18 September 2020

Hope Trumps Experience

 “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
Genesis 15:5-6 (NIVUK) 

This story of Abram in the first few verses of Genesis 15 reminds me of a remark reportedly made by the 18th Century English writer, Samuel Johnson. It was a ‘triumph of hope over experience.’ After encountering the Lord in a vision, Abram complains that he is childless. God takes him outside and instructs him to look up at the stars. One can only imagine the splendour of the night sky in that time many years before electricity and without the consequent light pollution. The view must have been a sight to behold. “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can…” says God.

How many stars are in our universe? Nobody really knows, but on their website, the European Space Agency gives us a rough estimate of a septillion. That’s 10 to the power of 24, which looks like 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Even if we limit it to the number of stars Abram could count, which astronomers say would be around 5,000, there is a vast gulf between the hope God offers and Abram’s bitter experience. At the time his story was recorded, Abram was very old – the apostle Paul said he was “about a hundred” (Romans 4:19) – and his wife, Sarah, was not just old, but barren.

Yet verse 6 tells us that Abram believed. And God “credited it to him as righteousness.” So “against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Romans 4:18).

One more thing about Abraham’s offspring. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:16 that the descendants of Abraham would not just be many seeds but also the one Seed, Jesus Christ. Just as Abraham believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness, so we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and it is credited to us as righteousness (John 3:16).

Almighty Father, as Psalm 19:1 tells us, “the heavens declare your glory.” Now, we have seen your glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from you, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Study by Peter Mill



About the Author:
Peter Mill is an Elder and the Missions Developer of the National Ministry Team of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He and his wife, Jackie, are Pastoral Workers for Grace Communion International in Scotland and Ireland.

Local Congregation:
GCI, Edinburgh
Gilmerton New Church
Ravenscroft Street
EH17 8QJ


Meeting time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Peter Mill
Email: edinburgh@gracecom.church

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