The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the first book of the Torah, Genesis. The text is Genesis 15:1-6 and is referred to in the Epistle lesson for the day from Hebrews 11:1-16. In context, this pericope follows the important encounter with Melchizedek in chapter 14 and after our text we read of the important, “cutting of the covenant,” the LORD carries out as He passes between the cut-up animals. Obviously, our text is sandwiched between two of the more significant and important events in Scripture.
There is a tendency to focus the most attention on verse 6 where it says, “And he believed the LORD and He counted/credited it to him as righteousness.” However, there are other dynamics to consider as we go through this text. Certainly, Abram is struggling to understand how God is going to carry out the promise He has previously made. Abram and Sarai have been promised descendants—many offspring—but they are rapidly growing old and beyond the normal years of child-bearing. Both Abram and Sarai are having difficulties understanding how God will do this.
So, in typical/usual human fashion Abram wants to help God out by giving Him a plan. Abram’s plan is for his line to be carried on by his man-servant, Eliezer of Damascus, who would be the heir of Abram’s house if he dies childless. But the LORD assures Abram it will not be Eliezer’s child, but rather a child which will come out of his loins (vs. 4). As we know from our past Bible reading, Abram and Sarai are not yet done trying to give God a hand in this matter. Sarai (now Sarah) offers her maid-servant to Abram (now Abraham) to produce an heir. A child is born, Ishmael, but once again the LORD God makes it clear the promised one would come from Abraham AND Sarah (17:18). Certainly, the motif of, “taking matters into ones’ own hands,” or the tendency man has to want to help God out are preachable!
My first inclination would be to preach on how the LORD provides. We want to take care of ourselves. We want to control things and we desire to partner with God in all manner of things, but of course, the LORD is in control. He takes care of things and He does not need our help in these matters. He calls upon us to be faithful, to believe and trust. So, He waits until Abram and Sarai are well past the ability to bear children, and then He opens the womb of Sara. He makes it obvious this is not a work of man, but rather of the LORD God Himself. The LORD provides!
As we consider verse six and Abram’s faith in the LORD’s promise, we need to be careful we do not think it was an act or a work of Abram that earned him righteousness. He was already a believer, a child of the Covenant when he demonstrated this faith in the LORD. This righteousness is shown in his walk with God, his trust and faith in the LORD’s Word and promise. Abram has in no way “saved himself” by believing. Certainly, he needed assurance and encouragement as he waited for the fulfillment. Perhaps it would be proper for him to say, “LORD, I believe; help my unbelief!”
15:1 בַּמַּחֲזֶה (bam-ma-cha-Zeh) from: מחזה; (makh-az-eh) “a vision”
אַל-תִּירָא; (al ti-Ra) root: ירא (yaw-ray) Qal: “to fear; to be afraid” “Fear not”
מָגֵן (ma-Gen) “shield; protection”
שְׂכָרְךָ (se-cha-re-Cha) “reward; wages; recompense”
15:2 מַה-תִּתֶּן-לִי; (mah tit-ten Li) “What will you give to me…”
עֲרִירִי (a-ri-Ri) “childless”
וּבֶן-מֶשֶׁק (u-ven Me-shek) “the son of possession; the son of acquisition” The Hebrew is uncertain here but obviously refers to Eliezer as the likely heir of Abram’s household.
15:3 נָתַתָּה (na-Tat-tah) root: נתן (naw-than) Qal: “to give” “to me you have not given a seed”
15:4 מִמֵּעֶיךָ (mi-me-Ei-cha) from: מעה (may-aw) “the source of procreation” Literally: “what will come out of your loins”
15:5 וַיּוֹצֵא (vai-yo-Tze) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Qal: “to go out; to bring out”
הַחוּצָה (ha-Chu-tzah) “outside”
הַבֶּט; (hab-bet) root: נבט (naw-bat) Hiphil, imperative: “to look”
תּוּכַל (tu-Chal) root: יכל (yaw-kole) Qal: “to be able”
15:6 וְהֶאֱמִן (ve-he-e-Min) root: אֱמִן (aw-man) Hiphil: “to believe; to have trust”
צְדָקָה (tze-da-Kah) “righteousness”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 15:1-6.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 15:1-6.