God's Covenant with Abram
God’s covenant with Abraham began when the Lord called him (at the time know as Abram) to leave his homeland and move to unfamiliar surroundings (). Abraham obeyed “even though he did not know where he was going” (). The year was about 2000 B.C. Though Abraham’s initial obedience was exemplary, his faith journey was not without bumps.
By the end of the same chapter in which Abraham left his homeland in response to Go’s call, he had passed off his wife Sarah as his sis ter in order to gain favorable treatment from Pharaoh in Egypt. Abraham also had to deal with certain problems involving his nephew Lot, who had chosen to live in the vicinity of Sodom. When Sodom became entangled in a regional war between coalitions of kings, Lot was captured. Abraham had to lead a commando raid to defeat a coalition and rescue Lot.
Following the victory, Abraham was met by Melchizedek, who was “king of Salem” and “priest of God Most High”. He blessed Abraham, and in return Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils taken in battle.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”
In verse one, God assures Abraham to not be afraid. “Do not be afraid” is one of the most common commands in Scripture. Usually the speaker is God or an angel, and Abraham is addressed by his original name before it changed to Abraham (). God also reminds Abraham that he is his shield. God communicates in various ways before the coming of Christ. Here God uses the metaphor of a shield to assure Abraham that he will be a trustworthy, steadfast source of strength for him.
In verse 2 Abraham’s response to God’s declaration indicates that he remembers God promise to make him a great nation. How can he become a great nation without descendants; at this point on his journey Abraham and his wife remain childless.
Other than proper use of , what are some ways to encourage fellow believers to maintain hope in difficult circumstances?
Abraham laments to God that Eliezer of Damascus will be his heir because God has given him no children. His concern stems from the a practice of the time, a childless couple could adopt a household servant or steward, who cares for them and provides proper burial when they die. Then the servant inherits the family property. Eliezer was likely the “senior servant” who was trusted by Abraham and Sarah. In verse 3 Abraham states as a fact what he presents as a question in verse 2.
How should Christians admit to uncertainties regarding God’s promises, if ever? In congregational gatherings, in midsize groups; in small groups; in one-on-one counseling; and in private times with God.
But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
In verse 4, God responds to Abraham’s statement in with the assurance we see here. Abraham will be the father a child who will be the heir, but when that will occur is not stated. As comforting as the word of the Lord is at this time, it will not be fulfilled until Abraham is age 100 and his wife is 90. As the years drag on, that unknown timing will be a continual challenge to Abraham’s faith, even as he considers that “his body was as good as dead” ().
In verse 5, the Lord provides a visual aid to show Abraham the magnitude of what lies ahead. Being challenged to count the stars would seem to indicate that this communication from God occurs at night. Later we find that God uses the imagery of seashore sand that further illustrates how innumerable Abraham’s descendants will be.
What cues can you begin using to remind yourself daily of the certainty of God’s promises? Cues involving the use of your five senses
Verse 6 is profound good news for us today. It says that Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Faith is what God has always asked of people, whether in Old or New Testament times. We too are called to respond to God’s covenant, which requires us to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. The meaning of “credited” conveys the idea of regarding something or someone as having a certain characteristic, although that thing or person may not actually have that characteristic.
If we come to God on the basis of faith in Jesus rather than on the basis of our own works, then God will credit us as being righteous. He can do so because the death jesus suffered paid the penalty for our sins.
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
In the intervening verses not addressed in today’s lesson (), the Lord speaks of granting to Abraham the land of Canaan. Abraham requests and receives assurance in this regard. The response begins with the Lord’s directive that Abraham arrange for a sacrifice of livestock and birds in a certain way.
At sunset Abraham falls into a deep sleep. Then God speaks and gives Abraham what may be called a future history of the man’s descendants. The land in which Abraham now resides will indeed become the home of his descendant, but only after a period of 400 years in bondage in another land.
At , the Lord speaks of granting to Abraham the land of Canaan. Abraham requests and receives assurance in this regard. The response begins with the Lord’s directive that Abraham arrange for a sacrifice of livestock and birds in a certain way.A
God seems to be making a covenant with Abraham. Essentially, God’s promise is this: “May what happened to those animals (that have been cut into pieces) happen to me if I do not keep my promise of land to you.” Of course, God cannot be “cut up” since he has no physical body (). But the Lord is speaking to Abraham in terms that the man understands in his time and place. As Abraham gets the message, he will see clearly how committed God is to keeping his promise.
In light of your experiences of delayed answers to prayer, in what ways can you help other trust God?
This is a biblical picture of a graphic reminder that God has the power to meet people in all of the dark spaces to provide light and life. We must be reminded that there is always something of mystery in the way God calls us to a new task or an enlarged responsibility. There is always a layered experience that promises far more than appears to exist on the surface. With each step into the unknown, a new layer is revealed. God welcomes our questioning mind as we consider his call. God uses those question, those self-doubts, and those hesitancies to pull us further and further into the dynamics of his dream for us.
The Bible does not hide the weaknesses or failures of even its staunchest heroes and heroines of faith. As Abraham had his struggles, so did Moses (), Miriam (Number 12), Elijah (), John the Baptist (), and Peter (). Such examples can be a source of encouragement when our faith walk is more of a limp.
These individuals did not stagnate. The Abram who stumbled at times eventually became the Abraham willing to place his son on the sacrificial altar in obedience to God’s command; the Peter who denied Jesus eventually became the Peter who died a martyrs’ death; etc.
Abraham was not a man of perfect faith. Yet never is the statement of revoked: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
Awaken in us, God, the possibility of dreams. The challenges of faith in our times can be intimidating. Teach us to see in the your presence in our lives. Calm our fears as we walk deeper into the darkness, as we encounter the flame of your spirit; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.