3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 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.” 8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” 9 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.” 10 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. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age.Genesis 15:3-15
This scripture was written when success was measured by the size one’s family. It was only three generations ago when this was true in Pennsylvania. Pastor Joyce’s Mom was one of five children and her Dad was one of nine. When I interned at Phoebe Homes in Allentown, I got to know several residents who were one of twelve or more.
These Pennsylvanians had the advantage of fertile soil and good rainfall to grow large families. Abram (Abraham) lived in arid scrubland better suited for sheep and goat herding than food crops. There was no law to protect families except to gather in clans. Being robbed or killed by neighbors was a real possibility. So God’s promise of a large family growing through generations was against the odds. To make His point about how big a family He was promising, God asked Abram to look at the sky and count the stars (verse 5). It was very hard to believe, but Abram did believe the Lord, nevertheless (verse 6).
Kurt Elward, a contributor to the Upper Room, has a very interesting comment. Note the sequence. God makes promises (verses 4-8); then Abram carries out a sacrifice (verses 9-11); and then the sun sets (verse 12).
If the sun was setting hours after God asked Abram to count the stars, what was there to count when God asked Abram to look up? It was daylight. There were no stars to count.
Abram believed God even when he could not see what God was promising.
Kurt Elward reminds us of what Jesus said later to “doubting” Thomas, “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”
This is the kind of faith we need now. We cannot see how long this pandemic is going to last. We cannot see how long the economy will take to recover. We cannot see when a vaccine will be available. We cannot see whether we will catch it. Yet, without seeing, we have faith that God always will be with us. We have faith that we can face this together. We have faith not to give up on prayer and joy.
This is good because we are much needed. People we know have the virus. Others are lonely and afraid. We must pray for them. Our prayers for them and their families will “avail much” (James 5:16). We must call those who are available. This is how we can show love. Amen.
Stay in touch. Share your needs. Let us help. Amen.