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Abram’s Faith

June 6th, 2014

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6

Abram’s true genius was not in his loyalty to his relatives, nor in his courage as a fighting man, nor in his capacity to build a solid financial empire, but it was found in his simple faith in the promises of God. On many accounts Abram was a great man among men, but what has secured his name in the Holy Book was his faith, which made him great in the estimation of heaven. “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” Christ asked (Mark 8:36). And the human soul is discovered through the mystery of our faith in God.

This is undoubtedly one of the most significant verses in the Old Testament, one which Paul commented on in Romans 4:3 (see also Psalm 106:31). It establishes in clear language the principle of justification by faith, and not by works. God accepted Abram not on the basis of what he did, nor was his actions a means of earning God’s righteousness, but he was accepted through his faith. God came to Abram through a vision and impressed upon his mind the promise that he would not die childless, that his offspring would be as uncountable as the stars, and Abram believed God.

What personal struggles took place, if any, before faith broke through to claim the promise we are not told. But it seems probable that there were some – doubts cloud and complicate what God makes so simple. Doubt asks, “How?” and “When?” and “Whom?” while faith just rests in the God who promises. More than once I have been filled with worry over relatively small things, when God’s Spirit has said to me, “David, just trust Me.” I suspect you also have had similar experiences.

An interesting element is the fact that the immediate object of his faith was not about the doctrine of salvation – the subject at hand was his offspring – but the effect was salvation and the bestowing of the righteousness of God. The words here describe faith not only for the immediate promise, but faith in God. The specific issue of his offspring was increasingly on his heart, and the promise of God was for that specific need, but, as true faith always must do, Abram believed in God, in His trustworthiness to promises, and not merely in the specific promise. God had long become his God, to the exclusion of all other gods.

Faith is a mysterious thing, a response of our souls to the inner witness of God. We need specific promises to clarify our trust – we cannot trust in a vague manner, it must always be specific. Though there is clearly a Gospel Story to share with the world (Luke 24:44-48 and John 16:8-11), and the Spirit brings conviction of sin and presents Jesus as the Savior to each heart, faith always has something unique and deeply personal about it. The revelation of God to our hearts of His promises and our invitation to believe in Him is personal and specific revelation. Through the preaching of the Word of God and the story of Christ, awareness of God’s grace and the conviction of the validity of His promises come to our hearts. He has come to forgive my sins, to come into my life, to bring order and healing to my soul. Ultimately our faith is in Him, and not merely in His promises.

Weak and powerless we respond to God, trusting in Him. Our salvation rests upon Him, and all we have to do is trust, and then in that trust to obey. But it is the trust that comes first and until we have trusted we will assume mistakenly that our obedience is more important. It is not. Faith must come first. God went one step further with Abram in Genesis 15 to show that this treaty fell on Him. In order to validate the treaty or covenant He placed Abram in a deep sleep and God Himself, represented by the smoking pot and the flaming torch, carried both parts of the covenant.

For us there is a simple application, that He not only has died for our sins that we might be forgiven, but He also by His Spirit takes responsibility for our maturity. We neither save ourselves nor do we grow ourselves. We must cooperate with Him, but He takes the responsibility. “He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion” (Phil. 1:6). “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Just trust Him in His promises. Find them in His Word and believe in them for this way you will also believe in Him.

Prayer:

Lord, no more than I can stand before You in my righteousness, can I live before You in my own strength. Thank You for your grace and for the beauty of Your promises of forgiveness and life and joy. I believe them because I believe You. And I come not only as a sinner in need of your forgiveness, but also as an incorrigible one in need of Your strength to live each day. I am weak but You are strong. Show me what it is like to live daily in Your strength. Amen.

Gleanings from Genesis