I asked a couple of nurses in our church, who work in ‘Deliveries,’ what has been some of the memorable reactions they have witnessed as a new life has entered the world. The answers ranged from fainting, to questions of “Do we have to take him home?”, to uncontrollable weeping for joy.
This past Sunday PAX looked at Abram’s reaction to a Promised Child:
Genesis 15 The Need for Assurance Why do people spend countless hours attending church services or religious rituals? Why do we spend millions of dollars a year on self help books in North America? In large part I think it is probably for a sense of “ASSURANCE”. Assurance that I’m alright, or can make myself alright, or at least better. Assurance that I have all the basics of morality, a sense of goodness, and self worth. Assurance that I’m not as messed up as I often feel or wonder and that if there is some reason out there greater then myself I have done something (lit a candle, said a prayer, spoke a confessional, recited a mantra, burnt some incense, spend time in quiet emptiness of self and reaching in to find the spark of me) to make myself more certain- Certain of WHAT?! Being protected, fulfilling betterment, becoming, hope, getting rewarded in this life and the next?
Abram, 10 years ago from this point in Genesis 15, took all his belongings, his wife, his servants and the rest of all that were of his household, and went off to a foreign land because he felt God told him that he should. He has had some affirming and anxious moments over the time. In fact he just came off of a huge victory against impossible odds in chapter 14! He refused to take any reward from the world around him for his victory, choosing instead to hope in a promise that God has made with him. We find him now anxious, afraid, wondering and needing assurance.
God visits with Abram in the time of his need for assurance and tells him, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Then in this incredible chapter God gives him three assurances followed by symbols and reminders of this assurance! Assurance of God’s Word – Followed by the Object Lesson of the Stars Gen. 15:1-7 Abram still wants a greater assurance of God’s very presence in the midst of his hope so God graciously leads Abram to make an ancient binding contract with Him, Gen. 15:8-16 Think of it- God places himself in contracted (coventantial) promise with Abram. In the Assurance of God’s Commitment we see the picture of animals slain, cut in two, set up on either side of small depression in the ground so that the blood could flow down the middle of the trench between. The implicit statement being if in anyway I break this contract let it be done to me what has been done to these sacrifices! Look at what happens next: Gen. 15:17-22 God causes a deep, dark, paralyzing trance to fall on Abram so that he cannot move; He cannot get up to walk through the trench of blood in order to make his half the coventantial promise to God! Oh no! How can he enter into the covenant of following, obeying, and not turning to anything else for assurance accept the Promise of God? He can’t, he won’t, it would not be keep able, doable and God would, by way of covenant contract need to pour out His wrath! But what happens? God himself, by way of symbol of flaming torch and smoking fire pot walks down through the blood fulfilling the contract on behalf of Abram to himself- by doing this God is saying, “If Abram breaks the covenant I will bare his part! Let my blood be shed!” In the next couple of chapters there is the promise given of a son through whom the covenant of both God and Abram would be fulfilled.
The very next chapter Abram and Sarai, in very Eden-esk ways, try to make God’s promises happen through alternative ways- breaking the contract of trusting God (the re-occurring theme of the chapter is misery!)
Genesis 16 Miserable Alternatives
God however is faithful to his Covenant and sends a son of promise who changes the skeptics laughter of both Abram and Sarah into the fullness of Joy.
Genesis 17 Laughter to Joy
Do you need assurance today? Look what God has done in keeping His Word to you and I and covering the covenant of promise for us! Isaiah 9:2-11
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Christmas is a symbol of assurance for those who need help from God to believe and to be found whole! He has given us a Son who turns our skeptic laughter to fullness of Joy!