Read Genesis 15:1-6
This is the fourth time God has talked to Abram. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
I love the majesty of that. Read it again, slowly. Put your own name there instead of Abram’s. It might be a stretch for you, but humour me.
I don’t know why Abram was afraid, or why he needed protection, but imagine hearing God promise it to you like that. And ‘reward’ – does that catch your breath? The word excites me, like presents under a tree.
Now, for the very first time in Abram’s story, he talks back to God, and what does he say?
“Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”
In response to the majestic, generous, offer of God’s personal protection and reward, and all the blessings already given, Abram basically says, ‘So what? You haven’t given me any children. What’s the good of all this wealth if it will only go to a servant?’
I think the dragon is hissing in Abram’s ear: ‘God isn’t doing what he said he would.’
But I love how God responds. He doesn’t get mad – at all, not one bit. He gently contradicts Abram and then calls him outside to stargaze. ‘Start counting Abram. That’s how many children you’ll have.’
“Abram believed the Lord.” He goes from whining to faith and God, who sees his heart, knows it.
“Abram believed” – can you feel the peace gently hushing all the noisy doubts that had begun to crowd into Abram’s soul? Can you see the light seeping into all the dark, questioning corners of his mind? He believes God.
And God credits it to him as righteousness. Another translation says, “The Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith,” (15:6 NLT).
Stop a minute.
This is very big.
Abram hasn’t done anything. He’s still standing outside looking up at the stars, but because of something going on inside of him God inserts this comment about righteousness.
Righteousness is a long word for ‘right’ as in, ‘what-God-meant-for-us-to-be’. The whole story so far has been about how we are ‘not right’, and what God has done about it; and here he suddenly says Abram is.
Just like that.
Abram is ‘right’ even though he lies, even though he whines, even though the craving is in him. God says he’s right because he believes God’s promise to him.
He believes what God says – more than what he sees and feels.
It’s called faith.