In the midst of his fears of retaliation from his enemies and the uncertainty of his future, Abraham again has an encounter with the living God whose promises are abundant beyond measure. Abraham must simply take God at His word and he is counted as righteous.
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Transcript: Welcome to 5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer. I’m so glad that you joined us again as we journey through the life of Abraham learning tremendous lessons along the way. If you were with us last time, you know how Abraham said that he would not take so much as a shoelace of the spoils that really rightly belonged to him, lest the King of Sodom say that he helped make Abraham rich. Well, you can imagine Abraham is now in a difficult spot. He fears retaliation because after all he did rescue Lot and there are some kings and some enemies that are very anxious to get to him. He also has some fear about the fact that he’s childless and God had promised him posterity. That’s why chapter 15 opens with this and I memorized it in the King James Version, “fear not Abraham.” By the way, the first time the expression, “fear not” occurs in the bible—now that’s going to occur a number of different times throughout Scripture—but the Lord says, “fear not Abraham. I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward. Abraham, I’m going to protect you, and not only that, I am going to be the one who is going to provide for you. I will be your reward. You said, ‘No’ to the king of Sodom, but I am here for you.”
They are actually three promises in the 15th chapter. The first one has to do with protection. The second has to do with the gift of righteousness, verse six, very critical, quoted three times in the New Testament. The Bible says that God took Abraham out, showed him the stars and then the Lord says that he believed—that is to say—that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. That’s going to be quoted in the New Testament. Paul refers to it, of course, in the book of Romans. How are people saved in Old Testament times? Did they believe in the Messiah? Well, some perhaps saw the Messiah. Maybe Abraham got some glimmers, but not all of them did. The content of their faith was different. But when they believed God, in this case, God says, “Are you going to trust me that you’re going to have seed that will not be numbered?” Abraham believed. God says, “I’m crediting it to you for righteousness” and Abraham, like all the other Old Testament Saints, was actually saved on credit. Jesus would eventually die and take away their sin. But Paul says in Romans that God waved the penalty, waved the sin back there, knowing that Jesus was to die. So Abraham had fellowship with God, and it was here that we know for sure he came to saving faith in Jehovah and was what we would say, from the New Testament standpoint, a converted man. Great truth, but we must hurry on.
There’s a third promise in this passage and that relates directly to us. It’s the promise of the future. Now you have to understand that in those days when a covenant was made, a blood covenant, they took animals and they split those animals in two, half of the animals over here, half over there. Of course, in this case, the Bible says they took a heifer, a goat, and a ram. They killed them. They cut them in two. And then what the parties would do is join hands and walk through these animals together (the parts of the animal). That was known as a blood covenant. Now notice this, God sets this up; the animals are ready and normally the parties walk through. What’s happening to Abraham? The Bible says that a great sleep came upon him and while he was sleeping, through those animals, through that path, there was a torch and there was a flaming pot. What’s that all about? Really it is symbolic of Israel, isn’t it? That throughout their history, they’re going to experience not only the blessing of being a torch, a light, but also a smoking pot. A great deal of persecution and hardship. But where was Abraham? Asleep. Why? This covenant was unconditional. That’s why it says in Hebrews, chapter six that when God could swear by nobody as great as He, He swore by Himself and He made the promise to Abraham. God says, “It’s all dependent on me. It’s not dependent on you.” This is a covenant that is really a one-way street. There are people today who think that Israel has lost all blessing because they have been disobedient. But God is saying that, in the end, I’m going to accomplish what I have promised you, no matter what.
Now let me encourage you, when you believe in Jesus Christ, do we have a conditional covenant or an unconditional covenant? Does Jesus say, “Well, I’ll be faithful to my side if you’re faithful to yours”? No, it’s unconditional. I worked in a church many years ago, a small church, and there was a man there who loved to witness and he would always tell people, “pledge your allegiance to Jesus Christ” and I pointed out to him that that’s not the Gospel. Another evangelist said, “Come forward and promise to follow Jesus.” That’s not the Gospel. How do you know you’re going to follow him? How do you know you’re going to pledge your allegiance and then not break that allegiance down the road? The fact is that the Gospel is not me making a promise to God. The Gospel is me believing a promise that God has made to me. And I believe that we enter into an unconditional covenant. He will perform that which He has destined for us and we will make it all the way to the other side. Please join me next time as we continue this discussion of Abraham because we’re going to talk about his unbelief. We’re going to speak about his failure and all the lessons we can learn from his experience. But as for today just go with God.