It’s not about trying to be good, but trusting God.
Lesson 27 from The HOPE Study Guide
And He took him (Abram) outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:5–6
Now Abraham and Sarah lived in Canaan for a long time, but they remained childless. Again, God spoke to him saying that his descendants would be like the stars of the heavens…too many to count. Abraham believed God, and God counted his faith as righteousness.
– The HOPE, Chapter 5
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
In the previous lesson we saw how Abraham responded in faith to God’s calling and promise. God called Abraham to leave his home and journey to an unknown land, and promised that He would make Abraham the father of a great nation. Today’s lesson looks at Abraham several years after that initial step of faith, and still Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were childless! Again God speaks to Abraham, promising that his descendants would be like the stars–too many to count (Genesis 15:5). Abraham had no evidence that he would have even one child, let alone a multitude of descendants. But Abraham believed God, and God reckoned (or counted) it (his faith) to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This verse is one of the most important in the Bible, for it sums up the basis by which a person can be right with God, and have a relationship with God.
The word “righteousness”1 has to do with law, morality and justice. In Biblical terms, one who is righteous is without guilt. He is perfect or “right” in relation to the law. However, if you flipped the pages of your Bible to Romans 3:10, you would read that, “There is none righteous, not even one.” Abraham was infected with sin, just as every person since Adam (see Lesson 18). If we were to more closely examine Abraham’s life, we would see clearly that his life fell short of perfection.
Only God is perfect! He alone is holy and righteous! And because God is holy and righteous, He cannot tolerate or overlook sin. Sin violates the character of God and ultimately He must judge it. Simply put, sin drives a wedge between God (who is sinless) and man (who is sinful).
The word “reckon”2 (or “credited” or “counted” as some translations read) could be considered an accounting or a mathematical term. If God were to do an audit of Abraham’s righteousness based on Abraham’s own merit, he would be found lacking. But because he trusted God, Abraham was credited by God with a righteousness that was not his own.
To better understand the concept of being “reckoned righteous” consider the story of a judge who served during the great American depression.3 One night a man was brought into his courtroom. The desperate man had been caught stealing bread to feed his starving family. As the man explained his story, the judge felt sympathy for him, but the law left the judge no option. I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail. Then, moved by compassion, the judge reached in his own pocket and pulled out ten dollars to pay the fine. Continue reading