After Abraham had a great victory, defeating four of the world’s greatest kings, he seems to fall into the darkness of depression (Gen. 14:1-15:3). The Word of the Lord comes to him in his weak condition: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1). This word of hope causes Abraham to open his heart and share his despair with the Lord.
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (Gen. 15:2-3).
It is as if Abraham is saying, “What does it matter if I have conquered the greatest armies in the world? I have no children. There is barrenness in my own household! I have seen your power to help my nephew, but where is your power in my own personal life. I thought you would bless me. I thought I would become a great nation.”
God is not threatened by his complaint. Instead he brings Abraham out into the cool darkness of the night. There is a message that the Lord has for Abraham; it is locked up in his creation.
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Gen. 15:4-5, TNIV).
What is God saying? “Only in the greatest darkness do you see the vastness of my glory.” It is only at night that we see the seeming infiniteness of the heavens—the billions upon billions of stars. The sun hides these things, but the darkness reveals them. And only in the darkness is the glory of God revealed in all of its fullness.
God says to Abraham, “Just as I created innumerable stars in the heavens, so I am able to create offspring for you. Your offspring will be like the stars: uncountable.” God’s solution to Abraham’s hopelessness is a vast vision of hope. God also wants to give us a grand vision. And if we see correctly, we realize that we also are part of the fulfilment of God’s splendid vision to Abraham. When God created the stars he had us in mind.
The heavenly Father is not just saying that Abraham’s offspring will be quantitatively like stars, but that they would be of the same nature as the stars. In other words, they are not just going to be countless; their purpose is to shine in the darkness. They are called to bless the nations, to be the revelation of God’s power and glory in the darkness of the world’s ignorance.
This is summed up in Isaiah 42:6-7: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
The Word of the Lord gives Abraham insight, enabling him to see. God opened Abraham’s eyes to the original purpose of the stars. There is a message in the stars, but it is not the message of astrology. Instead it is the message of Abraham’s descendants, God’s covenant children, who have been formed and made by God. Like the stars they have been set in certain sublime formations to guide the children of the world to truth.
After God spoke to Abraham the Scripture says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). This is the cornerstone of Paul’s theology. Abraham’s faith in God was the beginning of God’s new creation on earth—a new creation that began in Abraham’s heart. He was born again through repentance and faith. Moreover, he is the archetype of faith—faith that is not blind, but rather is a response to God’s Word and work. This faith has its origins in God and enables Abraham to receive God’s gift of righteousness.
Prayer: Father, in the darkest times you reveal your glory. Moreover, in the darkness we see the vastness of your glory. Today, let me see your light shining through and the greatness of who you are.