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Genesis 15:1-18

Growing in Faith

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 3, 2008

In Genesis 15, Abraham has just rescued Lot from captivity under the regional kings. He must now be on guard. God comes to him in a vision and gives him the promises on which Abram must learn to stand. Once again, we see Abram's faith grow. There is a lot of practical application for us here because we can all relate to the need to grow in our faith. Abraham is given as an example of a man who takes God at his word and believes what God says, though at the same time we see Abram takes some steps backward as well. We can learn from both his successes and failures.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Growing in Faith 

Genesis 15:1-18

Intro

In Genesis 15, Abram has just come from a battle in which he and his men defeated four regional kings. These kings had attacked Sodom where Abram’s nephew Lot was living and ended up taking Lot, his family and possessions captive. Abram rescued Lot and many others but now must be on guard.

God then comes to him in a vision and once again gives him promises on which Abram must learn to stand.

Here we see Abram growing in faith and increasing in blessing as he does.

There is a lot of practical application for us in these verses because we can all relate to the need to grow in our faith. Abraham is called the father of our faith and given as an example of a man who takes God at his word and believes what God says, though at the same time we see Abram takes some steps backward as well.

I. Let Faith Conquer Fear

  • The key to understanding this verse is in understanding the importance of what just took place before this.
  • Chedarloamer had been the power in that area for some time and Abram and his men had just brought an embarrassing defeat.
  • You might think that Chedarloamer is a cheesy name, but he was no one to get angry.
  • Abram was now concerned what Chedarloamer was going to do next, would there be a reprisal attack?

A. It is God who says, “Do not fear.”

  • After these things… God said…”do not fear.”
  • The point is that God is the One who makes this promise and therefore Abram can take confidence that what God says he will do.

Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

  • This is the first time this phrase is used in the bible, but it is used many times from here, in fact, that phrase is used 58 times in the bible.
  • The underlying power behind this word is the fact that God is the One saying it.
  • There is a powerful example of this in Isaiah 43.

Isaiah 43:1-7 “I have called you by name, you are mine!”

B. Trust that God is your shield

  • “I am a shield to you,” God promised Abraham.
  • It’s the reason that Abram should not fear.
  • Psalm 3 is a powerful example of trusting in God to be our protector in times of trouble.

Psalm 3:1-8 He is a shield about me

  • God was asking God to trust His promises – to stand on His promises with his life.

  • That’s the key to conquering fear with faith, standing on the promises of God because you know that He who promised is faithful…

Hebrews 10:22-24, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

Illus – What does it take to drive on a river? I remember seeing a picture of a car parked on the Willamette River with a bunch of men standing around it.

It reminds me of a story of a man many years ago who wanted to cross the Mississippi River when it was frozen. Not knowing if it could hold his weight, he crawled across on his belly to distribute the weight. Just as he was nearing the other side, a four-horse load of coal with a man singing at the top his lungs came speeding across!

  • There is an old hymn that captures this powerfully… “Standing on the promises of Christ My King,” vs 2… standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear prevail, by the Living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.

Illus – When Nicole 9 or 10 we were at the marina on the coast and she leaned on a boat while looking into the water...

  • The problem is that many people do not know what promises God has given to stand on.
  • I’m fickle, but God never wavers… even Paul didn’t come to Corinth when he promised.

C. He is your exceedingly great reward

  • The King James has it right here when it reads, “Your exceedingly great reward.”
  • Abram refused to take any of the spoils of the war which the king of Sodom offered ... 14:22-23
  • This is the third promise in this verse and very important for us to remember. God is saying to Abram that God Himself will be with him and that will mean exceedingly great things in his life.
  • …Which should immediately remind us of a very important New Testament verse in the same thought.

Ephesians 3:17-20, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, NKJV

  • God is our treasure. He is the One who will truly satisfy the soul.

App – You could have great sums of money and it will only leave you empty and without purpose. You could have an abundance of anything on this earth and it will not satisfy the soul. Only in Christ are we satisfied when we have more of Christ in our lives.

Illus - University of Rochester have found that people who make money a top goal in life are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, behavioral and relationship problems… and that they take less pleasure in routine events like a friend telling a joke.

II. Believe God More

  • Verse 6 is the key verse in this chapter and one of the key verses in the entire bible, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

A. Trust God with the burdens of your heart

  • After God gave Abram the promises of verse 1, Abram decided to tell God the deepest burden of his heart.
  • “I am childless,” Abram said. This was a deep desire and seemed an impossible request. Perhaps he had misunderstood God and a relative descendent would be heir to the promise.
  • “One from your body will be heir.” Then God took him outside and had him look at the stars in the sky… “So shall your descendents be.” You want a son, I will give you more than you can count!!
  • We are even counted in that number!

Galatians 3:7-9, Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

  • What is wonderful to see here is also the intimacy between them as Abram reveals the deepest desire of his heart.
  • There is friendship here that points to our relationship with God in Christ.

James 2:23, And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

  • God desires a relationship where we would trust God with the deepest burdens and desires of our heart and that we would trust Him with those burdens to answer our deepest need.

Psalm 121:1-3, I will lift up my eyes to the hills -- from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

B. God’s covenant is unconditional

  • Verse 8, “how shall I know I will possess it?” Abram asked God.
  • God then asked for a heifer, and other animals in which to hold a rite of covenant promise.
  • In that culture, this was the way they made a covenant together. The message was clear, if you break this covenant this is what will happen to you.

  • In our culture, we make contracts with provisions of what will happen someone doesn’t do their part.
  • But what we discover is that a contract, even a covenant between people is only as good as the person making it.

App – We’re not perfect, we let people down. I have told people I will do this or that and then get distracted or sidetracked by something important and don’t do what I said.

Not so with God. With God, the promises of God are yes and amen…

II Corinthians 1:20, For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

  • But then God walked through the animal parts alone, which was a powerful declaration that God alone would stand by this covenant.

App – this is a prophetic look at the cross, which is a fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham. God took our failures upon Himself when Christ died on the cross.

II Corinthians 5:21, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

  • I’m so glad to know that God’s blessings to me in Christ are not dependent on my perfection, because I fall far short.
  • But God takes my sins upon Himself. He has made a way for everyone who is away from God to be found in Him... and there is rejoicing in heaven because of it.

Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Genesis 15:1-18      NASB

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,

"Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great."
 
2 Abram said, "O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." 5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 And He said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it." 8 He said, "O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?" 9 So He said to him, "Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon." 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 11 The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.
 
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete."
 
17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:
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