Many years have passed since God promised Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) land and many descendants, yet Sarai remained childless. The story in Genesis 15 begins with Abram’s protest to God about this, giving us a sense of his faltering faith in Yahweh’s promise.
Prepare to listen. Be still to cultivate the attitude suggested in these words from Isaiah: Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. (Isaiah 55:3)
Read Genesis 15:1-6
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ 2But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ 3And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ 4But the word of the LORD came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ 5He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ 6And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Yahweh (the LORD) speaks, assuring Abram of the promise: Don’t be afraid; your reward will be very great. Abram responds with two sentences. At first (v2), he seems to be mildly uncertain but remains polite. His second response (v3) is very different. Gone is the polite speech and in its place is protest speech as he accuses the Lord GOD: We remain childless and a slave, not even a blood relative, is my heir.
Yahweh doesn’t explain, he simply re-states the facts of the unseen promise: This man won’t be your heir; your own son through Sarah will be. Then he takes Abram outside and makes him look up and do the impossible—count the stars. That’s the only sign God will give to assure Abram that his descendants, born of Sarai, will be numerous. There isn’t anything concrete for Abram to hold onto and be assured God will do what God had promises. And yet, ‘he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.’ As Walter Brueggemann remarks, “Abraham has repented. He has abandoned a reading of reality which is measured by what he can see and touch and manage.” He has accepted a reality that is outside of his control, beyond his finite mind to grasp. He places his trust fully in a God who makes outrageous promises. He goes from hopeless protest to hopeful belief in the promise of God, a promise that was so impossible to his finite mind.
Spend a moment reflecting on what moved Abram from protest to belief. Can you follow his example of trusting faith?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Take me outside and outside of myself, O Lord, and let me see your majesty so that my faith may be renewed, and my life lived with radical trust in your outrageous, impossible promises. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, moving from protest to belief.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.