Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love. Amen.
Genesis 15:1-6 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." 2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." 4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Don’t fear; God counts faith in Him as righteousness.
Dear friends in Christ,
The patriarch, Abram, in company with three Amorite allies had just led a small contingent of servants to a great victory that rescued Abram’s nephew, Lot, from captivity. Abram’s victory over five kings was complete, and one of the recued kings offered him all the plunder for his help. Out of faithful trust in the Lord, Abram refused to accept anything but the provisions his men had used in the rescue. He didn’t want anyone to think his wealth had come in any way but from the Lord. Abram wanted the world to know that the Lord, alone, was his protector and provider.
However, I find it interesting how the Lord God addresses Abram immediately after this incident in which Abram had demonstrated such faithfulness. “The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’" Doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that the first thing the Lord tells victorious Abram is “Don’t be afraid.”?
God had made Abram a very rich man. The man had a multitude of servants, immense flocks and herds; it is thought he might have been a successful trader as well, and Moses tells us that Abram was loaded with gold and silver in vast quantities. So, on the heels of such a great victory, why would Abram be afraid? And, what did he hope to receive from the Lord? Was it glory he sought? Or more power?
We could speculate about many things, I suppose, but Abram’s response gives us a pretty good clue. Abram said, "‘O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’"
This was now at least the fifth time Abram had received a message from the LORD. The previous conversations foretold that Abram’s descendants would fill this land he was now living in as a foreigner. After decades of marriage in which Abram had gone into Sarai’s tent perhaps literally thousands of times expecting their union to produce a child, nothing had yet come of it. God’s promise of a son for Abram remained unfulfilled.
Now, we need to understand that Abram’s disappointment was more than just mere sorrow for not having a large family. Abram knew that in this promised child lay his salvation—also that of the world—for the Lord had said, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3) Abram had a load on his mind. Was he afraid he and Sarai were growing too old for the promise to come true? Was he afraid that his sins had made him ineligible to receive this blessing? To all of Abram’s concerns and fears, the Lord tells him simply, "Do not be afraid.”
How about you and me, what are we afraid of? Are we afraid that when we plant corn, if it doesn’t rain, the Lord won’t give us a crop? Or if it rains too much, too soon, are we afraid, then, that it won’t be possible to get a satisfactory crop? Do we fear that the money won’t be there when loans have to be repaid? Are we afraid of any number of diseases that could rob us of our health? As we get closer to our graves, are we afraid that maybe we aren’t good enough for God to want us in His heaven? That last fear troubles far more people than many of us might suspect.
The message of our text is simply this: Don’t fear; God counts faith in Him as righteousness. Of all the things Abram could have been afraid of, the only one that really matters is the fear concerning salvation. However, if we have God’s forgiveness and salvation, then in the grand scheme of things, everything else is just fluff. So what if the crop fails, God has promised to give us all good things. So what if the banker hauls all our stuff away, what of it can we take to heaven anyway? So what if we die? We know heaven is our real home!
Now, I know that might sound a bit flippant, but all of the stuff of this world, both the good and the bad, really doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is that God was faithful to His promise to send a Savior for the world through Abram’s descendant.
Abram had to wait many more years before he could begin to see the promise fulfilled. Only at the age of one hundred did Abram finally meet the promised son, and that son had only two sons. So even that would have seemed like a very slow start to the promises God had made. Ultimately though, none of that mattered to Abram. “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” All of the Old and New Testaments should convince us that this same surety is ours. God will do exactly what He says He will do and at the exact time He has planned to do it. Any worry we might have is simply not trusting God to keep His promises.
As always, we have plenty to be sorry for. But, that’s why God sent His Son into the world. God didn’t send Jesus to save those who would be worthy. In fact, no one on earth would ever qualify. Therefore, no matter what fears might ever trouble us, we can turn to God’s Word and find comfort, strength, assurance, and certain hope. When we worry about how much the ground will produce or how the economy will do at any particular time, we can be strengthened by the assurance of the Scripture: that “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
The Holy Spirit knew we would have troubles, so He promises to take care of us. Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
Last Sunday, we celebrated a resurrection from a grave. That doesn’t happen if God’s Word can’t be trusted. However, that is exactly the point of Easter: God’s Word is completely reliable. When Jesus rose out of that tomb alive once more, that was God’s announcement to the world that Jesus’ word from the cross, “It is finished!” meant precisely what He said. The devil is defeated. Sin has been paid for. The promise to Abram that his Descendant would be a blessing to the whole world has been accomplished. (Genesis 12:3) So, when the Lord declares your sins forgiven, He means it. When He promises that His Son took away the sins of the world, you can rely on that message.
The Bible makes no demand that we earn God’s forgiveness. It simply offers us the gift of forgiveness and salvation through faith in Jesus. And, even that faith isn’t something we do on our own for Paul writes, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Therefore, if we should start to be afraid that we aren’t good enough to earn forgiveness, have no fear, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) Furthermore, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set [us] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) That was God’s message to Abram that long ago day when He said, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." God always keeps His promises!
Dear friends, Don’t be afraid; God counts faith in Him as righteousness. Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake, and since the curse of sin has been removed from us on the cross, even death need no longer trouble us, for “If we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:8-11) This is the blessed faith God gave you in your baptism. Don’t be afraid; God counts faith in Him as righteousness. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.