WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 11, 2011
BELIEVING THE IMPOSSIBLE
(Faith means seeing beyond what seems possible)
In Genesis chapter 15, verses 1-6, we see one of the most defining passages on faith that can be found anywhere else in all of scripture. This passage underscores the argument by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4, where he debates that “Justification” and “Salvation” are imputed to us by GOD, because of our faith in HIM, and, that those gifts from GOD have never been given as a result of our so-called “good works”.
In the biblical Greek, the word “logizomai” (log-i-zom-ahee) is used to describe what takes place when GOD accredits us with righteousness that we could not otherwise earn, just as HE did with Abram in this passage. Logizomai is an accounting term that means “to reckon”, or, “to make an entry in the account book”. The doctrine of “imputation” is taught throughout the Old and New Testaments. To “impute” means “to accredit someone other than the one who is responsible”.
Scripture teaches us that, when we believe GOD, HE, WHO keeps all record books, looks into our accounts and clearly sees that we are not righteous. HE then, through HIS grace and mercy, chooses to accept our faith in HIM, in place of that lack of righteousness. In other words, for those who have faith in HIM (CHRIST JESUS), GOD will stamp the word “RIGHTEOUS” over their accounts, and announce that their debt is covered, or, is paid in full, through the blood of CHRIST JESUS.
Here we see Abram (Abraham), on faith, accepting GOD’s divine promise of a son, to be born of his own flesh, even though it seemed physically impossible for he and Sarai (Sarah) in their old age, which was, at that time, 100 years old, and 90 years old, respectively. Also in this passage, one should note that at that time, Abram had not yet been circumcised as a sign of his covenant with GOD, and, that the Law (The Ten Commandments), which was delivered by Moses was still some 400 years away. Therefore, neither circumcision, nor, Abram’s strict obedience to the Law factored in GOD’s decision to declare him “righteous” (Gen. 15:6). It was only through Abram’s “trusting faith” in GOD that GOD afforded him the distinction of being “righteous”, and, in addition, granted him the gift of eternal life (salvation).
In verses 7-8 of this chapter of Genesis, we find that, after Abram believed in GOD to deliver the seemingly impossible feat of presenting he and his wife Sarai with the birth of a child of their own flesh in their old age, he now, strangely wavers when GOD added the promise that he would also give the entire land of Canaan to his offspring. And actually, that’s not so surprising when we consider the fact that we too, after we’ve exercised great faith in GOD on one occasion, have on a later occasion, failed to show the same measure of faith.
Many of us struggle with maintaining a high level of faith, over a long period of time. Hopefully, through a closer, more personal, experiential relationship with GOD, we can overcome our pattern of inconsistency in trusting in the LORD for all things, just as Abram managed to do later on in his life.
In verses 9-10 GOD instructs Abram in a sacrificial ritual that was known as a “Covenant of Blood”. Abram is obedient to GOD’s instructions, as he gathers up, and cuts into halves, three animal sacrifices; a three-year old heifer, a three-year old female goat, and a three-year old ram. He also brought the LORD two bird sacrifices, a turtledove, and a young pigeon, the two of which, he did not sever in halves. This “Covenant of Blood” was considered to be the most binding of all covenants in Old Testament times, and it was always formalized by GOD’s “passing through” the divided halves of the sacrificial animals, an act which HE apparently used to consummate the deal (v. 17).
In verse 11 we see vultures (birds of prey), which, in this passage represent a “bad omen” for Israel’s near future, and would later turn out to be their enslavement in Egypt. Abram was eventually able to “shoo” these birds away, who were trying to devour GOD’s covenant sacrifices which he had prepared. Satan will always oppose, and try to destroy any of man’s dealings with GOD, however, in the ensuing verses, 12-16, GOD shows Abram in a dream, how Israel would be preyed upon and oppressed by Egypt, but would eventually be rescued, as GOD would “shoo” Egypt away in the end, and they would ultimately come away from Egypt with great wealth (Vs. 13-14).
In the Hebrew, the word used for “believed”, in verse 6 is “aman” (aw-mawn), and it simply means “to be certain”. It is a word that sets our mind on the absolute trust that Abram had in GOD. Abram’s story is perhaps, scripture’s greatest example of a man who possessed a “saving faith” that GOD would always deliver on HIS promises, no matter how impossible it may seem to the human thought process.
Abraham’s righteousness was won by strong faith in GOD, and he was fully persuaded, that GOD would do just what HE said HE would do. He came to know, just as we must all come to know, that GOD’s power is not bound by our understanding, and neither is it bound by our lack of understanding.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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