At this point Abram must be worn out. God promised him a beautiful land and many descendants. So far, Abram has left his home land, trekked to Egypt, got rebuked by the Pharaoh, and entered into war to rescue Lot. He is living in a temporary dwelling, looking upon a land God says will be his, but is currently occupied by pagans. Talk about going through some tough trials in life!
Abram faces another trial: he remains childless. God again speaks to Abram in a vision. He tells Abram that He will be his “shield” in verse 1. The many nations that Abram just defeated to save Lot may still be after him, so God promised His protection.
In response to this vision from God, “Abram believed in the Lord” (v. 6). Here’s where things get even cooler. Abram’s righteousness was credited to him by God. This is the first mention of righteousness in the Bible. None of us can achieve perfect righteousness by what we accomplish through our own efforts; we instead must have God’s righteousness accounted to us by believing in the Lord, and His son Jesus Christ. We must have faith.
‘”What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”‘ – Romans 4:1-3
Abram knew the animals the Lord told him to bring would act as a contract. In those days, two parties would cut open animal carcasses and walk through them to bind a contract. Abram fully expected God would walk through them, as God had appeared to Abram before in Genesis 12. Before doing so, God puts Abram in a deep sleep and tells him exactly what the future holds leading up to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Then, God seals the covenant. The smoking oven represents the pillar of smoke often associated with God’s presence (Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 19:18; 1 Kings 8:10-12). The pillar of fire is another representation of God’s presence, typically one that consumed satisfactory sacrifices (1 Kings 18:38, 1 Chronicles 21:26, 2 Chronicles 7:1). This covenant was unilateral and Divine. God was putting His own Diety on the line to give Abram the ultimate assurance.
We too have a reason to put away our fears of the world. Even though we face scary trials, we must acknowledge that we have Jesus to carry our burdens. We may not immediately receive what God has promised us, or God’s answer may be different from what we want, but we must persevere, as eternity awaits. Here Abram is honest with God. He shows his worry. Abram is not denying God’s ability to fulfill His promises. Instead, Abram is desiring fulfillment of these promises. Abram is seeking God to strengthen his faith in Him. In response, God reminds Abram of His promises in Genesis 12 and Genesis 13 and further explained that his descendants would be of his own flesh and blood. God knows how much we need to be reminded of what He has promised us. Sometimes, we don’t fully understand what these promises mean. God has given us the Bible as His voice of Truth to us on Earth to be an answer for our worries and a security for our fears.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” – James 1:6
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.” – Psalm 28:7, 8
‘”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”‘ – Isaiah 55:8, 9
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:6-8