And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them…
1. From this confessedly weighty sentence we learn, implicitly, that Abram had no righteousness. And here the universal fact of man's depravity comes out into incidental notice as a thing usually taken for granted in the words of God.
2. Righteousness is here imputed to Abram. Hence mercy and grace are extended to him; mercy taking effect in the pardon of his sin, and grace in bestowing the rewards of righteousness.
3. That in him which is counted for righteousness is faith in Jehovah promising mercy. In the absence of righteousness this is the only thing in the sinner that can be counted for righteousness.
(1) It is not of the nature of righteousness. If it were actual righteousness, it could not be counted as such. But believing God, who promises blessing to the undeserving, is essentially different from obeying God, who guarantees blessing to the deserving. Hence it has a negative fitness to be counted for what it is not.
(2) It is trust in Him who engages to bless in a holy and lawful way. Hence it is that in the sinner which brings him into conformity with the law through another, who undertakes to satisfy its demands, and secure its rewards for him. Thus it is the only thing in the sinner which, while it is not righteousness, has yet a claim to be counted for such, because it brings him into union with one who is just and having salvation. It is not material what the Almighty and All-gracious promises in the first instance to him that believes in Him, whether it be a land, or a seed, or any other blessing. All other blessing, temporal or eternal, will flow out of that express one in a perpetual course of development, as the believer advances in experience, in compass of intellect, and capacity of enjoyment. Hence it is that a land involves a better land, a seed a nobler seed, a temporal an eternal good. The patriarchs were children to us in the comprehension of the love of God: we are children to those who will hereafter experience still grander manifestations of what God has prepared for them that love Him. The shield and exceeding great reward await a yet inconceivable enlargement of meaning.
(Professor J. G. Murphy.)
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.