And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
God made Man to live in a perfect world without strife and hostility. After the fall, God begins to reveal His plan to crush the serpent and bless through His chosen servant, Abram, all the families of the earth.
Abram has begun to grow anxious about God’s timing in fulfilling His promises. Sarai remains childless. In today’s reading, God, in a vision, reassures Abram of His covenant and seals it with a solemn act involving the sacrifice of five animals. In spite of this dramatic event, Abram’s faith falters. Sarai suggests his taking a surrogate wife, her servant Hagar. Although Hagar conceives Ishmael by Abram, the plan backfires and serious conflict arises between Sarai and Hagar resulting in a temporary departure of Hagar and Ishmael.
After thirteen years, God again appears to Abram. This time the Lord changes Abram’s name to Abraham and gives him a sign, circumcision. God is serious about fulfilling His covenant promises but He will do it in His way and in His time. Clearly, Abraham needs reassurance continually in order to believe God. Yet, God counts his faith as righteousness.
The blessing promised to all the families of the earth will come through Abraham’s descendant, not Ishmael, but Jesus the Christ, born of a virgin, born to be a king of a spiritual, heavenly kingdom composed of people from every tribe and tongue.
That descendant whose life we follow in Matthew’s gospel today declared that in His kingdom the righteousness that would be practiced would not be merely outward but would be deeply inward: unfeigned love toward others, even enemies; purity of thought toward the opposite sex; utter fidelity in marriage; faithful keeping of commitments; ready forgiveness and service toward those in need. Jesus said, “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father.”
But how are we to be perfect as God is?
We will only be perfect in the same way Abraham was. By faith. He believed and was counted righteous by his faith (Romans 4:22-25). God counts us righteous by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who gives to us His righteousness earned by His perfect life and His death and resurrection. Believe in Him. In Him we are clothed with righteousness and He will work in us growth in holiness culminating in our being conformed to His image in glory (Romans 8:26-30). Think about that.