Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousnessGenesis 15:6
Paul refers to this mighty act of faith in Romans 4. He reminds us that Abraham believed God before he was circumcised, that is before he had any continual guarantee that God would do what He said. Paul infers from this that acceptance before God has nothing to do with circumcision, as the Jews were insisting. Paul says that when Abram heard God say,
So shall your descendants be, that he looked up into the stars and saw their vastness and their multitude and relaxed—resting in faith upon the power of God.
If we focus our view on Abram's faith, we are going to miss the point of this whole matter. There is a sense in which we make far too much of these men of old and their faith.
What mighty men of faith, we say.
How tremendous to believe God against all the evidence of the circumstances around. If we only had faith like that, we could do the things they did! Then we compare our feeble faith with theirs and try to work up a feeling of faith within us until we are turned into spiritual hypochondriacs, always going about taking our spiritual temperature and feeling our spiritual pulse. It is indeed true that when God saw Abram's faith, it was reckoned to him for righteousness; but it is also true that when Abram saw God, he reckoned Him able to perform what He had promised, so he was able to rest his faith on God's adequacy.
What was it that made Abram's faith so strong? The answer is that he did not look at the difficulty so much as he looked at the One who had promised. His eye was not resting on the problems, but upon the Promiser. When he saw the greatness of God, the might and majesty displayed before him on that summer's night, he said to himself,
It makes no difference how I feel or what difficulties may be involved. The Creator of that multitude of stars is quite capable of giving me an equal number of descendants.
So we read the great sentence,
He believed the Lord, and he credited it to him for righteousness. This does not mean that this was the first moment that Abram was reckoned righteous before God—that is, this is not the moment of his spiritual regeneration. The book of Hebrews makes clear that when he left Ur of the Chaldees, in response to God's command, his obedient faith was also credited to him for righteousness. This incident under the stars is simply one instance out of many that illustrates the way in which God credits righteousness to the person who believes. Abram believed God about the promise of a coming son and was reckoned righteous by faith.
Today we are exhorted to believe God about the Son who has already come, and when we cease our own works and rest in helpless dependence upon that living Son, we too are counted righteous by faith. And that act of faith that first introduces us to the power of God exercised on our behalf must become an attitude of faith governing each moment of our life.
Father, teach me the folly of self-dependence and the glory of God-dependence. In every moment of fear, lead me to cast myself upon You, reckoning upon Your promise to be my shield and reward.
Are we placing our faith in our faith? Do we recognize our faith as the eye through which we view the character and adequacy of God Himself?