Wait for it, Wait for it – Genesis 15:1-21

I don’t like waiting for things, and I don’t like making people wait for anything either. A period of waiting causes one to doubt whether something is really going to happen or not. Like, I’m still waiting for that Baltimore Orioles scout who saw me pitch four shutout innings against Rutgers 41 years ago to give me a call like he promised. I’m beginning to doubt if it’s ever going to happen, and I’m fearing I might have lost a few miles per hour on my fastball.

This week we are going to talk about someone who did a lot of waiting, and about a God who is not opposed to making his people wait. Our focus is upon Abraham as illustrative of the theme of declared or imputed righteousness.

To understand our primary passage of focus in Romans 4, we need to recall the background story of the man who is often seen as the ultimate paragon of faith — Abram, or as he was to be known, Abraham.

On most fronts, Abram’s life was going pretty well in Ur and Harran where he lived with varied extended family. There were no children for he and Sarah, but the rest of life was marked by success in material things and the accoutrements of life. We don’t know much of the nature of his faith prior to God’s selection of him, though we know he came from an idolatrous family. He may well have been that himself early in life, but God called him and continued to call him. And God’s calling is generally not much oriented to what a person offers, but is rather according to God’s pleasure in choosing whom he is going to use. It’s a grace thing for sure.

Abram was called (actually first at an earlier time when living in Ur), and the record tells us that he acknowledged God and obeyed, even though it meant a change from everything he knew as familiar.

Genesis 12:1 — The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

This 12th chapter of Genesis gives us what we speak of as the Abrahamic Covenant. God made three promises: that Abram’s name would be great, that he would make a great nation of him, and that all the earth would be blessed through him.

Cool!  So, you would think that at ages 75 and 65 (Sarah) that God would get right to work on that building a family thing, right? No time to lose, that’s for sure! But then another 11 years go by, and no family. Now we are in Genesis 15 …

15:1 — After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

With no children, the custom of the day would be for the primary household servant to gain the estate as his own, in this case a guy named Eleazer. Here is an example where the original language in Hebrew throws in a play on words that has a ring of humor to it. The words for “household servant” and “son-heir” sound much alike and rhyme. It would be like saying, “this hired dude I’m paying now is going to be the retired dude who is paid ALL my stuff when I’m gone.”

But God said that this would not be so, rather it would be someone of his own posterity. Man, if it took extra faith 11 years earlier, it took 11 more years of faith to believe it now. But Abraham in verse six did believe, and it was put to his credit as righteousness — the “stuff” that is needed to be eternally in right relationship with God.

But Abram still heard no babies crying. He was wandering around with his sheep as a nomad, living in tents, with God telling him that he was going to inherit all of the land around him. So you can understand why, even while believing, Abraham would request an affirmation of his faith.

8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

The act of cutting sacrifices into pieces and halving them was a means of verifying a covenant. Those making the promise would walk between the pieces of the carcasses, symbolizing that if they broke the covenant, they would end up like the chopped-up beasts. They were essentially saying that they were staking their lives, their everything, to the oath being made. And the torch of fire passing through was God giving his word to Abram.

The other details had to have been a mixed bag of blessing for Abram. Great things were going to happen, but he himself was not going to life to see most of it. God’s plans would not find fulfillment for generations … for centuries. And in terms of the universal promises that Christ would fulfill, it would be millennia; and honestly, that continues to today in the ongoing building of the church and Christ’s kingdom.

Yes, the life of faith has a lot of waiting. And the fact is that not everything about God’s promise to any of his people is ever fulfilled fully on this earth. God’s plans and God’s program are so much bigger, and to be a part of it at all is a greatest of blessings for us.

And the way that we are a part of it is by grace through faith. It was true for Abraham, for Moses, for David, for Peter and Paul, and for all of us today. Our faith is in the merit of a reality beyond this world, but by believing and trusting in it, that merit is applied to our spiritual account.

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Father Abraham Had Many Sons (Genesis 12 + 15)

We wrote yesterday of the generations that stretched from Adam to Noah and eventually to Abram. And as Chris wrote on Monday, Matthew’s gospel delineated the generations from Abraham to Christ – demonstrating the Jewish rights of Christ through the tribe of Judah.

Today we look at this pivotal character of Abram – later named Abraham. In chapter 12 of Genesis we read of a promise of God to him that is called the Abrahamic Covenant. It is repeated in the second chapter we look at today – chapter 15 of Genesis.

God’s story of redemption will now be defined through his work in the life and lineage of one family—the family of Abraham, known soon as “Israel” through the descendants of his grandson Jacob.

The Lord’s Covenant with Abram in Genesis 12

12:1 – The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

The Lord’s Covenant with Abram in Genesis 15

15:1 – After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

The Abrahamic Covenant had three primary promises:

  1. That Abraham’s name would be great. And indeed it is, as he is revered by the Jews, the Arab peoples, etc.
  2. That he would make a great nation from Abraham. Yes it did happen, and it continues to this day. His descendants have been as innumerable as the stars visible in the sky.
  3. That all the earth would be blessed through him and his descendants. And this is what has special interest to us, for it speaks ultimately of the coming of Jesus Christ and his work of redemption on behalf of the world.

So there is a physical family of Abraham, but also a spiritual family as well – those who are redeemed by the work of Christ. And that spiritual family consists of all of those who are God’s people from both before the time of Jesus and down to the present day. All salvation is based upon the price paid by Christ on the cross.

So indeed, Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them and so are you … if you base your hope and trust in the payment of redemption (which is what the word means – to loose by paying a price). We are the fruits of redemption … the roots of which go back to Abraham, and even to the determination of God in the Garden of Eden to choose to save his lost creation.

Romans chapter 4 ties it all together…

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

The Childless Father Abraham (Genesis 15:1-21)

Down in my neck of the woods locally in what might be called River Rat Country along the Potomac border of Maryland and West Virginia, so many of the long-time locals have unique nicknames. And no, I’m not just talking about “Bubba and Cooter.” Guys often got their names very early in life and have been unable to outgrow them – like one kid named “Pockets.” I don’t think anyone in Williamsport actually knows what his real name is – hopefully his parents remember. They named him that because he always had his pockets full of stuff when he was a tiny kid. And then there was this other boy everyone simply called “Tubby.” You would think that he was a rather rotund fellow, but the last I saw him he was rather small in height and weight for his age – which I am guessing was dissimilar to his shape as a toddler. There are tall guys named “Shorty” and chubby guys named “Tiny.”

There was likewise a fellow in the ancient Near East who had such an unusual name relative to his appearance and circumstances. It was “Exalted Father” (Abram). The problem was that, until age 86, he had no children; and beyond that, the child came through a means other than his wife. And then, before his second child was born 13-14 years later, God came along and changed his name to “Father of Many” (Abraham). This name changed actually occurs two chapters after our passage today:

17:4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.

Imagine what it was like for him when he used his credit card at the local Home Depot. The cashier would look at it and say, “So, Father of Many, of how many are you the father?”  And Abraham’s face would turn as red as if burnt in the desert sun. (I’m not sure if she then said, “You can do it, we can help.”)

Though it must have been difficult at times to sustain, on the bottom line at the end of the day, Abraham had a promise from God that his offspring would number like the stars of the sky. And his faith was solidly placed in that promise that it would indeed happen. This faith was “credited to him as righteousness.” It was imputed to his account (to use the word from last week).

The content of his faith in God’s promise secured for Abraham his standing with God, so it would be true to say that he was indeed justified (declared righteous) by faith. And that is a definition of our word for this week – justification: it is a declaration of righteousness applied due to faith in God’s revealed truth.

There were a lot of circumstances to challenge Abraham’s confidence. Years of childlessness did little to bolster any natural security that this was going to happen. At the beginning of today’s reading, Abram simply states his reality – that without children to inherit his estate, it would fall to the steward of his household, a guy named Eleazer. But God restated his promise (originally given in a covenant in chapter 12), and Abram believed in it. God reaffirmed the covenant, and though the fulfillment would ultimately come, there were to be even more challenges of passing time and circumstances.

So over the next several days, while talking about our cross word of justification, we are also going to see the incredible reality of Abraham’s faith … along with God’s reward.

Are you waiting for something in your life? Are you feeling like you’ve been put on hold by God? Stay faithful with the last word you had from him, do what is right and in keeping with biblical holiness, and God will be faithful to you and reward you in ways beyond your imagination.

Genesis 15:1-21—The Lord’s Covenant With Abram

15:1  After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi <river> of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

PUZZLE REVELATION DAY

Today is the big day for figuring out the word search puzzle. For those viewing this on a devise, you may have to go to your computer. and probably the best and easiest thing to do would be to print it out and work on it in that fashion.

There are two final puzzles … find all 68 words from this list and there will be 17 letters remaining. These letters can be unscrambled to make a phrase in the first puzzle. The 17 letters in the second puzzle spell out one long theological word. The first person to get the answer to one or the other (or both) is a winner. Email the answer to me at randy@tristatefellowship.org

The words:

Adoption / Agape / Aloes / Assurance / Atonement / Blood / Curse / Dark / Deity / Efficacious Grace / Elect / Eloi / Eternity/ Evil / Expiation / Faith / Fall / Favor / Finish / Forgiveness / Freedom / Glorification / Glory / God / Good / Gospel / Grace / Hell / Holiness / Hope / Imputation / Innocence / Jeshua / Jesus / Judgment / Justification / Lamb / Law / Love / Mercy / Nails / Noon / Open / Payment / Peace / Propitiation / Pulse / Pure / Ransom / Reconciliation / Redemption / Restoration / Regenerate / Righteousness / Sacrifice / Salvation / Sanctification / Satan Denied / Sin / Sonship / Thief / Tomb / Torn / Tree / Truth / Veil / Vicarious / Wrath

PUZZLE 1 – this is fairly easy

puzzle day 21a

PUZZLE 2 – this one is difficult!

puzzle day 21b