Click here for the reading: Genesis 15:1-6.
Melchizedek blessed Abram and God at the end of Genesis 14 with a blessing full of marvel. The LORD is God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth. He is also Abram’s God, who fights for him and defeats his enemies. Abram has no cause to fear the sword or spear of his foes. He has no cause for anxiety about the loss of his property or even that of his nephew Lot. The Lord fights for him.
And yet Abram is afraid, for he is not short-sighted. He sees all his possessions, all the blessings of God before him in this moment, but he knows that in his death they will belong to a man who did not come from his own loins. It is not flesh and blood against whom he wrestles but against the one who wields the power of death. He perceives the malice of that evil one in his childlessness. His body and Sarai’s, even now as good as dead, testify to the curse of sin. Where is God’s blessing in all of this? Where is God’s defense against Abram’s enemies?
The word of the LORD came to Abram, and it uttered a dark saying, something which surely would have been taken as figurative by any man less faithful than Abram. “Your very own son shall be your heir.” He had his answer from God. “Fear not.” God is a man of his word. All that remains is to find out whether Abram can receive this word. Will he let the inevitable questions such as, “How can this be?” inject doubt and uncertainty? Will he hedge and find a way to reinterpret God’s promises? The episode with Hagar notwithstanding, in this moment we see Abram, the man of faith.
The righteousness of faith is the key to understanding Genesis. It is not a book of heroes and villains. It is instead a book of faith and unbelief. More importantly, it is a book of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. While individuals and families and nations wend their way in and out of faith and righteousness, God’s promises are steady and unmoving. And they are magnanimous beyond measure. The graciousness of his blessings cannot be delimited any more than can the stars in the sky be counted.
Most remarkably these promises and blessings are specific and particular. They are for this man and for his offspring. In faith one cannot help but ask: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4). What is this man, Abram, that you have chosen him? Who am I that you should be so gracious and generous to me? Those questions remain unanswered. However, the rest promised to God’s chosen ones is no less certain on account of this mystery. The Word has been spoken, and it is sure. And the one who receives it also receives the benefit. His faith is counted to him as righteousness.