15:1- After this( the events of Chapter 14) the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision : Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield and your very great reward.
The word shield refers to Sovereign- implying that God Almighty has just told Abram I am your King and therefore your protector. Gods first words to Abram are Fear Not. Why? Because God knew what was in Abrams heart- fear, uncertainty, worry and anxiety about the future as we will see as this all important chapter unfolds.
Abram has just engaged in a battle where he humiliated the forces of the four kings under King Kedorlaomer plus he had offended the King of Sodom. Surely Abram considers this as potentially dangerous as King Kedorlaomer could retaliate. In addition, having offended the king of Sodom what will he do. Abram must be second guessing his actions now and he is doubting all his actions were wise. Abram is re-playing the events and doing some Monday-morning quarterbacking. We also see in the next verses- that having started his worrying- he returns to what has been a constant worry and doubt for years- even decades- he and Sarah have no children- no male heir. How? Why? When? What? Can you relate to Abrams concerns? Of course we can- Abram is just like us. I believe Abraham was a worrier- I believe he awoke in the middle of the night worried about his circumstances- his future and how was the Lord going to accomplish all that He had promised.
Sometimes new circumstances cause us to worry-but they usually dredge up those fears about the future that are so familiar to us they come up like an old re-run of a television show we have seen 100s of times. They always begin with the theme of what if or well never
Remember this- doubt and fear are twins- one usually reflects the other. Remember without faith it is impossible to please God- that is why satan continues to try and block our faith with troubling circumstances to create worry, doubt and fear the enemies of faith.
So now we better understand the words of the Lord as God reassures Abram . He tells Abram He can protect him. No need to fear those earthly kings- when you have the King of Kings, Almighty God as your shield- your protector. Re-thinking your decision to turn down the riches offered by the king of Sodom? I am your exceeding great reward. This is the amazing ability the Word of God has- to take away our fears and worries. What a balm- what a source better than any tranquilizer of drug.
The Lord Jesus told Pilate you would have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above. This is what God is revealing to Abram and to us- He is our shield and nothing will touch us without His permission. And we can trust Him that it will be for our good and His glory.
At the mention of reward, Abram blurts out his concern that never seems to go away- the fact that he and Sarah are childless and time is running out- or so it seems. Even though God had told Abram his descendants would be like the dust of the earth- Abram was worried because of his and Sarahs physical age. So as God mentions reward- Abram pours out his heart and says- O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus. You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir. As far as Abram is concerned the reward he desires most is to have a son, a heir. Ever doubt a promise of God? Get to worrying and wondering was that promise really for me? Did I not hear God correctly? Why wonder and worry- ask your Heavenly Father. He is not only Almighty God He is your Almighty Friend. We are instructed by the word of God as Abram was instructed. We are told to worry about nothing but pray about everything.
There is another truth in this statement by Abram- behold to me thou hast given no seed. Listen as Paul explains who the seed is . Galatians 3:16 states: Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many but as of one, and to thy SEED, which is Christ. Abraham has stated a great spiritual truth- without Christ all we have is nothing. All our riches are nothing- for what does it profit a man to gain the world if he loses his soul.
As we observe how Abram prays we can learn a lot about effective prayer. Got problems? Dont we all then take it to the Lord in prayer. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, o what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. In fact the last verse of that great old hymn says in His arms Hell take and shield thee, thou will find a solace there.
Abram is frustrated, worried, anxious, fearful— you name it and Abram is to the point of being obsessed with the fact that he has no child. I go childless- he cries out to God. He did not blame Sarah for being barren- he has placed himself as the problem. Have you ever come to the Lord feeling sorry for yourself? After all, Abram had just rescued Lot and his family as well as others- he saw all those people who did not seem to care about the Lord with children and yet here he was trying to please the Lord and do what was right and yet no children .
But just as the old hymn states- o what peace we often forfeit- o what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Abram was doing what we must do when we face trouble- when fear arises- when doubt surges in- we must turn our eyes on Him- not on the problem but on the One Who Promises. We can not place our faith in our feelings we must place our faith in the One Who is faithful. Without faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him must believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Then the word of the Lord came to him.. Second time we have read that phrase in this passage. Maybe you are thinking- well I would be comforted if the Lord spoke to me. Do you not realize He has spoken to you in His Word? If you have hidden His word in your heart- the Holy Spirit can bring it to you and the word of the Lord can come to you also.
Watch what happens next-God tells Abram this man(the servant) will not be your heir but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. Then God takes Abram outside and tells him to look up at the heavens and count the stars if he can. Then God tells him his offspring will be that many.
Interesting to note- God has given Abram two promises concerning his descendants. One was they would be as numerous as the dust of the earth. Now as many as the stars in the heavens. Abram would have two lines of descendants- earthly descendants- the nation of Israel and Ishmaels descendants- the Arab nations. But there would also be a heavenly or spiritual seed. That Seed we are told in Galatians was Christ and all those who put their faith in Christ would be called the sons of God. So shall your offspring be. God has promised Abram and He has been specific in His promise that the heir- the son would come from Abrams own loins.
The next verse is an important verse. Abram believed and the Lord credited(imputed) it to him as righteousness. Paul refers to this in Romans 4 and uses this as argument against the Jews who insisted circumcision or works were necessary for righteousness. This event in Abrams life occurred before Abram and his household were circumcised and 400 years before the law. Neither circumcision nor the law had a part in Abrahams righteousness. His trusting faith was accounted as righteousness. Paul goes on to say that the words it was credited to him(Abram) were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness- for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. We are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves it is a gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast.
Can you still remember how you first learned to print your letters in the first grade? They gave us a tablet with the letters written out and we copied and learned to form the letters. The Old Testament is like that copy book which is a pattern for the New Testament. With nothing but the Old Testament in their hands, the early Christians could test what came from the mouths and writings of the apostles and leaders to see that is was from God by comparing it to the Old Testament.
It is the Old Testament from which Jesus taught in His ministry. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus to Cleopas and his fellow traveler, probably his wife. And we are told in Luke 24-beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. And also in the same chapter Jesus opened the mind of His disciples so they could understand the Scriptures- meaning the Old Testament.
Well, you might say to yourself, who wouldnt be encouraged with the Lord Jesus Himself sitting down with you and explaining the scripture. But do you not know- the Holy Spirit resides in you if you are a believer? The One who is called Counselor who Jesus said will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. This same Holy Spirit who is called the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me, Jesus promised. Remember what Cleopas and his fellow traveler said to the Lord stay with us! And yet we have the sure promise He will never leave us nor depart from us- that He will be with us even to the end of the age.
How can we sit and listen and watch television for hours and not spend time with Lord in His Word? Nothing can satisfy the needs of the creation but the Creator who created the need. Personal devotion time with the Lord should be the most important time of your day. I believe it should not only be the first thing in your day- but a continuing connection all through the day. We see it modeled in the life of Abraham, of David, of Isaiah and the Lord Jesus. Personal devotion time is one of the most, if not most important, sources of personal spiritual growth. That is why the Lord Jesus rebuked Martha by saying to her as she complained about Mary who was sitting at his feet and not helping her in the kitchen. Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her. What did it say earlier in the verse that Mary chose to do.. in verse 39 of Luke 10, we are told Mary sat at the Lords feet listening to what He said. She sat and listened- she concentrated on what He said. What Martha was doing was good- she was preparing food for her guests- but she could not listen because she was distracted and as result she missed what was better.
When we are distracted with worries we cannot give our total attention to the Lord. That is why Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tells us not to worry about food, clothing or shelter- if God takes care of the birds will He not take care of you- His own children? But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the things you need will be added. (Matthew 6). Worry distracts us from seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness.
The doctrine of the New Testament set forth in Romans 4-8 by the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is based on these events in Abrahams life.
Abrams faith was in the word of God in His promise. He was fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised. Abram did not look at the circumstances- he looked to God.
Abram was feeling sorry for himself, wasnt he? He was discouraged by current events which overwhelmed him in the darkness of a sleepless night. How did he become encouraged? By the word of the Lord.
May we learn as Abraham was learning- in every moment of fear and doubt and worry to allow those conditions to lead us to depend on God Almighty- Our Almighty Father and Friend. It is His promises that are our shield and He Himself is our reward!
Now God Almighty, like a teacher, reviews what Abram should have already learned by experience. God reminds Abram: I am the Lord who brought you from the Ur of Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess. But Abram said, O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it? (Genesis 15: 7&8)
Now lets not give Abram a hard time for his question- after all he had come to Canaan almost 10 years ago and as of yet did not own any part of it. Abram wants to own to possess what God has promised him, just as we should desire with all our heart to possess what God has promised us. The land was Abrams by Gods promise but Abram wanted a title deed- he wanted to make it his by ownership.
That Abram asked how is as natural a question as Mary asked the Holy Spirit when told she was to have a child she queried how can this be when I have not known a man? Or Nicodemus asked the Lord on that fateful night when told he had to be born again- he asked how can a man be born again? How means we want the teacher to show us the process by which we are to make Gods promises real to us.
Remember the land of Canaan is literal and spiritual in its significance. It was a land promised to Abram and his descendants. Spiritually it represents the abundant life- the spirit filled life. One can be delivered from bondage as the Israelites were from Egypt but fail to enter the promised land- the spirit filled life- and wander in the wilderness never possessing what God intended for us to possess.
For every believer in Jesus Christ we have possessions given to us because we belong to Jesus Christ- we are joint heirs, just as Abrams physical descendants were heirs.
But our question is: do we own it? Do we possess it? Our question is just like Abrams question isnt it? HOW do we obtain that which is rightfully ours. How does this process work?
When we got saved, Our Heavenly Father opened a spiritual bank account for us in heaven. In it He deposited every spiritual blessing- truths, facts, promises and principles that we can draw upon. Jesus said, If you continue (abide) in my word you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. In addition we have the Holy Spirit who reveals these truths to us. The password to draw upon this account is FAITH.
Paul explains these truths we should know and reckon, an accounting term, that are deposited into our accounts and we can draw freely upon them. He explains these truths in Romans 6. Remember the truth of salvation is I am in Christ and Christ is in me. I was placed in Christ at the Cross, at His crucifixion, so I am crucified with Christ. But the resurrected Christ is in me. Because Paul says we were united with Him in death, we will certainly be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know our old nature was crucified so that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slave to sin. And we have been raised to walk in newness of life.
This is what God is revealing to Abram as the process to lay claim to what we already possess. In this sacrifice of a heifer, a ram, a she goat a dove and pigeon God is saying the process of laying hold of what you have been given begins with the Cross. For this sacrifice was a foreshadow of the Cross. The possessing of what God has given us begins with understanding what happened at Calvary.
How do we inherit something? Someone dies and leaves it to us in a legal binding contract called a Last Will and Testament. Who is an heir? Someone who is a legally a member of that family either by adoption and/or birth. Do you realize that not only had God adopted us into His family as joint heirs, He has also through a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit had us born again- regenerated- which means re-gened. We are a new creation.
The word united with Him is a key. United means we were joined with Him- to use a gardening term- we were grafted together. Jesus told us He was the vine- we are branches and His Father was the gardener.
Listen to this account from Watchman Nee ( The Normal Christian Life pg 95-97):
Watchman visited a gardener who had around 300 fruit trees. He asked him if these trees were original stock or grafted. The gardener told him they were all grafted stock. He said it would be waste of land to grow original stock that produced fruit of no value.
How does the process of grafting work? When a tree has grown to a certain height, I lop off the top and graft into it. Pointing to a special tree he said- do you see that tree? That is the father tree, because all grafts for the other trees are taken from that one. If the other trees were left to follow their course- they would produce fruit that is not edible. This tree which the grafts are taken from bears a luscious fruit that is thin-skinned with a tiny seed- very delicious.
How does the actual graft take place? I simply take a little of the nature of the one tree (the father tree) and transfer it to another. I make a cleavage in the poor tree and insert a slip from the good tree, the father tree. Then I bind it up and leave it to grow. How does that happen, Watchman Nee asked. I dont know said the gardener- it just does.
How can one tree bear the fruit of another? How can a poor tree bear good fruit? Only by grafting. Only by implanting into it the life of a good tree. Now- if man can graft a branch of one tree into another- cannot God Almighty , creator of everything, take the life of His Son and graft it into us. He lopped us off at the cross God cut off our old nature which left to its own course could produce nothing. He cut off our old nature in order to implant, engraft the nature of His Resurrected Son into our lives. The Holy Spirit binds us together.
This is how we lay hold of the promises. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
He is the branch and I am the vine- without Him I can do nothing.
Paul says there are certain truths we are to know and count as true:
- Know that you were baptized into Jesus Christ when you were baptized into His death. The word baptized means immersed or united. I in Christ.
- Know your old nature is crucified with Him- so we should not serve sin.
- Know if we were united with Him in death- we are also united with Him in resurrection. Christ in me.
- Know- reckon ( count it as true) you are dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.
- Yield present yourself unto God. Surrender.
- Understand the Law of the Spirit of Life vs. the Law of Sin and Death.
The Bible tells me I can call God Almighty- ABBA, or Daddy. How do we know this? The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8) The possession of what God has given us begins with an understanding of what Christ has done that made possession possible.
When you and I believed and received what Christ did for us at the cross- the Bible tells us we have been given the authority to be called the children of God.
If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children- how much more shall your Heavenly Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask? ( Matt 7:11)
Did you have a good, loving father? One who would sacrifice for you- that if he told you he would do something for you- you would not doubt for a minute he would do it? Jesus said how much more your Heavenly Father will do for you— even to giving up His Only Son to die in your place so you could receive all that He had for you. How can we doubt so great a love?!