Genesis 15:1-21 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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God Credited It To Him as Righteousness
Comments for Study 11

Genesis 15:1-21
Memory Verse 6


I. Look Up At The Stars (1-7)

>1. What was the word of the LORD to Abram in 15:1? Why might Abram have been afraid? (See chapter 14) Why might he have needed assurance concerning a reward?

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."

* "After this" -The following passage is very much connected to the previous chapter. However, the author did now say how much time had passed between the two.

* "the word of the LORD" -This is significant. It is not that the LORD came to Abram, but the word of the LORD. The fact that it came in a vision is even more significant.

* "in a vision" -At first it is hard to imagine that word can come in the form of a vision. But what this is really saying is that God revealed himself through words, but not words when he was conscience in day to day life. Rather it was in a vision. What exactly is a vision? It is the revealing, or seeing as if with the eyes, something when we are in a state other than the conscience.

* "Do not be afraid" -Because of the phrase, "After this" I can say that Abram was afraid of revenge coming from the kings that he had just defeated. After all he defeated them with a sneak attack. They could have realized this and come in full force later.

Obviously the battle was a great cost to Abram in more ways than materially.

Abram could have also been afraid that fear of him might grow in his neighbors who knew him better than those he just defeated. Abram could have believed that this fear would grow until they would try to get rid of him.

Abram's fear came from uncertainty which was caused by focusing on himself and his surroundings.

* "Do not be afraid Abram" -When Abram was afraid the LORD came to him to encourage him. He did not abandon Abram. He cared for him.

* "I am your shield" -God was saying that he would protect him. This is very similar to God's promise in 12:3. In a way God was reminding Abram of this promise, but He used different words.

* "your very great reward" -Abram needed to hear this. He had just given away all the spoils of war. He got no reward for his kind act to the surrounding cities from them. Not even Lot thank him; Or at least the Bible does say he did.

From chapters 18 and 19 it is apparent that Lot went back to Sodom which also would have disappointed him for as a thanks Lot could have asked for his advice.

* "your very great reward" -How was God Abram's reward? God's presence in his heart was a great reward; although nowhere does the Bible say that the Holy Spirit dwelt within Abram as the Holy Spirit now dwells in the hearts of those who confess and believe in the name of Jesus, the Messiah. More importantly to Abram, in the future he would be with God forever in his glorious kingdom; as it says elsewhere, "Abraham did not receive the promise, but looked forward to a land whose architect and builder is God."

* "you very great reward" -In the future not present. Promise for the future rather than accomplishment in the present is the emphasis of biblical history. God's promises give his people visions and goals on which to enter life. Promises concern the basic life needs-family, the future, land economic security, peace, death. Promise centered theology is the foundation for faith based relationship with God. Biblical history narrates God's faithfulness and human faith.

>2. What was the burden on Abram's heart? (2) What did he do with his burden? What does this reveal about him?

Genesis 15:2 "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?"

* This verse reveals another burden on Abram's heart. He had followed the LORD's words and promises away from him family and his home and his country. Now what did he have to show for it. Nothing; at least nothing in his mind. Not only that none of God's promise had yet been fulfilled. Actually some had, but to Abram the one that really mattered was the promise of a son.

Abram was depressed.

* Ten years had passed since Abram followed God's call in Haran.

* "what can you give me since I remain childless" -What Abram was saying was, "You promised me a son and you can not do even that. I would have thought that by now you would have kept that promise. Now you give me another promise. All I have are promises that have not been fulfilled."

From a spiritual point of view Abram's real problem was;
    1) Unbelief was knocking on the door of his heart.
    2) He began to wonder if his life of faith was worth all that he had given up. By now he had gone through some real heart times.

* "Eliezer of Damascus" -The main servant of Abram.

Genesis 15:3 "And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.""

* In those days, if a man died without any children, the main servant would inherit the estate.

* "You have given me no child" -Abram was burdened. When God came to him Abram revealed this burden to him. He did not hold it back. The Lord knew this, but did not bring it up right away. Rather he let Abram bring it up. This reveals a lot about Abram and his faith. He was a friend of God who could talk to God about his problems.

Abram's prayer was personal. He was worshiping God in spirit and truth.

Abram was very candid.

* Faith is not easy to maintain through one's entire life.

>3. What did the LORD say to Abram about his burden (problem)? Why did he take Abram outside and show him the stars? What promise did the LORD give to him? How did this encourage and expand his vision?

Genesis 15:4 "Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir."

* "Then the word of the LORD came to him" -Perhaps at this point the vision stopped and Abram hear the LORD directly.

* "But a son coming from your own body" -This is more specific that Genesis 12:2 and 13:16.

* "will be your heir" -Not only of Abram's possessions, but also the promises.

Genesis 15:5 "He took him outside 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."

* "He took him outside" -This would also indicate that the vision had stopped.

How did God take him outside then? The LORD had appeared to him. Verse 10 would indicate this, but verses 11 and 12 would does not indicate this.

* "heavens" -In the plural.

* "Look up at the heavens and count the stars" -God's promise to Abram was practical. In the past it was just words. But now he got a demonstration of how great God's promise to him was. Each time Abram would see the stars he would remember God's promise.

* "if indeed you can count them" -The stars over the Mid-east is greater than the northern and southern hemisphere. But even there counting is an impossibility.

This verse is not to be taken literal. If one where to count the visible stars it would not equal the number. It was only a representative of the fact.

>4. How did Abram respond to the word and promise of the LORD? (6) What does this teach about his faith? (Rom. 4:18-21) What do the words, "(God) credited it to him as righteousness mean? (Rom. 1:17, 13:14) Why did Abram need to be made righteous? What other promise did the LORD give to Abram? (7) Why?

Genesis 15:6 "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness."

* "Abram believed the LORD" -Trustful surrender to the will of God is the basic element in true religion.

* "and he" -God credited Abram.

* "credited it to him" -Gave, benefited him, added it to his account.

* "as righteousness" -See quotes below.

* Romans 4, "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed--the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

* Galatians 3 "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

* James 2:14-26 "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

II. To Possess the Land (8-21)

>5. What question did Abram have regarding the promise of the LORD? With what attitude did Abram ask this question?

Genesis 15:7-8 "He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it." But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?"

* Just as Abram had sought reassurance about his heir, so now he seeks reassurance concerning his territory, asking for some sign form God. We may reasonably assume that he had returned to Mamre, and he probably had limited horizons, looking for a territorial holding in that locality; the Hebrew word translated "land" (7) is a vague as our word "territory".

* "I am the LORD, who brought you out." -ancient royal covenants often began with:
    1) the self-identification of the king
    2) a brief historical prologue, as here.

* "How can I know" -Abram believed God's promise of a son, but he asked for a guarantee of the promise of the land.

>6. What did the LORD say to him? (9) Why? How did Abram respond? (10,11) How much time had passed since Abram first received the vision of the LORD and now? (1, 5, 12)

Genesis 15:9-12 "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." 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. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him."

* Immediately the LORD was ready to ratify the covenant with the man who had yielded himself to the divine will. Hebrew "brit" is variously translated "covenant, compact, solemn agreement, testament, treaty." No one of these words brings over into English the full meaning of this solemn transaction. In ancient times men sometimes ratified an agreement or covenant by passing between the parts of a ladled, sacrificial animal. This "cutting of the covenant" was not in itself a sacrifice. Rather, it was a sacred ceremony by which the men declared their solemn purpose to keep the agreement.

>7. What happened as the sun was setting? (12) What prophecy about the future of Abram and his descendants did God give him? (13-16) What does this mean? What does this teach us about how God works in history and in our lives?

Genesis 15:13-16 "Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."

* God gave to Abram more than what he had asked for. This was to show Abram that God would definitely keep his promise.

* "a country not their own" -Egypt

* "Four hundred years" -According to Exodus 12:40 Israel spent 430 years in Egypt. Either it is a round number or the 400 years did not include 30 years of good treatment of the Egyptians, while Joseph was still alive.

* "In the fourth generation" -That is, after 400 years a "generation" was the age of a man when his first son (From a legal standpoint) was born-in Abram's case, 100 years.

* "The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" -Just how sinful many Canaanite religious practices were is now known from archaeological artifacts and from their own epic literature, discover at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) on the north Syrian coast beginning in 1929. Their "worship" was polytheistic and includes child sacrifice, idolatry, religious prostitution and divination (Dt. 18:9-12). God was patient in judgment, even with the wicked Canaanites.

In Duet. 20:17 God totally destroyed them through the Israelites.

>8. After sunset, when darkness had fallen, what happened? (17) What further promise did God give Abram concerning the future and the land? (18-21) What did the mean to him? To us? (Rom 4:13)

Genesis 15:17-21 "When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."

* Some Bible students have point out that in the instance recorded in Genesis 15:8-21, only one symbolic representative of the contract parties-the "lamp of fir" or "flaming torch", symbol of the LORD' passed between the halves of the animals. In other words, the covenant is this case was to be kept from the Godward side alone. Only the LORD himself could fulfill its promises. He would make Abram's descendants as numerous as the stars and give them a great land, stretching from the gates of Egypt to the mighty Euphrates.

* Not yet were all of these lands given to Abram's descendants although under David and Solomon it was close.

* "the land of the Kenites...Jebusites" -A similar list is in the table of nations in chapter 10. The number ten signifies completeness which is ten people's here.