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Faith In God’s Promise

August 11, 2013

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Proper 14 (Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost)        Trinity Lutheran Church

11 August 2013                                                                Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

Genesis 15:1-6

The Lord gives a categorical promise.  A definitive pledges.  He’s given His Word through a sermon.  Always preaching He is!  Listen:  “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”  This means that God is God for Abram.  God exists and lives for Abram.  With these words God gives Himself – His heart – to Abram.  He donates Himself to Abram with all that He is and has in order to give Abram, the world, and you salvation.

Yes it’s true.  God is for you too in the flesh Christ Jesus His Son crucified and dead on the cross.  Donating Himself for you in Holy Baptism whereby God gave you His most holy Name and buried you with Jesus into His salvific Good Friday death!  So that Jesus Himself definitively promises:  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16).

What a God!  God, therefore, is to be trusted.  Faith and God’s promise of salvation always go together.  His promises are to be believed.  Therefore, this God-for-Abram made another explicit promise in keeping with His promise of salvation.  He promised Abram children, descendants, as many as “the dust of the earth,” (Genesis13:16).  Through the dust-of-the-earth-descendants of Abram, the divine Savior would be born and all nations would be blessed.  You too.

Well, that’s when the promises of God really get dicey. Many would say pretty reckless and ridiculous.  Flat out unbelievable, implausible, and inconceivable (pardon the pun) the more you think about it!  Here we truly learn that Abram’s faith – your faith – is the “assurance of things HOPED FOR, the conviction of things NOT SEEN,” (Hebrews 11).

After all, the Lord gives His divine promise of children as numerous as the dust of the earth and that through one of those descendants the Savior of the world, to, of all people, (in case you didn’t know) the childless — an old geezer and his spindly, white-haired, infertile wife.

Abram’s a senior citizen for crying out loud!  He’s been a member of AARP for decades.  Look at the rickety old man!  Get him his cane.  Tell him to put in his hearing aids.  Who knows, by next year he’ll probably be in the nursing home.  And his wife – she’s right there with him.  A very old woman too!  Arthritic.  Bent over.  Shriveled up.  She’s a tough old bird but she too can barely get around anymore.

They never had any children, no heirs.  No one to give the inheritance.  No doubt they tried when they were younger.  And as her biological clock kept on ticking Sarah probably began to panic and then lose all hope.  Her reproductive parts never worked for some reason.  Barren.  All her life.

The Lord’s promise of descendants to this way-past-their-golden-age couple on their last legs – who each have one foot in the ground – goes against all their experience, all their feelings, and all their seeing!  Yours too!  But “I AM YOUR GREAT SHIELD – YOUR VERY GREAT REWARD –GOD” gives His Word.  “Descendants!  Heirs!  I promise!”  From these two very old people!  From their worn-out bodies!

Really?  Seriously?

Who would believe a promise like that?  Even from God who promises to be YOUR GREAT SHIELD – YOUR GREAT REWARD?  Would you have a hard time with such a promise if you were Abram or Sarai?  Of course you would.  Senior citizens can’t have babies!  No matter how many hormone therapy treatments you give them.  It’s as simple as that.  Not just biologically improbable, but historically impossible!

Abram wasn’t born yesterday.  He knows that too.  His faith in God’s promise is stretched to the limits — to the absolute breaking point.  Can’t have children.  Still without children.  Impatiently, he does what you’d do.  He makes another plan.  Why?  Because the Lord’s promise is just too outrageous.  An impossibility.  Humanly speaking.

Therefore, Abram speaks another word.  His own.  Preaches a sermon from his own heart.  He decides that’s he’ll have to remain childless.  So he declares in his self-produced sermon that a Syrian servant will be put into his will.  He will be “the son” Abram and Sarai never had and will be given the inheritance.

Listen to Abram’s word:  “O Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless? I need to do something.  Not getting any younger here Lord!  So, Eliezer of Damascus, my devoted household servant, will the one who will inherit my estate.”

And you’re right there giving your “Amen,” aren’t you?  “Nicely done Abram!  The Lord means well and all.  We all know that you’ll just have to remain childless.  So we’re with you.  You’ve made a reasoned and practical decision. Syrian servant Eliezer will have to do.  And it’s legal too.  All your attorneys have signed off!  Way to dare to take matters into your own rheumatic hands!”     

This is a gigantic crisis.  Bigger than global warming.  Bigger than any scandal in Washington D.C.  Bigger than the darter snail or polar bear going the way of the Dodo bird.  Salvation is at stake!  Abram’s, the world’s, and yours!  God takes a gargantuan risk by preaching promissory sermons that pertain to salvation.  His Word can be doubted.  Even rejected.  Abram throws a massive roadblock in front of God’s Genesis 3:15 plan and promise of salvation for him, for you and for the world by preaching his own sermon and doubting the divine Word.

So what does the Lord do?  How does He deal with a struggling Abram?  Whose faith in the divine promise is at the breaking point?

Incredibly the Lord preaches another sermon!  Stubbornly sticks with His promise.  Matter of factly.  His Word is true even though it goes against all experience, history, reason, and senses.  “Abram, your servant is not the son of the promise. You need to repent of that and listen to my Word.  You will have a son.  From your own flesh and blood.”  And He adds a visible sign.  “Come outside with me.  Look at the stars in the sky.  Can you count them?  Of course you can’t.  That’s how many descendants I will give to you.  I promise.”

Then comes the biggest miracle of all in this text.  The Lord’s promise has its way with Abram.  The old man believes the divine promise!  He “amen-ed” God.  It is spelled:  F-A-I-T-H!  Created and strengthened by the Lord’s sermon.  By the Lord’s Word.  Salvation crisis averted.

Moses, the author of Genesis, provides a comment. “Abram believed the Lord and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.”  This is no throw away remark.  It emphasizes the heart of Scripture.  The essence of Christianity.  Namely, the proper relationship between God and sinners.

Or to put it this way, Moses puts forth the salvation link between God Abram, the world and you as well.  When St. Paul writes his letter to the Romans he audaciously declares from the Old Testament Scriptures (especially Genesis and the accounts of Abram) THAT THE RIGHTEOUS LIVES BY FAITH!  FAITH IN GOD’S PROMISE OF SALVATION!  SALVATION GIVEN ONLY THROUGH JESUS. “Abram believed the Lord and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.”

Note what saves a sinner before God.  What saves you just like Abram or anyone else for that matter.  Faith alone.  Faith is enough.  Faith only in God’s promises.  God’s Word.  His Word that preaches, proclaims, and bestows Jesus.  Who died for you.  Who forgives all your sin through Jesus’ blood.  Who, through that divine forgiveness bestowed in your Baptism, the Word preached, and with Christ’s Body and Blood in the Supper, you have the promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.  The whole enchilada of salvation.

The Lord Jesus, the fulfillment of this Genesis 15 promise, emphatically swears:  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”  “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  Whoever believes in me will live even though he dies.”  I promise.

In the Name of Jesus.

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