What overwhelms you? Either for good or ill – what knocks you off your feet?
According to the Bible, either life overwhelms you and we call that fear. Or God overwhelms you and we call that faith. In the end only faith is the answer to fear.
But it’s an answer we desperately need. The most common command in all of Scripture is this one: “Fear not.” It’s been needed from the beginning. The very first emotion recorded in the Bible is fear. Adam said to the LORD,
I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:10)
Here is the primal fear that lurks beneath all our lives. And if we want an answer to it, we’re going to need faith.
So who better to teach us than Abraham. He is repeatedly held up in the Bible as a man of faith. But what does that mean? Does that mean Abraham possessed a special ‘believing capacity’ that was out of the ordinary? Was ‘faith’ some substance like ‘the force’ from Star Wars? Did it run through Abraham’s veins like midichlorians in Jedi blood?
No, faith is not something within us. Faith comes from outside. Faith is being overwhelmed by God. And in Genesis 15, Abraham has his great fears overwhelmed by an even greater God.
His first fear is understandable enough. In Genesis 14 Abraham had gone to war to rescue his nephew, Lot. He was successful in battle but refused to take any plunder. Now that the adrenaline has soured, Abraham fears reprisals and fears he’s lost out on the spoils of war.
How does the LORD seek to address these fears? A little pep talk? “Pull yourself together man!”
No, Christ, the Word of the LORD, comes to Abraham in a vision to take his eyes off his fears and put them where they need to be:
“I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward”
“Do you fear reprisals? I am your protection. Do you fear losing out? I am your reward.”
Fear is met by a more overwhelming reality – Christ Himself is given to us. Why should we fear?
Well, actually, that’s precisely Abraham’s worry. Is Christ going to be given? Really given as the Serpent-crushing Seed? (Genesis 3:15)
You see it’s fine to have an appearance of the Word of the LORD, but what the human race really needs is for the Word of the LORD to be born into our race. What we really need is for the Word to become flesh (John 1:14). That’s our hope for true deliverance and reward. But here is the problem: even though the Seed has been promised to come through Abraham, he and his wife remain childless.
So Abraham says:
Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless… Behold, to me thou hast given no seed. (Genesis 15:2-3)
Do you hear the fear?
Here comes the overwhelming answer:
And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him… And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:4-5)
“You want seed, Abraham? You’ll have seed alright. Not just the Messiah but a whole galaxy of spiritual descendants in Him.”
Abraham is knocked off his feet by the promise and so…
he believed in the LORD; and [the LORD] counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
Here is one of the most crucial verses in all the Bible. Because here is how our ultimate fear is allayed. Here is how we can be counted as righteous in God’s sight. Not by doing righteous deeds, but by trusting in Christ. This righteousness is what fearful people desperately need.
Adam was afraid to be exposed in the LORD’s presence. And, ever since, humanity has feared and hidden from the God who made us. But here is how we can appear righteous in God’s eyes: Trust in Christ and – instantly, perfectly and eternally – righteousness is counted / gifted / accredited to our account.
For the one who trusts in Christ they have an answer to that primal fear – fear of divine judgement. If the Judge Himself has given us His own perfect righteousness, “of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
In this way, Abraham finds the ultimate covering. He is arrayed in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). His fears are overwhelmed by a gracious God.
But he has one more fearful question to ask, and it’s an important one:
“How shall I know?” (Genesis 15:8)
How can anyone know that these promises hold true?
The LORD’s answer will truly sweep Abraham off his feet. As we’ll see tomorrow…