How long does it take before you start to think that someone who made you a promise isn’t going to keep it? For example, let’s say that you consider me a perfectly trustworthy person—so that anything I say, you believe is something I am going to do. Let’s say I promise to buy you a new car. You might think that’s a pretty big promise. But, you don’t have a reason to doubt me, until it’s obvious that I can’t. It might take a couple of years to save money, it might not be the nicest car, but I could probably do it. At what point do you start to think, though, that maybe I can’t keep this promise? There might be hints like years or decades pass, and you still don’t have your car. Maybe I lose my job as a pastor in some strange way—maybe the church burns down and everyone just says, “Well, it was nice while it lasted.” You might think that I can’t keep it because I don’t have any income. Or, maybe one day I pass away in some freaking accident playing chess. Then, you might really think there’s no way it could happen.
For Abram in our text, he knew God’s promises, and there we many reason why he might think that there was no way God could keep his promise. You heard about the promise last week from Pastor Kelly. God promised Adam and Eve that he would send a Headcrusher, the one who would defeat Satan and restore righteousness to them. Adam and Eve believed that promise, and you can know that because of the name that Adam gives his wife—Eve would be “the mother of all the living.” Our story picks up with Abraham. And, I know in your Bible, there’s only about 10 chapters between that story and the one we are looking at tonight—and in Sunday School and Bible studies, we tend to jump from Adam and Eve to Noah to Abraham—but there are so many things that happen in between that first gospel promise and our lesson tonight. In fact, thousands of years have passed.
When we meet Abram, he’s not even a believer. God calls him out of unbelief and reveals himself—that out of his grace he has chosen him to be his special family. This is a reiteration of the promise God made to Adam and Eve. There would be a special birth someday, and that child would be the promised child. People had been waiting thousands of years for that birth. Now, God told Abraham that he would one day have a promised son, and from that son would come the Savior. But there were many reasons why Abraham may have doubted this promise. Not the least of which was that thousands of years had passed. When I promised to buy you a new car, it was only a couple years or decades before you began to doubt me. But, thousands of years had passed. Did God’s promise still stand? Could you still put your faith in it? And, if you got passed that, there was another reason. Abram was no spring chicken. Abraham was already an old man, well-passed having children.
That was something Abram wrestled with tonight. He knew God’s promise. He knows that God would make him into a great nation, that the Savior would come from him, and that his family would inherit the Promised Land, but he wrestles with it. He’s an old man. Thousands of years had passed. His wife is an old woman who never had children. How is it possible that God could keep this promise? Maybe you can understand how Abraham is at the point that he is wondering about these things. Maybe you can understand how Abraham could think that God wasn’t going to keep his promise.
That sort of feeling is not uncommon among human beings. We wrestle with whether God can keep his promises. For example, how long has it been since Jesus promised us that one day he would come back, raise the dead, recreate the earth, and bring us into paradise? It’s been thousands of years. Does that mean God isn’t going to keep his promise? Sometimes, people sin, and they expect consequences, because God says there are consequences for sin. When they don’t come, does that mean God is not able to keep his word. This doubt that lives inside of the human heart is a normal part of being human, but it’s not a good part. It’s truly a sin.
When we doubt that God will keep his promises, it’s not good that we are questioning the idea of the promise itself. But, it’s actually worse than that. What does our doubt of God’s Word say about our view of him? Because if God says he is going to keep a promise, what do you think about God if you doubt he will? I know all outward circumstances may indicate that he can’t, maybe like Abraham you think that it just isn’t possible. But if you say, “No, God is not able to keep this promise.” It’s bad that you are questioning the idea of the promise, but it’s worse that you are doubt God himself. That means you have doubt about who God is. If God does not keep his promises, then he is a liar. If God does not keep his promises, then he is not faithful. If God does not keep his promises, then he is not really God. He doesn’t really have mercy or grace, but even if he did, you couldn’t trust him anyway.
This is important for two reasons. First, there are Christians who believe that having doubt is beneficial part of being a believer. They might even say that doubt is part of faith, or that doubt is a good thing. But, recognize when Christians say that, they are disagreeing with God’s Word. Faith and doubt cannot go together. When we talk about faith, we do connect it to God’s promises, but underneath that is faith in the one who gave them. If they say doubt is a natural part of faith, they are saying God wants us to doubt who he says he is. That is not okay. That is sin. Doubting that God is who he says he is is just a fancy way of talking about unbelief.
Please don’t misunderstand me, though. I am not saying that no Christian will ever wrestle with doubt. I’m not saying that. In fact, the second reason this is so important is because God wants to crush every doubt you have. I know some of God’s promises can be hard. I know it may seem that God is not able to keep his promise. But, it’s never true. Faith is trust, not just in the promises, but in God himself. The God who is always faithful and trustworthy. The God who is omnipotent, and yet cannot lie. The God who is able to keep every single promise, no matter how contrary the circumstances may seem. He’s your God. He’s good. He doesn’t ask you to weigh out whether it’s possible. He doesn’t ask you to count the years since he made the promise. He doesn’t tell you to doubt who he is. Instead, God wants you to trust him. Because he’s good. Because he’s faith. Because he loves you more than you can imagine.
So it was that night. God came to Abraham in our lesson. The very first thing God tells Abraham is, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Based on that proclamation of God’s goodness, Abram lays how his thoughts and what he is wrestling with. He explains how hard it seems to him to be for God to keep his promise. He’s old. It’s been a long time. Sarah’s old and she’s never had a child. He doesn’t have an heir of his own blood. Instead, a friend, a servant of his, would inherit everything that he had. So, God gives him the promise again: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). Then, to make it even more clear and amazing, he takes Abram to a place where he can see the stars. He tells him, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them…So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5).
From there, it says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). This is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. If it’s not one you have marked, you should definitely highlight it or circle it or something. Because God repeated his promise to Abraham, but it wasn’t like anything had changed. Abraham was still an old man. Sarah was still an old woman. The same amount of time had passed. Yet, Abram sees all of this, and behind it he sees the heart of his loving, good, saving God. That one day, God would give him not only a son, but the Son. This was building toward something bigger and better.
Abram hears that and God’s Word convinces him that God is faithful, trustworthy, good, and above everything else, loves him more than he could imagine. So, Abram puts his trust in God. And God looks at Abram, and credits that faith as righteousness. It’s sort of like the transitory principle in math—if A=B, and B=C, then A=C. God looks at Abram and sees his faith in him. And God views that faith as the same thing, as equal to, righteousness. This has not changed for us, either. God looks at you, he sees your faith, and he sees it as righteousness. He credits righteousness to you by your faith. He sees you as perfect, sinless, and holy. It’s because of the promised offspring, that is Jesus, this righteousness comes to us. Because Abraham does have a son, Isaac. Isaac has a son, his son has (many) sons, and so on. Until there is an enormous nation of people descended from Abraham living in the Promised Land. Then promise of the savior, too, was passed down and down and down, until it came to one person. A virgin woman named Mary, who would give birth to the Son. It was because of that Son’s righteousness, that you, me, and Abraham are righteous.
That’s why it’s so important that we get this right. God kept his promise to Abraham to give him a son, Isaac, and later, the Son, Jesus the Christ. Put your faith in the Lord. Trust God. Not the ideas of the promises themselves, but God. He is faithful, trustworthy, good, and above all, loves you more than you can imagine. And he proves this to you, but sending his Son at Christmas to die for your sins on Good Friday. I know it can be hard to trust God’s promises, because they can seem hard. But, God wants you to trust him. Even if it seems like there’s no way he could keep his promise. Still, trust him. That’s how it seemed to Abraham, and God kept his promise. That’s how it seemed for 4000 or more years, until Jesus was born. God has kept every single promise. He will keep all his promises to you as well. Though it may seems hard, put your trust in God, because he is faithful, trustworthy, good, and above all, he loves you more than you can imagine. Amen.