Abraham: Following In The Footsteps Of Faith Sermon #9
MOVING TOWARD MATURITY
Genesis 15:7-21 (NKJV)
7 Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”
8 And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Hopefully, we all know what faith is. According to the Bible it is what? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”, Heb. 11:1. But, did you know that faith is something that is ever changing? If you are maturing in the Lord as you should be, then the faith you have this evening is far greater than the faith you had the moment you believed. Of course, the ability to exercise faith, as well as the faith to exercise, are already in you. You may not see it, you may not believe it, but it is there nonetheless. You see, faith is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the larger and stronger it becomes. That is why the Lord leads us through difficult places in our lives. He is helping us to grow in our faith in HIM.
In this passage, we are still following the life of Abraham. If you will remember, he is a man who left his home, his family and the country of his birth to follow God. By faith he has journeyed and by faith he has lived. He followed God based on a simple promise. That promise was that he would receive a land and that he would produce heirs. In my opinion, he has exercised great faith. In God’s eyes, this has been spiritual kindergarten. The Lord has some even greater tests in store for Abram’s faith.
The passage we are looking at this evening deals with the matter of Abram’s faith. Here, we see him Moving Toward Maturity. As we consider what the Lord is doing in the life of Abram in this passage, let us consider that the Lord wants to grow us too. He wants to move us toward maturity, day by day.
Allow me to share a few thoughts that present themselves in this passage.
I. V. 7-8 THE CONCERN OF ABRAM’S FAITH
A. V. 7 God’s Reminder – God opens this section with a reminder of who He is and what He is doing. His reminder is three-fold.
1. Of His Person – God refers to Himself as “Jehovah”, “The Self-Existent One.” God is merely reminding Abram Who he is dealing with. (Note: We have a tendency to forget just who is in control of the events of life. It would do us good to remember that we serve “Jehovah God”. He was here before anything and He will be here after everything. And, He controls all things that happen in between. He is a powerful God, Job 42:2; Luke 1:37. He is a present God, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 20:28. He is a perceptive God, Heb. 4:13; Pro. 15:3. He is in control of all of life. If we could ever get our souls around that truth, it would revolutionize our lives!)
2. Of His Power – God reminds Abram that Abram is where he is today because of the power of God. Abram did nothing to get where he was, it was all God. (Note: may we also remember that what we have, what we are and where we are, are all a product of the Lord’s work in our lives, 1 Cor. 15:10. You name the area of your life and you can count on the fact that it is all God and not you!)
3. Of His Plan – God reminds Abram that He brought him out so that He might give Abram a new land. God’s purpose was to take this childless pilgrim and transform him into father of a great nation.
(Note: I just want to remind you that God has a wonderful plan for your life, Rom. 8:28. You and I need to be careful lest we hinder that plan and bring pain and hardship upon ourselves. Let me just remind you that God’s plan is always a good plan, it is always the best plan, it is always the right and perfect plan! Therefore, find God’s plan for your life and walk in it!)
B. V. 8 Abram’s Response – Some have taken this question by Abram to be an expression of doubt. His question is not doubt but curiosity. He is merely asking the Lord for more information. God doesn’t mind His people asking for more information. It is doubt that bothers Him, James 1:5-8.
(Note: The contrast is clearly seen in the two responses given by Zacharias, Luke 1:18; and Mary, Luke 1:34. When you hear from the Lord, do you respond by asking for more information, or do you immediately begin to question the truth of what you have heard?)
II. V. 9-11 THE CHALLENGE TO ABRAM’S FAITH
(Ill. In response to Abram’s question, the Lord makes a strange demand. This demand served as a challenge to the faith of this man. By the way, faith that isn’t tested isn’t really faith at all.)
A. V. 9-10 The Challenge Of Preparation – God’s request is for Abram to prepare a sacrifice. This whole event was how men in ancient times made a covenant with one another. They would cut animals in half and arrange the pieces several feet apart and walk between the pieces together. It symbolized the sacredness of a man’s word. It said, “May I be like one of these animals if I break my part of the covenant.” For Abram, it took a lot of costly, hard, bloody work to prepare things like the Lord wanted them to be.
(Note: Friends, we need to remember that when the Lord makes a requirement of your life or mine, it will often require us to commit to some hard work on our part. The great things of God do not come easy, they do not come cheap, nor do they come to the lazy. God’s best is reserved for those who are willing to pay the price. What is that price? Prayer, holiness, separation, obedience, etc. Ill. Wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver, precious stones, 1 Cor. 3:12.)
B. V. 11 The Challenge Of Protection – As Abram waited for the Lord to come by and meet with him, the birds of prey began to descend on the animal carcasses. Abram had to shoo them away to protect the sacrifice from being devoured.
(Note: When the Lord begins to move in your faith life, you can count on the fact that every vulture in the world will come against you to devour what the Lord is trying to do in your life. If we allow them, many vultures will try to take away our time, our concentration, or commitment to the Lord and His work. We need to be on guard to protect what the Lord wants to do in our lives and allow nothing to hinder it or prevent us from seeing it come to pass.)
C. V. 11 The Challenge Of Patience – I get the impression that this activity took Abram most of the day. He is in a holding pattern. He has the sacrifice ready, he is guarding it and the Lord doesn’t show up until after darkness has fallen. It was a time that required patience on the part of Abraham.
(Note: God never runs on our schedule! We try to get ready for Him and line up with what He is doing in our lives. We wait and we wait for Him to show up and move in us and through us. He will, but only when He is ready! Therefore, if the Lord is working in your life, be patient and wait on His timing. Don’t rush in as we have a tendency to do, just wait patiently on Him and He will bring it to pass, Isa. 40:31. God knows the exact timing, we do not!)
III. V. 12-21 THE CONFIRMATION OF ABRAM’S FAITH
A. V. 12 The Darkness – When the Lord did finally show up, Abram was enveloped in a great darkness. Part of the darkness was due to the time of day, it was night time after all! The rest was due to the work of the Lord in his life. God brought Abram into a dark time so that God might increase and mature his faith.
(Note: God still does this in the lives of His people. He sends us into the dark times of life so that we might learn to trust Him more. He allows our faith to be matured in the darkness. Ill. 3 Hebrews, the disciples, Daniel, Noah, etc. all had to face their darkness to learn that the Lord could handle their situation. Therefore, do not fear your darkness, for if you are saved, then the Lord is working out His perfect will in your life and He is growing you into more perfect maturity. No one said it would be fun, but it sure is beneficial!)
B. V. 13-16 The Details – During this time of Darkness, the Lord comes to Abram to tell him of God’s plans for the children of Abram, who have yet to be born. God goes into great detail to let Abram know that which He was about to do. The details must have been as frightening.
(Note: The birds have a prophetic significance in that they picture the nations that would attempt to defeat Israel.) (Note: The grace of God in delaying the blessing on His people to give the Amorites space to repent, v. 16)
(Note: Just for the record, God doesn’t usually come by with all the details of that which He is doing. He wants His children to learn to walk by faith and not by sight. We are reminded of this truth 4 times in the Bible, Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38. God only has to speak one time on any subject for us to know what He thinks about it. But, when He tells us the same thing four times in the Bible, it must mean that He wants us to get a handle on it! In other words, don’t go to God to try and make Him prove something, just take Him at His word and let Him work out the details in His Own way!)
C. V. 17-21 The Documentation – As I have mentioned this ceremony was part of an ancient covenant ceremony. Here, the Lord comes down in His glory, the first time it has been seen on earth since man sinned in Eden, and He passes between the sacrifice. He is confirming His covenant with Abram. Usually both parties had to pass through together. However, this covenant is one sided. Irregardless of what Abram, or his descendants do, this covenant is as good as the Name of God. It will be fulfilled!
(Note: The change from “I will”, Gen. 12:1; 12:7; 13:15; 13:17; to “I have”, Gen. 15:18. This is a done deal and it cannot be changed!)
(Note: This covenant cemented the faith of Abram in place and gave him a sure promise to hang his hat on. Thank God for the promises of God that make faith possible! Many of His promises are “If you will then I will” in nature, Rom. 10:13; Acts 16:31; Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:19. However, His greatest promises are cut in stone and they are one sided. Regardless of what we may do, His promises still stand and will stand, Heb. 13:15; Acts 1:8; John 10:28; John 14:1-3; 1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; etc.)
(Note: The promises and covenants of the Lord are given to encourage and confirm our faith in Him. As we accept Him at His word and order our lives after His will, we mature in His image! Hallelujah! Amen!)
How’s your faith tonight? Maybe like Abram you are sitting looking at your life and wondering “How?”; “Why?”; “What?”; “When?”. Listen, God is not afraid of your questions. He is not opposed to your asking them. All He is looking for is that person who will come before Him faith. He is looking for that person who will simply take Him at His Word and believe Him, regardless of how things look or how they may personally feel about the matter. He is looking for some people that He can grow up in Him for His Own glory.
Are you that person this evening? Do you want all that the Lord has for you? If so, let Him move you toward maturity. It all begins with you taking that first step of faith, so that you can come before Him and ask Him to begin working in your life. Who will do that tonight?
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Praise the Lord!