Serving Christ and sharing the Gospel

Promises to Abraham (Gen 15:1-21)

In our sermon series ‘From Adam to Abraham’ we are at week seven: We have had Cain and Abel, and Phil told us about Abel’s faith, and the also about Cain’s choice; and then there was Noah and Noah being righteous and faithful; we had the Flood and the covenant that God made with Noah and in effect mankind; then we had Matthew talk to us about bad choices in the reading about  the Tower of Babel, then we had Phil tell us about the call of Abram and Abraham’s faithfulness; and then last week we had the meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek and this week we pick up with the Promises of God to Abraham.

But first let’s get personal: What is our faith based on, is it an unending, unchangeable covenant with God Hopefully you are thinking yes. Our salvation is not based on us being ‘good enough’, or ticking the right boxes, or trying to ‘be better’ or ‘doing good works’, all these things should come out of our relationship with our God, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are saved because of the covenant we have entered into with God. This idea of covenant is seen throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

This morning I want to speak to you about A Covenant of Faith and a man named Abraham. The Apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 4: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Romans 4:3) “Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, as a point of fact the Law was not given at this time it was given later to Moses a decedent of Abraham, so it was a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we can all receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” (Romans 4:13-16)

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he must have figured his and Sarah’s bodies were beyond what God had promised. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus from the dead. Let’s never forget that Jesus was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:18-25)

Abraham is a wonderful example of how the Christian life is meant to be lived - we are meant to live a life of covenant faith - trusting God. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping, and we should live by faith in the same way. Abraham was in a covenant relationship with God, a relationship that gave him hope.

Was everything in Abraham’s life simple and easy? No! He had problems, situations and circumstances throughout his life that brought worry and fear. Yet Abraham trusted God. Abraham found his reason for hope was God. Let’s look at the covenant God made with Abraham in our reading in Genesis chapter 15. Abraham was still known as Abram at this time.

So last week we heard about Abrams great victory and his meeting with the mysteries Melchizedek, you would have thought Abram was on top of the world full of confidence. Knowing God was on his side. Now after the victory of Chapter 14 we find Abram in fear in Genesis Chapter 15. Why would Abram be afraid? Did he not trust in God. Perhaps he was fearful that the kings of the north would return - but God does not rebuke Abram for his fear - instead He comforts him as we have just read and heard in our reading.

Our reading helps us to gain a better understanding of the Covenant of Faith we can have with the God who created everything. There are three things we find in Genesis 15: A mighty God, a man of faith and a meaningful Covenant.

1. A mighty God

Who is this Mighty God who spoke everything into existence? Who is this God who called in a flood who saw the Tower of Babel and confused the languages of man? And yet still shows us so much love. Who is this God? Can we understand Him? Can we really know who He is?

The truth is that we cannot know everything about God. There are some things about God too difficult for us to comprehend, but we can gain a deeper understanding of Him. The more we read the Bible, the closer we grow to Him, the deeper our relationship becomes. God wants to be in relationship with His people. Our God wants to be in relationship with us.  Isn’t that an amazing thought? God wants to have a personal relationship with you and me. He is a personal God.

The Mighty God of Creation takes time to come to individuals Noah, and now Abram and speak to them. God is a very personal God and He works in the lives of people throughout Scripture and he works in the lives of people today if we let him. If you were to search your Bible to find the phrase: ‘I will be their God and they will be my people’ you would find it at least 43 times. And what you would see is all through the Bible God desires personal contact with people. All we are to do is listen to and trust the Word of God.

Genesis 15 speaks of God’s personal contact with Abram and that personal contact changed the lives of all people forever. God the father wants us to be in personal relationship with Him. Throughout the Bible there are records of God’s personal interaction with countless people: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, David, Paul and so many others. God wants us to come to Him in personal prayer to talk and share and He promises to listen. Our Mighty God is also the Sovereign God. The God of Creation did not just create this world and then walk away and leave it alone. He did not create the people and then leave us to battle on our own.

In our reading God describes Himself as “a shield.” God is saying I will protect you. God says to Abram that he God is in charge of the life and events that are around Him just as a King would be in charge of a kingdom. God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Verse 14 talks about how God has power over the rise and fall of nations on this earth, whether they knew it or not.

Why is this important? It is important because one of the basic questions that many ask about God is: ‘Why does God let bad things happen?’ Or ‘Does God care that bad things happen?’ We need to understand that knowing something will happen, allowing something to happen, does not mean that God caused it. God does not cause evil. God does not have ill-will. We live in a fallen world cursed by sin and bad things are the result. God is involved in our world and wants people to turn in faith to Him. God is active in our lives disciplining, helping, and stretching our faith. God offers His comfort and help in times when this evil world and the enemy attack us. God wants to be intimately involved in our lives and He loves us.

2. A man of faith

Verse 6 is the key “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” Hebrews 11:8-12 describes Abraham as a great man of faith who obeyed the Lord instructions and prepared the way for the people of faith. He believe God and God’s plan really began to take shape with Abraham.

Abram was a man of faith and his faith is a pattern for us to follow. Abram was a faithful and righteous man - but he was a person who still asked questions. What was the first thing Abram did after he received a vision from the Lord? He asked a question of God!

Abram not only questioned, but also challenged God. In Genesis 15:3 Abram says that God had not yet done what He said He would do and Abram was still without children. God tells Abram to look up at the countless stars in the night sky, and God makes a covenant promise to Abram, he will have more descendants than he would ever be able to count. Then we have Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

Do you ask questions about what you read in the Bible? Do you struggle with why you believe what you do or do you just blindly accept it? What questions do you need to ask about your faith? When I first became a Christian, a number of people said to me that Christians were stupid believing what we hear and read. If anyone has ever told you this, they are wrong. I am still asking questions. God wants us to ask questions, questions show interest and they aide learning and deeper our relationship with God. For me the more questions I ask, the deeper I dig into God’s word, God consistently and constantly shows me He is a God who is real and a God who can be trusted. I am in a personal relationship, a covenant of faith, with the God who loves me and has saved me. What about you.

And this gives me hope, it gives me an assurance that I am forgiven of my sins and assured of a place in Heaven when God calls me home. Abram believed God. Abram allowed God access to his life. Abram made himself available to God. God never forces faith upon us, it is a choice that we all have. Abram was willing to let God be the Sovereign in his life. Abram allowed God to have control. That is faith in action. Are we willing and available for God’s use? Do we place restrictions on God of where and when He can use us?

Where can God use you in this church in this community in this world? Let me ask you another question. Would you call yourself a mature Christian, do you think you have a mature faith? Do you have faith like Abraham, a mature faith?

3. A meaningful covenant

The Lord did not establish a contract with Israel or with the church. God created a covenant. There is a difference between a contract and a covenant. Contacts are broken when one side fails to keep their promise. Like if a patient fails to keep an appointment with a doctor, the doctor is not obligated to call the house and ask, “Where were you? Why didn’t you show up for your appointment?” The Doctor simply goes on to his next patient and next appointment. The patient broke an informal contract.

God asks in Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15). God’s covenant is more like the ties of a parent to her child than a doctor’s appointment. If a child fails to show up for dinner, the parent’s commitment, unlike the doctor’s, isn’t cancelled. The parent finds out where the child is and makes sure they are cared for. One member’s failure does not destroy the relationship. A covenant puts no conditions on faithfulness. It is the unconditional commitment to love and serve.

As we have heard over the last seven weeks God made a covenant in the Garden of Eden and then with Noah and his descendants. And now in our reading Genesis 15 we see the covenant of faith between God and Abram. Now jumping into the New Testament, I want to close with the new covenant Jesus established for you and me.

God has made a meaningful covenant with every Christian. Look at Matthew 26:26-30, While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus has established a new covenant with us. The covenant is the promise of unconditional love and forgiveness based on the saving act of Jesus and His shed blood.

This meaningful covenant promises eternal life for those who enter into it. Are we living our faith worthy of that covenant? Let me encourage you to take Abraham as a wonderful example of how the Christian life is meant to be lived - live a life of hope, a life of covenant faith. There is hope found here:

  • We can know the Mighty God in each of our own lives.
  • We can be a Man or woman of Faith.
  • We can experience the hope that comes from a covenant of faith with God.
  • We can have a personal relationship with God when we trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Let us pray: Lord God thank you that you love us, thank you Jesus for your covenant with us, Lord send your Holy Spirit that we may have a deeper personal relationship with you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen