Today’s reading: Genesis 12-15.
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6
Abram, later called Abraham, was far from perfect, yet God continued to bless him throughout the ups and downs of his life. Once again God’s grace shines through, and this should encourage all of us who struggle with doubt and disobedience. Most of all in Abram’s life I am encouraged to see that it is not what he does, but in whom he believes, that determines his right standing with God.
Abram’s faith didn’t exist in a vacuum; it led to action. God called him out of his homeland and told him to go to a country he did not know. Abram went. Though surrounded by pagans, he publicly worshipped Jehovah. He dealt selflessly with his nephew Lot by allowing Lot to choose the better portion of land. Abram did not dwell near the wickedness of Sodom but moved his tent further away. When his nephew, Lot, was taken prisoner in a war, Abram went and rescued him.
But Abram also fell short. When he feared that his wife’s beauty would lead powerful men to kill him, he lied and passed her off as his sister. In years to come he would grow impatient with God’s promise to give him a son and take matters into his own hands. Despite all this, the covenant-making God continued to deal with Abram and unconditionally guaranteed him the land and an immeasurable family of descendants. On one of these occasions, God takes Abram outside, shows him the countless stars in the sky, and tells him that his descendants will also be beyond counting.
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. Genesis 15:2-6
Abram is old, and married to an old woman. They have already proven their infertility through many childless years. Now God is showing him a sky awash with stars (not like our skies hidden by city lights) and telling him that he will have this many heirs. It is impossible, but Abram believes, and because of his faith God reckons him as righteous – right with God.
Early on God lays this foundation of faith. He builds on it throughout the Bible. There will always be a necessary tension between faith and obedience, but faith comes first. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Oh, what a blessing to learn the way of ample faith in God! This is the saving quality in many a life. Look through Paul’s list of the heroes of faith; some of them are exceedingly imperfect characters’ some we should hardly have thought of mentioning, but they had faith; and although men, in their faulty judgment, think faith to be an inferior virtue, and often scarcely look upon it as a virtue at all, yet, in the judgment of God, faith is the supremest virtue. “This,” said Christ, “is the work of God,” the greatest of all works, “that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” To trust, to believe, this shall be counted to us for righteousness even as it was to Abraham. – Charles Spurgeon