5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. (KJV)
NKJV - 5 Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be.
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I can think of multiple possible reasons why God used the stars as a reference point with respect to Abraham's offspring: 1) First would be their sheer number with respect to quantity, as highlighted by God telling Abraham to "number them, if you can", suggesting the impossibility of doing so, and also reflecting the magnitude of the favor in which God held Abraham because of his faith. 2) Second -- beyond their number alone -- would be their majestic and awesome appearance, which would reflect God's own glory (by their shining and light) more aptly than using (for example) grains of sand as a standard for comparison (although God did that also in Genesis 22:17), and specifically denoting the glory that would one day be possessed by Abraham's descendant Jesus. 3) Third would be the fact that their appearance reflects or suggests God's role in creating and sustaining them (again, more than would be the case with sand), as an indication that God would be similarly involved in fulfilling His promises to Abraham. 4) Fourth would be as an indication of Abraham's descendants (and specifically his descendants through Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and Jacob's twelve sons)) ultimately subduing or overcoming all enemies or opposition (as also noted in Genesis 22:17), in the same way that the stars fill (or figuratively "own") the sky.
About 30,000 stars are listed in the General Catalogue used by astronomers, but it's estimated that there are 100 billion more! God didn't say that Abram would have that many descendants but that, like the stars, there would be too many to count. But what's more important than Abram counting the stars is that we (you and I) are counted by God as righteous people (Genesis 15:6, same context; use KJV) "And he [Abram] believed in the LORD, and he] [God counted it to him [to Abram] for righteousness. [Gen 15:6] Count Me When you count the ones who love the Lord, Count me, count me; When you count up those who trust His Word, Count me, count me. Refrain Count me with the children of the heav’nly King; Count me with the servants who would service bring; Count me with the ransomed who His praises sing; Count me, count me. When you count up those who’re saved by grace, Count me, count me; Who have found in Christ a hiding place, Count me, count me.
This is the gospel. Per Paul, the gospel was preached unto Abraham (Gal 3:8). And this is how the nations would be blessed. In the ancient near eastern context, the stars and celestial objects were symbols for divine, spiritual beings (see Dr. Michael Heiser or the work of David Burnett for more on this, particularly, the Naked Bible podcast, episode 95 for this particular topic and how it relates). This is critically tied to the gospel, for the gospel is first and foremost an EXODUS out from the bondage of death, our rightful captor post the fall. Christ comes to live and die for all those who put their faith in him. And should we believe, we receive the ‘promised seed’. Christ in us, the hope of glory. Accomplished through the Spirit, the down payment of our purchased possession. In 1 Cor 15, Paul describes the nature of the resurrected bodies using a ‘seed’ metaphor. This is critical, because it points us back to Abraham and this exact promise. When we die, we die with this new seed. And when this seed goes into the ground, it rises again wholly new, transformed, a completely new creation, full of glory. As Peter said ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world...’ 2 Peter 1:4 Christ didn’t just save us from the consequences of our sins, he transforms us entirely. It is the core message of the gospel, and it was preached to Abraham through this promise. We will be transformed. As Daniel said, ‘Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever’ - Dan 12:3 And once we are, and all God’s enemies are destroyed, the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And we, shining as the stars, will never, ever die, and will be forever with Christ.
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