Introduction: For the Apostle Paul, Genesis Chapter 15 is one of the most significant chapters in the Torah. In this chapter, God called Abraham righteous before he was circumcised. He called Abraham righteous based upon the mere fact that he believed in God’s promises. In his writing in both Romans and Galatians, Paul cited to this fact to reveal that faith alone in Christ will make you righteous. For this reason, Christian writers throughout the centuries have called this chapter one of the most significant in the book of Genesis. Yet, this chapter is more than just this one statement. Here, God reveals seven benefits from living a life of faith in Jesus as both your Lord and Savior.
First, even though his faith faltered, God still considered Abraham as a man of faith. Because of his faith, God promised to both protect him and reward Him. Jesus reveals that He will also protect and reward you when you have faith in Him. Second, God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be like the dust, sand, and stars. This revealed that his descendants would be numerous. It also revealed that His people would be slowly transformed from dust to sand (with refinement) to stars in heaven. When you have faith in Jesus, you will also be transformed in three stages. You will first be redeemed and born again like the dust you were created from. You will then be sanctified like sand or precious metals through both affliction and the molding of the Holy Spirit. In heaven, you will then be glorified with a new body that will glow like the stars. Third, God reveals that Abraham was considered righteous because he believed in His promises. When you believe in faith in Jesus, He will also make you righteous. Fourth, after Abraham’s faith failed him again, God reassured him through a blood covenant. A bird then tried to steal the animal carcass. Yet, Abraham drove it away. The bird symbolized Satan. He tries to steal or defeat God’s promises. Yet, when you have faith in Christ, His promises cannot be defeated or taken away. Fifth, in a vision, God showed Abraham that his descendants would suffer through 400 years of captivity. When you have faith, Christ reveals that He will also use affliction to transform you to be like Him. Sixth, God also showed Abraham that the people of Canaan would be judged when their sins were ripe, 400 years in the future. His people would be the instrument of His future judgment. From this, Christ reveals that you will also be the salt and light that will bring judgment upon the world. Finally, God repeated His land grant of the “Promised Land” to Abraham’s future descendants. When you have faith in Jesus, He also promises to give you an inheritance in the eternal Promised Land in heaven.
Abraham’s failure of faith, and God’s promise to protect and reward him. After succeeding in his fourth test of faith, Abraham’s faith failed him, and he felt fear. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God sought to comfort Abraham instead of rebuking him: “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.’” (Gen. 15:1). What exactly did Abraham fear? The answer to that question is debated. Some point to the events in chapter 14 to suggest that he feared the reprisals from the eastern coalition. Or, he may have feared the King of Sodom after rebuking him. Others point to the later conversation in this chapter to suggest that he feared dying without a son. Under any of these scenarios, he had no reason to doubt God. He promised that Abraham’s descendants would be a great nation (Gen. 12:2). He promised that Abraham’s descendants would be like the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16) and that they would inherit the Promised Land (Gen. 13:15). He protected Abraham before Pharaoh, even after Abraham lied about his wife (Gen. 12:17). He also had just protected Abraham in his battle against the four armies of King Chedorlaomer (Gen. 14:13-16). It might be easy to mock Abraham. Yet, how much trust have you shown in God’s promises?
God’s mercy and grace in the face of Abraham’s continuing failures of faith. If Abraham feared dying without a biological heir, this would not be the last time that he would hold this fear. Even after God’s reassurances in this chapter, Abraham’s faith would fail him again. He would need to wait many more years before God would fulfill His promise of an heir through Sarah. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God would again comfort Abraham when his faith failed him in the future: “The LORD appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, for the sake of My servant Abraham.”’ (Gen. 26:24). God showed that even the “father of faith” had many failings in his faith. He did this to encourage you. If God will protect and bless a man who frequently took two steps forward and then one step back, He will protect and bless you when you make even small steps of faith. He will accept you even when your faith fails you. If God has forgiven your failures, have you forgiven yourself?
When you walk with God, never fear your enemies. Like Abraham, God never wants you to fear your enemies. When you feel fear, He wants you to trust in Him: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Ex. 14:13-14). God repeated this message to His people many times. (E.g., Gen. 15:1; 46:3; 20:20; 1 Sam. 11:13; 12:16; 2 Kin. 6:16; Is. 7:4, 41:10-13). The battle against the enemy always belongs to Him: “The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,” (Dt. 1:30; 3:22). “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” (Dt. 20:1). ‘“Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” (2 Chron. 20:15; 32:7-8; Is. 52:12). When you trust in Him, He will protect you in His fortress tower of strength: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Prov. 18:10). He will also be your spiritual armor and your weapon against the enemy (Eph. 6:10-18). Do you trust God to protect you from your enemies?
Let Jesus be your source of strength. When you trust in Him, Jesus will also give you strength and protection: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). Do you trust in His strength and His protection?
Let God also be your reward. In addition to promising to protect him, God also promised to be Abraham’s reward: “your reward shall be very great.’” (Gen. 15:1). God rewarded Abraham because he turned down King Sodom’s offer of riches (Gen. 14:21-24). When you are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, He will you reward in heaven: “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” (Lk. 6:23). “And men will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!”’ (Ps. 58:11). When done without a motivation of a reward, He will also reward your works of love and charity: “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7). If you are looking for others to commend you on your works, Jesus warns that you have received your reward (Matt. 6:2). He will instead reward what you do in secret (Matt. 6:4). Have you engaged in any secret acts of love and charity for Him to reward you?
God’s promise to extend Abraham’s blessing to countless future descendants. For the third time, God offered to extend Abraham’s blessing to include countless future descendants: “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.’” (Gen. 15:2-5). Eliezar was most likely an adopted male servant from Syria who would have would have cared for Abraham in his old age.1 Abraham’s fear was unwarranted. God had already promised Abraham an heir on two prior occasions (Gen. 12:3(b);13:16). This was the third of seven times that God repeated His promise to extend Abraham’s blessing to include countless future descendants ((1) Gen. 12:3(b); (2) 13:16; (3) 15:5; (4) 16:10; (5) 17:4-5; (6) 18:18; (7) 22:18). God repeated these promises to build up Abraham’s faith. God also wanted Abraham to know that He was faithful to keep His promises. In addition to showing His faithfulness, God’s promises to Abraham followed a pattern using the analogies of dust, sand, and stars. They symbolized the countless number of future believers. The dust, sand, and stars also symbolize each stage in a believer’s walk with Christ. Christ is the “seed” of Abraham through which God’s blessings are extended to you: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” (Gal. 3:16).
Dust – your redemption and new beginning through Christ’s death. In this chapter and in a future chapter, God promised to make Abraham’s future descendants like the “dust” of the Earth: “16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Gen. 13:16). “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:14). This referenced back to God’s creation of Adam from the dust (Gen. 2:7). This also speaks to your becoming a “new creation” when you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). He fulfilled God’s promise to extend His blessings to the Jews and gentiles: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29). “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.’” (Acts 3:25). “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.’” (Gal. 3:8). “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” (Ro. 4:16). Yet, in order to receive this new beginning, you have to believe that Christ died (and become like the dust of the Earth): “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). If you are grateful for your new beginning, are you living your life as a living sacrifice out of gratitude to Him? (Ro. 12:1-2).
Sand – your sanctification through Christ and the Holy Spirit. God later referred to Abraham’s future descendants as being like the “sand” of the Earth: “indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.” (Gen. 22:17). This referred to God’s redeemed people: “Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ It will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.’” (Hos. 1:10). According to Jewish tradition, the refinement through heat that leads to the creation of sand also refers to the refinement of God’s people: “What is the nature of sand? It goes into the fire and it comes out as glass from which glassware can be made. So it is with Israel. They go into the fire and come out alive. . . but they will emerge from there unharmed.”2 God used the same refinement analogy to refer to His people as precious metals: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10). “For You have tried us, O God; you have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (Zech. 13:9). God has also refined you like sand or precious metals through your many afflictions. Have you allowed Him through your trials to purge the desires of your flesh?
Stars – your future glorification in heaven through Christ. In this chapter and in later chapters, God also referred to Abraham’s future descendants as being like the “stars” in the sky (Gen. 15:5). “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;” (Gen. 26:4). “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Ex. 32:13). “The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number.” (Dt. 1:10; Josh. 24:3). “Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (Heb. 11:12). The light of the stars comes from Messiah Jesus, who comes to restore the righteousness that mankind lost when Adam and Eve sinned. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.” (Nu, 24:17). “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Rev. 22:16). By Jewish tradition, Adam and Eve glowed like angels before their sin: “In these luminous garments, they resembled heavenly beings. After their sin, the glory faded, leaving the man and his wife naked in the garden.”3 Jesus is the light of the world (Jo. 8:12; 9:5). Yet, you bear witness to His light inside of you (Matt. 5:14). When you receive a new body in heaven, you will glow like Adam and Eve before they sinned: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:3).4 Are you looking with joy towards the better world to come? Or, does your greatest fulfillment come from this world?
The three stages of your walk depicted in the layout of the Tabernacle. The three stages of your walk are also shown in the layout of the Tabernacle. First, the outer court yard was where the sinners made their sacrifices (Ex. 26-27). This is where you were justified by the blood of Christ at the bronze alter (Ex. 27:1-8). Second, there was the tent of meeting. This is where the priests went to light both the incense and the Golden lampstand and to prepare the table of showbread (Ex. 25:23-40). This is where you are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, i.e. set apart for God. Finally, there was the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant was kept (Ex. 25:10-22). Only the High Priest could go there on Yom Kippur. This place represents the final stage of your walk when you will one day dwell with God and be glorified in His presence. The gold was kept inside the holy of holies because God cares more about what is on the inside then what others can see. If your heart is filled with the gold of God’s righteousness, all nine fruits of the Holy Spirit will be evident in your walk.
The three stages of your walk are depicted in the layout of three harvests. The three stages of your walk are also shown in the three agricultural harvests and feast in Israel. The first harvest was the Feast of Unleavened Bread / First Fruits. Barley was used with the first feast. The second harvest was the Feast of Weeks. Wheat was used with the second feast. The final harvest was the Feast of Tabernacles. The people gave fruit with the final harvest. Each harvest represents a stage in a believer’s walk with God: (1) barley = justification, (2) wheat = sanctification, and (3) fruit = the fruits of the Spirit and later glorification. Symbolizing the first feast, Jesus fed the masses with “barley loaves.” (John 6:9). They were not committed believers. Yet, their belief was enough for Jesus to instruct his disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” (John 6:12). As believers, even if they were not strong in their walk, they had overcome death through Christ. For the Feast of Weeks, the people offered wheat bread made with flour or yeast (Nu. 28:28). The priest was told to use only “fine flour.” (Lev. 23:17; 2:1, 7). Fine flour has to be continually refined. The offering was also burned by fire. God refines His believers and purifies them (Mal. 3:3). Symbolizing the second feast, John the Baptist referred to the “wheat” harvest: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire . . . He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with fire that cannot be put out.” (Matt. 3:11-12). Wheat bread is much more enjoyable to eat than barley bread. Yet, the baptism of fire to create wheat can sometimes be a painful process of purification (1 Cor. 3:13-15; 1 Peter 1:7). The third harvest of fruit represents the final stage of your walk. It also represents the fruit of the spirit in a believer: “But the fruit of the Spirit is (1) love, (2) joy, (3) peace, (4) patience, (5) kindness, (6) goodness, (7) faithfulness, (8) gentleness, (9) self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23). Like the analogy of the stars or the holy of holies, it also symbolizes your future glorification through Christ in heaven. Are you allowing Christ to transform you from dust, to sand, to star light?
Abraham was made righteous through his faith. In one of the most important verses in Genesis, God reveals that He considered Abraham righteous based upon the fact that he believed in His promises: “6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6). David later repeated that his faith alone made Abraham righteous in God’s eyes: “And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, to all generations forever.” (Ps. 106:31). The Apostle Paul also quoted four times from this verse to stress that believers in Christ are also made righteous based upon their faith in Him and not their works: “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”’ (Ro. 4:1-3). “In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, ‘so shall your descendants be.’” (Ro. 4:18). “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Gal. 3:6). He also stressed that God considered Abraham righteous before he was circumcised (Ro. 4:9-10). While stressing that faith without works is dead, James also emphasized that it was Abraham’s faith and not his works that made him righteous: “and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God.” (Ja. 2:23). If you think that good works will get you to heaven, did Christ need to die for you? (Gal. 2:21).
Abraham showed that his faith was alive through his actions. Unlike many believers, Abraham lived out his faith. He left his homeland to travel to the Promised Land. He fought four massive armies with only 318 servants and some local allies. He also was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Thus, James warns: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Ja. 2:17, 20, 26). Yet, Paul cautions that your faith must be manifested with love toward those around you: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6). Is your living faith manifested through acts of love and charity towards others in need?
Be righteous in your walk. Through your faith, Christ has made you righteous. You in turn are called upon to live a holy life for Him: “for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44; 19:2). Are you living a holy life worthy of what He has done?
God’s blood covenant promise to Abraham. After hearing God’s promise, the father of the faith became filled with doubt again. Showing His mercy and grace, God did not rebuke Abraham. He instead reassured Abraham by confirming His promise through a covenant blood ceremony that was common in that day: “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.” (Gen. 15:7-11). The blood covenant stated that if the promisor failed to keep his promise, he would meet the same fate as the animals. If the offeror failed, he suffered an ignoble death that would include having his carcass devoured by vultures. God later used this same metaphor to explain that the unfaithful Jewish leaders of Jeremiah’s day would be handed over to their enemies like a dead corpse in the face of a hungry vulture: “I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not fulfilled the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts-- the officials of Judah and the officials of Jerusalem, the court officers and the priests and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf-- I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. And their dead bodies will be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.” (Jer. 34:18-20). Jesus made His own blood covenant with you to give you eternal life. Yet, instead of splitting an animal, He allowed Himself to be beaten, pierced for your transgression, and then crucified at the cross. Have you taken His Covenant with you lightly?
Satan’s attempt to steal God’s promise to Abraham. In this account, the bird tried to snatch part of the carcass. The bird symbolized Satan. In the parable of the sower, Satan’s demons were the birds who snatch the Word from those who failed to understand it: “and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.” (Matt. 13:4). His demons will later fall when Babylon in the future falls: “And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.’” (Rev. 18:2). In this story, Abraham drove away the bird before it could steal the carcass. This symbolizes the fact that Satan cannot steal those with faith in Jesus: “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (Jo. 10:28-9). Do you trust Jesus to protect you from the devil?
Abraham’s vision of the Jews’ 400 years of captivity. After receiving confirmation of God’s Covenant, God then gave Abraham a vision of the suffering his descendants would experience on their road to redemption: “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.”’ (Gen. 15:12-15). The Jews later left Israel as a clan of 70 people (Gen. 46:27). Just as God foretold, they then spent approximately 400 years in captivity (Gen. 15:13- “400”; Ex. 12:40-“430”). While in captivity, God transformed them into a great nation. After He freed them from Egypt, He transformed them into a nation with 603,550 fighting men (Nu. 1:46).
The four future periods of Jewish exile. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham’s vision also foreshadowed the Jews’ four separate periods of exile. “And when the sun was setting, Abram was cast into a deep sleep, and, behold, four kingdoms arose to enslave his children. ‘Terror’ refers to Babylon. ‘Darkness’ refers to Media. ‘Great’ refers to Greece. ‘Fell’ refers to [Rome] which will fall and from whence the children of Israel will come up.”5 Yet, like the Exodus from Egypt, God was always faithful to restore His people after each exile.
Jesus’ suffering and oppression to bring you freedom. Like the Jews, Jesus suffered through oppression: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:3-5). He suffered to bring you out of captivity.” (Is. 61:1; Lk. 4:18-19). How have you thanked Him for your freedom?
If Jesus has set you free, stay free from Satan’s bondage. Jesus warns you not to squander your freedom by returning to your old salve master: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” (Jo. 8:32-36). The devil will use every tool of the flesh to enslave you in addiction. Have you exchanged your freedom for chains?
Your faith will turn your suffering into spiritual growth. Like the Jews and like Jesus, you too will experience affliction in your walk. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22; Mk. 13:13). “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33). Yet, you should find joy in your afflictions knowing that Jesus will use your afflictions to cause you to grow in your walk: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Ja. 1:2-3). “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). Do you give thanks for the growth ensuing from your trials?
God’s prophesy of the judgment of the people of Canaan. In addition to redeeming His people through 400 years of captivity, God used that time to give the Canaanites time to repent: ‘“16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.’” (Gen. 15:16). Here, He told Abraham that his descendants would be the instrument of His divine judgment. Their sins included child sacrifices, temple prostitution, idolatry, and other practices that are now celebrated in western world as civil rights. To fulfill His judgement, He later told Moses to wipe out the six nations of Canaan: “But you shall utterly destroy them, (1) the Hittite and (2) the Amorite, (3) the Canaanite and (4) the Perizzite, (5) the Hivite and (6) the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you,” (Dt. 20:17). Their judgement foreshadowed His future judgment of the entire world.
The judgment during the end times. God did not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Like the Amorites, He is slow to judge sin but will ultimately do so when nations turn against Him. Some claim that a loving God would never judge others. He is the source of all love: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8). Yet, He is also just: “For I, the Lord love justice . ..” (Is. 61:8). As a just God, He cannot ignore sin. Those who have trouble accepting this need only ask if they would like to live in a society where murders, rapists, and robbers are not judged. Anarchy would reign, and people would live in fear. We demand justice because He has put His Law in our hearts (Ro. 2:15). As the source of all justice, He must also judge wrongs. The western world once spread the Gospel through missionaries. It now spreads the things of the flesh. It too will be judged. Yet, God will give it time to repent. Are you warning others of the coming judgment? (Matt. 28:16-20).
You are the salt and light that will judge the Earth. Like the Jews, Jesus will also use you to be the source of judgement upon the Earth. You are called to be the salt and light to convict sinners and bring them to repentance (Matt. 5:13-16). In the Old Testament, salt was a symbol of judgment. Salt stings in the wound of sin. Lot’s wife was turned into salt (Gen. 19:26). Salt was also scattered on destroyed cities to decimate the crops (Dt. 29:23; Judges 9:45; Ps. 137:34; Jer. 17:5-6; 48:9; Zeph. 2:9). You also bring judgment to your enemies when you show them love and they fail to repent: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Ro. 12:20). Does your love and your walk convict others of their sins?
God’s confirmation of His land grant to Abraham’s successors. Finally, as a result of his faith, God confirmed his grant of the Promised Land to Abraham’s successors: “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: 19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.” (Gen. 15:17-21). The burning torch represented God passing between the cut animals to confirm His two prior promises to Abraham. (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15). He later repeated this promise (Gen. 17:8). Here, God also expanded upon His prior promises to reveal that the “Promised Land” stretched further than modern day Israel. It extended into southern Lebanon, Syria, and modern day Iraq.
God’s fulfillment of this promise. In the book of Joshua, God fulfilled His promise, just as He predicted: “When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-- all of which took about four hundred and fifty years.” (Acts 13:19). After Joshua completed the allotment of the land, he gave praise that God was faithful to keep all of His promises to the patriarchs more than 400 years earlier: “45 Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). Like the Jews, God will also be faithful to keep His promises to you.
God’s “Promised Land” to Abraham. Through Joshua, God later again promised lands stretching as far as the Euphrates to the Jews: ‘“3 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.’” (Josh. 1:3-4; Dt. 11:31; 17:14; 34:4; Neh. 9:8). It was only a lack of faith that kept the Jews from seizing all of the Promised Land given to them. Have you seized all of the blessing given to you?
Give thanks that your spiritual inheritance cannot be taken away. In addition to fulfilling His promises, God gave His priests (which includes you) a permanent right to keep their houses: “As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession.” (Lev. 25:32). “As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession.” (Nu. 35:2). Jesus also has promised you a permanent right to a dwelling in the eternal city: “In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). If you believe Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and confess Him, your inheritance cannot be taken away: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Ro. 10:9-10). “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28). “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37). Are you giving Him praise for your unearned gift?
The eternal “Promised Land” given to all believers in Christ. God promised a land on Earth as the Jews’ “Promised Land.” By contrast, He has offered an eternal “Promised Land” to all who accept Christ in faith: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (Jo. 14:2). “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” (Heb. 13:14). “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:16). “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2).
Robert L. Deffinbaugh, https://bible.org/seriespage/16-focal-point-abram-s-faith-genesis-151-21↩︎
Numbers Rabbah 2:13; First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Genesis, Lech Lecha, p. 61.↩︎
First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Genesis, B’Reisheet, p. 15.↩︎
First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Genesis, Lech Lecha, p. 60.↩︎
Genesis 15:12, Targum Pseudo-Yonatan, First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Genesis, Lech Lecha, p. 62.↩︎