Introduction: We celebrate Reformation Day this week, and with the 500th year anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses celebrated this year as well, these Bible notes mark the milestone of the beginning of the Reformation. We begin with the Reformation’s stress on the importance of biblical worship, using Abraham, “the father of all who believe,” as our example of what such worship means. My prayer is that we would discover through these notes that worship is the answer to all our disappointments – just as the Psalmist’s bitter anger at the wicked was assuaged when he ‘entered the sanctuary of God’ (Psalm 73:17).
Monday: read Genesis 14:22-15:6. Worship is essential when life is full of ups and downs. At a spiritual high point in Gen. 14:22-24, Abram worships with confident reliance on God alone, keeping his oath not to rely on the sinful wealth of Sodom. But in Gen. 15:1-3, Abram murmurs against God’s failure to provide for his wife’s barrenness. Only the timely ‘Word of the Lord’ (Gen. 15:4) keeps Abram’s faith intact at such a low point.
Pray and Meditate: Ups and downs can make worship difficult. Sometimes we run to worship, expecting great blessing. Sometimes our complaints cause our feet to drag. But it is the days when we feel least in tune in worship that are the most important for us to be found with God. Abram may be bitter as Gen. 15 opens, but God’s Presence and Word in worship turn Abram’s faith around by the time we reach Gen. 15:6. God knows just the Word that is needed to strengthen our flagging faith. Thank Him now for His Son ‘who knows the Word to sustain the weary’ (Isaiah 50:4).
Tuesday: read Genesis 15:1-6. For Abram, the one promise which remained painfully unfulfilled is that of becoming a great nation through the birth of a promised child, as God had promised in Genesis 12:2-3: “I will make you into a great nation….in you all families of the earth will be blessed.” He complains to God about this in Genesis 15:1-3. Such complaining though it displays Abram’s weakness nevertheless places Abram in a long line of saints who honestly pour out their complaints to God (Psalm 62:8).
Pray and Meditate: There is something instructive about the way Abram complains to God. As the Puritan John Owen put it: “It is of sincere faith, like Abram, to unload our un-belief in the bosom of our God. Abram does not mutter against God and store up his bitter grief about childlessness in his breast, but sweetly breathes out the burden of his soul into the bosom of God in prayerful complaint.” May you and I also ‘breath out the burden of our souls’ to God. Jesus died to give us constant access to the Throne of Grace: especially so that we would seek that Throne ‘in our times of need’ (Hebrews 4:16).
Wednesday: read Genesis 15:1-6. Abram recognized that God’s Salvation in his life and in the families of the world hinged on the birth of a child to carry forward such blessing to future generations. Thus he complains to God about the emptiness of his life if the birth of the promised child remains unrealized. He says in Gen. 15:2, ‘What can you give me, since I go childless?’ Yes he had land! Yes he had victory over his enemies! But what good are these if the Christ-child’s family tree remains empty?
Pray and Meditate: As one who is to see the day of Christ by faith (John 8:56), Abram above all else wants to hold the child who will bring Christ’s birth to pass. No other blessing will satisfy him. Let our prayer this day be as Christ-centered as Abram’s: ‘Lord, here you have given me and my family wealth; houses; lands; security; health – but what do these matter in comparison to your Son? Give us Christ, for we count all other accomplishments as ‘rubbish’ (Philippians 3:8) compared to gaining Him.’ Amen.
Thursday: read Genesis 15:4-7 and Isaiah 40:25-28. Ever since the age of 75 (Gen. 12:4) Abram has waited in mounting frustration for the birth of the promised child, with no sign that his wife’s barrenness will make it possible. Abram finally gives up, assuming in Gen. 15:2 that God is going to give the promised blessing to his hired man, Eleazar. God responds in verses 4-5: ‘This man will not be your heir, but one from your own body will be your heir…Look at the stars. So shall your offspring be.’ In this way God focuses on renewing Abram’s weak faith by a reminder of His power in creation. As He has the power to ‘call the stars out by name,’ so He will give Abram offspring as numerous as the Milky Way!
Pray and Meditate: Thank God that it is as the Creator of the ends of the earth that God addresses us when our faith is at its lowest – just as He did by taking Abram outside to look at the stars. At another low-point in Israel’s history (Isaiah 40:26-27), God reminds His people of the stars he showed Abram: ‘Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens… Why do you say…. “My way is hidden from the LORD?”’ Oh, let us confess that our doubts of God sometimes threaten to darken all our horizon. But praise God that He has a whole universe at His disposal to convince us that He will not grow tired or weary of seeing His promises through in our lives.
Friday: read Genesis 15:5-7 and Galatians 3:6-9. It is amazing to see the supernatural scale God uses to reassure Abram’s sagging faith in Gen. 15:5 – nothing less than millions of stars! But why such a staggering number? I believe God used such a grand picture to help Abram understand the spiritual nature of the family which would come from his body, and to protect him from merely settling for a physical kingdom full of his own flesh and blood. God reinforces the promise in a way that can only be understood on an infinite, spiritual scale! Only a Supernatural Savior born from Abram’s body could have a multitude of children like the stars! That is why we are called “children of Abram,” included in the family of faith because of Christ’s saving power as the ‘Seed’ of Abram!
Pray and Meditate: God asks Abram in Genesis 15 to believe for more than just the increase of his own physical family, and to fix his faith on the Salvation of every tribe and nation, in number as many as the stars! Let us also long for many to be gathered in worship with us: ‘We long to see your churches full, that all the chosen race may, with one voice and heart and soul, sing your redeeming grace.’ May we in our burden for the lost lift up the Savior who was willing to die in the ground in order to produce many seeds, many children, many converts (John 12:24).