Monday, January 08, 2007

Abram the Fearful

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." But Abram said, "Lord GOD, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" (Gen. 15:1-2)

I am so very thankful for the Bible's honest portrayal of our forefathers in the faith. I am encouraged to know that I am not the only one who has ever doubted or been depressed because of my weak faith.

This passage comes on the heels of Abram's insult to the King of Sodom and his war-making with his neighbors. Perhaps this caused Abram to be doubtful and to fear reprisal. Maybe not. But for some reason, the Lord God visited His servant to encourage him, and to remind him that He protected Abram as a shield. God's reassurance of His kindness towards Abram provokes a very human, and somewhat startling response. Abram questions God.

I also love the mercy that God has for us frail and doubting creatures. The Lord doesn't scold Abram here; He patiently repeats Himself. Abram cries, "Lord! You've given me no heir!" The Lord replies, "Count the stars if you are able to number them...So shall your descendants be" (15:5). This isn't new revelation. God doesn't have to conjure new promises to satisfy a doubting heart. He can gently remind us of the atounding promises that He has already made. Only three short chapters ago, the Lord promised "I will make you a great nation" and "To your seed I will give this land" (12:2,7). There's nothing new in chapter 15, only a reminder that our God never forgets a promise made.

But what good is a promise if the one who promises is not able to deliver the goods? God promises to provide; does He have the resources to do so? God promises to be with us to the end; can He see us all the time? He promises to answer our prayers; can He hear us when we call?

In His compassion, God does not forget that we are slow to believe and easily discouraged. Here in this text, He not only reminds Abram of the promises He has made; He reminds Him of who made them. "I am your Shield...I am your reward...I am the LORD...I brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit it."

So the LORD has promised, the Great I AM. Yet Abram still doubts.

"Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?" (15:8).

Abram wants assurance that is soul-deep. He wants to be able to see the light in the valley of shadow. He believes, but he wants help for his unbelief! Still, God is patient with His servant. He gives Him a sign. He appears to Abram as a smoking over and a burning torch. The Lord promises, again, that He will give to Abram all that He has promised.

Are you down and depressed? I believe that you may find a cure in God's promises. What has the Lord promised to those who believe like Abram? Here are a few for you to delight in:

"To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7).

"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).

"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels" (Rev. 3:5).

You and I both know that these hardly scratch the surface. As I reflect upon these promises, I rejoice over who it is that has made such promises. He is the LORD, and nothing is too hard for Him. Who does the Lord say that He is? How has He been faithful to you in the past?

Finally, I find that we have an assurance greater than Abram. We have the wonderful privilege of the the indwelling Holy Spirit. As we read the Word of God and the promises contained therein, the gentle Comforter whispers to us that all the promises of God are "Yes and Amen" through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). He reminds us that this isn't a wonderful dream from which we will wake disappointed, but that we are truly and wholly sons and daughters of the Living God (Romans 8:16).

Thank God that He is so kind to us that He patiently reiterates His promises and character to us as often as we need it. Thank God that for every doubt and worry we have, He has a promise and a hope that can lift us from despair to exceeding joy if we will only linger over them and meditate upon His greatness.


Anonymous said...

The church I pastor is less than 50 miles from campus...we are definitely in Gator Country....and the Florida Gators are simultaneously the national champions in both football and basketball...the only team in NCAA history to hold both at the same time...'nuff said...

Sojourner said...

Congratulations, JD. That'll just make us look better this year and next year when we spank you in both sports.

Anonymous said...

And I was gonna say something nice (and deserved) about your new format and posts, well now, harumph!

Go Gators!!!