words are Believe, Counted, and Righteousness.
Abraham believed God, which is literally, “Abraham said, ‘Amen, God!”‘ The Hebrew word translated “believed” means “to lean your whole weight upon.” Abraham leaned wholly on the promise of God and the God of the promise. We are not saved by making promises to God but by believing the promises of God. In the Gospel of John, which was written to tell people how to be saved (John 20:31), the word “believe” is used nearly 100 times. Salvation is the gracious gift of God, and it is received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
What was Abraham’s greatest need?
Righteousness. This is the greatest need of people in our world today, for “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.“ (Rom. 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). It is not enough to be “religious”; God demands that we have perfect righteousness or He will not let us enter His heaven.
How did Abraham receive this righteousness?
He believed the Lord, and righteousness was imputed to him. “Impute” means “to put to one’s account.” On the cross, our sins were put on Jesus’ account (“numbered [counted] with the transgressors,” Isa. 53:12) when He suffered the punishment that belonged to us (Isa. 53:6). When you trust Him, His righteousness is put on your account (2 Cor. 5:21), and you stand righteous and forgiven before a holy God.
Abraham proved his faith by his works when he offered Isaac on the altar (James 2:14-24). Obeying God, or even promising to obey God did not save Abraham; but his obedience proved his faith. Sinners are not saved by faith plus works but by a faith that works.
Faith justifies us and obedience is the fruit, not the root, of salvation.
THE WALK OF FAITH
Abraham is called the “father of faith”; true faith was exemplified through his life. In this life of this “friend of God” (James 2:23), faith is not defined as perfect character or behavior, but simply believing what God says. Abraham’s life also demonstrates how we may grow in believing God’s word and it encourages us to persist though we may go slowly or not see our faith’s immediate fulfillment (Hebrew 11).
Believe God’s promises to you. He is able to bring them to pass even though you may not see how.
Take time to read Galatians 3, Romans 4, and James 2; and you will see how Abraham illustrates salvation by faith. In Galatians 3, Paul focuses on believe; in Romans 4, he deals with impute; and in James 2, James explains righteousness. It takes three New Testament chapters to unfold one verse!
The answer to Abraham’s fear was God’s presence—I AM. The answer to Abraham’s concern about his heir was God’s promise—I WILL.
How will God answer Abraham’s third concern?