After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Day 5! I’m enjoying this so much. It has not been at all convenient to write these last couple of days, but I’m so eager to do it anyway. One thing that I like about Advent scriptures is that they bring so many concepts together, and yet it all relates to Christmas. My sweet momma taught me that everything in scripture points to Jesus and, more specifically, to His work at the Cross. We tend to study all the different components of God’s story separately, but Advent is feeling a little like a crash course in how it all meshes.
Every time I read today’s scripture, I wonder why God opens with, “Do not be afraid.” Is Abram scared? After reviewing the back story a little, I wonder if Abram was just feeling a little disillusioned. God had already told him that He was going to make Abram a great nation, that his descendants would be like the dust of the ground. Though Abram had become quite wealthy, he was still vulnerable. He had come, at God’s calling, to a land that had long belonged to others. He was a foreigner. In chapter 14 we have the story of Lot’s capture, and Abram fighting four allied kings to set his nephew free. It may be that he was feeling uneasy about his situation. I wonder if he was just lying awake in his tent one night, toying with doubts that had quietly taken root in his heart. Did he give life to those doubts–so that they sprang to life and taunted him, “What if God brought you all the way out here to abandon you?”
God doesn’t stop with never fear, He reveals Himself, “I am your shield, your very great reward.”
And then–I love this–Abram doesn’t waste any time, “Right, God. About that reward. Exactly how does that work?”
I absolutely love how God reassures Abram. He walks him out of the tent to show him the night sky. I imagine God’s arm sweeping from one horizon to the other. “See that? You can’t even count it, right? So shall your offspring be.”
On the two other occasions when God promised Abram that he would have many descendants, Abram’s reactions are recorded as “So Abram left . . .” (Genesis 12:4) and “So Abram moved . . .” (13:18). He heard what God had to say and did something, but other than that, there’s no indication of how much confidence he had in God to deliver the promise. But this third time, we are told, “Abram believed the Lord.” He just . . . believed.
Did anyone else just have a light go on? No? Just me? Holy smokes, that all just came together in my head as I was typing. I can think of scores of times I acted in response to God’s Word, but faith had so little to do with it. In fact, I ached for a baby for a lot of years, all the while exhausting myself being “obedient”, or so I thought. If I had spoken honestly with God, in a tone that truly reflected my pain and disillusionment, it would have sounded something like this: “Listen up, God. I’m working myself to tatters down here! I am doing my stuff–YOUR STUFF. Where’s the payoff? When do I get something out of this?”
Abram had packed his life, left home, and had no clue where he would end up. I’ll bet he did wonder, “I’m doing my stuff–YOUR STUFF. Now where’s that thing You promised?”
But God’s Word says that this time, Abram “believed the Lord, [who] credited it to him as righteousness.” Do you know what that means? God considered him righteous–that is, in a right relationship with Him.
Do I see something pointing to Jesus in this? Certainly I do. Besides that fact that Abram became the nation which would give the world its Savior, I see John 1:11-12:
He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, TO THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, he gave the right to become children of God.”
I hope you are having a joyous December in anticipation of Christmas Day. I also hope that you have time to reflect on how great a gift we have–that we can receive Him and believe in His name, and be made righteous.
More tomorrow, friends. Sweet dreams.