Reading: Genesis 15; Matthew 14.
"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6 ESV)
Abraham believed the Lord. This important verse is cited three times in the New Testament (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:23). Abram had already shown that he trusted God when he left Ur in Chaldea to follow the Lord to the promised land. But here was a statement from God that he could not act upon in the same way. It was beyond his and Sarah's ability, though they would try to make it happen later by means of a surrogate mother, Hagar. One of the major lessons on faith that we learn from the Bible is that "believing God" means that we take God at his word and trust that he has, is, and will provide what he promised to do, and especially that which we cannot do ourselves. Paul explains this in Romans 4:17-21...
...the God in whom he believed... gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Unilateral. This truth is highlighted in the covenant ceremony which followed (15:9-17). First, Abram encounters delay and difficulty. Then it is only God, symbolized by the flaming torch, that passes between the pieces of sacrifice -- rather than both members of the covenant, as was the tradition. This was a unilateral (or unconditional) covenant, meaning that the fulfillment of the promises rested solely upon God. What amazing grace!
Leaving a legacy. Abram had riches, influence, and power. He had a personal army of over 300 men. But he really wanted to see God fulfill the promises of Gen 12, namely, that blessing would come from his family and spread to "all the families of earth" (12:3). David Brooks in his book, The Second Mountain, writes about contemporary American culture and the ideal of "the buffered self" with its "centrality of accomplishment". In other words, what counts is me and who I impress in this life. Abram, however was looking to the future, to having an heir and a legacy, to see a family become a nation, which would carry on the name and the promises given to them from God. He wanted heritage, not a "buffered self". What a better perspective Abraham had on life than many in our world today!
Banquets of the kings (Matt 14). When reading the gospels we should notice that stories are not placed randomly, or even in strict chronological sequence (except Luke), but are placed in connection with one another for comparison or contrast. In today's reading of Matthew 14, note that two banquets are described -- one by King Herod and one by King Jesus. It is an intentional contrast of two reigns. One is in a palace with plenty, and one is in the wilderness with need. One results in cruelty and death; the other with compassion and life. In only one banquet is it true that "they all ate and were satisfied" (14:20).
We're following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule.
Image above: Byzantine mosaic depicting the loaves and fishes at the traditional site of the feeding of the 5000 at Tabgha in Galilee, Israel. Photo courtesy of The Times of Israel.