Count the Stars (Genesis 15:1-6)
I have always enjoyed astronomy. Years ago Mom and Dad got me a tabletop telescope for Christmas; it wasn’t much, but it was what they could afford.
I remember one evening my parents had some friends from church over to our home for supper. After dark, I went outside with my telescope. The moon was bright, and I pointed my telescope to the moon for the first time. I saw some craters and mountains that aren’t readily visible to the naked eye. I ran back in the house jumping up and down and shouting to everyone that I had finally seen the moon!
I still love astronomy. If there’s a solar or lunar eclipse, you’d better believe I’m going to witness it—my family and I traveled four hours back in 2017 to see the total solar eclipse that summer. If there’s a meteor shower, I’m going to watch. If there’s a comet, I’m going to try to find it—Tammy and I spent one evening trying to find Comet NEOWISE last year without success.
I don’t know the level of interest you have or don’t have in astronomy. Tammy endures my interest, but she really doesn’t care about it. There are times, however, that you simply cannot avoid astronomical phenomena. It impossible to ignore a solar eclipse—the lighting outside changes if very much of the sun is covered. It’s impossible to avoid seeing a meteor from time to time. Even with Houston’s light pollution, it’s impossible to avoid the stars in the night sky.
Abram couldn’t avoid astronomy. One starry night, God took Abram outside and told him to look to heaven. Without modern cities to obscure the night sky, Abram would have seen multitude upon multitude of stars. God told him to number all the stars he saw; that exponential number would be how many descendants Abram would have.
Abram, an old man when God spoke to him on that night, would become a father. Not only did Abram become the physical father of a great multitude, but he is also our spiritual father—Galatians 3:7-9. Today is Father’s Day, and I couldn’t imagine preaching from a better text than the one where our spiritual father believed God and was credited with righteousness.
But as I studied this passage, I realized that Abram is only a supporting character—he’s not the main character. God our Father is the main character; this passage says far more about him than it does Abram. This passage teaches us: “Father God promises to make the impossible a reality.”
Scripture (Genesis 15:1-6)
God told Abram in a vision not to fear. What reason would Abram have to fear? In the previous chapter—Genesis 14—Abram has made several enemies. Lot, his nephew, had been taken captive, and Abram went out against Chedorlaomer and the kings with him and defeated them and freed Lot. They could very well have wanted revenge—God assured Abram, however, that he had no reason to fear; God would be his shield.
Abram’s reward would be very great—God was preparing to tell Abram just how great his reward would be.
Abram can’t imagine what the reward is going to be, for he is childless and the heir of his house is Eliezer of Damascus. God had promised that he would make of Abram a great nation (Gen 12:2), but it’s been a while.
Eliezer of Damascus is the heir of Abram’s household. If a man had no children in the Ancient Near East, he could adopt a slave to become a son and inherit his household. Abram has made this Eliezer his heir, but it’s not clear if Eliezer became Abram’s heir before or after God had made his earlier promise.
The word of the LORD came to Abram; what Abram is about to hear is truth directly from God. Eliezer would not be Abram’s heir; his own son would be his heir. The Hebrew is literally “What will come out of your own loins shall be your heir”—no adoptive son would be Abram’s heir, but his own biological son would be his heir.
God brought Abram outside and told him to count the stars, if he could. Abram’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens.
Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. This is a rather important statement. Abram believed that God would do what he had promised, and God accepted Abram as though he were righteous. Abram wasn’t righteous, but God viewed him that way on the basis of his faith.
As you read this passage, something becomes abundantly clear: “Father God promises to make the impossible a reality.” How should that truth impact your life?
You need to understand the FORCE of the Father.
In other words, you need to understand the Father’s power. Think about the power God was promising Abram—there was absolutely no way Sarai could conceive a son; she was far too old for that. Yet, you know the rest of the story—Sarah, as her name was then, conceived and bore a son. God has the power to make an old woman a mother.
Consider all the ways the Father has demonstrated his power. He created everything that is. When he saw that the thoughts of man was only evil continually, he flooded the entire earth. When his people were stuck between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, he opened up the Red Sea and the Israelites crossed on dry ground. God led his people, a small group of nomads, from the wilderness to conquer the Promised Land. When Jesus Christ was crucified, God brought him back to life three days later.
God can use his great power in your life, too. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph 3:20). The power at work within you is the power that created the world, that parted the Red Sea, that conquered Canaan, and that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. That is the power that helps you when you pray: “I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Lk 11:9). That’s the power that saves you from sin: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
You know what you need to do this week? Go outside and just look up at the night sky. Look at the stars. Consider the power that created them. Consider the power that will help you—the power that answers your prayers and the power that saves you from sin.
You need to understand the FAITHFULNESS of the Father.
God, you see, not only had the power to cause Sarai to conceive in her old age, but God actually did so: Genesis 21:1-2—Notice: “The LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.”
God has a long history of keeping his promises. He promised to send a flood upon the world and to keep Noah and his family safe; he did so. He promised to give Abraham’s descendants Canaan; he did so. God promised that if his people were unfaithful he would send them to captivity; he did so. He promised to raise Jesus from the dead; he did so.
Our heavenly Father is one who keeps his promises. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9). “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19).
God will do everything he has promised. God has promised to forgive your every sin—he will. God has promised to answer your every prayer according to his will—he will. God has promised to strengthen you against temptation—he will. God has promised to give you a heavenly home—he will. Understand and know that your heavenly Father is faithful to all his promises.
You need to understand the FAITH of the Father.
Abram believed what God had told him, and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” For you to be counted as righteous, you also must believe:
- “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (Jn 8:24).
- “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
- “With the heart one believes and is justified” (Rom 10:10).
Do you truly believe this morning? The author of Hebrews reminded us that Abraham’s faith—that faith that led to his justification—caused him to act: Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19. Do you have the faith of Abraham this morning? Do you need to come in faith and act on your faith?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.