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God Proves His Promises

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Old Testament Encounters with Christ

Part 6: God Proves His Promises

Genesis 15:1-18

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 28, 2011

*Last week in Genesis 14 Abram was a hero. His nephew Lot had been kidnapped by the Kings of the East when they defeated Sodom. But Abram raised a small army and took off to rescue his nephew. Abram didn’t have to do that. He could have played it safe. But he took a bold stand and God gave him the victory.

*Then Abram met with Melchizedek, the King and Priest who surely seems to have been the pre-incarnate Christ. Abram gave Him a tithe of all the goods he had captured from the enemy. At the same time, Abram refused to take even a thread of the goods that belonged to the King of Sodom.

*Abram was a hero. But now in Genesis 15 we find Abram troubled by doubt. Let’s read about it starting in Genesis 15:1-6:

1. After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."

2. But Abram said, "Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"

3. Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!"

4. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir."

5. Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

6. And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

*Abram was going through some doubts. But the Lord showed up to prove His promises. And this Old Testament encounter with God teaches us some vital lessons about our faith.

1. First: When it comes to God’s promises, we may be discouraged by a delay.

*Abram certainly was discouraged in vs. 1: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’”

*The Lord said that because He knew that Abram was discouraged. And from a human point of view there was certainly room for fear. Abram might have been afraid of a revenge attack from the Kings of the East. After all, Abram had surprise on his side the first time. But he needed to remember that it wasn’t surprise that gave Abram the victory. It was His Savior!

*However, there was a much bigger fear in Abram’s heart here in Genesis 15. Abram was starting to worry that the Lord wasn’t going to keep His promises to him. Remember that back in Genesis 12, God had promised to make Abram a great nation. But now 10 years have passed, and still no children.

*Abram complained to the Lord about this in vs. 2&3:

2. Abram said, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?''

3. Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!''

*In other words: “Lord God, I thought I count on you, but all this time has gone by, and I still don’t have any children! -- All this time has gone by and You still haven’t answered my prayers!”

*Have you ever felt that way? -- Sometimes we might, but here we find that God’s promise had not been denied. It had only been delayed. And we just have to wait on the Lord.

*This is the way it must be at times, because God always does the right thing at just the right time. The Lord doesn’t operate on our schedule. He works according to His own perfect schedule.

*On top of that, the Bible teaches us that faith must deal with things not seen. So Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That great chapter on the Old Testament heroes of our faith also tells us that “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

*God’s promises to you will not be denied, and they cannot be destroyed. But just as we see with Abram, sometimes they will be delayed.

-And when God’s promises are delayed, God will help us in at least 3 ways.

[1] First: God will reassure us through His Word.

*As we see in vs. 1: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’”

*In other words: “Abram, you don’t have to be afraid of the kings of the East. I am your shield. And Abram, you don’t have to worry about the treasures of Sodom you passed up. I am your exceedingly great reward. Abram, I am both your protection and your prize.”

*Ray Stedman said: “That is what comforted Abram's heart there in the darkness. It was all he needed to settle his worries.” And Stedman asked: “Have you learned to count on the invisible protection of God?” (1)

*The Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. And now we have it in our hands. We just have to get His Word into our heads and hearts, because when God’s promises are delayed, He wants to reassure us through His Word.

[2] But He also wants to reaffirm His promises to us.

*We see the Lord doing this after Abram complained about not having a son in verses 2&3. In vs. 4: Behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.''

*When the Lord’s promises are delayed, God reaffirms His promise to us.

[3] But He also reinforces His promise.

*This is what we see happening in vs. 5: “Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”

*Do you ever get discouraged like Abram was that day? -- It’s understandable because we are so helpless on our own.

*I like the old “Peanuts” cartoon where Charlie Brown and Linus are at the beach. Linus comes running across the sand to Charlie Brown shouting "I can swim, I can swim!"

*Charlie replied: "Well, I'm glad to hear that Linus, congratulations!"

*"Yes sir," Linus said, "If I'm ever aboard an ocean liner and it sinks four feet from shore, -- I won't have a thing to worry about!" (2)

*That’s about how far we can get on our own. Then God comes along, and He says, “Look up at the stars, far too many for you to count. That’s how much I am going to bless you!”

*And that’s how much He does bless us through the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

-When we are discouraged by a delay, God will encourage us too.

2. But here’s another vital lesson about God’s promises: We will always be blessed by believing.

*God’s Word shows us this in vs. 6, which tells us that Abram “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

*This is the crucial verse on faith that Paul explained in Romans 4. Let me read part of it to you:

1. What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?

2. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God.

3. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.''

4. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

5. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

*Then speaking of Abraham starting in Romans 4:17:

17. (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations'') in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;

18. who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be.''

19. And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb.

20. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,

21. and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

22. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness.''

23. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,

24. but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,

25. who was delivered up (for) our offenses, and was raised (again for) our justification.

*“Abraham believed the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” And Romans 4:5 tells us that God justifies the ungodly by His grace through our faith. But there was only one way that it could be done: Through the cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

*Abram was saved by believing in the promise of the coming Messiah.

-We are saved today when we believe in the Messiah Jesus Christ who came into the world, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead.

*But what does it mean to believe? -- I like Charles Spurgeon’s definition of this kind of saving faith. He said: “It will not save me to know that Christ is a Savior; but it will save me to trust him to be my Savior. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come by believing that his atonement is sufficient; but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The essence of faith lies in this: Casting oneself on the promise.” (3)

*James Hewett tells the story of a little girl who had this kind of faith. She was only 9 years old when she came down with leukemia. And this was back in the day when leukemia was often a death sentence. The little girl was given 6 months to live.

*As the time grew near, somehow she knew, but she wasn’t afraid. Her faith in Jesus gave her an attitude of victory. She talked freely about her death. And as she grew weaker, her joy became more radiant.

*On the day before she sank into a final coma she told her family, “I am going to be the first to see Jesus! -- What would you like me to tell Him for you?” (4)

*That little girl had the blessings of believing. And so should we!

-When it comes to God’s promises, we will always be blessed by believing.

3. But here is another vital lesson: God is devoted unto death.

*God is devoted to us, even unto death. And we see this in the covenant God made with Abram. Look starting in vs. 7:

7. Then He said to (Abram), "I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.''

8. And he said, "Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?''

9. So He said to him, "Bring Me a 3-year-old heifer, a 3-year-old female goat, a 3-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.''

10. Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.

*Author John Phillips asked: “Why that particular selection of creatures for sacrifice? It remains a mystery. In some deep, marvelous, complete and mysterious way they depict various aspects of (the cross). The full and exact significance of it all eludes us. Thus it was with Abram. The mystery of Calvary was brought home to his heart.

*But here the Lord also gave Abram a picture of the misery of the cross: The stark tragedy of the cross, the rending, the tearing, the blood, the pain, the woe. Abram saw it, -- saw the dark shadows of Golgotha falling across the stage and felt them chilling his soul.”

*It continued in vs. 11&12:

11. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.

*John Phillips said that this was “exactly just such a horror that enveloped Christ as He hung on the tree . . . the fearful cost of the covenant into which God was bringing Him. (5)

*Next the Lord gave a sure prophecy about the future of Abram and his descendants. Then in vs. 17&18, the Lord appeared in a very strange way:

17. And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there was a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

18. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.”

*John Gill said that the burning lamp was the Shechinah, the glory of God, who later appeared in a pillar of fire before the Israelites in the wilderness. (6)

*God Himself passed through those pieces of dead animals. And we must understand what this covenant meant. Rodney Buchanan explains: “A covenant is not just a mutual agreement between two people, like a contract. It was a binding agreement that the parties involved committed themselves to under pain of death.

*The common practice of making a covenant in that time was to take a few animals, and cut them in half from head to tail. The halves were then placed in such a way as to form a path between them. The parties making a covenant with each other would walk the path between the pieces, and in effect say, ‘If I break this covenant, so may this also be done to me.’

*But the important thing about the Lord’s covenant with Abram is that only God walked the covenant path between the animals. In vs. 17, the Bible says, “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch [representing the presence of God] appeared & passed between the pieces.” (7)

*Abram is never said to have walked between the pieces. And the reason why is because Abraham could not keep his part of the covenant. Only God went through the pieces, because the Lord knew that Abraham could not keep his part of the covenant. And the Lord knew that He was going to suffer that death, not only for Abraham but also for you and me.

*This is what Jesus Christ did when He died on the cross for our sins. He took the death that we deserved. He was devoted unto death.

*In 2008, the Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to Navy Seal Michael Monsoor. Here is a small part of what President Bush said to Michael’s family and those gathered at the White House:

-Mike’s platoon in Iraq came under enemy attack during 75% of their missions. And in most of these engagements, Mike was out front defending his brothers.

*In May 2006, Mike and another SEAL ran into the line of fire to save a wounded teammate. With bullets flying all around them, Mike returned fire with one hand while helping pull the injured man to safety with the other. In a dream about the incident months later, the wounded SEAL saw Mike coming to the rescue with wings on his shoulders.

*On Sept. 29, 2006, Michael Monsoor would make the ultimate sacrifice. Mike and two teammates had taken position on a rooftop when an insurgent grenade bounced off Mike’s chest and landed on the roof.

*Mike had a clear chance to escape, but he realized that the other two SEALs did not. In that terrible moment, he had two options: to save himself, or to save his friends. For Mike, this was no choice at all. He threw himself onto the grenade, and absorbed the blast with his body.

*One of the survivors put it this way: “Mikey looked death in the face that day and said, ‘You cannot take my brothers. I will go in their stead.’” (8)

*Church, this is a small picture of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, saving us not from a hand grenade, but from the eternal torments of hell.

-Jesus was devoted unto death, so we know that we can always count on Him.

*And when it comes to God’s great promises, remember:

-We may be discouraged by a delay.

-But we will always be blessed by believing.

-Because our God is devoted unto death.

*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

1. KERUX SERMON COLLECTION - ID Number: 463 - PREACHER: Rev. Ray C. Stedman - LOCATION: Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, California - MAIN TEXT: Genesis 15:1-6 - Title: Faith Conquering Fear

2. “Peanuts” by Charles Schultz - Source: - 080705

3. Source: Edythe Draper, “Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World” - Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992 - Entries 3752-3754 (Found in Bible Illustrator for windows - Topic: Faith - Index: 1201-1218 - Date: 10/1995.11020 - Title: Faith)

4. Source: James S. Hewett, “Illustrations Unlimited” (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 149-150 (Found in Bible Illustrator for windows - Subtopic: Spiritual - Index: 1930 - Date: 7/1996.462 - Title: “A Little Child Shall Lead Them”)

5. Adapted from “Exploring Genesis” by John Phillips - p. 134

6. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible - Genesis 15:17

7. “Christmas and Covenant” by Rodney Buchanan - Luke 1:68-79 - 121006

8. 040808 - - Also see: michellemalkin.com20080408in-honor-of-michael-monsoor

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