GOD AFFIRMS HIS PROMISES TO ABRAM – GENESIS 15
Abram and Sarai had never been able to have children because Sarai was barren. But when Abram was 75 years old (and Sarai was 65) the Lord promised him, “I will make you into a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Abram correctly understood this to mean that he would have many descendants.
But now 10 years had passed (Genesis 16:3) and Abram and Sarai had no children. What God had said seemed humanly impossible. Everything was against the promise He had given Abram. He and Sarai were old, infertile (“as good as dead”), and childless. But “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Though human reason might consider it impossible for Abram and Sarai to have many descendants, God can do all things.
What are some things that God has told you in the Bible that human reason would regard as impossible?
Though Abram believed the Lord’s promises to make of him a great nation, as the years passed Abram began to wonder, “HOW God would do this?”
READ GENESIS 15:1-6 阅读创15:1-6
In v. 1 the Lord tells Abram: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” A shield is a protection device. God is Abram’s protector. Abram had just returned from defeating the four kings with his servants (Genesis 14). Abram and his group had been involved in warfare and had made enemies to the north. He was living in a foreign land, surrounded by unbelieving Canaanites. His great wealth and his vulnerable position made him nervous. He was a prime target for attack by foreign powers.
So the Lord appeared to him in a vision to reassure him. Melchizedek had reminded him that the Lord was with him in the victory over the four kings when he said, “Blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand” (Genesis 14:20). Now the Lord himself reminds Abram that He was his “shield.” Abram could trust in God to protect him against his enemies. The Lord would not let his promises of blessing fail. However, could Abram also trust that God would keep his promise to make of him a great nation?
What did Abram begin to think that God’s plan might be for making him into a great nation? (v. 2-3)
What did God say to Abram that his plan would actually be? (verses 4-5)
God’s answer to Abram was to strengthen his faith. Not only would he and Sarai have a child, but through an object lesson, God made it clear that they would have more descendants than they could count.
Astronomers say that more than 2,000 stars are visible with the naked eye at any one time. The promise of God that Abram’s descendants would be more numerous than the stars had a double fulfillment. Abram’s physical descendants were more numerous than the visible stars: “The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky.” (Deuteronomy 1:10) And Abram’s spiritual descendants number many more than the visible stars: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)
Genesis 15:6 must be a very important verse because it is quoted several times in the New Testament:
• “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” (Galatians 3:5–6)
• If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:2–5) “倘若亚伯拉罕是因行为称义，就有可夸的。只是在神面前并无可夸。经上说什么呢？说，亚伯拉罕信神，这就算为他的义。作工的得工价，不算恩典，乃是该得的，惟有不作工的，只信称罪人为义的神，他的信就算为义”（罗4:2-5）
• “The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:23–25)
• “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:23–24) “这就应验经上所说，亚伯拉罕信神，这就算为他的义。他又得称为神的朋友。这样看来，人称义是因着行为，不是单因着信”（雅2:23-24）。
First, let’s consider the fact that Abram believed God’s amazing promise to him. The apostle Paul says that Abram understood the facts of his situation: “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” (Romans 4:19-20). Yet in spite of all of these factors that seemed to make it impossible for God to keep his promise, Paul writes: “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.” 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. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:18-21).
首先，我们知道亚伯兰相信神的奇妙应许。使徒保罗说，亚伯兰明白他的处境：“他自己的身体如同已死——因为他将近百岁——撒拉的生育已经断绝”（罗4:19-20）。但是尽管这些情况似乎说明神无法实现他的应许，保罗写到：“他在无可指望的时候，因信仍有指望，就得以做多国的父，正如先前所说：“你的后裔将要如此。” 他将近百岁的时候，虽然想到自己的身体如同已死，撒拉的生育已经断绝，他的信心还是不软弱， 并且仰望神的应许，总没有因不信心里起疑惑，反倒因信心里得坚固，将荣耀归给神， 且满心相信神所应许的必能做成”(罗马书 4:18-21)。
Explain the phrase, “he (God) credited it to him (Abram) as righteousness” (verse 6).
The apostle Paul explains that this means that Abram was saved through faith. He believed what God had told him. And the promises he believed included this one: “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). In other words, he believed the promise of a Messiah, a Savior, who would bless all people on earth by his work of salvation.
All of these chapters we have been studying have the continual theme of God’s faithfulness to his promises. God has been keeping his promises to Abram, and he will keep this one also. Abram’s future glory and ours is tied up in that Son, the holy child of Mary, Jesus Christ, who will bring the blessing of forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation to all who share in the faith of Abram. The way of salvation is the same for us as it was for Abram – through faith. Jesus once told the Jews, “Abraham saw my day and was glad” (John 8:56). In other words, Abram embraced Jesus as the Savior, trusting not in his own obedience or goodness, but in the Savior that God would send.
READ GENESIS 15:7–21 (NIV84) 阅读创15:7-21
When Abram first arrived in Canaan many years earlier God had promised him, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7). Now Abram had been living in Canaan for a number of years, and the land was still occupied by the Canaanites. So now, as God repeated the promise to him that he would possess the land of Canaan, Abram was wondering how that would all happen (v.8).
When Abram asked, “How can I know that I will gain possession of it?” God responded by directing Abram to take part in a solemn ritual, the making or cutting of a covenant. Verse 18 says, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram.” This was a solemn ritual that Abram would understand. It was something that was part of the culture of those times.
THE MAKING (CUTTING) OF THE COVENANT 立（切）约
The Hebrew word for “make” a covenant in Genesis 15:18 is actually the word that means “cut”. The covenant was “cut” when animals were sliced in half. Though this may sound like a very strange thing to us, in that culture it was an accepted way for two groups to enter into a solemn and binding agreement. In this solemn ceremony, God entered into a covenant with Abraham and by doing so bound himself to keep his promises. This covenant, which we call the “Abrahamic Covenant” is God’s assurance that he will not break his promise.
God gave the instructions for the covenant. Abram was to slaughter 3 animals and divide their bodies in half. Two birds were also to be sacrificed as part of the covenant ceremony. The animals and birds were to be arranged so that the covenant participants could pass between them. This would indicate that the covenant into which they were entering would be a matter of life and death.
But then there was a delay before the covenant was completed. The delay was so long that Abram had to drive away some birds of prey that were trying to consume part of the sacrificial animals. The delay lasted even until the end of the day when the exhausted Abram fell into a deep and troubling sleep. It seems as if God was using this pause to teach Abram that before the covenant promises would be fulfilled, there would be a “pause” when his family would not be living in the promised land of Canaan.
In Genesis 15:13-14 what future historical “pause” was God revealing to Abram concerning his family’s occupation of the land of Canaan?
God wanted Abram and all of us to know that this “pause” in the occupation of Canaan was not a surprise to the Lord and would not invalidate the covenant that was being made. God would indeed give this land to Abram’s family.
What comforting announcement did God make to Abram regarding his personal future in the land of Canaan (verse 15)?
In verse 16 the Lord told Abram that the delay in possessing the land of Canaan would take place because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16). Who are the Amorites? What does it mean that their sin has “not yet reached its full measure”?
Finally, after a long pause and the darkness of night had fallen, God completed the covenant ritual with Abram. A smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the animal parts.
What was the significance of this firepot and blazing torch that passed between the severed animal parts? (v. 17)
We notice that Abram did not speak or promise anything or walk between the animal parts, but only the Lord. Why? Because this covenant promise was the work of the Lord. Only the Lord could make the promise and only the Lord could keep it. God was binding himself to keep this promise so that Abram would be sure that this promise would be kept. Yes, there would be a pause when the Hebrews lived in Egypt, but the land would be given to Abram and his descendants because this was the place that the Lord had chosen to bring the Messiah into the world. When Christ would come, he would have a place – this land of Canaan. God binds himself to do what he had promised.
God’s promises to Abram included both a nation and a land. In this chapter God worked to strengthen Abram’s faith in the promise of a land. In the next chapter, God will work to strengthen Abram’s faith in the promise of a nation, a promise that seemed more and more impossible as the years passed by.