And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them…
I. GOD'S REST GIFT TO MAN IS HIMSELF (ver. 1). Hitherto God had promised to confer blessings upon Abram. Not till now had He promised to bestow Himself. Abram knew that God was better than His gifts. If He would confer Himself, no good can be lacking. So, taking God at His word, Abram's struggling faith comes to victory.
II. GOD GRANTS TO THE RELIEVING SOUL FREE INTERCOURSE WITH HIMSELF. As yet, whenever God had spoken, Abram had kept silence. Now his lips are opened.
III. GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO MAN IN A WAY ADAPTED TO HIS PRESENT NEED. Abram had said, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit the land?" God heeded this request, and gave him a token adapted to his age and country. That was four thousand years ago, and in a barbarous age. To expect now such, or any sensuous phenomenon at the meeting place of God and man, would be to roll back the stream of time and expect the nineteenth century after Christ to be as gross in its spiritual conceptions as the nineteenth century before him. Still, the fact that God regarded Abram's request, and in a manner suited to His comprehension condescended to bind Himself by covenant to His promises of grace, is a lesson of perpetual hope. God's ear is never closed to His children's cry.
IV. GOD'S REVELATIONS TO MAN ARE PROGRESSIVE. There are seven or eight recorded instances of God's communing with Abram (see Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 17:7, 13, 15, 17, 22.). As God dealt with Abram He deals with us. The blessing faith asks for and receives today is the type of a richer one tomorrow. To Abram, childless, wandering in a strange land, the highest imagined good was a son and a home. These God promised. But how much greater the blessing when it was revealed that God in him was to reknit the broken bond between Himself and a fallen race, and through his seed to provide a Saviour for an apostate world! Faith, wherever it enters, makes the soul expansive. Today it wants and obtains; and by that very obtaining its wants are heightened still, and these when gratified yet more enlarge the soul, and urge it on to ask and expect yet ampler blessings. Nor is there ever fear that man's increased capacity or desire will exceed God's ability to grant. The depths of His power and love are unfathomable.
V. THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH GOD'S BLESSINGS FLOW TO MAN IS FAITH. Notice the process by which Abram's faith resulted, Hot only in an imputed, but also in an actual righteousness. He hears the call of God, and comes to the decisive act of trusting Him. He then rises to the successive steps of walking with God, covenanting with Him, communing and interceding with Him, and at length withholding from Him nothing which he regards most dear. From this example of Abram several lessons respecting faith are taught. We learn that —
1. The sinner's first duty is to believe what God has spoken. Had Abram disbelieved God, every act born of that disbelief would have been an act of sin. The only right thing he could do was to believe God and accept His proffered favour. So is it now To have confidence in God, to repose in Him, to fall into the arms of His promised grace, is the only first right act a sinner can perform. Hence the Scriptures emphasize the truth that salvation comes from believing.
2. The foundation of faith is God's promise. God had told Abram what He would do. Abram's faith consisted in believing that God would do just as He had said.
3. Obedience is an essential element in faith. Because Abram believed God he obeyed Him. "It is," says Selden, "an unhappy division that is made between faith and works. Though in my interest I may divide them, just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat, yet put out the candle and they are both gone; one remains not without the other. So is it betwixt faith and works."
4. Faith is the soul's simplest act, and also its mightiest energy. To Abram, weak and sinful, what so simple as to trust, like a little child, in his heavenly Father? Yet thus he became mightier than a conqueror.
5. Faith's highest conquests are not at first.
(P. B. Davis.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.