We are thankful today for the volunteers who made this soft reopening possible. We have many more tech volunteers than before and we’re thankful for their hard work. It’s good for our hearts to be together cautiously and carefully. We are in times of uncertainty and fear. We wonder what things will be like. One thing that reopens every year is the pool. We wonder and fear if the water will be too cold. We wonder how we should enter the pool. Should we just jump in or should we slowly ease in? We don’t know what to expect. There’s lots of uncertainty in events over this past week. We are facing a lot of challenges in this world. As we go throughout Genesis we see we all people are made in the image of God. God breathed His breath into us. We as a church stand for all people equally. We take the Gospel to all nations. We believe Jesus Christ died for every single person. We join together with our brothers and sisters who have different skin color. We will close our service today with a prayer for this.
We have all kinds of fears. They’re not new. In spite of fear we can have faith. God gave a promise to Abraham. Genesis 15 is a reminder to us that the same fears that well up in our hearts are the same fears Abraham had. Abraham was a mighty warrior but he also had fears. How do we live in uncertain times?
When we are afraid, God comforts us.
God is aware of our fears and brings comfort to us. Lots of time has passed since Genesis 14. Abraham rescued Lot. Things in Abraham’s life have settled. The crisis is over. Life is normal. The precious challenges of life come back in and Abraham feels his unfulfilled dreams.
1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
God comforts Abraham in his fear. Abraham has taken a huge step. He’s left all he knows to follow God. He’s been faithful in following God. God will bless him. This is a promise he has. In Genesis 15:1 the promise isn’t fulfilled. In verse one a word came to him; this is a prophetic utterance, the kind that is spoken to a prophet. Abraham is described as a prophet. God speaks His will into Abraham. Abraham is a mouthpiece to the people. Abraham is a warrior but in verse one, “fear not” is said to him. Why would God tell Abraham not to be afraid? We say this when people are afraid. Abraham just defeated two kings and rescued Lot and is afraid. We think we should never be afraid. Everyone is afraid of something. Abraham has fears. God is speaking into his life.
In London, at Buckingham Palace the guards are symbols of courageous people. How ridiculous would it be for me to walk up to them and to tell them to not be afraid? God speaks truth into Abraham’s life. You and I need to hear truth. “I am your shield,” God says. A shield is something that covers and protects. God is the One who protects. A shield protects from the enemy, from those who want to harm us. Sometimes fear is spiritual warfare, an attack from the enemy. Sometimes it’s a battle God needs to fight for us. Some promises that God gave to Abraham God gives to us too. Fears we have of uncertainty about the economy, job stability and what will happen in the months ahead, we need to know we have a God who shows up and speaks into our lives. We looked at Hagar last week, a slave. She was lowest on the economic spectrum. She was a person of color. God went to her and told her He is with her. Abraham is on the highest end of the economic spectrum. Kings come to him and ask for advice. “I will be your shield.” When we have questions God is with us. God listens.
When we have questions, God listens.
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?”
Abraham addresses God. He says, “Sovereign Lord.” This is the only time the word ‘sovereign’ is used in Genesis. Abraham’s words are intentional. “Sovereign” is what God has done in calming Abraham’s heart. Sovereign says God is in control of everything. God is the Creator of Heaven and earth. God holds the planets together. Abraham can speak about what God has done in his life. Abraham acknowledges God is in control of his life. Whenever we are afraid we can say God is Sovereign. God told Abraham years before He would bless him and make of him a great nation. Abraham still has no child and wonders what’s going on. What’s God going to do? Abraham doesn’t understand how this will happen. He has questions for God. It’s helpful to see a strong and powerful person going to God with questions. Abraham acknowledges who God is and says he doesn’t understand. There’s uncertainty similar to what Hagar says. God helps me understand so I can live in this world. I don’t know your challenges and uncertainties. Sometimes we don’t know what to do.
As a child I went on vacation with my sister and my grandparents. We traveled to a week-long festival where there were bands playing like Alabama. This was in the early 80s and we were in a Winnebago. It was our first road trip with our grandparents and we trusted them. They’re the adults. As we were traveling down the road we heard a noise. Then we heard it again and again. My grandmother was giving my grandfather looks. We were wondering what was going on! We looked out the window and saw we were in a construction zone. My grandfather was hitting the cones and they were flying everywhere! I wanted to ask my grandfather is he was aware of what he was doing. We trusted him but we just wanted to know that he knew. Abraham takes this to God and wants God to know what’s going on.
When we forget, God reminds.
5And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Abraham is heard and is reminded of who God is. God is Creator of Heaven and earth and there are many things we do not understand. This pandemic has overwhelmed our medical staff. We have a God who understands all these things. We have a God who is not surprised by any of this. God reminds us in verse 5 how to respond. Here’s what God does: God invited Abraham to look at the sky. We’ve done this too. Maybe you’ve even done this? You’ve tried to count the stars? It might seem silly, but try to count the stars. We know it’s impossible. It shows us how small and finite we are. God can cannot only count the stars but He even made all of them. God’s got this. He made each one of them. God repeats the promise of offspring to Abraham. He gives Abraham this reminder. God’s promise to Abraham has not changed. God’s promises are still true today. Jesus prayed promises over us. Jesus prayed to the Father to protect us and give us truth. He prayed we’d have unity. Oh my! We need unity from the Father! You can find the prayer Jesus prayed over His church in John 17. He prayed we’d know the heart of God and that we’d demonstrate God’s love in this world. Even if orange cones are flying everywhere we now God restores. Believe means to place trust with confidence.
When we believe, God restores.
6And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Abraham’s response is faith. God’s response is restoration. God wants us to trust Him. God will restore us. We just read verses 5-6 and Abraham doesn’t say anything else. Abraham is silent. He has a quiet faith in God in this moment. God knows our heart so there’s no need for Abraham to give a response. God was OK with Abraham’s question. Sometimes we think a question is a sign of a lack of faith. Our questions show faith that we are wrestling with God. Abraham does this. He has a quiet confidence. God’s response is that Abraham doesn’t understand what’s happening. Did God answer Abraham’s question? Did God tell Abraham anything he didn’t already know? God repeats His promises to Abraham. God doesn’t give any greater details.
Faith is trusting God even when we cannot see Him. We did not see the empty tomb and the crucifixion. God counts this as righteousness. God places right-standing over Abraham. We all want to be right with God, restored. Notice here it’s not based on anything Abraham has done. In Genesis through Revelation we are made righteous through faith. Later on the law and guidelines are given. We are made right by faith and grace; we are saved. We are restored today the same way Abraham was. We trust what happened on Calvary. In Romans 3 Paul shows us it’s always been this way. God pronounces us clean. There’s a lot of unanswered questions but God’s promises are true. We can face an uncertain future. Abraham was righteous in his generation. Will we be righteous in this generation? It’s by trusting God that we are made right.
God, thank You for faith in the midst of fear. Thank You for the Cross. We cling to the cross today. We know our hearts aren’t always righteous. We have impure hearts. God we pray You will heal the injustice in our hearts. We pray for those hurting because of injustice. May we be people who stand up for those hurting. God restore our land. We pray for the racial tensions in our land. We pray for those living in fear. God, our faith is in You. God we love You and we place our lives in Your hands. In Jesus name, Amen.
Sermon Notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.