Sermon delivered March 16, 2002 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Abram: Believing God

Genesis 15

I'd like to continue with the series on Abram. One more sermon after today and it will all be over. Then we'll start on Abraham in June. Then we go another seven or eight weeks. This has been exciting for me personally. Somebody said, "You know, you and pastor Crutcher, you have your sermons all outlined with all the titles for the whole year. We know that these are sermons that you have preached before." Not true! I didn't even have this sermon until yesterday. So, anyway, we're working hard to prepare fresh sermons for you.

Most of you know what your address is. There was a point in my life when my address was General Delivery. Have you ever had that type of address? Abram did. Most his life Abram's address was the same:

Father Abram
General Delivery
Somewhere in the sands of Palestine

That was it.

Let's pick up from where Pastor Crutcher left off last week. Abram had just returned from successfully recovering Lot from his kidnappers. Lot and his family were so happy to be back in freedom again. Hearing the laughter and voices, probably Abram thought, "You know, I don't have any children. This is not good." And he got to thinking about himself, and how unhappy his future was. He was supposed to be the father of a great nation. And he became afraid.

1) BUILDING ABRAM'S FAITH

I want you to come to Genesis 15 in your Bibles because this will be our focus this morning. Genesis 15:1 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. "Don't be afraid." God knew that Abram was afraid. What was he afraid of?

  1. He was afraid for his life because he had just retrieved Lot from the kidnappers and all the possessions that Lot had and now they would come and have reprisals against him. He was dead meat. He was a target now. His future was not very good. He was afraid for his life.
  2. He was afraid he would never have any descendants. He was supposed to be the father of a great nation and he hasn't even changed the first diaper. You can't be the father of a great nation without changing diapers.
  3. He was afraid he would always be a gypsy with no land. Abram did not own any acreage yet.

Abram had risked his life to rescue his nephew, Lot, only to find that Lot went right back down to living in sinful Sodom. He had reverted right back into sin-city. So he had lost his nephew. and he had lost all the spoils. He had no land and no son. You could sum it all up by saying, "No Loot, no Lot, no Land, no Lad, no Life." And, now he had enemies besides. They would come and get him. His future was bleak. He had not been successful with the first eighty five years.

Instead of thinking of God he was focused on himself. Do you ever think about your own problems? We've got all these problems. I think, sometimes, we need to focus on God instead of our problems. Never feed your doubts. If you feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. All we can see are our failures and we sit and wonder if God will ever love us again. Have you been like Abram a little bit? We question whether He can forgive us. We've committed this sin so many times. "Lord, I know you can't forgive me this time." So he was afraid.

And God knew he was afraid. God knows our fears and God came to him. God came into His Tent and said "Do not be afraid." God knows our thoughts, hurts and fears. It is when we are the lowest that God is His closest.

Notice two things God told his fearful servant.

  1. "I am your shield." Now that is important. "I will be your protection." Every day, we face danger. Maybe we're in a fog on I-75 (major pile-up of over a hundred vehicles on March 15). Maybe se face a battle with drugs. Maybe somebody in your house is losing a battle with health. Maybe we have a crushing load of big bills. Who needs these bills anyway? We need God as our bullet proof vest from them all. And God is saying, "I am your shield." That's good news, isn't it.
"I am your very great reward." That also is good. By the way, what is the reward of the Christian? It is not the promises, not the loot, not the land, not the protection, not the covenant. What does this verse say is our reward? Our great prize is none other than God Himself! That is the prize. Don't ever forget that. He said, "I am your reward!" That is the reward of the Christian.

Now, we don't teach this in our churches. You don't get this in very many books. We are taught to claim the favors from God. We are taught to claim the promises and to focus on the promises. When actually the real prize is the relationship with God. That's the real prize. Jesus is the reward of the Christian. And I think that when the blessings become more important than the "Blessor" we are not walking on the same path that Abram was walking on. I want to be on His path because that leads me to the promised land and to God.

You see, if you want to be like Father Abraham we've got to

But God's path is not without problems! Genesis 15:2. Abram complains: But Abram said, "O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" "I remain childless. I don't have any children. Something is wrong, Lord. There is a problem here Lord, I am supposed to have all these children, and yet I remain childless." It's hard to wait on the Lord isn't it? We think God's delays are His denials. It's hard to keep trusting when nothing is happening. We pilgrims like to see some progress. John Bunyan knew that. And so it was 25 long years from the first promise of a son till the birth of Isaac.

And he says, "Lord, I still remain childless!" Notice what Abram does not say, "Sarai here can't me a son. She can't get pregnant!" He doesn't blame anybody else. He does not blame his wife. Never blame your wife for your problems. Never blame your husband. n If there is any blame, take the blame yourself. Can you see growth and maturity here? Honest Abe! Abram said, "It's okay with me if my servant Eliezer inherits my whole estate." But God said: "No, you will have a your own son carrying your own genes."

Look at Genesis 15:5. He took him outside (of his tent) and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then He said to him, "So shall your offspring be.

It was nighttime. I am told, I have never checked this out personally, that when you go over to Palestine and you're standing there in the night and you're looking up on a good clear night that you can count with the naked eye 8000 stars. Is that the total? No. Why do we say it that way? The naked eye. I mean, have you ever seen a un-naked eye? God said: "Abram, it will be impossible for you to count your descendants." How many stars are up there? I know there are at least a million. At least a billion. At least a trillion. I think there are zillions and zillions of stars up there. In fact, my humble opinion is, and i don't really know this, that there is no end. They go on forever. That would be my opinion because when you come to the end of the stars, what's there? A wall? And what's on the other side of that wall? More stars. I don't know. It's forever. It's like God. And God is saying, "The stars are without number and if I can create all those stars, then I can give you a boy. I'm going to give you a baby. Do you believe that?" And what did Abram do? He believed.

By the way, have you ever seen any of all those offspring of Abram? I'm looking at a host of them right now. Galatians 3:29 says, If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. You are Abram's children if you belong to Jesus Christ.

2) BEGINNING ABRAM'S FAITH

Genesis 15:6. This is the beginning of Abram's real faith. Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. It's hard to believe when there is zero evidence, but Abram believed God! He had no Lot, no loot, no land, no lad, and yet he believed God. You know, I really wonder at a person who can't believe in God but he believes that Elvis is still alive. There is something wrong with us. Why do we doubt God's promises? Why are we so slow at believing the bible? Abram believed! Romans 4:21 (New American Standard) and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. That's what Abram believed. He was fully assured that God could perform it.

Jesus said: "Faith is like a small seed." (Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6) That's what faith is like. When God sees us with the small seed of faith, in God's mind it's the same as if we possess the whole harvest because the harvest is in the seed. If you have faith you have eternal life. You've read scriptures about that in the bible, and that's exactly what that means.

Notice the Bible declares Abram as righteous. Also, notice how he got it. It was credited to him. If your knowledge of justification is limited then you need to be all ears here. How did Abram get righteousness? It was credited to him because of his belief, his faith, his trust. Abram did not earn righteousness. Neither do we. Everybody gets it simply by believing in God. That's how he got it.

Romans 4:9 - ..Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. What a blessing.

By the way, was this the first time Abram believed, had faith in, God? Had he had faith in God before this? Yes, he had. He had faith when he left Ur. He had faith when he left Haran. He had faith when he left Egypt. He had faith when he left Lot. He had faith when he went out to retrieve Lot from the kidnappers. So why is this faith the faith that credits his with righteousness? Why? I think I have the answer. Come back to Genesis 3. This is not the first time he ever believed in God. But this is credited to him as righteousness because this is the first time that Abram ever really believed in the promised seed. Now think about that. Genesis 3:15 says that the seed of Eve would eventually bring a Savior. The word "seed" is mentioned there. What is the seed of a man? You know what it is. A woman has an egg and a man has a seed. He believed in God's promise of the promised seed. And who is the Seed ultimately? It's Jesus Christ. It's when he first believed in Jesus that he has righteousness credited to him. Don't miss that point. How do we get righteousness? Nobody gets it unless you believe in Jesus Christ. Abram couldn't get it any other way, and you can't get it any other way. That's how we obtain righteousness. This was the first time he believed in the Seed.

I see a lot of growth in Abram. He's growing fast. He gave the choice to Lot's herdsmen, the best acreage because his sights were not horizontal. His sights were vertical. Abram gave the spoils of battle to others. His riches were in heaven. Abram gave a faithful tithe to Melchizedek. Why did he do that? because he put God first. His trust was with God. Abram erected altars wherever he went. Why did he do that? Abram did believe in God and not in things.

3) BINDING ABRAM'S FAITH

How good is your word? Is your handshake as good as your word? When my wife and I bought our house and we went to the title and escrow, it seemed like we signed about nine thousand papers at the closing. It took over an hour and finally we did not even read the fine print. Wasn't that the most foolish thing? We weren't reading them. We had no idea what the said. And there was fine print all over the backs. We didn't read any of that or we would probably we still at it now. It's complicate to make a contract. We're coming to the contract portion of this story. Come to Genesis 15. I will tell you that in bible times it was even more complicated than it is at the Chattanooga Title and Escrow company. Look at what God requires Abram to do. Genesis 15:9 says, So the Lord said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."

Five living creatures were required. Now why would he bring a heifer and a goat and a ram and a dove and a pigeon? Do you know that each of these animals represents a servant animal? They are servants of us. The represent a level of Sacrifice required by God in Leviticus. If you were rich you could actually provide maybe a heifer, if you were poor, maybe a smaller animal or even just a pigeon. And Abram provided all five. Each quadruped was a tame servant animal. It's interesting that Jesus was sacrificed after three years of service just like these animals were. I can begin to see Jesus in here if you study this through.

Genesis 15:10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.

So you get the picture. Abram has all these animals out there and he cuts them in half and lays them out in rows opposite each other with a path between the halves. So you get the picture. Imagine Father Abram going out to the barn yard and coming back with a Heifer on one leash, a goat on another, and a ram on another with a dove and a pigeon each on a shoulder and here he comes. Imagine him out there with his machete hacking these animals up for the contract at the closing. I imagine it would be quite difficult to cut a three year old cow in half from the middle of its horns all the way through down to its tail. I've never tried that. I don't know what tools he had, chain saws or what. But he did that. he accomplished that.

Then he had a problem. The other party to the contract was obviously late. He didn't show up. He waited and waited. Where was God? I wonder if Abram's family back in the tent opened the tent to look out there. "Do you see what I see? There is that lunatic out there, he's got blood of the animals all over the place. What is he doing now? He's crazy!" And probably Abram even wondered, "Maybe I'm insane. Why am I out here. God is not here. Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?" and maybe even you've even thought that. "Lord, it is not worth it. I've mortgaged the house to put the kids in a Christian school and it is not working. My kids are still going down fool's hill. I'm crazy." Maybe we'd question God the same way. But I want to tell you, never give up on God. Abram didn't.

As his day drew on and got longer and complications arrived. Abram, you remember is the type of person who looks up and he can see vultures circling overhead and he said, "Oh boy." Finally they landed in the middle of these animals. There's blood everywhere. I could just see Father Abram having a problem. Verse 11 says these vultures were so determined that they came down on the carcasses! If he left even to get a drink, you vulture experts know that a flock of vultures can pick a big animal clean in twenty or so minutes. It would all be over. He couldn't leave all day. He had to stay there. I can picture Abram's bloody machete almost adding vultures to the contract.

Imagine the bloody mess! I mean, there is blood everywhere. When you split an animal lengthwise there's a lot of bleeding there. Can you understand how this typifies the cross? Can there be any salvation without sacrifice? Can there be any salvation without blood? This actually symbolized the offering that Jesus would do many years later. The cost of our salvation is very high.

Where was God? Why was He late? Have you thought about that? Abram spent the rest of the day guarding the possibility of what God had said. I think that we as Christians, we give up too quickly. Galatians 6:9 urges us to keep at it: Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Don't let the world's vultures consume your spiritual potential! Abram didn't. And we don't want to quit. We want to keep at it.

Abram and God were supposed to walk between the entrails, between the carcass halves. This would be like saying, if we don't both live up to this agreement, the doom of these animals will be our doom. Finally the day closed up shop as the sun started to set. God never did show up. It had been an exhausting time. Abram was hot, dry and tired. Notice one thing: he did not quit and go home! He tarried there. Habakkuk 2:3 (KJV) talks about the vision: though it tarry, wait for it. How much we lose by our haste. We drive eighty miles an hour, even in the fog. Well, in the fog maybe we slow down to seventy. We are a people of too much haste.

Verse 12 says, As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep. Right there, right beside the animals. He didn't leave. He fell into a deep sleep. Perhaps he drifted into a nightmare. I don't know. The Bible says the horror of great darkness descended upon him. Just like the vultures of self pity descended upon him. Finally God came! When? As Abram slept. What was the world doing when Jesus came? Sound asleep. What will the world be doing when Jesus comes the next time? They'll be sound asleep. So often this is repeated in the Bible.

How often we assume God will answer our fervent prayers within the next 10 minutes. We don't understand the big picture. God has to fit a whole universe into the equation. In verse 13 in fact, Abram is told that the promise won't be fulfilled for another 400 years before his descendants finally reach the promised land. And to top that off, they are going to be slaves in a foreign country. Sometimes I think it is better if we don't know all the details of the future. I think it is best for us as Christian is to just to trust God and not demand to know the future. Not that he was doing that.

God has a lot of balls to juggle. How often we ask why? Seldom does God reveal the reason. But to Abram, God told the reason for the four hundred year delay. Verse 16 - In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

The Amorites were not quite ripe yet for destruction. They were bad. But not until their condition was un-repairable would their extermination be allowed and approved. Their gods were bloodthirsty. The Amorites were immoral. They sacrificed their own children. And they worshiped snakes and serpents.

"Until...their iniquity was full, the vengeance of God would be delayed. All nations (have) a period of probation." From Volume 2 of Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, p. 1005.6. I think that is true of America. I think that for every nation, there is a fixed limit that God will allow wickedness to increase to before His vengeance takes place. And the Amorites had not quite reached that place yet. I don't know where America is on God's divine thermometer but I fear that we're possibly past that point.

Now I want to go into verse 18. Genesis 15:18 (NNAS 1995 Edition) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates." 300,000 square miles would belong to Abram and his descendants. That's a lot of land. And He doesn't say, "I will give it now." For the first time He says, "I have given this land." That amazing. Notice that before this time God had said he would give the land. Now He says: I have given it.

Let me draw out something that I discussed with Dr. Bennett this week and I think this would be true. Who made this covenant? God did! Remember, the animals were all lined up. Who walked between the pieces? God did. I believe that this covenant was not made between Abram and God, and I will tell you why. I think it was made between God and Himself. I think this was a one- party contract. If that is the case, then all Abram had to do was accept it. He had no performance on his part. Notice that you will never find in chapter 15 an "if" for Abram. "If you do this, I'll do that." The only "if" is "if you can count the stars." I think all Abram had to do was accept this contract. It was not dependant on any performance on Abram's part. There is no "if".

Friends, this is exactly how we are saved. Jesus does it all. What is our part in our salvation? It is to accept it and rejoice evermore in that relationship. To live in grateful response to His love. That's how we are saved! In fact, He says, "I have given you the land." How did they get it? It was given to them. His grandchildren would own that land because all they had to do was to be a grandchild. The inherited the land. Your salvation is not dependant on your ability to perform anything. You inherit the promised land. It's a gift that He has given. Because we are the children of the king. And if you are a child of God you have eternal life. You have it now. Al you have to do is accept it. Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? I urge you to do that.

Bulletin

Hymn of Praise: #522, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
Scripture: Genesis 15:4-6
Hymn of Response: #608, Faith is the Victory

020316Gettys#516



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