I left you for a couple of days while I did other things and contemplated today’s passage. I will be truthful and claim sheer laziness and “writer’s block” as my excuses. Paul has gotten to the point in his argument regarding the promise of God and its base foundation; faith and not the law. We looked at Abram/Abraham and his faith journey last time. Now Paul is asking his audience to step into that same kind of faith.
The first thing I want to look at is Paul’s statement about the Law and the promise made to Abraham. Abraham received this promise LONG before God gave His people His Laws. God was bound by no law to fulfill His promise, only by Abraham’s faith in God’s word. “God said it, I believe it. That’s all there is to it.”
Paul also states that “the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression” (verse 15). This is so true! Think about your own countries’ laws. Each state in the USA has different laws so what is legal in one state is punishable in another. The same applies from country to country. And those punishments come because of laws. Laws are written to punish those who break them and offer remedy for those who feel wronged. But without laws, anything is permissible and therefore not illegal or punishable.
An example of this would be the acceptable behavior in some countries to beat your wife and children. To those who reside under these standards this behavior is not condemned as it is in other parts of the world. Here in the US such behavior would be punishable by imprisonment because of our laws. I am grateful for this but also believe that it has grown beyond its original intent to now become illegal to even discipline your child. But that is a soap box for another time.
The second thing I saw in today’s reading is Paul’s statement to his audience about MANY nations being able to trace their lineage to Abraham. When God first called Abram his name meant “exalted father” or “high father” even though he had no children. I wonder if it was painful for him to bear that name with its meaning during his daily life. But when God gave him the final promise He changes his name to Abraham which means “father of many” or “father of a multitude.”
We know from our bible history that Ishmael became the father of the Ishmaelites. We also know that Esau became the father of the Edomites and Jacob became the father of Israel. All three of these men can claim direct blood lines to Abraham. Israel is the fulfillment of the original promise of an heir and the keeper of God’s Law. But God’s promise of salvation was for ALL who believed, not just those He blessed later with His Law.
The next thing I see is the kind of faith Abraham had. He had a determined “I don’t know how, but I know You will do it” faith. He even commented to God on his physical issues after he and Sarah had attempted to “help” God but it didn’t equal unbelief. Abraham was asking for clarification instead. “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told” (verse 18). He took God at His word.
That is the kind of faith God counts as righteousness. God didn’t say he was faithless because of his questions or remove the promise because of his impatience. God saw Abraham’s heart and his clinging to His promise. Hope against hope. There was no earthly way it was going to happen but Abraham believed God anyway. That was eternity altering faith.
The last point Paul brings to us in today’s reading is that this is the same kind of faith we need to exercise in Jesus. Why would God send His Own Son to die in our place? How could a body so badly beaten rise from the grave? How was Jesus even conceived? For that matter, how did creation actually transpire? ALL these questions demand the same kind of faith that Abraham displayed. “I don’t know how, but I believe it because of who made that promise; God Himself.”
Paul tells us that God’s message about Abraham’s faith was meant for more than just his eyes. It was meant to speak to us throughout history. To comfort us that we too could have faith that brought righteousness. Faith is God’s promise. Faith in Jesus.
Father God thank, You for Your promise. Thank You that my salvation doesn’t lie in the Law but in faith. I would NEVER make it under the Law. I even have trouble with man’s laws, staying within the speed limit in particular. Even there I count on grace from those enforcing that law. Thank You for my faith. I don’t have all the answers to my questions but I trust You and take You at Your word. No unbelief comes between us because of my questions. I believe You are the author of many of those questions because of the inquisitive spirit You made me with. Thank You that I can question the how’s and why’s without damaging our relationship.
Thank You Jesus for being the embodiment of God’s promise. I can hardly wait to sit down and go over all the details with You when we finally meet. I take You at Your word and thank You for fulfilling my penalty for breaking God’s laws. You did what I could never do. Thank You!