God told Abram to “count the stars—if indeed you can count them” (v. 5). The fact is that with all our knowledge today we still cannot count them! Estimates keep climbing. Until recently, scientists put the number of stars in the universe at about 100 sextillion, or 100 followed by 21 zeroes. In 2010, however, a Yale University astronomer argued that that number should actually be tripled.
The glory of God’s covenant with Abraham continues to shine brightly in the night sky and in the pages of Scripture. The patriarch had followed God’s call to an unknown land, received an incredible promise that he and his wife would have a son in their old age, and accepted a blessing from a mysterious priest named Melchizedek. God’s promises were not immediately fulfilled, however, and in today’s reading Abraham questioned the Lord: Will I really have a son (vv. 2–3)? Will I and my descendants really possess the land (v. 8)? He asked these questions in faith (v. 6), but as things then stood, one of his servants was his legal heir—his family line was about to end.
God initiated this conversation, before Abraham had even voiced his concerns, with a strong relational affirmation, “I am your shield, your very great reward” (v. 1). In answer to the question about a son, He confirmed His promise in lavish fashion with the command to “count the stars.” In answer to the question about the land, God again confirmed His promise and went further, sharing a prophetic word regarding Israel’s future slavery in Egypt as well as the Exodus. This word was given during a covenant-making ceremony, as part of which the two parties were to walk between the animal pieces. In this case, however, the Lord walked through alone—in covenants with God, He is the sole guarantor!