Seeing God’s glory in the skies

In the Psalms, David often reminds himself to focus his vision on God instead of circumstances. Like us, his eyes saw danger and discouragement all around him, and he needed eyes of faith to see what lay beyond his physical horizons. He knew he needed insight, not just eyesight! For instance, In Psalm 123, king David looks beyond himself to the true King of the universe: “I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sits enthroned in heaven…our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.” In Psalm 121, David uses spiritual binoculars to zoom in on the Creator, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps 121:1-2). The Bible uses the old- fashioned exclamation “Behold” 1298 times! It is a powerful heads-up: “Hey you little human, look up and get a hold on what you see! Get out of the smoke and grasp the amazing apparition right before your eyes!” In the first six verses of Psalm 19, David calls us to Behold the Skies!

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Speech of the Skies

(Ps 19:1-4)

The skies speak a universal language that requires no special skill or knowledge to understand. Even a small child can grasp it.

It is not the pantheistic speech of an impersonal force called ‘Mother Nature,’ who somehow appears out of nowhere to plant, nurture and inhabit the seeds of everything in the universe.

Nor is it the atheistic speech of the Big Bang, plus time, chance and random mutations, which somehow conspire together to produce complex life from nothing.

Rather, the skies speak of a super- intelligent Artist who is marvellous and mighty, as well as personal and caring. It is not the speech of a passive observer, but of a Creator who sustains his creation day after day, millenia after millenia by the “word of his power” (Heb 1:3). As Paul explained to the Athenians, the Creator of the universe is not an UNKNOWN GOD, served by human hands as if he needed anything. God the Creator wants to be known by those to whom he has given life and breath. “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’”(Acts 17:27-28). God shows us his glory through the skies.

David had insight when he wrote this inspired poetry in Psalm 19. He grasped that the heavens gush God’s glory every day and night! In Genesis 1:6-8(NIV), the sky is called a ‘vault,’ an apt name for such a treasure chest of wonders that entice us to know the One who spoke it into existence.

My grandmother loved gardens, art, music and all things bright and beautiful. As an old woman in her nineties, she still sounded like an excited toddler when describing a spectacular scene. “Too wonderful for words” was her favourite expression! It’s exactly what David says about the skies.

The skies make a profound and humbling statement that requires no verbal commentary (Ps 19:1-3). We live in a fast-paced city with plenty of lights, smoke and sirens, but we need to take off our racing blinkers for long enough to go outside and gaze at the infinite stars in our back yard. We need to pay attention to the daily rhythms of the sun and trace the monthly phases of the moon. If we occasionally escape from man-made ceilings to sleep under God’s star-studded ‘vault’, we will know intuitively that we are very small and this is the work of a great and transcendent* Creator (*beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience).

While it is true that God is transcendent and invisible, the Creator has left his fingerprints all over His finely tuned universe as evidence of what He is like. Through the skies, God makes his invisible nature known to all people on the planet every day. Wherever we are in the world, God pulls back the curtains of the heavens to give us a glimpse of his glory, power, majesty, creativity, order and infinite wisdom (Rom 1:19-20Jer 10:12). We observe his laws of nature in operation such as gravity, showcasing the logical, orderly way God normally upholds his universe.

The witness of creation is powerful, but not sufficient to unite us with our Creator. Only Jesus can do that. Christ came to earth as flesh and blood for the very purpose of making the invisible God known to us in person. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature(Heb 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities: all things were created by him and for him” (Col 1:15-16). The constellations cannot tell us the story of Jesus and his atoning sacrifice, and that is why we need God’s word in the Bible. That’s what we will explore next week in “Seeing God’s face in Scripture—Psalm 19:7-12)”. Nevertheless, creation has a powerful ministry which we should not take for granted.

Ministry of the Skies

When we think of the way God ministers to us as Christians, we usually think of the Bible, prayer and God’s people. But it is easy to neglect one of the most accessible, everyday channels of God’s grace– His beautiful world. Of all people, Christians should understand the language of awe and joy when we open our eyes to behold God’s handiwork.

If we know that our Saviour is also our Creator and that we have been made to be stewards of all Creation (Gen 2:16), it makes sense that God would minister to us as we respect, care for and enjoy his earth, including everything in and above it. If God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden before the earth was marred by sin, does it not please him to watch His children take a walk in nature, admire his handiwork and gasp at the heavens?

I love John Piper’s comment on God’s ministry through the skies:

“There is not a day that goes by, nor is there a place in the world, where God does not extend his ministry for the healing and hope and happiness and humility of those who will receive it. I’m speaking of the ministry of the Lord through what he has created, through the world of nature, especially what we see when we look up into the skies during the day and during the night.” (John Piper)

I don’t think this is conjecture. When God reassured Abraham of his eternal promises, he took him outside his tent to show him the stars in the sky. It gave Abraham comfort and strength to continue his journey of faith. Similarly, God gave Noah hope through a rainbow in the sky (Gen 9:12-15). God himself placed a bright star over the city of Bethlehem when Jesus was born, as a tangible sign that the Saviour of the world had come. The sign was so powerful that wise men from a distant land travelled to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. God used the heavens he had created to give tangible signs of his eternal covenant of grace and salvation. These signs ministered to people who had unveiled eyes to see them.

Even now, God’s creation is not superfluous. His word does not return to him empty. He has given us the skies to minister directly to our hearts– not through intellect, audible words or logical reasoning– but through our senses, intuition and emotions. It is the wordless speech of AWE and JOY.

The Star of all stars

Ps 19:5-6

David experienced awe as he described the sun’s daily arc across the sky as a happy bridegroom and a champion marathon runner. I’m picturing my favourite Blitzbok player, Cecil Afrika, sprinting from one side of the field to the other to score a try, dreadlocks trailing behind! Or perhaps the sun is like Wade Van Niekerk demolishing the 400m track at the 2016 Olympics! It’s amazing that David pictured it as a ‘circuit’ even before he knew the earth was round.

It is easy to take for granted that the sun shows up every morning to run its race, but this is just one of the laws of nature that God has written into the earth’s fabric. The sun is God’s gift that reflects all the colours of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Without the sun, we would have no colour at all! Only an artist would bother creating a colourful universe. James 1:17 is one of my favourite reminders:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”.

The sun is a daily reminder that the joy of the Lord is our strength! I’ve had the joy of driving my children in an Easterly direction to school over the last ten years and we have watched the sun rise nearly every morning. As hard as it is to wake up on a dark and cold winter’s morning, the sunrise is exactly what we need to start the day. Here are some ways the Lord ministers to our bodies through the ‘Star of all stars’ that He carefully placed in the perfect spot, 92,935,700 miles from planet Earth:

The Sun:

  • Contains Full Spectrum Light, which increases dopamine and serotonin.
  • Increases Beta-endorphins, which improve mood and reduce pain.
  • Relaxes the nervous system and makes us calmer
  • Decreases need for painkillers by 21% post-surgery.
  • Increases Nitric Oxide, which helps improve blood flow
  • Increases Vitamin D
  • Lowers inflammation (UV is an immunosuppressant)
  • Improves Blood flow, brain function and alertness
  • Increases metabolism
  • Is anti-Microbial – the sun can irradiate large amounts of blood – against fungi, bacteria viruses, etc…
  • Increases CD8 Cells, which help the immune system
  • Breaks down adrenaline and cortisol, which are stress hormones.

In case you’d like to watch the sun rise or set, follow the phases of the moon or explore the treasure ‘vault’ of stars and planets in your region, visit

No eye has seen

It is too wonderful for words that God is so much brighter and more glorious than even our amazing sun! We cannot even look upon His face and survive (Ex 33:20). It is hard to imagine that when the Lord returns and transforms the earth to its original perfection, God will be the light for us in the day and the night. Our sun and moon, which are so vital for life on earth, are only temporary lights in the sky, but our Creator is eternal, and His light will be all we need.

“The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory”. (Isa 60:19).

No wonder Paul wrote:

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—(1 Cor 2:9).

That will be a day to behold! In the meantime, let us not cut ourselves off from God’s creation, but rather become fluent in the language of awe and joy.

Live it out!

  • In a world that is full of sin, hate, ugliness and destruction, do you take time to lift your eyes and gaze at what is beautiful and good? Allow God’s free gift of the skies to minister to your heart and share it with your family. It is a practical way to live out Phil 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.

Coming up!

For the next two weeks on The God Walk we will be looking at the rest of Psalm 19:

Psalm 19:8-11– Seeing God’s face in the Scriptures.

Psalm 19:12-14– Showing God’s glory through our lives.


Click below to listen to “Indescribable,” sung by Chris Tomlin.

Useful Resources:

  • Fulbright, Exploring Creation with Astronomy; Exploring Creation with Botany; Exploring Creation with Zoology: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Reading this amazing series of books with my children was one of the greatest blessings we shared.)
  • Website to visit
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Abraham’s Dark Night of the Soul

Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief.

Abraham’s theology was tested in the laundry room of real experience. So is ours. His belief in God’s faithfulness spent 25 years in the laundry basket of delay. His faith in God’s goodness was whirled about in the washing machine of a risky future, famine and fear. His theology was hung out to dry on the washline of conflict and then pressed under the iron of testing. But when Abraham was around 115 years old, the iron got piping hot in the greatest test of all. God’s command to slaughter Isaac as a burnt offering may have been an acceptable practice in Canaan, but it conflicted with everything Abraham understood about the loving, faithful God who had sworn a covenant and guaranteed it with His own life (Gen 15; 17:19; 21). It made no sense at all. God had assured Abraham that Isaac would inherit the covenant promises—the nation, land, descendants and blessing to the nations. Isaac had been born by a miracle of God from a barren mother in her nineties (Gen 21:1-2). Along with the agony of killing his beloved son who brought laughter to their home, Abraham could not square God’s command with his covenant. Surely we would not blame Abraham if he ditched God at this point and followed his instincts and reason, just as he did in Egypt? “Did God really say…?” must have crossed his mind more than once on that terrible journey. However, Abraham did not delay or argue with God. Abraham’s darkest hour of fear was also his finest hour of faith.

As this ancient father trudged for three days up Mount Moriah with his only beloved son, his torment could only be paralleled by God the Father as His Son journeyed from Gethsemane to Golgotha two thousand years later.

Let us learn from Abraham’s faith in the darkest night of the soul.

Genesis 22

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

A father and son

In the three dreadful days it took for father and son to walk to the place God had told him about, Abraham had plenty of time to process the sting of God’s command. But time was not the same for the eternal Yahweh. In his sovereignty, God had already provided a ram in the thicket and instructed the angel to stay Abraham’s hand. God knew the outcome of the test but Abraham did not. As God’s faithful friend for over a century, Abraham must have felt that God had turned against him in his old age.

Amazingly, the author does not even mention how Abraham or Isaac felton this journey. Our text only provides painful details of what they did.Just unquestioning, humble obedience and a brief exchange between father and son:

“Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Isaac asks his father. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Gen 22:7-8). As a parent I want to scream at them to run home and abandon this ill-fated excursion!

But, in his darkest hour, haunted by doubt, despair and disorientation, Abraham chose to believe God rather than his perceptions.

The promised son also obeyed, rather than out-run or out-wrestle his aging father. Isaac, a sturdy youth, allowed himself to be bound and placed on the altar, like a meek lamb, a silent sheep before its shearers. One cannot help but see images of the Promised One in Isaiah 53:710.

Father and son’s faithful obedience was not born from a stoic sense of duty, but from a deep conviction that God would miraculously ‘provide’ on the mountain (Gen 22:8Heb 11:171819). They obeyed even though the means of provision remained a mystery.

Abraham teaches us something important about faith in the dark night of the soul which is confirmed by the wise advice of Jon Bloom:

“When your perceptions tell you something different than God’s promises, always, always, always trust God’s promises over your perceptions.” (When Your Worst Storm Comes.)

Father, I pray that you would give me grace to trust and obey you, even when my instincts and feelings pull me in another direction. May I act on your word, even if it leads to the loss of something precious. I cling to the certainty that somehow you will always provide.

Father and Son

Your only son that you love” echoes three times in this story (Gen 22:21215), emphasizing the crux of Abraham’s test:

Isaac was Abraham’s promised seed, but he was also his only, belovedson. It is impossible to miss the parallel with the unique, earth-shattering sacrifice on a nearby hill two millennia later, when the Father of heaven did not spare his only begotten Son:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 Abraham trusted that God would provide on the Mountain of the Lord. God did indeed provide (Gen 22:813-14): First a ram in the thicket in exchange for Isaac’s life. Then His own Son in exchange for every sinner who believes (Rom 8:32). The truth of God’s provision was revealed to John the Baptist on the day Jesus was baptized,

“Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

“The Ram in the thicket” was a preview of the main feature film, “Jesus The Promised One”! God’s Son was provided on the mountain of the Lord in 33AD.

I wrote a little poem titled “Father and Son

Not a bundle of sticks, but a wooden cross

Borne upon his bloodied back

A Father grieves a precious loss

As noonday sky turns black.

Not a thicket, but a crown of thorns

Frames His disfigured face

“My God, My God!” The Father mourns

As the Son bears our disgrace.

The Father did not stay His hand

When darkness fell upon the land

For His perfect will was finally done

When He did not spare his only Son.

Father, thank you that you loved us so much that you did not withhold your only beloved Son. It was your will to make his life an offering for sin, so that you could suspend your hand of judgment on all who believe (Isa 53:1011). Thank you that your Son saw the ‘light of life’ when He was raised from the tomb and that I am one of those stars in the sky and grains of sand on the seashore you promised Abraham– a child of the covenant!

Epilogue on Abraham!

We have come to our last devotion in the life of Abraham. I hope you have enjoyed the journey! His remarkable story weaves together the faith, obedience and sacrifice of a flawed man who walked with the Lord and unwittingly became a central pivot of redemptive history. Just so that you know, Abraham saw his son Isaac marry Rebekah, and then went on to live to 175 years, “an old man and full of years, and he was gathered to his people” (Gen 25:7). That is a beautiful epitaph for a great man, isn’t it?

But even greater than the mortal man himself, are the stunning previews of the gospel screened through Abraham’s life two millenia before the appearance of God’s Anointed. Like all of us, Abraham saw through a glass dimly, but he believed that God would do what He had promised, and Jesus commended him highly for this expectant, hopeful faith:

Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:56-59)

Abraham’s faith ebbed and flowed like ours, but Paul makes a stunning statement about God’s promises to Abraham:

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Gal 3:8).

Abraham was not blessed because he obeyed and was willing to sacrifice his son, although this pleased God greatly. Abraham was blessed because he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6Rom 4:9Rom 4:22Gal 3:6). Faith in God’s provision made Abraham a friend of God, not his obedience or sacrifices. It is the same for us today. Only Jesus, the perfect God-man, can be our once-for-all sacrifice. Only the Son of God qualifies as the human substitute who stays the Father’s hand of judgment against us (Heb 10:5-67).

Only when we trust in the ‘Lamb’ God provided, do we have the right to call God our ‘Father’ and we are called His ‘friend’.

As children of God, it is only natural that we will want to live a life of sacrifice and obedience, as Abraham did (Hebrews 13:15-16Phil 4:18and Romans 12:1). Sacrifice and obedience are always woven together in the lives of God’s friends, because they are the proof that faith is real (James 2:20-23).

Father, I can scarcely believe that I am called your friend! Help me to trust your promises and build my life on them, regardless of my confused vision. Help me to obey like Abraham and Isaac without needing to know how all the pieces fit together.

A Blessing for fellow pilgrims

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Heb 13:20-21).

    • Listen to this great hymn sung by Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin: The Wonderful Cross.

Abraham the Advocate

The dictionary defines an Advocate as a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause, a protector or patron. A person who puts a case on someone else’s behalf, who speaks for, argues for, pleads for.

In Genesis 18, at the ripe old age of 99, Abraham humbly but boldly approaches God like an Advocate approaches the bench of a High Court Judge on behalf of a guilty accused (Gen 18:27). Armed with a new name and a secure covenant, Abraham begins to live out God’s promise to make him a blessing to all families on earth (Gen 12:2-317:5).

In this extraordinary interchange, Abraham does not only plead for his nephew Lot and his family to be saved, but also for the contemptible Canaanites who live in Sodom. Like an Advocate for a monstrous criminal, Abraham pleads with God to save his disgraceful client. He begs the just Judge to spare the city’s wicked inhabitants on account of the righteous few who live among them.

In this unique chapter, Abraham points us to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only righteous Advocate qualified to represent sinners in the High Court of heaven. We get a glimpse of our great High Priest, who intercedes and prays to God on behalf of every believer. May this image remind us that we will never face any difficulty alone, as Jesus is pleading our case in the throne room of heaven (Rom 8:34).

My prayer is that this text may encourage us to live as God’s royal Priests (1 Peter 2:9), soft-hearted and bold like Abraham, always ready to serve and intercede in prayer on behalf of our family, friends, city, nation and world– even our worst enemies (Matt 5:44). Only the gospel can spare sinners from the judgment to come (2 Peter 2:69).

Our text today is Gen 18:22-33:

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

Abraham the Intercessor

In Abraham’s role as pleading priest, he unwittingly provides a peek preview of the Great High Priest who pleads on behalf of believers in the throne room of heaven. Abraham is also an archetype of Christ’s royal priesthood in every generation (1 Peter 2:9). If we are children of God, we are called to be intercessors in our community, no matter how evil it may be and regardless of people’s foolish choices (eg, Lot in Gen 13:10).

The Canaanite community of Sodom and Gomorrah were not nice people (2 Peter 2:6Gen 13:13Ezekiel 16:49). Genesis 18:20 tells us that their sin was grave and their offence great. The “outcry against Sodom” paints a picture of cities without moral boundaries, where the cries of the oppressed and violated were heard by no one except God. Genesis 19 paints a sordid portrait of their vicious debauchery. Many modern contexts spring to mind, where powerless victims of abuse have no protectors, and atrocious evil runs wild.

Yet Abraham poses the question to God five times: “Suppose I find a few righteous people in the city, will you destroy the whole city?” The ‘righteous few’ shrinks from 50, 45, 40, 30, 20 to finally 10 people (Gen 18:242829303132). Each time, God’s reply is laced with grace and mercy, despite the depravity of Sodom. “For the sake of the few, I will not destroy the whole city.” These are not Abraham’s people he is pleading for, but violent, degenerate Canaanites who had previously captured Lot and his family (Gen 14). His appeals on behalf of a pagan city are unique to the Old Testament.

But then Abraham abruptly stops before the punchline! I can imagine him studying the fingers on his two hands as he pleads for God to save the city for the sake of 10 people. He never finishes by asking God what would happen if he found just ONE righteous person in Sodom. Perhaps Abraham realized that he would not find ten good men if he scoured the cities from top to bottom. Perhaps he knew that even Lot, his wife and two daughters had been tainted by what they saw and heard, living day after day in Sodom (2 Peter 2:8). But perhaps the truth dawned on him that “there is no one righteous, not even one. No one seeks God. All have turned aside. No one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:10-12). Perhaps Abraham instinctively understood, even without the law or scriptures, that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Rom 3:23). I believe that Abraham knew there was no truly righteous person to be found in Sodom, or on planet earth for that matter.

The Ultimate Go-Between

Abraham could not have foreseen the appearance of one truly righteous man qualified to represent and save the many who deserve judgment– even Abraham himself. He could not have imagined that Yahweh, the just Judge of all the earth would send His Son to earth to die for the guilty, to be their High Priest and Advocate, their Bridge—the ultimate Go-Between and only Mediator between man and God (1 Tim 2:5John 14:6Heb 9:24).

What a wonderful picture this story paints of Jesus as our great High Priest, interceding for us in the throne room of heaven! He who stood like a rock through every temptation; passed every test with flying colours; triumphed through every trial and stayed on the cross when He could have saved himself—that same Jesus is praying for you and me as we face our own trials! He is fighting as our Champion who has conquered death itself. As our Advocate, He is campaigning on our behalf, pleading our case before the Father even when we give him good reason to disapprove and find fault with us. We stand acquitted, forgiven and freed from judgment, only because we are represented by the perfect Mediator of a bettercovenant than Abraham ever had. What a powerful rebuttal when Satan accuses us! Read how the writer of Hebrews describes it:

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:22-26)

It is good to know that our high priest lives to make intercession for us, but even better to know what He is praying for.

What Jesus prays on our behalf

In the High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17, the Lord Jesus gives us a peek into some of his pleas for all Christians throughout the ages. Jesus prays:

That we will be kept safe from the evil one (John 17:15); be kept holy in the world (John 17:16); that we would be sanctified by holding tight to the truth of God’s word (John 17:1719); that God would equip and send us out into the world as his emissaries (John 17:18); that we would be credible witnesses as we abide in Christ’s love (John 17:2126); that we would be united with other believers and together shine God’s love for all the world to see (John 17:23), and that we would get safely to heaven to enjoy Christ’s reign forever and ever (John 17:24).

Now that we know Jesus’s prayer requests for us, let us plead and pray these same prayers on behalf of ourselves and those we care about. Even on behalf of our enemies and those we despise. Let us behave as Christ’s priests in our generation, knowing that it is only by grace that we have been called out of darkness to proclaim his wonderful acts to the world (1 Peter 2:9).

What more can we possibly need for this life that the prayers of Jesus haven’t covered?


Lord, rescue me from the sin of self righteousness. I am no better than Lot or any of the people of Sodom. Help me not to be a critic, a fault finder or a disapprover, but give me eyes to see the grace you have lavished on me to make me your child. Make me your pleading priest in my home, my city, my nation and my generation. I want to be a bridge to lead people to Jesus, the only one who is qualified to take sinners into your presence. Give me energy, boldness and grit to keep interceding in prayer for those who need you. I know you invite me to wrestle with you in prayer and do not despise my sincere appeals. Give me your grace to pray for my enemies and those that hurt me. When all is said and done, may I entrust my future to Jesus, the guardian of my heavenly inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4).

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Meditate on these great words of the hymn “Before the throne of God above” Click here to listen.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Written by Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841–1923)

Why we should cling to the covenant

“When God makes a covenant he reveals his own job description and signs it.” (John Piper).

However, in Abram’s case, there was a gaping chasm between God’s job description in Genesis 12 and Abram’s reality a decade later. What guarantee did he have that he had not been sent on a wild goose chase? God’s promises must have seemed like a distant dream, not a cause for confidence.

Delay is one of the hardest tests of faith. Like Abram, it sometimes feels like we are on  endless probation. But remember that Abram camped in faith’s waiting room for thirty years! It must have been hard not to doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. But in Genesis 15, when Abram was around 80 years old, God ‘cut’ a covenant with him and gave him a terrifying, unforgettable  vision. It is one of the Bible’s few theophanies, in which God graciously showed himself to his human friend as a smoking firepot with a blazing torch. During this encounter, God quietened Abram’s quaking heart; answered his honest questions, and offered two tangible signs that He could be trusted. Hebrews explains that God “swore by himself” and showed Abram “the unchangeable character of his purpose” (Heb 6:13-15). It was the ultimate show-and-tell. Today’s text gives us a glimpse into God’s eternal covenant with Abram and his spiritual descendants (Gal 3:29). It is an encouragement to every person who has fled to Christ for refuge and a sober reminder that God himself was torn to pieces to honour his covenant promises. Gospel hope is the only firm and secure anchor for the soul, because it depends on His performance alone (Heb 6:19). That’s why we need to padlock ourselves to God’s promises and cling to His covenant of grace.

Genesis 15

15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites,Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

Abram believed the Lord (Gen 15:6)

By this time Abram had been in Canaan around ten years with nothing to show for it. No hint of a son and not a patch of land to call his own, much less a nation, a great name and a conduit of blessing to other nations. Abram had successfully launched a rescue mission to get Lot out of Sodom, but apart from this messy victory, he did not have a shred of hard evidence that God’s promises would come true. It is easy for us to skim through Genesis 12 to 21, but Abram was seventy when God first called him out of his comfortable home in Ur, and a hundred when Isaac was born! It was not a quick and easy faith journey.

Despite his limited understanding of the future and unpromising reality, “Abram believed the Lord and God credited it to him as righteousness”(Gen 15:6). Abram was right with God, not because he was a worthyman, but because he took God at his word.

The New Testament tells us that Genesis 15:6 was written not just for Abraham, but also for all “to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Rom 4:23-24). Verse 6 applies to Abram and to us, if we have bowed the knee to Jesus.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12; Rom 4; 5:1; Gal 2:163:24Rom 3:23-24).

Do you know for sure you have been made right with God through faith in Jesus?

God stilled Abram’s heart (Gen 15:1)

Verse 1 is one of my favourite verses. God looked into Abram’s quaking heart and knew that his greatest fear was the gap between God’s promises and his disappointing reality.

Is this not also our fear? Do you wonder if God is really a good and faithful Redeemer when you see brokenness in your marriage, your finances, your health and your family? God knows your deepest fears and will not leave you up the creek without a paddle. This is God’s word of comfort to you: “Do not be afraid, I am your shield and your very great reward!”

It is the Lord himself who is our shield and reward, not His blessings and benefits, as much as we love and appreciate them.

Delay does not mean that God has forgotten our plight. If God did not make us wait in prayer; if our lives were always ordered and our path clear, why would we need faith at all? Faith is trusting Jesus for redemption while still in chains. Faith is grabbing his light while in the darkness. Faith is taking refuge in Jesus, while reeling from punches in life’s boxing ring. He is our High Priest who deals gently with our human frailty (Heb 4:14;15;16).

Whom or what are you using as your shield and reward today? What is the anchor of your soul?

God answered Abram’s questions (Gen 15:2; 8)

BUT Abram said….BUT how can I know?” Our BUTS expose the uncertainties which underlie our deepest doubts and fears.

Abram’s awesome but approachable God welcomed his honest, humble questions about the promised son and land. The Lord took his questions seriously and responded with tangible signs. Faith is not immune to doubts, longings and fears, but faith grows when we hand them over to the God who cares. God’s response to Abram shows that He does not dismiss the honest concerns of believers.

As a parent, I know that I cannot fix all my children’s fears or answer all their questions. But I can take their concerns seriously and encourage them to pray their doubts and heartaches to Jesus. I trust that even if He does not provide all the answers, He will reveal his goodness and faithfulness to them. That’s how He answers our questions too.

God gave Abram tangible signs (Gen 15:5; 17)

Not only did God respond with words, but also with tangible signs.

First, Abram wondered how God could give an old, barren couple a child? In response, God took him outside to see the night sky and asked him to imagine his infinite descendants glittering over the vast expanse of the universe (Gen 15:5). I love this visual aid! The sovereign Creator stooped down to his creature-friend to give him a visible pledge. Abram would see this sign each evening when he stepped out of his tent. It was as tangible as Noah’s rainbow.

Second, Abram wondered how God would give a wandering nomad the land of Canaan? It was a legitimate question, as Abram was landless. In response, God rolled back the curtains of the future and showed how He would act on behalf of his people (Gen 15:1013-1618-21).

The gory ritual God acted out while Abram slept under a blanket of “thick and dreadful darkness”, may seem like something out of The Vampire Diaries, but, against the backdrop of Abram’s Mesopotamian culture, it is a covenant with stunning visual effects (Gen 15:9-10):

Whereas we ratify contracts with a signed document of mutually agreed terms and conditions, the Mesopotamians sliced animals into pieces and placed their bloodied flesh on the floor. The two parties bound themselves by walking between the pieces and acting out the breach clause which was clear and brutal: “If I am unfaithful to my contractual obligations, you can do to me what has been done to these bloody, broken animals. You can cut me into little pieces and leave my corpse for the vultures! ” (Jer 34:18).

But instead of God and Abram walking together between the pieces of flesh, the smoking blazing firepot passed through the pieces ALONE (Gen 15:17). The firepot symbolised God himself in his holy, unapproachable perfection (Ex 3:213:21-2214:2419:18Deut 4:11).

Could it be that God was pledging to fulfill the terms and bear the curse of unfaithfulness on behalf of both of them?

It was not a mutual contract at all, but a one-sided, unconditional covenant that God guaranteed with his own life. Its fulfillment and default penalties rested entirely on the Lord, not Abram.

Could Abram have imagined the great and terrible darkness that would descend on the whole land of Israel at noon, while the Lord’s body was broken to pieces? (Matt 27:45). Could he have conceived the scandalous way in which God would pour out his own blood to fulfill his covenant  promises (Matt 26:28Luke 22:19-20)?

Yet, that is exactly what happened when God took on human flesh and was cut off from the land of the living, pierced and crushed for our sins (Isa 53:58). By bearing the curse of our unfaithfulness in 33 AD, God literally “swore by himself,” as he did to Abram in that thick and dreadful darkness. The Lord Jesus, who had no sin, became sin for covenant-breakers like Abram, you and me.

Our soul anchor today

Let’s massage Abram’s story in Genesis 15 deep into our own experience!

When we cling to the covenant, we plead Christ’s promises and trust his grace. We padlock ourselves to God’s trustworthiness and throw away the key!

  • Human beings make and break promises every day in marriage, families, politics and business, because we are all untrustworthy sinners. But God died to guarantee His gospel promises and blessings that belong to all who are “in Christ” (Eph 1:3-14). It is the same gospel that was announced in advance to Abraham (Gal 3:8).


  • God’s oath to Abraham and to all his spiritual offspring is the gospel hope that “anchors our soul, firm and secure”. It is like a giant padlock linking us to Christ forever. Our hope is pledged by the tangible sign of the Holy Spirit– the giver of assurance, wisdom and revelation to know Christ better (Eph 1:17-18John 14:16-17).
  • Like Abram found it hard to follow God wherever He led, we are challenged to follow Christ even though our lives are messy and God’s promises seem a distant dream. Jesus commands us to padlock ourselves to Him and throw away the key (John 15:4). Gospel hope takes us spiritually into the “inner sanctuary” of God, and will finally transport us into His  physical presence, where we will worship alongside all His people from every nation (Heb 6:19Rev 7:9-11). What a solid anchor for the soul!

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ” (2 Cor 1:20)

If you are doubting the faithfulness and goodness of God…if you wonder whether you can trust His gospel promises of restoration, redemption and reconciliation…if your faith is weary and weak from waiting…Plead His promises!

Think of Abram and the smoking firepot walking between the pieces. Think of the bloodied, broken body of Jesus on the cross, and ask yourself: “What more could God have done to prove to me that He is trustworthy? Could there be a more tangible sign that He loves me and died to be my Redeemer to the very end?” 

Warm your hands at the fireside of Ephesians 1:3-14 and anchor yourself today to your spiritual blessings in Christ. God knows our tendency to doubt and forget. That’s why he has given us the Holy Spirit to whisper hope in our hearts and padlock us to the Promise Keeper. Could there be a more tangible sign that God will keep his covenant with you right to the end?

“This hope is our anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb 6:19)


Father, you know me inside out. You know my questions, doubts and fears even before I have words to express them. You know how badly I have broken your covenant again and again and how messy my life is right now. Some parts of my life look beyond redemption to me, and yet I believe that you died to give me an eternal inheritance and to make all things new. Thank you for never giving up on me and being my soul anchor to keep me stable and safe from the raging sea. I look to you to restore those things that seem too hopeless and broken to fix. I pray for patient faith like Abraham’s to cling to your eternal covenant with me. I plead your gospel promises today for me and my family, even though our faith is weak. I hide in the Lord Jesus today, my refuge and very great reward. Holy Spirit, help me to experience the reality of your presence and padlock me to Jesus until I finally meet my heavenly Father face to face, in the company of my father Abraham and all his spiritual offspring.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Worship Jesus as you listen to There is a Name, by Covenant Worship.