It is hard to hear again a promise so long delayed. And yet the promise comes to Abram as “the word of the Lord,” carrying an inner resonance of authority and power. God speaks. In this moment, Abram makes known his doubt: “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Gen. 15:2). Recalling past promises and filling them with hope, the voice of God goes with Abram, murmuring in his heart’s ear, Look up, my son, look up! “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them” (Gen. 15:5). Say to yourself, my son, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, until the wonder and density of these lesser lights say to you in my voice, “So shall your descendants be.” Listening to God, looking up at the night sky, Abram believes. God calls this righteousness.
Crawl into the mind of God and see creation from the highest height. “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind. From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth — he who fashioned the hearts of them all, and observes their deeds” (Ps. 33:13-15). God looks with a true eye that searches and sears all things with holy fear and loving kindness. Abram looks up, God looks down, and their mutual gaze in love is like love begetting and love begotten and love shared. The whole moment comes into view: listening to God, looking up to the night-dome, believing, being seen by providential searching, fashioned, observed, and called. God is promising thousands and thousands of stars, sons and daughters, a happy nation, a holy people. Abram is caught by the promise. He waits again and is glad (Ps. 33:20-21).
Abram recalls leaving his people and land, remembers how he set out and pitched his tent as “he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect is God” (Heb. 11:10). Again, he hears about a son of promise in his old age. Why does he believe? Is he an innate believer, given to hear what most do not and disposed toward risk? Abram is the friend of God, and so he speaks the truth: “he considered [God] faithful who had promised (Heb. 11:11).” The assurance of his hope, his conviction about promises yet unseen, is the faithfulness of God. Abram has faith, but faith is not merely his own, but rather a gift that grows from a divine seed. “My faith, O Lord, invokes you, which You have given to me, which you have breathed into me through the humanity of your Son, and through the ministry of your preacher” (St. Augustine, Confessions 1,1, emphasis mine).
The stars are sparkling jewels, a treasure chest in the heavens. The Father says through the Son, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). God promises a kingdom and all necessary wealth. So, be lavish in generosity. Sell your possessions and give alms. Have permanent purses and unfailing treasure. The faithfulness of God speaks and promises and encourages. Dress for action with lit lamps in hand. Stand at the door. Be ready. The Son of Man is coming. When is he coming? He is coming.
Yet we ask, and we may ask, and God will listen: “O Lord, what will you give me, for I continue childless?” (Gen. 15:2). God says, Your child will be my child, my Son, my only Son, whom I will give to you. His wealth exceeds the jewels of the night sky.