Genesis 15

August 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Posted in Bible Study | Leave a comment
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After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

This week, we’re going to tackle another entire chapter of Genesis. I have to say that this is one of the most interesting parts of Abram’s story to me, but your mileage may vary. Abram has just gotten through with a war against five kings. He took 318 men with him to battle in order to save Lot and the other captives. After winning the battle and defeating the kings, Abram interacts with two very different monarchs. One of them, the king of Sodom, is an earthly, hedonistic, sinful king. This man wants to give Abram all the spoils of war, but to keep the people for himself. This is likely because of the sins of Sodom, but we don’t know for sure. The other king is like an inverted image of the king of Sodom. Melchizedek is the king of Salem (Jerusalem) and is considered by some to be a pre-incarnation of Christ before His coming to earth. He praises God and breaks bread with Abram. He receives a tenth of the spoils of war and blesses Abram and God.

After returning home, Abram receives a vision from the Lord. The Lord tells Abram not to fear for He is his shield and his reward shall be great. Abram asks God about an heir because he is getting up in years. His first thought is that his servant Eliezer will be his heir, but God refutes this and expands His promise again:

And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

God has now promised Abram that he will be a great nation (12:1-3), he and his descendants will possess all the land that he has walked forever (13:14-15), and that He will make his descendants great in number like the dust of the earth (13:16) and the stars of the sky (15:5) through a son of his own blood (15:4). This was incredible news to Abram because he was in his late seventies, early eighties at the time. What is amazing is what verse 6 says:

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Why is this so amazing? Here, we see Abram believing God and this belief was credited to Abram as righteousness. There are other verses that illuminate what this really means, so lets look at a few:

For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.” Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:3-13, 19-25)

When Paul talks about Abram being righteous here, it’s in the context of being justified (saved). He is making a contrast between the works of the Law and the works of faith. He uses Abram as an example of someone who was justified by faith through believing God’s promise of forgiveness through Christ. Abram believed God would bring salvation through Christ and it was credited to him as righteousness. Paul does this again in Galatians 3 with the same purpose.

After God reiterates this promise to Abram a second time (vs. 7), Abram poses a question to God. He asks, “How will I know that I will possess the land?” It is very important to note the tone conveyed in the question. I compare it to the difference between the questions posed by Zacharias (John the Baptist’s father) and Mary (Jesus’ mother). Gabriel told both of them about the miraculous birth they would be a part of, but Zacharias doubted that it would be while Mary just wondered how it could happen. In his question, Abram takes the tone of Mary, wondering how he could possess the land that God has promised him. Instead of explaining it to him, God tells Abram to collect a three-year-old heifer, ram, female goat, as well as a young pigeon and a turtle dove. We don’t have the instructions, but we see that Abram immediately begins to cut the animals in half (lengthwise). He then lays each half down on the ground, leaving a path in between the pieces. For at least part of the day, Abram keeps the birds of prey off of the carcasses (which are now beginning to stink and rot in the heat).

Finally, as the sun goes down, Abram falls asleep. As he slumbers, terror and great darkness fall upon him. It is at this point that God speaks to him. He tells Abram about what will happen to his descendants. They are to be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years. The nation that enslaves them will then be judged and his kin will come out with many possessions. Abram will die in peace at a “good, old age”. In the 4th generation, his descendants will return to the land, “for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete”. This is an interesting statement. Abram’s descendants will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years in a foreign land so that they can be used by God to punish the Amorites for their iniquity!

Then, when it had gotten really dark, a smoking oven and a flaming torch pass between the halves of animals. The signifigance of the two symbols is agreed upon by many although there is nothing of this mentioned in the passage. Many agree that the smoking oven represents the affliction that the Israelites will face in Egypt at the hands of the Pharaoh that “didn’t know Joseph”. The torch, however, signifies the comforting light of God’s presence among His people in the midst of the affliction. He will be with them even through their trials and tribulations. These two symbols pass between the halves of the animals (possibly consuming them) to complete the covenant that God has now made with Abram. He then reiterates the promise of land and even lays out the boundaries of such (which are much larger than the Israel of today).

Just like today, God entered into a relationship with Abram. Then, it took the shedding of blood. Today, He offers a covenant to all who would come to Him through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, shed on the cross for the sins of man. His promise is true, His words will not fail, and He will uphold His promise. Are you in that covenant? Do you have that relationship with God? Have you acknowledged your sins against the Just Judge of all the universe? Have you repented of your sins? Have you put your faith in Christ alone to save you from sin and God’s wrath? If you haven’t, then the fact that you’re reading this means that you still have time. Will you let go of your sins, repent of them? Will you place your trust solely in Christ alone to save you? If you will, then you can be born again and God will see you as righteous through the sacrifice of Christ. You will be spared His wrath, and have the assurance that when you die, you will go to heaven. What’s keeping you?

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