And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them…
How wonderful this chapter is in the matter of first uses of words! It seems to be a chapter of beginnings! Believed — what a history opens in this one word! The moment Abram believed, he was truly born again. We may see here some of the great meanings of the word. Paul says of Abram that "against hope he believed in hope," and "that he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief." Here, then, we may study the word at the fountain head. "Believed" means supported, sustained, strengthened; Abram nourished and nurtured himself in God; Abram hid his life and his future in this promise, as a child might hide or nestle in a mother's breast. That is faith. He took the promise as a fulfilment; the word was to him a fact. Thus he was called out of himself, out of his own trust, out of his own resources, and his life was fostered upon God — he by-lived, lived-by, believed, God! It was surely a perilous moment. Appearances were against the promise. Doubt might well have said, How can this thing be? But Abram "staggered not." God's love was set before him like an open door, and Abram went in and became a child at home. Henceforward the stars had new meanings to him, as, long before, the rainbow had to Noah. Abram drew himself upward by the stars. Every night they spoke to him of his posterity and his greatness. They were henceforward not stars only but promises, and oaths, and blessings. Thus dust is turned into flesh; bread into sacramental food; and stars become revelations and prophecies. This act of believing in the Lord was accounted unto Abram for righteousness. From the first, God has always made much of faith. In no instance has it been treated as a mere matter of course, but rather as a precious thing that called for approbation and blessing. Faith was counted unto Abram for character; it added something positive to his being; he became more than merely harmless; he became noble, dignified, righteous. To believe, is not simply to assent; it is to take the thing promised as if it were actually given; and this action on the part of man is followed by an exactly corresponding action on the part of God, for he takes the faith as righteousness, the act of belief as an act of piety, a mental act as a positive heroism. What Abram did, we ourselves have to do. He rested on the word of God; he did not wait until the child was born, and then say, "Now I believe"; that would not have been faith, it would have been sight. It is thus that I must believe God; I must throw my whole soul upon Him, and drive all doubt, all fear, from my heart, and take the promise as a fact.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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.