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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Genesis 15

 

 

Verses 1-18

God's Covenant with Abram

Genesis 15:1-18

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

1. The dependency of God. When men make a covenant they may break their covenant. God's covenants are certified.

God covenanted with Noah that there should never be another deluge. He placed His bow in the clouds as His pledge. Millenniums have passed and that covenant has never been broken.

God made His covenant to Abram that he should become a great nation and that all the earth should be blessed in him. That covenant has been verified to the last letter.

God reiterated His covenant to Abraham unto Isaac and unto Jacob. We stand amazed to see God still at work keeping His pledges to these patriarchs without the loss of a jot or tittle.

Would that all men manifested faith in God a faith that knows no shadow of turning. God cannot lie. Ages have come and ages have gone; millions of men have lived and died, yet God's Word goes on forever. Down through the ages He has proved Himself ture to every promise He has made. His Words have been "yea, and Amen"! Not one good thing hath failed.

2. The supremacy of God. One reason that God is dependable is that He is supreme. He is able to perform His will; He is powerful to accomplish His pledges. No power on earth or under the earth, no power in Heaven or hell can draw back His hand.

The elements are subject to His command. Sun, and moon, and stars are obedient to His voice. The winds and the waves are subject to His will. He speaks and the dead come forth. He utters His voice and the sun stands still.

The resources of earth and sky are all under His control. They stand ready to obey His voice and fulfil His pleasure. God can and does utilize all things to work out His plans. All of this makes God's covenants as sure as God is supreme.

3. The love of God. If God were a heartless demagogue He might make and break His covenants at will. He might throw His pledges to the winds as some new whim displaced some old one. God, however, is holy and just; He is true and faithful. More than this, His covenants are manifestations of His love. God made covenants to men because men were the objects of His tender love. He sought their good, He undertook in their behalf.

4. The far-flung purposes of God. A covenant looks forward. It safeguards the future. It anticipates the plan of the Almighty through years, centuries and ages to come.

How wonderful it is to live under a covenant of promise, to look out into the distant vista of eternity and know that all is well! How wonderful it is to have assurance that cannot be denied, in a world of uncertainties and passing scenery to know that our destiny is fixed and rock-riven in the eternal covenants of the Lord God!

We are not "dreamers" hoping against hope; we are heirs of God, destined to obtain a sure inheritance. No cunning craftiness of men, no changing winds of misfortune can sweep away our eternal prospective. We are as sure of being glorified as if we had already experienced the translation of the saints and had taken our seats in the Heavens above.

I. AFTER THESE THINGS (Genesis 15:1 )

1. What were the things that had gone before? (1) Abram had delivered Lot. In this God saw the patriarch's heart toward others. Whatever might be said, Abram was a large-spirited man. He did not live a selfish, self-centered life. When he heard that his nephew, Lot, was in trouble, he put forth to help him. (2) Abram had given tithes of all unto Melchizedek. Once more Abram's true spirit was made plain. He thought of God as well as of Lot. He was liberally minded toward both, In all of this we observe that Abram did not live for himself alone. (3) Abram refused to make the arm of flesh his stay. He would not take the proffered goods of the king of Sodom. He would not become a servant of men.

2. What were the things that immediately ensued? (1) The Lord came to Abram in a vision. This was proof of God's acceptance of His servant. God was pleased with the man who had stood so truly for Him. Does not God always set His seal upon the true heart who is willing to go all the way with the Lord in obedience? He does. (2) The Lord encouraged Abram. God said to Abram, "I am thy Shield." A shield is a protection against the onslaughts of the enemy. A shield stands for Divine undertaking. We have nothing to fear if God only stands as a wall of fire between us and our enemies. (3) The Lord was Abram's Reward. How significant the statement: "I am * * thy exceeding great Reward." When God blesses, He blesses in a large way. He gives with benefits worthy of His bounty.

Here again is a promise for us. The Lord has promised to supply our needs according to the riches of His glory. Men might give a crust, He will give a loaf. Men might give a loaf, He will give fields waving with ripened grain. Men might give fields of grain, He will open the barns of Heaven and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over."

II. ABRAM'S COMPLAINT (Genesis 15:2-3 )

1. God's promise to Abram. The Lord had told Abram that he should have a son. This promise unfulfilled would leave God's other pledges to Abram also unfulfilled. For instance God had said to Abram: "I will make of thee a great nation." And, again, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." Yet again, "I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth." Promises such as these we have noted were dependent on Abram having a son and heir.

2. Abram's lack of faith. Before God Abram cried, "I go childless." No son had been given to Abram, and as his age grew on apace, Abram naturally gave up the hope that he could ever have a child of his own.

Let us beware lest we limit the Holy One of Israel, lest we say in our heart that God is not able His wonders to perform, lest we excuse our unbelief by that camouflaging statement, that the day of miracles is past. Who said they were past? If they are past, it is because the day of unhesitating faith is past.

3. Unbelief seeks to help God out of His seeming trouble. Abram was overly kind toward God's promises. He sought to evade the definiteness of God's Word, by a subterfuge suggestion to the Almighty. Abram suggested that he would be willing to allow the eternal God to make the son of Eliezer (his aged servant) his heir, thus relieving God of further need of doing what He had promised to do. We have put this rather grotesquely in order to display the frailty of the human conception of God's miracle-working power. Unto this hour many of us are prone to explain away and take the edge off of God's promises by our unreadiness to believe that God is able to do what He says He will do.

III. THIS SHALL NOT BE THINE HEIR (Genesis 15:3-4 , f.c)

1. Unbelief frequently hinders God's workings. For instance, we read of one place where Christ could do no mighty miracles because of their unbelief. The Lord even is said to have marveled because of their unbelief.

If it was by faith that the ancients obtained promises, it was by unbelief that they lost them. Unbelief really does limit God, so far as His personal undertakings in behalf of His own along many lines are concerned. "If thou believest." "All things are possible to him that believeth."

2. Unbelief does not and cannot weaken God's power to work out His will. For instance, God has promised to set His King upon His holy hill of Zion. This pledge is not based upon man's faith, but upon God's power to perform. Therefore when the kings of earth and its rulers set themselves together, saying, "Let us * * cast away their cords from us," He who sitteth in the Heavens will laugh at them and hold them in derision.

Men cannot withstand God. What God hath said, He will do. Though all men prove faithless, He remaineth faithful. Though they do not believe, their unbelief doth not and cannot make void the Word of God. Unbelief hinders God's performance only where God's doing is Divinely made dependent upon man's faith.

IV. "AND HE BELIEVED IN THE LORD" (Genesis 15:5-6 )

1. God's tender dealings with a hesitating saint. We stand amazed at God's tenderness. Abram had questioned God's power to perform His promises; Abram had even offered to accept a compromise, by making Eliezer's son his heir. Yet, not one word of rebuke fell from the lips of God, save that the Lord replied, "This shall not be thine heir."

Then what did God do? Jehovah brought Abram forth abroad, and said, "Look now toward Heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be."

Perhaps we need to get out under the heaven and lift up our eyes toward the myriad of twinkling worlds. Perhaps we need to set our telescope upward, that we may see the very milky way changed into a countless host of heavenly bodies moving on in space. If we could only grasp the handiwork of the Infinite, we might believe Him able to work His will among the finite men of earth.

2. God's unalterable promise. As Abram gazed at the starry heavens, God said, "So shall thy seed be." God did not lessen His Word to conform it to Abram's weakening faith. God moved to lift up Abram's faith to His unalterable and unchanging pledge.

What have the centuries proved? The seed of Abraham, bearing their peculiar mark of racial identity are still among us, a mighty people holding the balance of power among the nations in the realm of finance and education, as well as in many places of affluence. Yet, this is not all. The age to come will see this people restored and blessed under their Messiah, and filling the world with glory.

3. Abram believed in the Lord. It was enough. As God spoke to Abram, the aged man's faith grew with leaps and bounds. Doubt and unbelief took wing, as faith came home to dwell. Abram against hope, believed, hoping. He had no more human possibility of having a son and heir than he had before God had spoken. However, Abram took his eyes off of conditions and placed them on God.

V. COUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Genesis 15:6 , l.c.)

1. The faith that pleases God. One of the great chapters of the Bible is the eleventh of Hebrews. That chapter is the story of God's galaxy of Faith heroes. In it is found, among others, the name of Abraham. The outstanding feature of the whole chapter is that the men and the women obtained a good report through faith. They had the faith that pleased God; indeed without their kind of faith it is impossible to please God.

The "faith" that pleases God is not alone the faith that believes God, but the faith which believes that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. These worthies of old all believed that what God had said He would do,

2. How God responds to the faith which pleases. Him. In the case of Abram we read, "He counted it to him for righteousness." God saw in Abram's faith, more than we might see in it. God saw a faith that counted a promise fulfilled with nothing in view to the natural eye that might fulfil it. God saw a faith that was willing to trust God's promise without lifting a hand. He who had at first sought to seek Eliezer's help in order to make possible a partial fulfilment of God's promise was now willing to trust God apart from all human manipulations. This is truly the faith which saves. The sinner who seeks to add anything to his faith by way of self worth or works has fallen from grace, and knows nothing of true faith.

The faith which is counted unto us for righteousness is a faith which accepts the atonement apart from any additions or subtractions. It believes in the fact of eternal life as an accomplished fact already secured, even before the gates of Heaven are opened for entrance.

VI. "WHEREBY SHALL I KNOW THAT I SHALL INHERIT IT?" (Genesis 15:8 )

1. Abram's question had to do with the land and not with the seed. By faith Abram believed God concerning the birth of Isaac and the enlargement of his seed. Abram, however, was given a further promise. It was that the Lord who had brought him out of Ur would give unto him the land of promise to inherit it. Abram sought some seal from God relative to the future of his son and heir, and the land which they should inherit.

2. God's response to Abram was explicit. (1) A sacrifice was to be made. This sacrifice included a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtledove and a pigeon. These were to be slain, divided into parts and laid each piece one against another, with the exception of the bird. When the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. When, however, the sun was setting, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness. (2) God's covenant was established. When the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. This was God's method of establishing with Abram His covenant.

3. God's response to Abram's question was now given. The Lord told Abram that his seed should be a stranger in a land that was not theirs, that they should serve strangers and be afflicted by them for four hundred years. God told Abram, moreover, that He would judge that nation and afterward that Abram's seed should come out with great substance.

Abram, himself, was to go to his fathers in peace, and be buried in a good old age. It was in the fourth generation that his seed was to come hither again.

Thus did God assure Abram and thus did Abram believe in God. From that day Abram knew that unto his seed the land from the Nile to the Euphrates had been given to them.

VII. ABRAHAM RECKONED HIMSELF A STRANGER AND A PILGRIM (Hebrews 11:8-10 )

1. Looking for a City whose Builder and Maker is God. Abraham realized that he personally would never inherit the land which was given unto him and to his seed. He, along with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob lived together reckoning themselves but strangers and pilgrims. The fact that their inheritance was not of immediate possession in no wise disrupted their faith. They, themselves, preferred God's great eternal city to any city which they might build. Here is a lesson for all of us. Our ardor of faith and hope should never be dimmed because we have in this age and world a pathway of thorns instead of roses. In the world we are promised tribulation. What, however, do we care? We along with Abraham are living, looking for that Blessed Hope and the Glorious Appearing of our Lord and Saviour.

2. That through great tribulation we must enter in. As the darkness shrouded Abraham with horror on that great and memorable night, he realized that the pathway which Israel was destined to travel to her promised inheritance was a pathway of sorrows. It was a Bridge of Sighs, and a "Via Dolorosa."

The testings which befell the chosen race were sent unto them to prove them and to discover what was in them and whether they would fully keep God's commandments or no.

That was a wonderful day after the travails in Egypt, when Israel stood on the other side of the Red Sea, and they with Moses and Miriam sang their songs of victory and of deliverance.

That was another day, after forty years, when Israel stood on the far side of the Jordan entering into the promised land. As the walls of Jericho fell down flat an exultant shout of praise rent the heavens.

It will be a glorious day when the saints are gathered Home; when the sorrows and the sighs of earth pass into the songs and shouting of Heaven. Tears will be turned into triumph as we stand clothed in white robes at the marriage of the Lamb.

AN ILLUSTRATION

Abraham believed God when he could not see.

"' We should not expect to see a reason for everything which we believe, for many doctrines are mysteries, and we must receive them as we do pills. We do not chew pills, but swallow them; and so we must take these truths into our souls upon the credit of the revealer.' This indeed is true faith this taking truth upon trust because of the Divine authority of the revelation which contains it. We are persuaded that the Lord cannot lie, and so we believe, for this sole reason, that 'thus saith the Lord,' Why should we chew the pill by wishing to know more than is revealed? Must our Father explain everything to us on pain of not being believed if He reserves any point in His proceedings? Would not such a demand savor more of a proud, rebellious spirit than of humble, childlike love? Has a man any faith in God if he will believe no more than his reason proves?

Many a truth when taken into the soul as a whole has proved to be very sweet to the heart. We could not understand it; but no sooner had we believed it than we were conscious of its delightful influence upon the inner nature. Who can understand the twofold nature of our Lord's Person, or the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, or the predestination which does not violate free agency? And yet what a delight these truths create in minds which cheerfully accept them. My soul, thou canst not know or understand all things, else wert thou omniscient, and that is the prerogative of God alone. Be it thine therefore, to believe the testimony of thy God, and then his omniscience will be all at thy disposal. He will teach thee what else thou couldst never learn, if thou art but willing to sit at His feet and receive of Sis Word. We sometimes speak of a scholarly man; in the best sense every Christian should be scholarly; that is, willing to be a scholar." C. H. S.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Genesis 15:4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/genesis-15.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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