And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them…
These two verses lie close together on one page of the Bible. They are part of a brief event in one human life. Yet, as we read them, they seem to separate from each other, and to stand very far apart. The fifth verse is altogether of the past. It shows us the tent of the patriarch gleaming white in the clear starlight of the Eastern night. We learn with Abraham to look up and believe and be at rest. The sixth verse suggests thoughts of the nearer present. From the hour when St. Paul first cited this fact of Abraham's faith and his justification by faith, this verse has been taken out of the older story and bedded in our modern controversies.
I. In these verses lies the union of two things that God has joined together and that man is ever trying to separate — LIFE AND LIGHT. God revealed Himself to us, not by words that told of a Father, but by a life that showed a Father; not by a treatise on Fatherhood, but by the manifestation of a Son. And so He ever joins the light of precept with the life of practice.
II. We read that Abraham believed God — NOT THEN FOR THE FIRST TIME, NOT THEN ONLY. He had heard God's voice before, and at its bidding had gone out to be an exile and pilgrim all his days. His faith was no intellectual assent to a demonstrated proposition; it was the trust of the heart in the voice of God. It was the belief, not that solves difficulties, but that rises above them.
III. WHY WAS ABRAHAM'S FAITH COUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS? Because, as all sin lies folded in one thought of distrust, so in one thought of trust lies all possible righteousness — its patience, its hope, its heroism, its endurance, its saintliness; and therefore He who sees the end from the beginning reckons it as righteousness. In the faith of Abraham lay all the righteous endurance, all the active service, of his believing life. This simple trust of Abraham made the practical motive power of his life, as it should make that of ours.
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.