And he (Abraham) believed the Lord; and the Lord[b] reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6
One of the basic tenets of the faith is that we are saved by grace through faith. Our faith does not save us, but only by faith does grace become real. So, faith is an essential part of God’s graciousness coming to us. This story is the formative story for the people who would become known as Israel or Jews in history. What this story tells us is that faith has always been the key to God seeing us as righteous. In fact, righteousness in scripture is not only a characteristic reserved for good people, but also a gift and sign of the activity of God in someone’s life.
The radicality of that is easily seen in the story of Abraham and Sarah. Two older people, beyond normal childbearing years, have risked their comfortable lives to journey off to a new place simply because God asked them to. God has promised heirs for them, but to date Abraham and Sarah have had no children. Instead, they have tried to take matters into their own hands and Abraham, at Sarah’s request, has had a child with Hagar, their maid/slave. While this has given an heir, Abraham is not happy with the outcome. God had promised an heir to he and Sarah. The son from the maid was not what he had in mind.
The verse above is about God’s response to Abraham’s grumbling. God is faithful and will fulfill the promise. Abraham and Sarah need to trust more fully and not try to manipulate the situation to accomplish what only God can do. Abraham gets the message and believes God and God is pleased to see his faith restored and views Abraham as righteous again.
In our lives, we routinely have ideas about our future and plans for how things are to turn out. We often see these as faithful to our identity as followers of Jesus and hope God will make them happen. But we get sidetracked, life hits a pothole, or something we had counted on simply doesn’t materialize. It is easy to get discouraged and even angry with God.
The Story reminds us that we live in the “lower story,” a human story that can be messy and even disheartening. Over the top of that continues the “upper story.” It is the story of God’s abiding faithfulness, even when our faith is weak and our resolve is broken. Abraham and Sarah’s story is the formative one for the people of God. It is no accident that it follows in the same pattern as the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. People will make a mess of things. God will keep working to bring life and hope.