Genesis 15

Sunday Morning Bible Study

February 11, 2007


Genesis 14 was the story of the raid of the Eastern Kings. Coming from the area of ancient Babylon, these kings came sweeping into the land of Canaan, conquering everything in their sight. When they left to go home, they carried off loot and lots of people, including Abram’s nephew Lot. When Abram heard about Lot’s capture, he put together his own commando squad and went off to rescue Lot. Abram was victorious and brought back all the people, including the inhabitants of Sodom. When Abram returned, he was greeted by two kings. Melchizedek was the king of Salem and a priest of God – he blessed Abram, gave him bread and wine, and Abram in return gave a tenth of his spoil to Melchizedek. Bera (whose name means “son of evil”) was the king of Sodom. He offered to let Abram take all the spoil as long as Abram gave him all the people. Abram refused to take anything belonging to Sodom because he didn’t want it said that he had become rich because of Sodom.

:1-6 God’s Reward

:1 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."

Do not be afraid – this is the first time in the Bible where we see the command to not be afraid. It is the most repeated command in the Bible, found over one hundred times.

Maybe it began to dawn on him what he had just done, being victorious over these eastern kings.  What if they come back?  What if he made a mistake letting go of all those riches from Sodom?


True treasure

We get our heads turned by all sorts of things that glitter and shine.
When you watch TV …

It might be a diamond ring or a box of chocolates for your sweetheart.

It might be the latest video game or movie to find escape with.

It might be a new pill that will change your life by helping your body lose weight, grow hair, or just make you feel better.

The Treasure, adapted from a story by Alice Gray as printed in "More Stories for the Heart"
There’s a story I like about a little girl who fell in love with a string of plastic pearls.  She had saved up all her money to buy these plastic treasures.  After she bought them, she wore those pearls everywhere.  She wore them to Sunday School, to kindergarten, even to bed.  She only took them off when she took a bath or when she went swimming.
This little girl had a daddy who loved her very much.  He tucked her into bed every night and read her a story.  One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?” “Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” “Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess—the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my favorite.” “That’s okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About once a week her daddy would ask her the same thing, “Do you love me?” and “Would you give me your pearls”.  Every time she would offer to give him something else.  Finally one night the little girl was sitting on her bed with tears running down her cheeks.  With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, Daddy. It’s for you.” With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

We get so attached to the things of the world.  We are so reluctant to give them up.

Abram had learned to say “no” to the King of Sodom.  He traded in the old pearls.

What he got in return was far greater.

The truth is, what every person ultimately needs and desires is not something from the Lord, but simply more of the Lord.

:2 But Abram said, "Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"

:3 Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!"

Abram is just like us. God says we need more of Him, but Abram wants to know what else he’s going to get.  Will he ever get that promised son?

:4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir."

:5 Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

Look now toward heaven – it is evening. Looking at the sky in the night time is a pretty cool thing to do when you live outside in tents like Abram.



The Lone Ranger and Tonto were camping in the desert, they set up their tent, and fell asleep. Some hours later, The Lone Ranger woke his faithful friend. “Tonto, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Tonto replies, “Me see millions of stars.” “What does that tell you?” asked The Lone Ranger. Tonto ponders for a minute. “Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Timewise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What it tell you Kemosabe?” The Lone Ranger is silent for a moment, then speaks. “Someone has stolen our tent.”

count the stars – hard to do that in the city.

I don’t think in our modern world that most of us even pay any attention to the stars. We don’t spend a lot of time outside at night in the cold. Most people wouldn’t be able to point out the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt. But the ancients were very familiar with the stars.

(Psa 19:1 NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

When you take time to look at the sky at night, you are getting an idea of the glory of God.
The word for “handiwork” has to do with something that is fashioned, made with the hands, it’s used to describe “needlework”, some have considered this God’s “fingerpainting”.

Yesterday I was taking a break from my studying and picked up a piece of Valentine’s chocolate – Dove milk chocolate. I never had noticed that there’s a little note on the inside of the wrapper. As I opened my chocolate, the note read, “Sleep under the stars tonight”.

I wonder if we ought to spend a little more time looking up.

For Abram, every time he would look up at the stars, he would remember this promise of God to him.

:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

We’ll come back to this verse.

:7-21 How shall I know?

:7 Then He said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it."

:8 And he said, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"

:9 So He said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."

:10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.

cut – God is using an ancient practice of making a contract with Abram.  The ancients would call it “cutting a covenant” (the word in verse 18, “made”, is really the word for “cutting”).

:11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

:12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.

:13 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

:14 "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

This is a prophecy to Abram about the nation of Israel going down to live in Egypt in the time of Joseph. They would be in Egypt for four hundred years, serving the Egyptians. God would bring judgment on the Egyptians and Israel would leave Egypt with treasure that the Egyptians would give them.

:15 "Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.

Abram would live to be 175 years old (Gen. 25:7).

:16 "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."

Bible students note:  four generations = four hundred years.

We get a hint at more things going on behind the scenes. One of the reasons Israel would be brought back into the land of Canaan and allowed to conquer and wipe out the Canaanites was because of God’s judgment on their sin. God saw into the future and knew that in four hundred years He would not be able to put up with the kinds of things these people did.

:17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

smoking oven … burning torch – a picture of God’s presence.

In this ancient practice of “cutting” a covenant, the animals would be cut in two, and the people making the agreement would walk down the middle of the animal parts.  Apparently the idea was that if the promise makers broke their promise, they would be hacked in two like the animals.

We see the practice being done in Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 34:18-20) where the people had made a new promise with God not to engage in slavery. But just like the promises we often make, they broke their promises too.

But notice that with this contract with Abram, only one person walks between the animal carcasses, God. Abraham is simply a spectator. God alone promises to make sure these promises will be met.

God wants to be sure this contract is going to hold up. And it will only hold up if He’s the one responsible.

It’s like our salvation. Our salvation isn’t dependant upon whether we are able to be good enough. It’s dependant on whether or not God is good enough.

:18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates;

:19 "the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,

:20 "the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,

:21 "the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."

The entire land of Palestine belongs to the Jews. If you want to take this literally, so does the land of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, parts of Egypt (up to the Nile), and parts of Iraq (up to the Euphrates River).

:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

believed ‘aman – (Hiphil) to stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to lean your whole weight on. Our word “amen” comes from this word. God has made a promise to Abram, and Abram has said, “Amen”. He believes that God will keep His promise.

accounted … righteousness – God looked at Abraham’s faith, and God deposited a HUGE check of “righteousness” into Abraham’s account in heaven.

This is one of the most important verses in the Bible. It is one of the most important verses for NEW Testament theology.

This verse is quoted in Romans 4, Galatians 3, and James 2.

When Paul was writing to the Romans, he was dealing with the issue of how a person is saved.

What does it mean to be “saved”?

It means to be rescued. We are facing a terrible problem that we need to be saved from.
The problem is our sin, our rebellion, the things we do that do not meet God’s standards.
Sin has a consequence. Sin comes with a penalty. Sin results in death.

(Rom 6:23 NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I think one of the worst things that sin does is make us unaware of just how desperate our problem is.

We think that all we should have to do for spitting in God’s face is to put 50 cents in the church offering and say we’re sorry.

But the consequences of sin is hell. Those are the correct consequences.  When a person goes to hell, all the spectators in heaven, those who really see things for what they are, do not cringe and think that God was too rough. They stand in awe at how exactly perfect God’s sense of judgment is. (Rev. 16:7)

Hell is not a fun place where you will party with your friends.

(Luke 13:28 NKJV) "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…

Isaiah wrote,

(Isa 66:24 NKJV) … For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched…

The rich man in hell described it:

(Luke 16:24 NKJV) "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'

I wonder if we really understand just how offensive our sin is to God.  This is what we need to be saved from.  I think if we really understood how terrible hell is and how appropriate it is that we are condemned to it, we would be a little more anxious to tell people about the way out of hell.


Count on God

The first time Paul uses our verse, he is dealing with the issue of whether or not we are saved by believing in Jesus, or whether we are saved because we do good works, like keeping the Law of Moses and being circumcised.

If you asked the average person on the street about what it took to go to heaven, their response would be something like, “Live a good life”.  But that’s not true.

(Rom 4:1-5 NKJV) What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? {2} For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. {3} For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

Paul is going to base his teaching on our verse in Genesis 15:6.

{4} Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. {5} But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Grace means that you get something you didn’t deserve. If you were able to earn your salvation by working hard, then God would owe it to you.  But you can’t earn it.  You need to be saved by grace, it’s something you don’t deserve. Abraham was made righteous because he believed, not because he worked.

{6} just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: {7} "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; {8} Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."

David knew how wonderful it was to be forgiven, even when he didn’t deserve it. This kind of blessing doesn’t come from works, it comes from grace, you don’t deserve it.

{9} Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also?

Do you have to be circumcised according to the Law in order to be forgiven or saved?

For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. {10} How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

Abraham will one day be circumcised.  But he is being called “righteous” long before he gets circumcised.  He’s righteous in Genesis 15 and he won’t be circumcised until we get to Genesis 17.

{11} And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, {12} and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

Abraham is the example for all people, circumcised and uncircumcised. He was called “righteous” by believing, not by “doing”. His circumcision was simply a mark of the fact that he already believed and was already righteous.

(Rom. 4:18-25) For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

The promise is what we’re reading here in Genesis 15:6, given long before the Law of Moses.

{14} For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, {15} because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. {16} Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, 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 {17} (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed; God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;

This is the cool thing about Abraham – he doesn’t belong just to the Jews, but to all who believe. Even us Gentiles who have come to believe in Jesus can consider ourselves children of Abraham.

 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." {19} And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. {20} He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, {21} and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Abraham’s promise was about having kids.  He didn’t focus on the fact that he was an old man and Sarah was an old woman. He didn’t focus on the impossibility of the promise. He focused on the ability of a great God.
Faith that saves me from hell does not focus on how impossible it is to save someone like me.  Instead, saving faith focuses on how great God is, and that if God promises to save me, He will.

{22} And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." {23} Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, {24} but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, {25} who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

When it comes to being saved, we are not saved by doing enough good deeds to earn our way into heaven.
We are saved just like Abraham was, by faith, by trusting in God.
We are saved because we are convinced that when Jesus said He would die for us and pay for our sins, He did just that.
I don’t wonder whether or not God could save someone like me. I don’t wonder whether or not God could ever forgive someone who has done the things I have done.
I simply trust on God.  I count on God.  I lean on God.

But it doesn’t end there.  We aren’t just saved because we learn to count on God, but we need to continue to live our lives by this same principle, counting on God.

One of the most important things we can learn as a Christian is to receive the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  And this too comes from counting on God, not on ourselves.

(Gal 3:1-6 NKJV)  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? {2} This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? {3} Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? {4} Have you suffered so many things in vain; if indeed it was in vain? {5} Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?; {6} just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
The Galatians had begun to think that they needed to live their lives by trying to be good enough for God.  And in the process they had stopped counting on God.
The power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t come because you are good enough.  It comes because you trust God.

Are you struggling today with wondering whether or not you are really saved?  If you were to suddenly die tonight, do you know where you would be spending eternity?

Don’t gamble with your eternity.  Be certain.  Put your faith in Jesus today.  Lean on Him.  Count on Him.  Count on the fact that Jesus died to pay for your sins.  Ask Him to do that today.