1 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.”
2 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?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 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.” 5 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.”
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
YHWH again appears to Abram, encouraging not to be afraid. God is his shield, his protector, and he is his reward (or, Abram’s reward will be very great, depending on how it is translated).
Abram takes this opportunity to voice his doubt – he cannot understand how he will be rewarded as he has no child of his own – his current heir is Eliezer – his slave. He has no blood descendants. Sarah is still barren.
The situation has not changed, but Abram is still called to believe.
God responds to Abram’s questioning with the statement that this should not be so – no one but Abram’s own flesh and blood will be his heir. God does not adapt or change his plan. It remains, bold and unyielding, in spite of the fact it seems contrary to circumstance. YHWH uses the visual aids of the stars to show how numerous Abram’s descendants shall be. What a contrast – Abram stands before God childless and confused – and yet YHWH promises him such abundance.
All this in spite of Abram’s current circumstances. But God will not be changed by these circumstances, rather it is the circumstances that will change. God’s promise flies in the face of what Abram knows, and holds out an entirely different ending to the story.
Abram’s response is faith. In spite of appearances, Abram believed what God had said to be true, and was given ‘righteousness’ as credit. A link appears between faith and righteousness, one that is given great significance in the New Covenant.
Abram is faced with two things – his childless circumstances and the promises of God. To his credit, he fixes his gaze on the latter.