Abraham, Pt. 5: Righteous by Faith

Scripture: Genesis 15:1-21, Romans 2:28, Romans 9:6-7
Date: 03/06/2004 
This is the fifth in a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. This sermon reminds us that just as Abraham was given a promise of blessing that he received by faith, so we may have God's blessing through faith. We can be spiritual children of Abraham.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Well, I am very thankful you came today. I don't want to take that for granted. And it’s good to see each of you here. Especially want to welcome those who might be visiting with us and worshiping God. If you are here as a visitor, we have been going through a series on the life of Abraham. Abraham the ultimate patriarch and I think it’s been a very and edifying study for me. Today we’re on section five or the fifth installment of that study and it’s dealing with righteous by faith and that will become evident as we go through the passage we’re considering.

Turn with me please in your Bibles to the book of Genesis. And this will be another example where we do a very clean section of Bible study. Somebody arranged it so that chapter fifteen works out just fine. And that's what we're going to cover today. And I know some of you are thinking, “Pastor Doug, how long are we going to be studying Abraham?” Probably forever when you get to heaven, but a few more weeks here and you know I don’t think it’s something we should rush through because as you read the Bible and you study this tremendous character who is in many ways larger than life you see that the experiences of Abraham became the foundation not only for the Christian faith and the Hebrew faith but even you can see foundations for the faith of Islam and many other world religions all go back to Abraham so it deserves our attention.

Abraham, I was reading this last week is mentioned in the Bible his name Abraham or Abram, because you know his name is changed along the way, 285 times. The interesting thing is 74 of those times are in the New Testament. I thought it was significant that of the Old Testament characters Abraham is mentioned as much if not more than any other Old Testament character in the New Testament. So the Bible writers believed that an understanding of Abraham was intricately woven with the Christian faith. Now when we left our hero last you remember Lot had been captured by these four kings of the north. Abraham performed one of the great rescues of history where with, you know, somewhere around 350 people he was able to overpower four kingdoms, rescue Lot and the captives of Sodom and all those kingdoms and bring them back and retrieve all that bounty and he denied any reward, he gave a tithe of the booty of war to the high priest and then about that time is when this chapter begins. And if you’re in your Bible you might turn to chapter fifteen verse one and we’ll read there. “After these things,” so immediately after this battle “the word of the Lord came to Abram.” How many times do you think in the Bible it says “the word of the Lord,” “the word of the Lord came”? I don’t know. I should have looked that up. Hundreds?

This is the first time. First time it says that the word of the lord came to somebody with divine revelation is when it comes to Abram in this vision. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in vision, saying, ‘Fear not, Abram.’” Why do you think God would say that to him? Well, keep in mind he had just soundly routed four kings that still existed. He might be thinking, you know, here they were getting all this tax tribute and revenue from this country and this shepherd overpowers them. They’re coming back. Abraham was a man who loved peace and he probably was a little… you can be someone of faith and still have fears. You can be a person of faith and still have fears. I’ll say it one more time because I don’t know if that sank in. Sometimes people think if you have any fears you have no faith. That’s not true. You can be a person of faith and still have fears, and I mean David had incredible faith but he still had fears. Some fears are practical. You can be a person with faith, but you don’t want to jump in front of a truck going down the street.

You should have a healthy fear of some things. He thought, “You know, they may come back and then what will happen?” And he was also, keep in mind Abram, as you read, he’s a man of peace. He’s not looking for war. The only reason he got involved was to rescue his family. And so God is telling him, Abram, you don't need to be afraid. Here God had promised him this land and he's now having to fight for it and he doesn't really own a foothold. And God said, “Do not be afraid,” fear not, “Abram. I am your shield.” You don’t need to worry about how small your forces are or how big that army is. “I am your shield.” Now this is going beyond the shield of faith that God offers us in the armor of God. You know the Bible tells us that when David went against Goliath it itemizes all of the armaments that Goliath was wearing everything from his javelin on his back to his sword and his shield and his greaves and his armor and how much it all weighed and it goes into great lengths. But when David came against Goliath he says, “You come against me with a sword and spear, but I come against you with the Lord.” He said, “God is my shield.” I like history. One of the great battles of history is where this comparatively small Greek army of Spartans, you’ve heard the story of the Spartans.

They held off this Persian army that numbered in the thousands. It was like 300 Spartan soldiers and they had to hold them off while the rest of the Greek empire was able to come together and be prepared to fight the Persians and the courage of these Spartans was absolutely amazing. There was an adage the mothers would tell the young Spartan soldiers as they went into battle “Either come home with your shield or upon it.” Now the Romans had these small circular shields whereas the Spartans had a larger shield because when the Persians fought they would first rain a hail of arrows on their enemy. And the Spartans built their shields very strong and thick and it wasn’t something that you would just hold when you we’re fighting on your forearm with a sword. They could actually squat and duck behind it and it would protect them from a rain of arrows. And so here the Persians sent hail after hail of arrows and the Spartans got done, they all stood back up again because of the shields. And it wasn’t until they got into hand to hand combat, and they were very well trained fierce soldiers, they held them off and I think they probably took about 50 to one. For every one Spartan soldier they took about 50 Persian soldiers and that could be one reason later Alexander conquered the Persians.

They were so terrified of the Greeks because they had met the Spartans. But these shields covered their whole body. And so keep this in mind when God says, “I am your shield.” In today’s vernacular we’d say, I am your force field. I will protect you. You don’t need to worry about your soldiers. Don’t put your trust in this little victory I gave you. I am your shield. You don’t have to be afraid. “…and your exceeding great reward,” see he had just come from a battle and he had also walked away from some of the greatest war booty that’s ever mentioned up to this point. He walked away from it. And God said, don’t have any regrets Abraham. I will protect you, and I will reward you. I am not just your reward. He says, “I am your exceeding great reward.” Now if the father has a son kidnapped, or a daughter, beloved child, and the kidnappers say, “I want 25% of your wealth, as a ransom price.” Will a loving father pay that? What if they say, “I want 50%”? Well it depends on who the father is. What if they say, “I want 75%”? Would you pay that? “All of your wealth or I kill your child.” Won’t most fathers give everything to save their children? Does it seem like a good deal to say, “I will give everything for someone”? If you love them. So here God is saying to Abraham, “I’m giving you a better reward than all the substance and gold and silver and servants and camels and donkeys and sheep and goats and everything else they valued as assets back then. I am your reward. You get the most important thing not something you get Someone.”

How does God value wealth? By how much you have or who you are? And so here God is getting the priorities right. He says, “I am your reward.” You know I like that word exceeding. I’m jumping to the New Testament quickly where Paul says in Ephesians 3:20 “Now unto to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all.” That’s a powerful verse. Talk about making something bigger and bigger. He’s “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God is saying something similar to that here to Abraham and the reward ultimately everything in heaven that you might count as a reward is really surrounding Someone. Who is in the middle of the city of God? Who illuminates the city of God? The light of God is what illuminates the city. He is the reward of heaven. Would you still want heaven if God wasn’t there? That’s a good question to ask yourself. Some of you are thinking, “Well, it sounds pretty good. I mean, I hope He can join us, but I’d still like to be there.” For the genuinely converted Christian heaven won’t be heaven without God. What makes the reward the reward… how many of you would like to go on a honeymoon without your spouse? Oh, I shouldn’t have asked that. I mean, but you get the point.

There’s something wrong with that, right? I mean that's what makes it heaven is that God is there. All right, let’s move on. “But Abram said, ‘Lord, what will you give me, seeing I go childless.’” Now in many cultures a man’s family is considered the ultimate blessing. The blessing of children eclipses all other blessings and this was still true. It’s true in many eastern cultures. If a man’s got a big litter of children he’s considered a successful, blessed, happy, prosperous man. Children were considered wealth and you read the Bible “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” Now not everybody today wants their quiver full, but that’s how it was back then because they were still coming from the place where God said, “Be fruitful and fill the earth.” The earth was very sparsely populated back then. And so here God has said, “I will bless you and all nations will see that you’re blessed.” And Abraham says, notice he says, “I go childless.” That meant everywhere he goes they see Abram’s servants and they see his wife, and they see his flocks and his herds and they know he’s a wealthy man, but there’s no children. And so whether God was blessing him was always questioned because he said, “I go. Everywhere I go, I’m childless.” And here he is you know 75, 80 years of age and he still had no offspring. And his inheriting the Promised Land all rested upon his having a family, his having offspring. He said, “Look, I go childless, and the heir of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus.”

Now according to the law back then if you had no child your chief steward, which was Eliezer in this case, the first one born in your house would be considered sort of a surrogate child. And Abraham maybe even before he left Ur or while he was in Heron he had this Eliezer that was born in his house, one of his servants, and the first servant born in his house was sort of somewhat adopted and he said, “All I have right now is someone from Damascus. I love him.” And he ended up becoming a very trusted servant. We’ll get to Eliezer later. But he said, “I have no seed of my own.” And I think Abram was wondering, “Is this the one? Is everything supposed to go through this Eliezer of Damascus?” And God had to clarify it for Abraham. No, I’m going to do it the way I said it. “Behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir...’” It’s not going to be someone born in your house who is a servant “…but one who will come from your own body.” It is going to be your real child. Abraham was beginning to have his doubts because Sarah is getting past the age of childbearing in he was getting up and years as well. “This one will not be your heir, but one that comes from your own body will be your heir.” And then he brings him outside and he says, “Look towards the heaven, and count the stars if you’re able to number them.” And he said, “So shall your descendants be.” He says I want you to count the stars. Now I understand that somebody in Europe around the time of Galileo before the first telescope was developed, of course this is in the haze of the medieval Europe, they tried to count the stars and they actually came to the conclusion that in that hemisphere they could count 5,119 stars.

They numbered them. That I believe that back in the days of Abram the air may have been a little clearer. You can still, I mean, over in Mendocino County where we have our cabin at night up in the hills we’re about 3000ft. over by the coast where the fresh air comes across the Pacific no city lights to defuse it. You walk out on a moonless night and you look up. Turn off the house lights. You’ve got to do that. Let your eyes get adjusted and you look up and you don’t really see stars, the sky is creamed, it’s glazed with stars. You know what I mean? I think Abraham… people back then, they lived a little longer. They might have had a little better vitality. He probably was 75 years old and still had 20/10 vision in both eyes. And God says, “I want you to go out and I want you to look up. See all those stars out there? That's how your descendants will be. Numberless. You can’t count them.” Now God is asking him to believe in something that is eternal. It’s going to spring from something he can’t even see. He doesn’t even have the first offspring and God is saying, “Your offspring is going to be without number.” Can you believe that you’re going to live to return it see when you feel so mortal now? Do you? This is a very important question. It’s a loaded question because this is what salvation is all about.

Can you believe by faith in eternal life even though you feel like you’re not going to make it much longer in this one? Here Abraham is being asked to believe in something that is eternal, numberless stars and he doesn’t have the first star, doesn’t have the first child. What does the Bible tells us? Abraham said… he looked up and he believed what God had said. And he believes it and God “accounts it to him for righteousness.” Now I’m going to get to this in just a second. First I want to bring out some interesting points. Earlier in chapter thirteen of Genesis, verse sixteen, God says to Abraham, “Look at the dust” evidently this vision is during the day. He says, “Look at the dust, so will your descendants be.” Now he takes him out at night in vision and he says, “Look at the stars, so shall your descendants be.” There are two kinds of Abraham children, if you will. You’ve got the dust and the stars. One he is looking down on the earth, the other he is looking up in the heavens. One is during the day, one is during the night. One he cannot see without outside light, the dust. Can you see dust in the dark? The other one is illuminated. Those stars are blazing suns. It’s got its own inherent light. Let me suggest something to you. There are two kinds of children of Abraham in the world. You’ve got physical children and spiritual children. You’ve got dust. Man was made of the dust, wasn’t he? And you’ve got stars. Now let me submit something to you. If you met someone on the street and they said, “Hi, I’m a child of Abraham.”

What might you think initially? They’re Jewish. Now, actually that’s sort of a misnomer because you could be Islamic and be a child of Abraham. You could be a variety of nations. Abraham was the father of many nations not just the Hebrews. The Jews were the descendants of Judah. That gets down the line a ways. The lord keeps narrowing the focus on what people in it would be and he finally goes, it would be through Jacob, it would be, well, he’s first. He says it’s going to be through your son Isaac and not Ishmael. Then he says through Jacob and not Esau. Then he among Jacob’s children he says, through Judah. Then among Judah’s children through David. That’s the last time he narrows the focus so to speak to know exactly what tribe of people the messiah of the world would come through. But the Bible tells us about the seed of Abraham that there are two kinds, you’ve got physical and you’ve got spiritual. Now I believe that God kept his word. I believe the physical seed of Abraham was multiplied like the dust. I believe the spiritual seed will be multiplied like the stars.

You’ve got both seeds. You have to listen very carefully to what I’m saying here. In the book of Galatians, chapter three I want to read verse seven and verse 29. I want to read some things to you here about spiritual and physical Israel here. You’ve got two kinds. “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Only those who are of faith? “And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” What kind of heirs? I would like to inherit whatever Abraham is going to inherit. How about you? It’s telling us that all the promises that God made to the descendants of Abraham are you made to you if you are a child of faith. That is so important for us as Christians to understand that the Old Testament is not a dead book for New Testament Christians. The Old Testament is not a dead book for gentiles. It is a very live vital book and the promises there are just as real. If you have faith in Christ than you are a child of Abraham and we all need to understand that, but I am not saying that God also doesn’t have a special purpose for the physical seed of Abraham. We’ll get to that just a moment. Let me read some more here. John 8:39 The religious leaders said to Jesus, “‘Abraham is our father.’ And Jesus said, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.’” So who does Christ say are Abraham’s children? Those who have the genetic link to Abraham? You know I read something interesting. There was a study done. With DNA there have been some very interesting revelations. Without attempting to be disrespectful I will state a fact. You know our Mormon friends believe that the Native Americans are from the lost tribes of Israel. How many of you were aware of that?

The Mormon belief is that Native American Indians, that Jesus came over here and preached to them because they were some of the ten tribes that sailed across the ocean and they are the descendants. Well, they have done extensive DNA research now on the Native Americans meaning all the way from Chile, Tierra del Fuego up to the Eskimos and all of them can be genetically traced to Mongolia. And the DNA science is very accurate. It’s getting harder and harder for people to ignore it. They’re not from the tribe of Israel and the Latter Day Saints are going to great lengths to try to prove that DNA is not valid and that is the main reason because it basically explodes the foundation of their faith. The whole Book of Mormon is on this assumption that this book was given to the other tribe of Israel. Are you aware of that? It is a real crisis in their church. I remember when I pastored on the Navajo reservation, you may have heard me tell this story before, and for those who may be watching that don’t know, my mother is Jewish. They say that means I’m Jewish and I’m happy to claim that. When I was working on the Navajo reservation my next door neighbor, Tim McCabe was a full-blooded Navajo but he had also been a Vietnam veteran. He came over and knocked on my door one day and he had this impish smile.

He said, “Doug, I got good news!” I said, “What’s that?” My Navajo friend said, “We’re related.” I said, “Really?” Tim knew I was Jewish. He said, “Yeah, I just had a couple of visitors came to my door, some Mormon missionaries, and they tell me that I’m from the lost tribes of Israel.” And then he started laughing. He said, “I don’t know where they get this.” He said, this is what Tim said, he said, “I’ve been to Vietnam and” he said, “those people there look a whole lot more like Navajos than you do.” He says, “You don’t look anything like me.” So it is really a ridiculous notion. But how did I get here? Oh, spiritual Israel and physical Israel. God is not racist and when my Jewish friends say, “God has to save me because I am physically related to Abraham.” The Bible doesn’t teach that in the Old or New Testament. Does God have a special plan for the Jewish people? Yes. For one thing who can deny the glaring historical evidence that there is no other nation in the world like the Jews who have been conquered and scattered all over the planet? Nineteen hundred years later they get their territory back and they maintain their original language and culture. Any other nation that is conquered and scattered they become assimilated, they lose their identity and they just disappear as a people.

I mean it’s so obvious that there is something unique about the literal nation of Israel. God has blessed his physical seed and his spiritual seed. Both the physical seed... have the Jews gone through trials like no other people? Have Christians also? They have. So you’ve got these, this parallel, these two tracks, you’ve got the stars and the dust. You all still with me? The two seeds of Abraham but I’m not done here yet. Romans 2:28. I want to bear this out a little further. “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit.” What does God want from us? Is he wanting to make sure we can pass a blood test or that we pass a faith test? Is God going to check our DNA before he takes us into heaven or is he going to look in our hearts and see if we are children of faith? Romans 9:6 & 7 “They are not all Israel which are of Israel…” now you notice he doesn’t say none of Israel. Not all people who claim to be Israelites are Israelites. Are there some Israelites who are Israelites in body and spirit? Yes, but not all. “Neither are they because they are the seed of Abraham all children.” If that’s clear say amen.

God is saying, “What I really want for my inheritance, for the seed of Abraham, is people who have the faith of Abraham.” Jesus said to his enemies, “If you were children of Abraham, you wouldn’t do what you’re doing. Abraham didn’t try and kill me.” And “he longed to see my day and he saw it,” Christ said. Now after God takes Abraham out and he shows him the stars and he says, “So will your descendants be” the Bible makes a statement that echoes from this verse all the way through to Revelation. Here is the statement. Genesis 15:6. Have you got this marked in your Bible? “And he believed in the Lord, and He (God) accounted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness.” Now I filled that in for you. He believed in the Lord. He believed in what God’s word said. It says the word of the Lord came to him and he believed in the promise of God and God accounted it to him, or he imputed or gave credit to him for righteousness based on belief. This sets a precedent way back in the book of Genesis that we become righteous by belief. Now I’ll tell you why this is very important in the religious culture today. There is this false teaching that is very popular that people in the Old Testament were saved by works, but now in the New Testament we’re saved by faith.

That is a lie. Nobody is saved by works. Everybody is saved by faith. They were saved back then by faith looking forward to the cross. We are saved in our day by faith looking back to the cross. Everybody is saved by the cross. We are saved by faith in God’s word. He imputes the righteousness to us by faith. This is the foundational statement where that truth is borne out in the Bible. Let me give you a few other verses to illustrate that. Turn in your New Testament to the book of Romans. In Romans 4 and I’ll read maybe the first five verses here. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” It’s not works, Paul is saying. “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as a debt.” If you earn something nobody is giving you grace they’re giving you what you deserved. “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The only way that we can be justified is by faith. Paul is saying that this principle goes all the way back to Abraham.

We are not saved because of our works but by faith. But was Abraham a good man? Was he an honorable man? He was. His faith was borne out in his life. Let me read on here. You could also read Romans chapter four, go to verse twenty-one and twenty-two. “And being fully persuaded that what He has promised He is able to perform. Therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Now I want to have that sink in. Because you believe that God is able to perform what he’s promised. It is imputed to you for righteousness. Let me give you another example. Twelve spies go to investigate the Promised Land they have not yet occupied. Two of them believe that they will find a home there. What are their names? Joshua and Caleb. Ten of them don’t believe because they’re going to their senses. Two of them walk by faith, ten of them by sight. Two of them believe God will give it, ten of them doubt it because they think they’ll have to conquer it by their own strength. The only two of those twelve that inherit the Promised Land are the two that believed. The ones who came back and said we are not able because they’re bigger than we are, they died in the wilderness. You have to believe. If you believe that God can give you victory, you can have victory. That’s Christianity 101.

You’ve got to believe. You’ve got to believe he can do it for you. Whatever your battles are, whatever the promises are God not only gives you credit for righteousness he then activates his power to do for you what he otherwise will not if you believe when you believe in your prayers. The Bible says don’t let the unbeliever think he’ll receive anything from the Lord. But it’s in our faith for forgiveness, believe and it is credited to them for righteousness. I’m not done. I told you this verse echoes through the whole Bible. You heard in our scripture reading Galatians 3:6-8 “even as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” You can then go to James 2:23 “As the Scripture was fulfilled that said, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” The whole New Testament resonates with this verse we just read. Here is a man who goes out and looks up on a dark night at the sky and God says, “Your children will be like the stars of heaven” and he believes God and God says, “I am going to give you credit for righteousness because you believe in me even though you don’t see any earthly means of that being accomplished you are not going by sight, you are going by faith in my word.”

What he did for Abraham back then is just as real today if you believe. He will give you credit for righteousness and then he will fulfill his promises to you. Well, we need to move on here. Go with me now back to Genesis chapter 15 and some interesting things begin to happen here. “He said, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’ And he said, ‘Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?’” It's almost as though he's saying, “Give me some evidence. What sign will you give me?” “So he said to him, ‘Bring me a three-year-old heifer (cow), a three-year-old female goat, and a three-year-old ram….” You’ve got a sheep, you’ve got a cow, and you’ve got a goat. “…and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Now the reason they’re three years old is because God asks for the offerings to be brought in the prime. All three of those, cattle, that is the prime of their age. Jesus died in his prime for you and me and it’s the age of their strength. They are the strongest at that point. Jesus died in his strength. And it’s a signal for you and me. If we’re going to bring a sacrifice to the Lord it should be brought the best and the strongest. We often offer lame sacrifices to God. And he says, “…a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

Now in this list here, verse nine, everything that was considered a clean offering in the temple that Moses would later build is mentioned here. Technically you could offer any clean animal. You could offer a gazelle, I mean you could offer a turkey, I mean there’s… but those are never mentioned. The only ones that are mentioned are listed here are the same ones that are later used for the sanctuary. “Then he brought all these… and he cut them in two, down the middle, and he placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.” I thought that was interesting. You know I read one commentary that I thought was worth sharing with you. The pagan nations that surrounded Abraham are represented by the bull, the ram, and the goat. The Bible says in Psalm 22:12 “Many bulls have compassed Me about.” Daniel 8:20-21 “The ram that you saw… was the King of Persia. The goat that you saw is the King of Greece.” But in Song of Solomon 2:14 it says Israel is compared to doves. The ones that are divided are the ones that are symbolized as the pagan nations around Abraham. He was surrounded by pagan nations. But the doves representing Judea and Israel they would not be divided. The pagan nations would be conquered, but he would not be conquered. His people would survive.

He brought them, he cut them in two, each piece opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds in two. Now this represents a path of blood that has been created. A covenant is made by crossing the blood. Keep in mind, Abraham is the first Hebrew. He was the son of Eber which means “one who crossed over” or “passed over”. Does that sound familiar? Remember the angel of judgment passes over the blood. But here you’ve got Abram, he creates these animals that are cut down the middle, got the two doves at the end. He passes through… you realize when he sacrifices these the ground is covered with blood. And he makes a covenant based on this, a covenant that is symbolic of salvation. When the children of Israel went across the Red Sea, you know what the Red Sea was called back then? The Red Sea. I want you to know it’s not a modern term. You know there’re a lot of modern names for Bible things, but it was a symbol of blood. They crossed the Red Sea to go to freedom when they came out of Egypt. Passing through the blood is the confirmation of the covenant, and it is through much tribulation we enter the Kingdom of God. You know in my quiet moments I entertain myself by singing sometimes and there’s one old spiritual that I love.

I heard Marshall Kelly sing it. “Some through the water, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through his blood.” Remember that one? It is through the blood that we make the covenant with the Lord, and so here he’s parted these animals and he's going to make this covenant of blood. But there’s more. The Bible says that he does what the Lord says. Remember he has the first vision at night. He sees the star. The next morning he offers these animals. He cuts them up. He waits all day long. When the vultures come down on the carcasses Abram drove them away. If you make a covenant with God the vultures are going to try to devour it. What happened when the good seed fell on the path? The ravens tried to devour the seed. The devil tries to come and devour the sacrifice. I’ll bet you that there were buzzards circling the cross. Wasn’t uncommon during crucifixion. And Abram drove them away. There’s a very troubling story in the Bible where David allowed the Gibeonites to execute ten sons of King Saul and they were hung on this tree because Saul had broken a covenant that the Gibeonites, they were told by Joshua that we will not harm you. Saul had attacked them. And I believe her name was Rizpah. She was the concubine of Saul who still survived.

She stood for weeks under the tree where those sons were hung and she chased away the birds of carrion. And that of course is a symbol of what the devil wants to do in taking away the sacrifice to destroy the covenant. Have you ever had the predators try to come and take away your covenant? You’ve got to drive them away. Abram is waiting. He’s done what God said. In the meantime the predator, the devil, is going to come and he drove them away. “Now when the sun went down,” I’m in the verse twelve of chapter fifteen “a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness.” You can sort of understand why he’s asleep. First of all he’d been up during the night with God speaking to him from heaven. Now he’d been up all day sacrificing these animals. The birds of prey take off when the sun goes down, at least the vultures do, and he’s exhausted. And during that night, a deep sleep fell upon him. Before I go any further, I want to remind you of something I’ve said earlier. You’ll forget if I don’t remind you. What happens to Abraham as we’re studying the life of Abraham ends up being an allegory of what will later happen to his people. Do you remember, for instance, he goes to Egypt during a time of famine, the pharaoh is plagued when he takes his wife, the pharaoh gives Abraham great wealth and sends him out. Later Israel goes to Egypt, plagues fall on Egypt because the pharaoh is taking God’s bride, they are sent out with great wealth. What happens to Abraham also happens to his people.

Now God is getting ready to show Abram through a three dimensional vision what is going to happen to your people. One of the things was a great darkness came upon them. Have God’s people gone through times of darkness? When does the bridegroom come? Isn't it the darkest hour at midnight? And after this darkness falls upon him we know what this is all about because, verse thirteen, the Lord says to Abram, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs.” Strangers in a strange land. “…and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.” Now for the scholars among you who wonder about this, when you get to the New Testament you're going to find that Paul says it was four hundred and thirty years from this promise that was made to Abram to the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. <> …of God is calculating this. After Isaac was born the first persecution that the seed of Abram had was from the son of an Egyptian. Who was Hagar? I know we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Hagar was an Egyptian. Her son, Ishmael, mocked Abram when he was a little baby. He was jealous. Everybody was going, “Oh!” Sarah had this miracle baby and they’re so excited. And Ishmael mocks him and there was persecution that took place there. From the birth of Isaac it is four hundred years, I’m sorry, yes, from the birth of Isaac it is four hundred years to the giving of the law. From the promise that God makes the Abram here it’s thirty years until the birth of Isaac.

That’s why He says there would be four hundred years that your seed would be persecuted. And it wasn’t until they crossed over and went into the wilderness the law was given, they’re out from under the persecution of the Egyptians. They saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Let me say this one more time. Four hundred years from the birth of Isaac to the giving of the law, thirty years from the promise we’re reading in chapter fifteen to the birth of Isaac. That’s why Paul says four hundred thirty years. That’s why God says four hundred years to Abraham. Now some of you knew what I was talking about. The rest of you, I hope you were able to get a breather during this time. Come back and join me again. It’s a deep Bible study. There are several dates that are given about the wandering and the persecution of God’s people. And I lost my place. Oh, verse fourteen. “…and also that nation where they will serve…” What nation is it that they serve? The Egyptians. “… I will judge; afterwards they will come out with great possessions.”

Did that happen? “Now as for you, you will go to your fathers in peace; and you will be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they will return here, for the inequity of Amorites is not yet complete.” It was four generations from when they were carried into Egypt until they came back into the Promised Land so all of this happened exactly as God prophesied. Now I don’t know if you caught it. One of the most important things that came out of this vision; you’re Abraham and if you had any doubts before you don’t have any doubts after this vision. Here he said I’m giving all this land to you. I want you to walk through the length and breadth of it. I’m giving it all to you. Now God says to him and I’m giving it to your descendants. You're going to have to wait four hundred years. Your descendants are not even going to get it until after four hundred years. What do you think that said to Abraham about how much he was going to enjoy ownership in his life? I believe in the dream that he had that night and this is borne out in the book Patriarchs and Prophets I recommend. God also revealed to him your ultimate inheritance is not going to be in this life. Your ultimate inheritance is going to be when this world is made new. “Blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth.”

The seed of Abraham that ultimately inherits the earth are the spiritual seed, they may be physical but they’ve also got to be spiritual children of Abraham. You must have both. Keep in mind Israel is compared to an olive tree. Paul says, “Those branches that don’t have fruit are cut off. Those that do have fruit are left. The gentiles are grafted into the stalk of Israel.” So everybody really becomes a child of Abraham that is saved, but all must be fruitful whether you’re a grape or whether you’re an olive. The Bible is very clear on that. We need the fruits and what is a fruit? Fruits of the Spirit that we all need. And so “they’ll afflict them four hundred years” and I’ll bring them “out with great possessions.” Was one of the plagues great darkness? Yeah I just thought I’d mention that. Have God’s people slept during times of covenant before?

What are the ten virgins doing when the bridegroom returns? What were the disciples doing? Did Israel go through times of sleeping and darkness? “And it came to pass,” verse seventeen “when the sun was going down and it was dark,” this is that great darkness. “…behold, there was a smoking furnace and a burning torch that passed between the pieces.” Now God has often revealed himself in what is called the Shekhinah glory, and the reason that Cain became angry at Abel is because the fire of God, this smoking furnace, came down and it burned up Abel’s offering it did not accept Cain’s offering. When Moses built the temple, the fire of God came down and burnt up the sacrifice. Elijah prayed, what happened? Fire of God came down and burnt up the sacrifice. After the dedication prayer of Solomon, fire of God came down, burnt up the sacrifice. Gideon met the angel.

He said, “If you’ll make a covenant with me, here’s a sacrifice.” Fire burns it up. The parents of Samson, the angel makes a promise to them. They bring an offering. He touches it with his rod, fire burns it up. This smoking Shekhinah glory that went among the sacrifices consumed them as a sign of acceptance. The keep in mind it says “a furnace and a lamp.” When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt was there a pillar of cloud by day? That looked like a furnace to them. They used to have these furnaces. You remember when Sodom was burnt it said the country went up like a furnace. Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire at night. Furnace at day, lamp at night. This is also just telling us about how the experience of God’s people works. He illuminates us with the lamp. “Thy word is a lamp.” And he tries us in the furnace.

The Bible speaks about Egypt and says they were in Egypt in the furnace of iron, the affliction they went through. And yet there was light in the Israelites’ dwellings during the darkness on the Egyptians. And so it’s through the fire, through the furnace, and through the lamp that God leads his people not just in the days of Abraham but all along the way. “On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying: ‘To your descendants I’ve given this land…’” You know that famous song written by Woody Guthrie the father of Arlo Guthrie some of you have heard of, “This land is your land. This land is my land.” Right? Well, that’s not what God said Abraham. Abraham didn’t sing “this land is your land, this land is my land” to all the pagans. He said, “This land is my land. It’s not your land.” It was a different song.

Then it closes by saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.” I want you notice during the time of Solomon they actually possessed this. If you read in… Oh, I lost my passage here. That’s called the delete key. Well, anyway. I had my reference here. And during the time of Solomon it outlines that the Lord had blessed the people so it exactly fulfilled the promise of Abraham. God did literally give them the land, during the reign of Solomon, from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River and so he kept his promise, but it’s going to go beyond that to the spiritual inheritance. And then he mentions specifically ten nations. It did not look like he had it. God is trying to give Abraham faith. He says, “I know it doesn’t look like you’re going to inherit all this.”

Don’t forget and this promise was supposed to resonate with the people of God. Think about how hard it must have been for the nation of Israel for the last 1900 years to ever believe they’d get that land back. Talk about faith. You know I hear that there's a church in the Thessalonica, Greece that was a very ancient church built during the Byzantine Christian era. It was later occupied by the Turks and the Muslims and it had beautiful mosaic and artwork inside the church but that was all plastered over by the Muslims and they occupied it and used it as a mosque for hundreds of years. Finally, governments change, and the Christians were able to take this building again and worshipped it for years, but so many generations had gone by they had forgotten what was under the plaster. And evidently some furniture or pews or something caught on fire in the church and the heat of that fire cracked the plaster which fell off the walls revealing these beautiful mosaics. They have forgotten that it used to always be theirs.

They thought that they had annexed an Islam mosque end it had been a Christian church and they had to be reminded of that. It came through the fire. So, last verse, chapter fifteen. You might be thinking that there’s not much left here, but listen. He says this land is all yours and then he mentions ten tribes. “The Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, the Jebusites.” Can you read that? I practiced that. How many nations? Ten. When Abraham went into the Promised Land how many pagan nations surrounded him? Ten nations. When Moses goes four hundred years later there are seven. It goes from ten to seven. By the time Moses crosses over and they inhabit the Promised Land it’s gone from ten to seven nations. How many plagues fell on the ancient Egyptians? Anyone know? Ten. When you get to Revelation before we enter the Promised Land, how many are in the seven last plagues? Seven. Some of you are still thinking. I saw that look on your face.

It went from ten to seven. Do you remember in the prophecy where there is a beast that has seven heads and how many horns? Ten, but what happens to three of those horns? Three are plucked up which brings the number back down to? Seven. Let me suggest something to you. Ten is a number that represents God’s law that he wants us to obey. Seven is a number that represents a perfect cycle of creation, God’s work. Ten is man’s work. Seven is God’s work. All three or four scenarios I just gave you it starts out with man’s work and it ends up with God’s work. It starts out with the law, ends up with grace. Did you catch that?

God is going to have to help us understand it is through faith that we ultimately enter the Promised Land. And you just see that scenario all through the Bible there. You know Abraham had this vision and God made this covenant with him and there was a thick darkness and he was trying to understand what was going to happen to his people and it may have seen cloudy to him, but finally Abraham has a vision, and this is in a future study, and it becomes clear, and that’s why Jesus could say, “Abraham longed to see my day, and he saw it.” Finally the cloud parted, the fog lifted and he could understand that he would inherit the land by faith.

Abraham was made righteous by faith. You’ve maybe heard this story, but it’s a great story from history. That one of the pivotal battles when Napoleon was sweeping across Europe and northern Africa was the battle of Waterloo. And if the forces of the Dutch and the Germans and the British led by Wellington. Thank you very much. Duke of Wellington. Boy, don’t hate when that happens? What do they call that? A senior moment or a wasted youth? When the Duke of Wellington was fighting, if he had lost that battle, all of history would have been different. Napoleon probably would have been uncontested and it would’ve been an empire that lasted who knows how long? The people on the British Isles and especially England were waiting for word about the Battle of Waterloo, up in the Winchester Cathedral they were watching with a spyglass across the English Channel for signals that were being sent about how the battle was faring and thousands of people were gathered waiting for word from the messenger about whether they were winning or losing this battle of Waterloo.

And finally towards the end of the day they began to signal the message and they did it one letter at a time and it came across “Wellington defeated” and right about that time one of these famous English fogs rolled into the Channel and obscured the signals, and the depression of the people and the mourning and the wailing was overpowering. Well, after a few hours the wind picked up and it blew away the fog and before the sun went down they saw the rest of the message. It said, “Wellington defeated the enemy.” And when people got the last part of the message, ah, the rejoicing and the shouts were so great. Well, you know this is the message that comes to us from the time of Abraham to today is that while it looks like we’re surrounded with pagans and we don't have very much of a foothold in this world. I don't know about you, friends, but I get discouraged sometimes.

I look at what’s happening to our culture like this epidemic of gay marriage and I think, “Don’t we have a voice anymore? We’re surrounded by pagans.” I know how you feel about that, but I don’t care. That’s how I feel. I mean it just really bothers me. It seems like if you say you believe in God and you believe the meek will inherit the earth, you’re scoffed! And you get discouraged and it may look like “Jesus defeated.” That may be the message that the world is sending, but you know if you keep reading your Bible the fog will lift and you’ll read where it says, “Jesus defeated the enemy.” and we win. And this is the message; we become victorious by faith in the promise the covenant that God has made in blood and that’s the blood of Jesus. Do you believe that, friends? That’s good news! That's what our hope is built on. So why don’t you turn with me to 522 and will sing together “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” and I want to really hear you sing.

Before we sing the next verse and you know this fits in with our scripture. “When darkness seems to veil his face, I rest on his unchanging grace.” There may be some of you here who have not accepted that covenant of blood that was made with Jesus. And you can know, you can be righteous through faith. You can know you have everlasting life. If you’d like to have special prayer with one of the pastors or somebody here or have some special need we invite you to come as we sing verse two together.

Now I’m going to do something I don’t normally do. We’re not going to close with the fourth verse. We’re going to close with a third verse because this is the special thought I want to leave you with. And again if some of you have some special needs you can come as we sing verse three.

Would you like to say this morning, “Lord, I want to accept by faith that covenant. I believe you. I’m going to look at the stars and not the dust and believe that I can live forever.” Is that your prayer?

Loving Lord, we are inspired as we look at how real you were in the word that you communicated to Abraham. Help us to be spiritual descendants of this father of faith. Lord, I pray that even though we may be passing through the fire and through the blood that that lamp will illuminate our minds. Help us to know that you are with us. I pray that when the predators come you will give us the courage and determination to drive them away and to not lose faith and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Please bless these people, Lord. I pray you’ll bless them, first of all, with spiritual blessings. Help them to say that you are their reward and believe it in their hearts and then be our shield and protect us, Lord. Fulfill the promise that we can inherit the land when the meek inherit the earth. Be with us as we go from this place. As we live in this pagan world help us to be faithful to know that you win in the end. In Jesus’ name we ask. Amen.

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