“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them” [Genesis 15:5 – NIV]
We all know Abraham as the father of faith, how God promised him that he would have numerous descendants. The above verse is the illustration God used to tell Abraham, that your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. It is recorded in the bible that Abraham believed the promise and at the age of nearly 100 years he and his wife Sarah saw their firstborn child Isaac. How did Abraham possess such quality of faith? If he could possess such faith, then can we possess it?
We will take a closer look at Abraham’s faith. God called Abraham (when he was still Abram) to leave his country, his relatives, his people and his father’s household to a place that God would show him. [Genesis 12:1 – AMP] “The Lord said to Abram; Go for yourself [for your own advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” Now when we continue reading Genesis chapter 12 it looks like Abram left immediately, but if you study scripture well enough, you will notice that he didn’t do so. [Acts 7:2 – AMP] “Brethren and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before he [went to] live in Haran.” This means that Abram dwelt in Mesopotamia (Ur of the Chaldees) when he received God’s calling, however he waited for some time and along with his father went to Haran [Genesis 11:31] and only when his father passed away, did he leave Haran to follow God’s call. God had actually told him to leave his father’s household, but Abram waited until the death of his father. Some say this must have been about 5-7 years after Abram heard from God. Why would God want Abram to leave his father? Because his father Terah worshiped other Gods [Joshua 24:2]. Instead Abram chose to remain with him till his death.
Out of fear of the Egyptians, he made Sarah (then Sarai) tell Pharaoh that she was his sister [Genesis 12:13]. After being rebuked by Pharaoh for not telling him the truth [Genesis 12:18], once again Abraham out of fear told King Abimelech that Sarah was his sister [Genesis 20:2] and had to be rebuked again this time by king Abimelech [Genesis 20:9]. Now it was true that Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister, but after they got married one would say that that relationship was insignificant and non-existent over the husband-wife relationship they now shared.
Having received a promise from God that Sarah(then Sarai) would bear him a child, Abraham instead faltered and upon the request of his wife Sarah(then Sarai) decided to have a child through her maid Hagar this giving birth to Ishmael.
I’m not trying to find fault with Abraham’s life, by mentioning all these deeds of his, but I’m trying to demonstrate that Abraham faltered in faith just like you and me, he was no exception. However there did come a time when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac [Genesis 21:1-2], which is the best example of faith in the bible and Abraham passed this test with flying colors [Genesis 21:3-18], no wonder he is the father of faith. This means that you and me can learn to have faith just like Abraham and it is God who teaches us how to grow in faith, let me explain.
The verse I quoted at the beginning talks about God telling Abraham to count the stars in the sky if he can, suggesting to him that those many would be his descendants. Now we normally would imagine this in our heads as Abraham coming out of his tent and counting the stars “One, two, three, four….. oh damn! they are too many for me to count” but that’s definitely what didn’t happen. How do I know? Well read on. I want you to pay attention to the entire Genesis chapter 15, where this event happened, this was one event and not a series of events. Notice the beginning of verse 12 “As the sun was setting…” and further ahead in verse 17 “When the sun had set…”. What does this tell you? That when God spoke to Abraham about coming out of his tent and counting the stars, the sun was right up in the sky. He could see no stars, then how could he even count them? Well he did not see any stars, just like you and me if we go outside during noon and look at the sky we won’t see any, right. But does that mean there aren’t any stars? Certainly not, there are stars but because of the brightness of sunlight we cannot see them. We know that at night we will get to see them. This was also what probably went through Abraham’s mind “I can’t see any stars right now, but I know they’re there, and I know they’re too numerous to count and I know I’ll be able to see them when the sun sets.” I think God was probably giving Abraham faith lessons through this illustration. Just because our senses do not perceive them, does that mean that the promises of God are not real? God gives us faith lessons many times, but are we willing to learn through them? Can we like Abraham believe and grow in faith to the extent that when our faith is tested , we can pass with flying colors?