After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’
– Revelation 7:9-10 –
“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” – Matthew 28:18-20 NIVUK
The order of Jesus’s instructions mirrors God’s instructions to Joshua as he was about to the lead the Israelites into the promised land. Jesus says, “All authority in heave and on earth has been given to me“. God tells Joshua, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. ‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’” (Joshua 1:5-9 NIVUK) Oh the confidence we should have as we go out in His Name!
The big difference between these events is that whereas Joshua’s conquest of the promised land was a physical invasion of the land promised to them, Jesus’s disciples conquest will be a spiritual invasion of this world to enlarge God’s Kingdom. However, both were dangerous conquests. I think we often underestimate the battle that is raging around us in the spiritual. May God open our eyes so that we can enter into this battle with a clear understanding of what is happening and a solid confidence in the One who is leading our charge because He has all authority.
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 NIVUK)
In Isaiah 9 we read,
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The child is born – He is fully human
A son is given – He is a gift
The government will be on his shoulders – He reigns
Wonderful Counselor – not just any counselor … He is Wonderful
Mighty God – not just any god … He is Mighty
Everlasting Father – not just any father … He is Everlasting
Prince of Peace – not just any prince … He is the Prince of Peace
Genesis 15 is such a powerful chapter in the Bible, and I feel blessed to be privy to God and Abram’s intimate conversation.
Abram might have felt a little worried about a reprisal by the four kings he defeated in trying to free Lot. God affirms what he told him through Melchizedek by saying “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance“. With God on our side, who can be against us? It is easy to quote a verse like this out of context. I think it is important to remember that God says this to Abram because of who Abram is: a man who acknowledges the Creator of the universe for who He really is, and understands how he, Abram, compares to God.
Abram’s response to God’s statement seems a little scary. Doesn’t Abram know who he is talking to? I want to suggest that the honesty of Abram’s conversation with God shows something of the depth of his relationship with God. Abram understand the boundaries of this relationship. He feels safe to talk to God about the things he doesn’t understand without showing disrespect. I think one of the reasons we sometimes struggle to achieve depth in our relationship with God is that we live in societies that don’t value positional respect, especially true in Western culture. For example, parents and children are encouraged to be equals in their relationships. This is completely illogical, but still we strive to achieve it. I think that this is quite unfortunate. It prevents our children (and us?) from understanding how to relate to God in a healthy way. Are you going to be different?
God responds to Abram’s question by telling him that at 75 years of age, with a barren wife, his descendants will be as uncountable as the stars. Most people will respond, “Impossible”. Abram just believes God, and the Bible tells us that “. . . he [God] credited it to him [Abram] as righteousness“, or as the NETBible puts it “the LORD considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty“. Abram regarded the God who made this promise as reliable and fully capable of making it a reality (NETBible). Paul uses this passage in the New Testament to explain how we become righteous in God’s sight. He explains that for the one who believes in the Lord, like Abram, God credits him with righteousness but does not credit his sins against him because he is forgiven. Justification does not mean that the believer is righteous; it means that God credits him with righteousness, so that in the records of heaven (as it were) he is declared righteous (NETBible). Wow!
The rest of the chapter can easily be lost on today’s Bible reader. I remember a pastor explaining to us over a couple of Sundays the whole idea of a covenant. It is a binding agreement in which you declare that if you don’t deliver on your part of the agreement, you should be cut into two pieces like the animals in the ritual. The pastor commented that unfortunately we live an age in which rules, and agreements, are meant to be broken. This prevents us from understanding the depth and seriousness of the covenants God makes with his people in the Bible. Through this ritual, Abram clearly understood that God was going to deliver on His promises.
In His grace, God also shares with Abram something about the future of his descendants, which was probably passed down from generation to generation, with the account of God’s covenant with Abram, to give people hope. God is a God of hope. God is faithful. We know that everything happened exactly as God said it would. God is truthful. I think that such a God is worth following. Don’t you?