Genesis 15:4-6, And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and He counted to him as righteousness.
In verse 2, Abraham asked God a question, “What will You give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” As we know, God promised Abraham He would make him into a great nation. Abraham, being in his old age and his elderly wife Sarah being barren, was wondering how this was going to happen. When God answered him, He didn’t answer with a specific time or place or the details to His plan. Instead, God reminded him of His promise.
Whenever we pray for something, I think we have a habit of expecting God to reveal to us the specific time and date it will happen and exactly how it will happen. Yet God does not always answer by revealing His plan to us. Sometimes He answers us with only His presence. He reminds us that He is with us, reiterating His promises to us. By telling Abraham to count the number of the stars, He was not only reminding him of His promise, but He was also giving him a deeper assurance by being present. In essence, God was saying, “I have not forgotten My promise to you. I will fulfil it. Trust that I will complete it.” Of course, Abraham couldn’t count the number of the stars in the sky, just as he was not able to count the number of descendants he would come to have. God simply called Abraham to trust in Him.
What was Abraham’s response? He believed God, and his faith was counted to him as righteousness. What sort of things does God promise for us today? Following the second half of the Lord’s Prayer, He promises to give us our daily bread—to give us our daily needs required to live this life. He promises forgiveness in Christ. He promises to hear our prayer and guard us from temptations of the Devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. He promises to keep us safe from the Devil. Ultimately, He promises us salvation as justified sinners in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). It isn’t always revealed to us how He will keep these promises, but He is always present with us as He uses the sacraments to not only remind us of His promises, but to give His promises to us through these means of grace. Concerning faith, and Abraham as an example, Paul says:
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness… (Romans 4:1-5).
If we had to earn salvation by our works, it would be something God owes us because of what we have done. However, that’s not how salvation works. God doesn’t owe us anything! Rather, it is a gift, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Our salvation is a gift from God—a thing He gives to us simply because He wants to out of His unconditional love for us. By faith, we believe this promise. We do not know the time and place this will happen (Matthew 24:36) or the specific details that will effect the second coming of Christ. (We have signs, but the ambiguity of the signs does not reveal a specific time Christ will come.) However, until this happens, God is always present with us in His Word, the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s Supper, the words of Absolution, and in our Baptism, all of which remind us of His promises to save us as these means of grace themselves deliver forgiveness of sins.