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Dear Heavenly Father we thank you for being a God that keeps his promises despite our continual rebellion against you lord, I pray dear lord that as we hear and learn from your word that we be encouraged and grow in our knowledge and understanding and that we continue to follow and trust in you through these difficult times. Help us to continue to grow in our faith and I pray that as I bring us the word today that I may speak boldly and clearly and that we may take some hope out of today’s message.
There once was a millionaire who collected live alligators. He kept them in a pool at the back of his Mansion. The millionaire also had a beautiful daughter who was single.
One day he threw a huge party, and during the party he announced, “my dear guests. I have a proposition to every man here. I will give one million dollars or my daughter to the man who can swim across the pool full of alligators and emerge alive.
As soon as he finished his last word, there was a large splash!
One man was in the pool-swimming as fast as he could and screaming with fear. The crowd cheered him on as he kept swimming. Finally he made it to the other side with only a torn shirt and some minor injuries.
The millionaire was impressed. He said “my boy that was incredible! Fantastic! I didn’t think it could be done! Well I must keep my end of the bargain. Do you want a million dollars or my daughter?”
The man replied “ I don’t want your money and I don’t want your daughter! I want the person who pushed me in the water!”
We expect people to be motivated by rewards. Today we need to ask some key questions of ourselves. What reward are we seeking? Who do we hope will reward us? And are we willing to wait for our reward? These are the questions that we should be thinking about as we look at today’s passage.
Last week you would’ve heard of Abram’s victory over the kings who had kidnapped Lot.
In Chapter 14, verse 21 we read:
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich’. 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eschol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
Abram could have made money from the king of Sodom. But instead of rewards from the King of Sodom, he chose to trust God. Yet nothing seemed to come of that promise. How would there be a great nation if he and Sarai remained childless? How would the land become his through future generations if he had no descendants? Thanks to Abram the Canaanites had their land and houses and families and cities again but he had nothing- not even so much as a single small field. Abram has chosen to trust God and he seemed to lose!
However as we go into Chapter 15… we see that God knows that Abram has taken a risk in trusting God by not accepting reward from the King of Sodom. So he assures him with a promise (verse 1 ).
1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
God is the one who will reward Abram. He will be his shield: his protector. God promises that he won’t let him down. Abram does not need to fear because God will look after him. But Abram has a reasonable question: How can God make Abram into a great nation if he doesn’t even have one son? See in verse 2;
2 But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Having children was very important for people of the time. Back then the only way to be cared for in your old age was to have children. What reward would it be to have great riches, but have no one to care for you when you are old? What is God’s answer to this? God affirms his promise in verse 4:
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars- if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
God promises that Abram will have a Son, and that he will have many offspring. This story is obviously happening at night, because God takes him outside to look at the stars.
How many stars are out there? If you found a clear night and you were very patient, you might be able to count a thousand stars. If you got a telescope, you would find even more stars. But scientists have worked out that in the Milky Way galaxy alone (our corner of the universe) there are 100 billion stars. And they reckon that there are 100 billion galaxies.
That is a lot of descendants…And God gives Abram his word that he will have descendants.
What is Abram’s response?
6 Abram believed the LORD.’
The first half of the verse is quite simple: Abram trusted that what God said would happen, would actually happen.
Do we trust God’s word? Do we trust God the way that Abram did?
In the next verse we get one of the most important statements in the entire Bible, (v6) He credited it to him as righteousness.
When Abram was restless with doubt about fathering a child naturally the lord appeared to Abram and makes a covenant with him to make an impossible scenario possible, and because Abram believed in what God was promising, the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.
What does this mean and what is this verse doing here?
Up until this point there’s been no talk of righteousness or unrighteousness! So let’s examine this some more because it is one of the most important verses in the bible.
Firstly we need to ask, What does righteousness mean? Well Righteousness means being in the right. An example of this is in court if you were accused of an offence and at the end of the judicial process you were declared ‘not guilty’ you have been declared righteous.
Abram hasn’t been worried about being forgiven. So why does God declare him to be righteous? Well, that is because it’s a bonus to put it simply.
Because Abram trust’s in God’s word, as a bonus, he will not only have many descendant’s but also will be acquitted of his sins.
Abram trusted God in a time where they didn’t have the word. Abram couldn’t just open up a nice leather bound bible to find comfort in the God we know today. Instead he had to wait patiently for the Lord to appear and when that happened Abram had to listen and trust in what God was saying, which is why when Abram believed it was credited to him as righteousness.
Like Abram back then we to today have been declared righteous let me read from Romans 4:18-25 which is found in the New Testament:
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 9 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Abram will die at peace with God. He does not need to fear being punished for his sin, because he has been declared righteous. So Abram has the great promise that God will provide descendants and land, and the bonus of being declared righteous and dying in peace.
But have you noticed something? Everyone is left waiting. Abram still doesn’t have a son; he has to wait till he’s 100 years old. And it’s his descendants who get the land, not him (all he will get is a tomb). Abram waits and waits for God to reward him, and keeps waiting. But Abram did have a son and he did have many descendants.
But before they gained the Promised Land, they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. They had to wait!
But then, they didn’t trust God in the same way that Abram trusted God, so they lost the land. But Abram finally had another Son- Jesus. Like Abram he trusted God
Through his suffering He gained the Promised Land of Heaven.
If we trust Jesus, in the same way Abram trusted God, we too will be credited with righteousness. If we trust Jesus, in the same way Abram trusted God, we too will be able to die in peace.
So who do we hope will reward us? Do we want the rewards of the world or the reward of God?
If we trust God, we have the hope of peace with God and being declared righteous. But we are not there yet…we are not in heaven, we need to keep trusting God in hard times till we get there. What rewards of the world can distract us from God’s reward? Are you tempted to accept dodgy deals at work as a short cut? Are you tempted to cheat on income tax? Gambling is a huge problem in Sydney. Are you tempted that the quick way to get rich is to buy a lottery ticket? Or put money in the pokies? There are so many short cuts that the world offers.
But there is a more subtle temptation; the temptation to think that money will give us security. It is very easy in Sydney to look for security in wealth. Do we really trust that God will reward us if we trust him? Are we willing to wait for God’s reward?
Let’s pray that we will trust God for our reward and not the world.