God’s Covenant with Abram
1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 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?” [The barren household having adopted its servant as heir, Abram appeals to the LORD (“Covenant Suzerain”). The LORD affirms he is Abram’s shield, reward and deliverance following the exchanges with the Kings of Salem and Sodom. Melchizedek, the King of Salem, blessed Abram’s God as Abram’s shield; from the spoils of the King of Sodom, Abram refused to enrich or reward himself.]
3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” [The LORD multiplies his promise and illustrates the abundance of his promised children by comparing their number to that of the stars. The use of this hyperbole points to the fact that even accurate human calculation cannot number his descendents; it could if his children were restricted to the children of Isaac and the Ishmaelites; Israel and the Edomites and whichever other ethnic families may descend from him by ordinary generation. If Abram is to bless all families of the earth (Gen. 12:3), then God here also promises to bring forth the children of Abram from every family of the earth. Thus the progress of Scripture’s Special Revelation.]
6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. [Here is a transaction which transpired without a word, or a finger lifted; an invisible transaction between the mind/heart of Abram and the omniscient “Covenant Suzerain.” Abram believed the promise made to him by the LORD. This was not a conscious effort on Abram’s part to earn that which the LORD claims, but merely an expression borne out of grateful credulity. Abram knows the LORD not only can, but has, does and will keep his covenant oaths. The LORD, God Most High at this moment performs a judicial or an economic function and grants that believing Abram has officially met the terms of a covenant. God is the active initiator of this process by the power of his promise (the power of God to salvation, cf. Rom. 1:16), which is passively and gratefully received by means of faith: Abram has been given knowledge of the fact of what God says he’ll do (cognition, or “headknowledge”), he believes it is true that God can and will do it (assent), and he also trusts God to do it. These are the three levels of biblical faith: cognition, assent, trust. Thus we see that “headknowledge” is just the first step to true faith! Abram is assured of the certainty of God’s promise of an abundant offspring and will demonstrate that he stakes all on God’s promise (Gen. 22:1-19).