Genesis 15
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The substance of this chapter is the special intercourse between Jehovah and Abram. On that foundation faith rests. It is not feeling after God, if haply he be found; it is a living confidence and obedience, based upon revelation, promise, covenant, solemn ratification by signs, detailed prediction of the future. God said, "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward" - i.e. I am with thee day by day as the God of providence; I will abundantly bless thee hereafter. The pro-raise of a numerous offspring, of descendants like the stars for multitude, was not a merely temporal promise, it was a spiritual blessing set in the framework of national prosperity. Abram believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Ver. 6; cf. Romans 4.; Galatians 3.; Hebrews 11.).

I. It was a FAITH IN THE PERSONAL, revealed, covenant Jehovah; not merely in a word, or in a sign, or in a prospect, but "in the Lord."

II. THE GRACIOUS BOND OF RELATIONSHIP AND OF COVENANT. Faith on the one side, God dealing with a sinful creature as righteous on the other. The elements of that bond are

(1) gracious acceptance,

(2) gracious revelation,

(3) gracious reward of obedience - in each case vouchsafed to faith.

Thus the faith which justifies is the faith which sanctifies, for the sanctification, as the Apostle Paul shows in Romans 8., is as truly the outcome of the grace which accepts as the acceptance itself. - R.

I. A SHIELD against -

1. The charges of the law (Isaiah 45:24).

2. The accusations of conscience (Romans 15:13).

3. The force of temptation (Revelation 3:10).

4. The opposition of the world (Romans 8:31).

5. The fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).


1. For sufferings patiently endured (2 Timothy 2:12).

2. For sacrifices cheerfully made (Matthew 19:28).

3. For service faithfully accomplished (Revelation 2:28). Lessons -

1. Admire the exceeding richness of Divine grace.

2. Appreciate the fullness of Divine salvation.

3. Realize the height of Divine privilege accorded to the saint. - W.

And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Even by itself this passage claims attention. How does the idea of righteousness come into it at all? What is meant by "counting" or "imputation"? And what is the connection between belief and imputed righteousness? But it does not stand alone.

(1) In Psalm 106:30 (cf. Numbers 25:7) the same "counting" takes place on an act of an entirely different character; and

(2) it is thrice quoted in the New Testament as an example of the action of faith in the spiritual life. Imputation must not be explained away. Its meaning is seen in Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 17:4; 2 Samuel 19:19. There is here the germ of "the Lord our righteousness." In Romans 4:3-5, 23-25, St. Paul refers to it as an instance of justification by faith, connecting it with "the reward;" and this again with forgiveness and acceptance (Psalm 32:2), the psalm almost repeating the words of the text (see also Galatians 3:6). We need not suppose that now for the first time Abram was accepted of God, or that he alone was counted righteous. Mark, Abram believed not merely the particular promise, but "in the Lord." This instance is specially noticed by St. Paul as an instance of faith, because from the nature of the case there was no opportunity of action.

I. THE WORKING Or FAITH - simple belief of what God has said, because he is true; casting all care upon him. No merit in this. Faith is the channel, not the source of justification. By the look of faith the dying Israelites lived (Numbers 21:9), but the healing was from God. God offers salvation freely (John 7:37; Revelation 22:17), because he loves us even while in our sins (Ephesians 2:4). What hinders that love from being effectual is unbelief. Many "believe a lie" - e.g. that they must become better ere they can believe (cf. Acts 15:1). Primary lesson of practical Christianity is that we must begin by receiving, not by giving; must learn to believe his word because it is his word. This delivers from the spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15), and enables to ask with confidence (Romans 8:32). And this faith is counted for righteousness.

II. FAITH GROWS BY USE. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), but it is given according to laws. Sometimes it springs up suddenly - e.g. Nathanael, St. Paul, the Philippian jailer; but usually it is like the growth of the seed, hardly to be traced - a gradual growth from efforts to live by faith. Let none think, I can believe when I will. The endeavor delayed will meet with many difficulties, suggestions of doubt, or habits of indecision. And let none despise the training which prepares the soul to believe. It may seem to be labor in vain, yet the Holy Spirit may be working unseen to prepare the soul for life and peace.

III. FAITH LEADS TO HOLINESS. It renders possible a service which cannot otherwise be given. The faith which was counted to Abram for righteousness formed the character which enabled him afterwards to offer up Isaac (cf. James 2:21-28). Thus growth in holiness is the test of real faith. There is a faith which has no power (cf. James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Timothy 4:10). It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness (cf. Psalm 84:6, 7; Proverbs 4:23). - M.


1. Looking up to the Divine character - "I am the Lord."

2. Looking back to the Divine grace - "that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees."

3. Looking oat to the Divine promise - "to give thee this land to inherit it."


1. Looking forward - the fulfillment of the promise seeming far away.

2. Looking in - discovering nothing either in or about itself to guarantee its ultimate realization. - W.


1. Divine in its appointment.

2. Simple in its ritual.

3. Sacrificial in its character.

4. Believing in its spirit.

5. Patient in its continuance.

6. Expectant in its attitude.


1. What they were. The descent of the fowls may be regarded as emblematic of those obstructions to communion with God which arise from -

(1) The principalities and powers of the air.

(2) The persecutions and oppressions (or, where these are absent, the pleasures and engagements) of the world.

(3) The disturbances and distractions of vain thoughts and sinful motions in the heart.

2. How they were removed.

(1) By watchfulness.

(2) By opposition.

(3) By perseverance.

(4) By Divine help - the breath of Abram's mouth being probably accompanied by a wind from God.


1. By the approach of God at night-fall towards the scene.

2. By the supernatural revelation accorded to the patriarch.

3. By the passage of the symbol of Jehovah's presence between the divided victims.

4. By the announcement that God had taken him into covenant with himself.

5. By the vision of the land which was granted to him. Learn -

1. The sinfulness and worthlessness of all forms of worship except that which God has appointed.

2. The need for self-examination and Divine assistance when engaged in serving God.

3. The certain acceptance and spiritual enrichment of those who worship God in spirit and in truth. - W.

And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep, &c. The great blessings promised are still afar off. As yet Abraham has no son to hand down his name to posterity. By means of a vision God strengthened his faith. Weird is the picture in this fifteenth chapter. See the solitary sheik in the desert offering his varied sacrifice, then watching until the sun goes down to drive off the vultures from the slain offerings. His arms become weary with waving and his eyes with their vigils. As the sun sinks below the widespread horizon, and night quickly steals over the desert, a horror of great darkness creeps over his spirit. Then a deep sleep falls upon him, and in that sleep come visions and a voice. The vision was of a furnace and a shining lamp moving steadily between the divided emblems. Look at the meaning of that vision.

I. It indicated the ACCEPTANCE OF THE OFFERINGS. Fire in the East is generally understood to be a solemn witness to any engagement. To confirm an oath some Orientals will point to the lamp and say, "It is witness." Nuptial ceremonies are sometimes solemnized by walking round a fire three times, and the parties uttering certain words meanwhile.


1. Both the Israel after the flesh and that after the spirit had to pass through the fire of persecution; but the lamp of truth had always been kept alight by the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors of the Church.

2. The life and work of Christ may also have been shadowed forth in that furnace and lamp. Christ knew the bitterness of betrayal, denial, and death; but he knew also the joy of conscious sinlessness, complete self-sacrifice, and unending power of salvation.

3. They illustrated the character of the life of many believers. Trial and joy must be intermingled. As Abraham saw the vision in connection with sacrifice, so on Calvary shall we best learn the meaning of the smoking furnace and burning lamp. - H.

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