May 4, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Christine Chang, Gracepoint Davis

Genesis 15:1

How does the content and timing of God’s message relate to what Abram must have been feeling given what went on before?

God’s message to Abram must have been a huge encouragement for him especially since Abram was probably feeling that Sarah and him were so old in their age, perhaps they were not to bear children. When God first called Abram out, He promised to lead and make him into a great nation and also to give Abram’s offspring this land. But we see how Abram takes matters in his own hands and when they go to Egypt. He fears for his life and schemes to protect himself at the expense of his wife. And yet even with that, God delivers him from the pharaoh’s hand. From this experience, Abram again learns to trust in God and believe that He will lead them. So when Abram goes to rescue Lot, he doesn’t fear what kind of harm that may come to him, but he goes and brings Lot back with the trust that God would be with him. With all that went on Abram must have been feeling that God is faithful and will keep His word, but at the same time he might have felt conflicted, since the reality was he and Sarai were still without child, and they were coming along in their years. There could have been a part of him that started doubting that God was going to fulfill His words in the way Abram had expected. Abram thought maybe his heir would be a servant from his household, instead of his child. He doubted God and thought, that maybe he wasn’t meant to have children. But in that moment of doubt or fear, God answers him and addresses him specifically. God reassures Abram that “a son is coming from your own body” and he will be his heir. God meets Abram and He sees the fears and anxieties in Abram’s heart. And so, He tells Abram not to fear, and there in the midst of God meeting him, Abram confesses how he has been feeling. God’s perfect timing alleviates Abram’s fear and helps Abram to voice his fears and doubts to God.

Genesis 15:2-5

Consider the promise God gives Abram in response to his expression of anxiety and doubt.  What are its characteristics considering the circumstances Abram presently finds himself in?

God listens to Abram’s anxieties and doubts and specifically addresses it. God tells Abram that He would not only give him a child from his own body, but he brings Abram out and promises that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. God not only answers Abram’s fears, but also goes beyond his expectations by promising that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars. Given Abram and Sarai’s circumstance of being old in their age, it seems improbable that Sarai would have a child, but again, I am reminded that God could do the improbable; in fact, He could go way beyond our expectations.

How do I normally react to the extraordinary nature of God’s promises in my life?

When it comes to the extraordinary nature of God’s promises in my life, I tend to focus on my anxieties and fears instead of that God can do. Moving back from Taiwan, I had a lot of fears about job prospects. Along with this, I was anxious about the future of what the transition will be like in Davis especially as I haven’t been back to Davis since 2004 and a lot has changed. I also worried about medical and living expenses since we didn’t have jobs. But I experienced God answering my prayers and helping to alleviate the worries in my heart. Pastor Jonathan and Susanna opened up their homes to us, and much of the medical expenses were free for now. I thought about how God indeed provides and that if I give into my emotions, I end up getting swept away by it. Instead, as I focus on how God provided and that through this community of Christ, we don’t have to carry our burdens alone, I feel reassured that God would carry us. This past Sunday, Pastor Jonathan asked in his message whether we would want to be docked by the piers calm and quiet, or be in the middle of the squall with Jesus in the boat with us. If he asked me that question before I would have chosen to be calm and safe, but the longer I journey with the Lord, the more I see that the safest place to be is with Jesus, because He can calm the storms and do immeasurably more than I could ever expect. And so, even when circumstances seem discouraging and impossible, I can trust that God will be with me and this brings much of reassurance.

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Submitted by Daemin Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

Genesis 15:1

How does the content and timing of God’s message relate to what Abram must have been feeling given what went on before? Abram had just fought a war against some local kings in order to rescue his nephew Lot.  Abram must have been reminded that his nephew Lot had moved away and was separated from him.  Abram must also have felt insecure and vulnerable – he had made enemies in the region, and he didn’t have any walls or fortified cities for protection against potential enemies who likely outnumbered his forces.  Abram had made a point of rejecting any spoils of war that he had the right to claim, and thus turned down a way to get rich from his efforts.  Given all this, the content and timing of God’s message to Abram is perfectly timely and addresses what Abram must have been going through.  God starts by telling Abram not to be afraid, and that God is Abram’s shield.  And then God tells Abram that God himself is Abram’s great reward.  There is no greater protection than God, and no greater treasure than God.  God provided for Abram what he needed: security and provision.

Genesis 15:2-5

Consider the promise God gives Abram in response to his expression of anxiety and doubt.  What are its characteristics considering the circumstances Abram presently finds himself in? God’s promise to Abram is supernatural in that it is beyond natural expectations and human abilities.  Abram was aged by this time, his only family in the region was separated from him, and he had made himself enemies by fight against the local kings and thus vulnerable and maybe even isolated.  Abram clearly didn’t think he was going to have any children and expected his servant Eliezer to be the heir.  God’s promise shows that it’s not about the human limits, and that it’s not the circumstances but God who is in control.  God is able to do what seems impossible.  It would be God who would have to fulfill his promise.

How do I normally react to the extraordinary nature of God’s promises in my life? My usual reaction to God’s promises given to me through the Scriptures was to take them figuratively, as metaphors or lessons, rather than as promises to be trusted and acted upon.  There was even some lack of faith that they were still applicable today.  But through the years, I’ve experienced God’s promises to be true and trustworthy.  God has proved to be faithful beyond measure, and I’m learning to take God’s promises at face value, and learning to trust them and put my life on them, so that when the God tells us through the Bible that the spiritual battle has already been won, that he will never forsake us, that the work of salvation is finished through the cross, I can trust them to be true more than my emotional feelings and my physical senses and the circumstances that seem to say otherwise.

Genesis 15:6

“There is nothing in verses 1-5 which amounts to persuasion. The new promise (vv.4-5) offered no new data not already known to Abraham when he refused (vv.2-3). Abraham moves from doubt to an act of faith. What moved Abraham to a new response? ‘The new promise for his life is not any expectation of flesh and blood. Rather, he has come to rely on the promise speaker. He has now permitted God to be not a hypothesis about the future, but the voice around which his life is organized… There is a future to be given which will be new and not derived from the present barrenness. He believes that God can cause a break point between the exhausted present and the buoyant future. He believes in a genuine Genesis.” [1]

What is remarkable about the way Abram responds to God’s promise? Abram responds to God’s promise by believing God.  This is remarkable because there wasn’t any change in circumstances or in Abram’s body or age.  Abram believed God’s words not because of some new evidence, but because he trusted God himself.  He had experienced God being faithful through the journey from Abram’s homeland Ur to Egypt and all the places he went through, and Abram took God at his word.

What can I learn about God from the fact that he “credited” Abram’s response of believing God’s promise, as “righteousness”? From the fact that God credited Abram’s believing of God’s promises as “righteousness” I can learn that God cares about our relationship with him rather than about our performance.  God doesn’t credit Abram based on Abram’s actual piety or uprightness or some other character trait or on some deeds.  It was Abram’s believing of God’s promises that God took as righteousness.  That shows that it made a difference to God that Abram believed him, and that the relationship between God and Abram was based on Abram believing and trusting God.

According to this verse, what does it mean to be “righteous” before God?  What relevance does this have for my life? According to Genesis 15:6, being righteous before God is to relate to God in faith.  That means taking God at his word, and believing what God promises.  It’s not about keeping some rules or performing up to some spiritual or character standard.  It’s about trusting God and relating to God as God.  With such faith, one would still keep spiritual disciplines and seek to be upright and blameless and seek to keep God’s commands, but would do so because one believes them to be for our best, as the Bible tells us, and not because we want to perform.

This means for me focusing on the inside – my heart and reason why I do something – rather than the outside behavior.  People see the outward acts but God is interested in my faith in him.  I need to cultivate my faith by trusting God in every area of my life.  I need to trust God’s word and seek God to be the protection in my life, rather than any achievement and status and position and worldly influence and power, and seek deeper relationship with God as the greatest reward, more than any wealth or success or anything else.  Cultivating faith means to be guided by God’s promises in the Bible rather than by my feelings or personal agenda or the worldly trends that seek to sway me towards worldly values.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982) 144.

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