Promises, Promises…

Lent2 Year C :  Genesis 15. 1-12, 17-18

When things don’t seem to be going to plan it’s awfully easy to doubt what the plans are.

I’ve often followed directions somewhere –scribbled them down, or recited them to myself in the hope of getting where I need to be, and then I don’t seem to be in the right place, and I begin to wonder, did I hear them right did I write them down correctly, I certainly don’t seem to be where I thought I’d be, at this stage.

Following instructions can be like that –half way through we doubt that the bit of paper in front of us, or the verbal help we had just now is actually going to do anything, the project looks a bit of a mess… something must be missing… those instructions can’t be right.

Abram is in this very situation; Back in chapter 12, God asked him to travel, to leave his home, to follow, to trust.

God promised him a land, and many descendents, he promised him a future, this was Abram’s calling, and he followed God.

Just 3 chapters later, much has happened. He’s been in Egypt,  he’s allowed his wife to be taken into Pharoah’s household, and benefited from that – he’s been found out and chased out of town,  he’s argued with his nephew and they’ve gone their separate ways, He’s travelled and moved on. He’s worked and battled, and rescued his nephew, and now, a bit battered & bruised, God appears to him in a vision and says “do not be afraid”

We’ve talked before about the many times in the bible that the phrase “  do not be afraid” appears –its often the precursor to some sort of challenge, a calling,  something that God is asking of people.

It heralds good things, but warns they won’t be easy. So after all this battling and   a roller coaster of life God says

Do not be afraid, I am your shield your reward will be very great”

Abram is clearly not convinced

What God promised him back in Ch 12 was descendents and there are no sign of those –

And then, God makes even clearer his promise to Abram.  No one, but your very own child will be your heir, no slave, no other man,

It’s as clear as it can be, a further unfolding of the promise already made, a bit more of the picture.

And then as if to ram the point home, he makes Abram look at the stars… countless millions of stars “so shall your descendents be”

Sometimes we can doubt what God has promised us.  Often we can doubt what Gods promised. Whether we’re talking about things he’s promised to all of us we can doubt. We can lose sight of all that God has already done for us, and doubt that we heard him right originally, perhaps we start to doubt if he’s even there. We see the pain & the hurt on our world, and we wonder where are the promises of God, the God who said he will never leave us, that he is in control?

Perhaps God has spoken to us in the past, guided us, called us, led us along a path.

Perhaps things seem hard, the way is dark and the directions we once thought were so clear are now anything but, and so we doubt, and we wonder. We might doubt our abilities, or callings & vocations.

We can second guess ourselves, “Did I imagine that? Was it really God?”

But like God appearing to Abram, God comes to us, again & again to reassure, redirect and to say to us “do not be afraid”

We might have to battle to get there, we might have had to endure twists & turns, but at each point when we really think we’re utterly lost. There God is, making it clear again. Do not be afraid.

I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

Abram believed God, and we’re then told that it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Belief was good in God’s eyes

Belief showed a trust.

When we don’t trust, or are not trusted it hurts.  When people speak well to us and we cannot believe them, or we choose to reject the good, it is not good for us.

Trusting the promises of God is not easy, but it is a Good Thing.  God is trustworthy, and when we trust him, as Abram did it pleases him. Just as being trusted warms our own hearts.

God and Abram move on a step now, Abram has believed God’s promise to him, he’s seen as righteous in God’s eyes. So what is next?  – description of the sacrifice of the animals, cut in half and laid out seems quite odd to us, but this was the way of enacting a binding covenant between two people.  Covenants were sealed in blood and in fire.

Covenants were two way. Whereas before, God made promises to Abram. Now this is a two way thing –Abram has believed, he’s placed his trust in God and together they make this covenant, a binding agreement between the two of them, a formal acceptance of the promise God has laid out for him.

Whatever promises God has made for us, as his people, as individuals, from promises to be with us, to love us, to the guidance and promise or our individual lives and calling,

All of these promises have also been sealed by a binding covenant.

When Jesus went to the cross and died, his blood sealed all the promises of God for us.

When we believe what God has done for us, and the promises he has given us, we fulfil our side of that covenant too.  Jesus’s death & resurrection show the ultimate trustworthiness of God to us, a covenant sealed, promises delivered.

This covenant is sealed with fire too, The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us, inspiring and renewing us, we’re told that the Spirit is like a “deposit” a down payment. she’s a promise in herself, a taste of what is to come.

God’s covenant with us is one of life and hope.  God’s promises to us are trustworthy.

When we doubt –as we will and do, when we feel we’ve lost our way,   and wonder if the directions were right in the first place, we need to look to the cross, the sign post of our faith, and hear God say to us

DO not be afraid, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

 

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