By Derek Westmoreland
Senior Pastor, Hopewell Baptist Church, Savannah
So far in our journey through Genesis we have addressed God’s creation, the institution of marriage and family, the first murder, the fall and its repercussions, the flood and its judgment, the scattering of the people and finally God establishing His covenant with Abram. Now we see Abram waiting for the promises of the covenant to be fulfilled.
Abram is impatient (vv. 1-3). Since chapter 12, Abram has experienced financial increase (ch. 13) and military victory (ch. 14). Abram, though victorious in Egypt was shaken by what transpired. His faith was therefore weak so the Lord addressed Abram by way of vision (ch. 12:1). The Lord tells Abram to not fear and then reminds Abram that He would be his shield. Abram had just won battles therefore the Lord used the combat reference (shield) to confirm to Abram that He would protect him and that Abram’s reward would indeed be great.
In chapter 15 verse 2, Abram confirms that his focus is on the fact that after 10 years he still does not have a son. Verse 3 reveals Abram’s impatience. He had waited on God to send him a son but he was waiting no longer. He told God that one of his servants Eliezer of Damascus would become his heir. It was the custom that when a man had no son that one of his servants would become his heir. Abram acted due to impatience and disbelief. This was a failure on the part of Abram. We have already learned of Adam’s failure, and Noah’s failure; now we see Abram’s failure. Abram’s situation reminds us that God issues His promises in His time and God’s fulfills His promises in His time, not ours.
Reassurance that god will fulfill his plan (vv. 4-7). In verse 4, the Lord emphatically reveals that Eliezer will not be Abram’s heir but that Abram’s heir will be his own son. In verse 5, the Lord illustrated His promise to Abram. He took Abram outside so that he could count the stars. God used the magnificence of His creation to reassure Abram that He had not forgotten His promise. Abram’s descendants, like the stars, would indeed be too many to count.
Verse 6 states, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abram was declared righteous in response to his faith in God. This is the same way one is declared righteous today. Romans 4:3, 4:9, Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23 all quote Genesis 15:6. Righteousness is not earned; it is received.
After believing in the Lord, Abram was reminded that the Lord had brought him to a new land to possess it (v. 7). God was reminding Abram that there was a purpose to all that He was doing. That God could be trusted to keep His Word.
God reveals the timing of the fulfillment (vv. 13-16). Previously, the Lord had not revealed how and when the fulfillment of the promises would come to pass but here He provides Abram with a 400-year summary of what will happen to his descendants. The descendants of Abram will first endure slavery. By studying the last chapters of Genesis one learns that the Hebrews were welcomed in Egypt during Joseph’s service but things changed under the new Pharaoh (Exodus 1 summarizes the change). This revelation let Abram know that he would not possess the land in his lifetime. In verse 14, God promises to judge Egypt (He did so through the 10 plagues). God also promised that the Hebrews would leave the land with many possessions – promise that was fulfilled in Exodus 12:35-36.
Verse 15 reveals that he will not live to see his descendants possess the land; but he will live to a ripe old age. Abram was 85 years old at the time and yet he had not yet lived half of his lifetime! What a blessing it is to know that your impact will exceed your lifetime; that your legacy will be enormous! Verse 16 records why the Lord will not have Abram possess the land in his lifetime. It is because “the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
The possessing of the land refers specifically to the Promised Land that will be taken under Joshua’s leadership some 400 plus years later. At that time the iniquity of the Amorites will be complete. Abram began this encounter with the LORD, believing God had not kept His Word. Abram ends this encounter being declared righteous through faith in God.