Abram’s Response to the God of Promise

The sinking of the Titanic was one of the worst maritime disasters in history. The British luxury liner on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, struck an iceberg about 95 miles south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland just before midnight on April 14, 1912.

Of the more than 2220 persons aboard, about 1513 died, including the American millionaires John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, and Isidor Straus.

The ship had been proclaimed unsinkable because of its 16 watertight compartments. Nevertheless, the iceberg sufficiently damaged the Titanic to make it sink in less than three hours. Subsequent investigations found that the ship had made a number of mistakes:

  • The ship had been steaming too fast in dangerous waters;
  • Lifeboat space had been provided for only about half of the passengers and crew;
  • The Californian, close to the scene, had not come to the rescue because its radio operator was off duty and asleep;

When passengers were boarding the Titanic at South Hampton, England, a nervous woman asked a deckhand, Is this ship really unsinkable? He replied, Yes, Lady. God Himself could not sink this ship.”

As you know, the story turns out differently. The deckhand placed his faith in the wrong object.

Faith is a term used several ways, often in a religious sense. When we talk about people being of a certain faith, we refer to what church they attend, or what religion they are a part of.

Sometimes “faith” is used to describe confidence. Sometimes people say: “You need to have faith in yourself.” It is evident from the sailor’s statement that too much faith was placed in a man’s ingenuity.

But faith is an action word. To believe God is different than to believe in God. Genesis chapter 15 is one of those key passages in all of Scripture. It was used by the Apostle Paul as he explained the gospel in both his letters to the Galatian churches and to the church in Rome. It is the response of God’s promise. Let us first learn that…


We must first ask, Who was Abraham? He was a human being just like you and me. Abram’s hometown would have been within the borders of modern-day Iraq, then called Ur of the Chaldeans. He had a family, consisting of parents, aunts and uncles, cousins. He had a wife, whose name was Sarai. And God appeared to him and promised to make his name great and form him into a great nation. Now, fast forward a few years. Had God forgotten?

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

Genesis 15:1-3

God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 15 is an elaboration of the previous one made by God to Abram in Genesis 12:3: “, …in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Since then, we see that Abram was faced with a dilemma. Lot was taken into captivity as the result of two warring factions. Abram’s going to war against the Canaanite kings with his 318 men was an act of faith. He rescued the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and freed his nephew Lot from captivity. He could not have done this without God. But he had the courage of Moses, Phineas, David, and others who knew that when wrong happens, good men cannot stay idle.

Winston Churchill was a man of great courage. He gave his famous speech in June of 1940:

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender… .” (Winston Churchill Speech – We Shall Fight on The Beaches (presentationmagazine.com))

Abram knew that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And so he set out, with God’s help and his company of over 300 trained men, to rescue Lot and his family.

And afterwards, when the Lord gave him victory, he worshipped and gave an offering to Melchizedek, King of Salem and priest of the most high God.

Moreover, we are told in Genesis 14:22: that when the king of Sodom wanted to give Abram a reward for his service, Abram refused to take something from an evil king. So he withheld his desire for wealth and told the king of Sodom that he could keep his gifts.

I am reminded of a story that happened many years ago where Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton wanted to make an donation to the College of the Ozarks, a Christian school. The leaders of the school decided against it, because Mr. Newton was known to have a vulgar show in Branson. Wayne Newton was rebuffed, because the college did not want accept money from someone making a living off of being foul-mouthed.

And so the Lord appeared to Abram in Genesis 15 and reminded him that his reward would be great and that the Lord was his shield.

But Abram reminded God that he and Sarai were still childless. Had God forgotten His promise? We read in Genesis 15:4-5:

“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

This appearance of the Lord most likely took place several years after the Genesis 12 account. You almost hear the desperation in Abram’s voice. He is not getting any younger. And the one who stood in line to receive everything was Eleazar of Damascus who may have been a slave to Abram. And the one who would be given Abram’s possessions after Abram died. But God is never late nor is He early. He is always right on time.

How many times are we impatient with ourselves, with others, or especially with God? Faith requires waiting on the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31: “…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

The promise God made was not easy to believe. Woman today cease having children, for the most part, by the time they are 40. It’s not that Abraham and Sarah did not want to have children; they just could not. But God would not let that be the end of the story. In fact, it was God, at each interval, who was revealing Himself to Abraham and bringing him along.


​Genesis 15:6: “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

This is a monumental statement. It shows how Abraham responded to God’s word; and how God responded to Abraham’s word. Abraham believed in the Lord. What does that mean, to believe? Dr. Jack Scott, Old Testament scholar helps us by stating that the Hebrew term a-man denotes, firmness and certainty. Biblical faith is “…an assurance, a certainty, in contrast with the modern concepts of faith as something possible, hopefully true, but not certain (TWOT, 51).” In other words, Abraham confirmed that God would keep His promise for an heir. Now this was no small thing, as we have said. Abraham and Sarah were old, by this time; Abram may have been close to 80 and Sarai was into her 70’s.

The King James version states that the Lord “…counted it to him as righteousness.” This really contradicts the popular idea of how to be righteous before God. We base it on works. Abraham was justified in the eyes of God because of faith. But Abraham did no work, and yet was considered righteous by God.

And so we see Abram’s response in Genesis 15:6: “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

We must understand that faith is a work of God. It is the process by which the Holy Spirit draws you. Your heart is opened to the good news. And you receive Christ and follow Him. Jesus stated in John 6:28-29: “Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ 29 Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”

This verse has been the basis for the apostle Paul to teach the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of our relationship with God. We can never earn God‘s favor. We can never be good enough to achieve His love.

The only way that we can be in right relationship with God is through faith in the atoning work of Christ. Abraham believed God. He took his promise as fact. He believed and it was settled. And if we want to be in right relationship with God, we must also believe God and His provision. We cannot believe in our own devices. We cannot outsmart God. We cannot go about life our own way. We must conform ourselves to God’s way; to God’s provision; to God’s means.

This also lends understanding of God‘s law. The law of God was never meant to be a means to salvation. It functions as a mirror, to show us our sin, and to show us God‘s perfect righteousness. It shows us how perfect the Lord Jesus is who was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin. It shows us that we need Christ in order to be in right relationship with God. As Galatians says, “the law is our tutor to lead us to Christ. “

Again, it is not a question of works, for you could never do enough to please God. At the moment of birth, your predisposition to sin incriminated you to the extent that pleasing God was impossible through good deeds.

Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Moreover, this trust would lead Abraham to obey God when the child was requested as an offering later. As God made His promises, Abraham responded in faith, in trust, in certainty.

Maybe you have asked the question: “How can I please God?” If you want to please God, don’t just turn over a new leaf. Don’t just become a nicer person. Don’t simply start attending church. Don’t merely drop bad habits. Rather, trust Christ. Jesus is the one who enables you to become nicer, participate in worship, and drop bad habits. Remember what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 3:5-9: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

So if you want to please God, trust Him! Start today by giving Him your life! Walk with Him! Stop counting on your own good deeds. God has never obligated Himself to those who are do-gooders. Rather, He’s about the business of changing lives. He changed Moses from being a murderer to the humblest man on the face of the earth. He altered Peter from being a brash hot head into a humble apostle and shepherd of God’s people. He changed Paul from being a persecutor of Christians, to teaching them. He goes down in history as the model of a missionary. Lastly, God transformed Abraham from a hardened pagan to one who is known for his faith in God. The Lord and His grace is about making us kind, and most of all, holy, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And as we expect, God did keep His vows. We read in Genesis 21 that Isaac was born. Yes, God keeps His promises.

Published by davidmckinley

I am the Senior Pastor of Central Schwenkfelder Church in Worcester, PA. The Schwenkfelder Church is a community of faith birthed from those persecuted in Silesia (Poland) during the 16-18th centuries, whose adherents traveled to Pennsylvania circa 1734. For more on the Schwenkfelders as a historical movement, see www.schwenkfelder.com. Central Schwenkfelder is a Christ-centered, Bible-believing congregation. For more info, see www.cscfamily.org. My ordained standing is with the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. See www.ccccusa.org or www.easternpa4c.org.

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