God promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations, but reality was presenting Abram a different picture. That is when God comes to him with a word.
This sermon is based on Genesis 15:1-6.
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*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
COUNT THE STARS
Text: Genesis 15:1-6
This passage in Genesis 15 is a critical one for the Christian faith. Through these words, God communicates the work known as justification. Justification is the act of God pardoning us from the guilt and penalty of sin. If these words are important for all of Christianity, it means these words are also important for our faith. And upon that, it gives us assurances when our faith is clouded by anxiety and fear.
READING OF THE TEXT
1 After these events, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; you reward will be very great. 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” 4 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.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” The he said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” 6 Abram believed the LORD and he credited to him as righteousness. (CSB)
(v1) God’s promise
God begins this chapter with a promise to Abram (who would later be known as Abraham, know I am interchange the names). Verse 1 reads very much like something you would find from one of the prophets, “The word of the Lord came to Abram.” These are not the words of Abram, but the words of God revealed to Abram in a vision.
“Do not be afraid” is how God begins the conversation. In chapter 14, Abram’s nephew Lot was captured by a group of kings. Abram gathered about three hundred warriors and rescued Lot from them. Revenge could have been on the minds of those kings, that is a reason to fear. There was another reason for Abram to fear, but we will get to that.
“I am your shield.” Why would Abram need a shield? The life God called Abram to would involve many battles. What does a shield do? It protects the wielder from enemy onslaught and keeps them alive. Abram had God for a shield, which assured him of hope beyond the battle, courage in the fight, and faith to press forward.
(v2-3) Abram’s problem
I mentioned that Abram had another reason to fear. Back in chapter 12, when God called Abram to follow him, it included the promise to make Abram into a father of many nations. Time had passed, Abram’s wealth had grown, but he still had no children. Who would inherit all Abram had worked for? As they aged, who would take care of Abram and his wife?
In verses 2 and 3, Abram confesses this fear to God. Customs of the day allowed Abram to name a servant to be an heir. But we all know there is a difference between family and an employee. And Abram knows God’s promise and at this point that promise is unfulfilled. Abram simply lays out what he sees to God who sees all.
At this point Abram is trying to connect God’s promise in view of his own reality. He thinks his heir is going to be a servant. God rejects Abram’s faulty understanding. “One who comes from your own body will be your heir.” God dismisses the misunderstanding and reassures Abram of the promise.
Abram has been focused on the dust. He is looking at this problem from a human perspective, one that is limited and tainted by sin. In verse 5, God shifts Abram’s sight from the dust to the stars. “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them. Your offspring will be that numerous.”
Verse 6 tells us how Abram reacts to God. “Abram believed the LORD, and God credited to him as righteousness.” The verb translated “believed” means to prop or stay. It carries the idea of something that is sturdy enough to build upon. God who made this promise to Abram, he deemed so trustworthy he was willing to base his whole life on God. Abram’s entire existence would be lived and built upon God’s word.
“God credited to him as righteousness.” This is what caught the New Testament writers’ attention. Paul will write about it in Romans and again in Galatians. James writes about this statement in his epistle. It was not the actions of Abram that justified him before God, it was his faith in God. And whenever Abram doubted his standing before the Lord, all Abram had to do was look up and count the stars.
How does this apply to you and me? While there is certainly a flesh and blood lineage to Abram, study of Genesis will reveal he has a son named Isaac, as well as a son named Ishmael. Both these sons would produce mighty nations. However, this promise is greater than that. In Galatians 3:29, Paul writes, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.” Paul is saying that the lineage of Abraham is through faith in Jesus.
God designed humanity to live in relationship with him. This means people were created to view God as good and trustworthy. The world described in Genesis 1 and 2, but in Genesis 3 humanity chose sin and ruined the relationship. Sin cause humanity to fearfully distrust God, and this also made them distrustful of one another. Abram’s faith was counted as righteousness because he trusted God and His promise. That promise was fully realized in Jesus Christ, who died, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. To be a descendant of Abraham is to have faith in the redemptive work of God through Jesus.
Remember how Abram was viewing the problem? He, a man formed from the dust, was viewing his reality from the perspective of dust. What did God do? God lifted Abram’s sight from the dust to the stars, to be a continual reminder that God’s promise was true. When life got too much, all Abram had to do was look up and count the stars. Through Jesus, God did the same for us. Jesus became man like us, died to take the punishment for our sin and shed His blood so we could be forgiven. But Jesus did not return to dust, He rose again and ascended to the Father. Like Abraham, God shifted our sight from the dust to the stars! With all of our fears, failures, and mistakes, you and I can trust God’s promise that we are in good standing with Him because of Jesus.
Verse 6 tells says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness.” Abram did not have to learn a secret handshake, or perform a special quest. He simply believed in God’s promise, and lived his life based on it. Are you and I willing to believe God in the same way? Can we go about our lives with all that we are and do based on the promise we have through Jesus Christ? If we are willing, then that faith justifies us before God, and He views as righteous.