Genesis 15 – Abraham’s Elephant

Genesis 15 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint

Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint

Today’s PassageGenesis 15

Don’t ever let anyone tell you there are no elephants in the Bible. And no, I’m not talking about implied elephants on the ark. Nor am I referring to Solomon’s importing of elephants’ tusks in 1 Kings 10:22. Did you know that ever since Genesis 12, Abraham has been traveling with an elephant? In Genesis 12, as you recall, God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham and to bless the entire world through him. But Abraham’s wife is well past child-bearing age, apparently infertile. How will he become a great nation if his line of descendants ends with him? The elephant Abraham is traveling with is the elephant in the room.

The elephant is metaphorical. The room is also metaphorical.

Abraham may have been obliquely approaching the issue by treating Lot as a kind of surrogate son, but here he addresses the presence of the elephant directly. When God promises to protect and reward him, he asks, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (2). He then proposes that he select an heir from those born in his household, but God has a better idea. “One who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (4), God tells him. The offer is on the table, and Abraham accepts it.

This acceptance is a little thing we call “faith.” Or “trust.” Or, sometimes, “believing in God.” That’s how the writer puts it when God promises to give Abraham descendants who will rival the stars in number: “Then [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (6). The Apostle Paul milks this verse for all it’s worth in Romans 4. Through an exhaustive exegesis, he makes the point that Abraham obtained his righteousness independent of works or the Torah. Instead, he received it as a gift from God, by exercising faith.

Abraham was righteous in God’s eyes not because he passed some bar of righteousness, not because he kept all the Rules, but simply because he trusted God. And I’m anticipating later events in saying this, but you don’t even need to have perfect faith in order to have good standing with God. As the narrative progresses, Abraham goes a lot further in taking matters into his own hands than just treating his nephew as a pseudo-surrogate son and suggesting that he declare a non-relative his heir. Even so, God credits Abraham’s faith as righteousness for him. It’s unmerited favor. It’s grace.

I’m reminded of the man from whose son Jesus exorcises a demon. When Jesus tells him, “All things are possible to him who believes,” the man cries out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24). Although faith and faithlessness coexist in the same man, he still trusts Jesus enough to accept the Savior’s gift. Jesus casts out the demon! And just as Abraham will receive a son in spite of his half-hearted faith, the father from the gospels receives his son back.

The elephant is still here in the room, and it will be in the room until Abraham actually physically has that son. It would seem the room is a delivery room. But now we’ve acknowledged the elephant, and for those who have faith, an elephant is not such a bad thing to travel with.

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