On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the Angels Candle which symbolizes our peace with God. Concerning this peace, this morning we shall discuss a very important story from the life of Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 15:1-6:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, 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, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
This story follows a very familiar pattern that we will address: the promise, the problem, and the peace.
God made a promise to Abram. The Lord God came to Abram in a vision and promised him that He would be his shield and his reward would be very great (Gen 15:1). This promise is very remarkable because God was under no compulsion to make it. Abram did not earn this promise. God did not look at Abram and say, “Wow, this man is wonderful. I must have him on my team!” No, Abram was a sinful man who deserved “the wages of sin” (Rom 6:23). But God, “being rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), made the promise to him. God, as an act of grace alone, showed great mercy to Abram and promised him a great reward.
The promise mentioned restates God’s promise in Genesis 12:1-2. Abram was told to go “to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing”. When Abram came to the land, God said “To your offspring I will give this land” (Gen 12:7). God, by His grace, made a covenant promise to Abram that he would be a blessing to the entire world. What a glorious promise!
Even though this glorious promise is given by God, Abram cannot help but focus on his circumstances. As if God did not already know what was happening, Abram informs God that he has no son. Abram tells God that all his inheritance will go to a man named Eliezer of Damascus. It is believed that Eliezer was the “servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had” (Gen 24:2). Abram, like many of us, was too quick to focus on the problem rather than the promise. Abram wondered how this could happen because he had no son, no heir, and therefore the promise sounded almost too good to be true.
Abram focused more on the problem than the promise. God responded to Abram and said, “your very own son shall be your heir” (Gen 15:4). God’s plan for Abram did not include Eliezer, but his own flesh and blood. The promise was to come through the son. When Abram was focused on the problem, God responded by reminding him of the promise and of His mighty power. God brought Abram outside and showed him the stars in the sky. The One who made the stars told Abram to see if he could count them. Then God said, “So shall your offspring be” (Gen 15:5).
It was at this moment that the peace of God came into Abram and Abram “believed the Lord” (Gen 15:6). Abram at this moment was still without a son, but he was not without hope. Abram believed God and it is said that God “counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Abram, by his faith in God, was justified and considered righteous by God.
Consider for a moment the faith of Abraham as described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. Abraham saw the current situation (he and his wife were old) but did not “weaken in faith” (Rom 4:19). He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Rom 4:21) and “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Rom 4:20). Abraham did not base his faith on his circumstances, but on the trustworthiness of God. Abraham knew God was trustworthy and so he believed.
It is because of his faith that he was justified (counted righteous) by God. Abraham’s faith looked forward to the promise of what was to come. You and I, in 2013, have the same promise of a great reward. Read what Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 4 verses 23-25:
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
The blessing of Abraham extends to those who are in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:7-9:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
The greatest promise is the promise of peace with God. This is why Paul writes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”