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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, August 13, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 15:1–6

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. (NRSV)

Can a promise exist without trust? Having been promised by God that a great nation would come from his descendants, Abram finds himself confused and disheartened by the lack of tangible progress towards the future of which God spoke. Abram notes to God that he remains childless, with only the otherwise unattested Eliezer of Damascus as his heir, as both he and his wife, Sarai, advance in years.

The tension between doubt and trust pervades the biblical text, as we frequently see both individuals and communities struggling to reconcile a trust in God’s promises for them with settings and circumstances that leave little hope. Frankly, the same goes for all of us. It can be extremely challenging to hold a trust in God’s goodness, grace, and mercy during times of trauma, grief, and loss in our lives. Many of us land in a similar place as the infamous father from Mark 9 who, when told by Jesus that “all things can be done for the one who believes,” cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

That sentiment is exactly what is running through Abram’s heart: he believes in God’s promises but needs help with that belief. Though he (and we) may intellectually understand that God’s time is not the same as our time, it does not make delayed fulfillment any easier to stomach. However, God’s response in the rest of this chapter—namely the creation of a formal covenant with Abram—is yet another crucial step in the relationship and trust built between God and humanity, a continuation of God’s eternal promise to us.

God, like Abram I believe and trust in your promises; may you help my unbelief as well. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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