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.The JST of this adds much more to our understanding of what Abraham believed the Lord about and what about his belief was counted righteous. Without the JST, we would think Abraham just believed the Lord would give him seed as the stars, since that is the context of the verse, and Paul’s assertion that Abraham’s belief was connected to Christ would seem out in left field.
6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6)
9 And Abram said, Lord God, how wilt thou give me this land for an everlasting inheritance?The Lord uses deferred promises to help Abraham look forward to the resurrection and the coming of Christ. Abraham can inherit the land when he is resurrected, and he will be resurrected because Christ will eventually come, die, and resurrect first. (Note that just the mention of the Son of Man shows Abraham already knew about Christ, since there was no big in-depth explanation. It is actually the most direct mention we have for Abraham.)
10 And the Lord said, Though thou wast dead, yet am I not able to give it thee?
11 And if thou shalt die, yet thou shalt possess it, for the day cometh, that the Son of Man shall live; but how can he live if he be not dead? he must first be quickened.
12 And it came to pass, that Abram looked forth and saw the days of the Son of Man, and was glad, and his soul found rest, and he believed in the Lord; and the Lord counted it unto him for righteousness. (JST Genesis 15:9-12)
I love how this line that expresses the awesome power of God—“though thou wast dead, yet am I not able to give it thee?” It is like God can skip blithely across the bounds of mortality as if it were a chalk line on the ground. For all of us who have been promised blessings that seem deferred past mortality, this is a comfort (or can be) that God still keeps promises into eternity. It also seems that God may deliberately promise us blessings that aren’t delivered in mortality because He wants us to look beyond the veil with hope. After all, if all the promises are fulfilled in mortal life, what do we have to look forward to in eternity?
So, we learn from the JST that Abraham believed the Lord about the Atonement and resurrection of Christ and how it would make it possible for the promise to Abraham to be fulfilled. We also learn that because the promise’s fulfillment was deferred beyond Abraham’s mortal life, he had to make a choice whether to believe that Christ could and would make the fulfillment possible or to decide whether it was all some kind of nasty cheat and be embittered. Abraham chose to believe Christ could make it happen even though Abraham knew he’d never see it in his own lifetime. His choosing faith was what the Lord counted righteous.
This is a comfort to me, since God seems to be deferring one particular blessing I have been promised.. It don’t know if it will be deferred beyond mortality, but like Abraham, it is my choice to believe God or not. It is another way for me to learn to walk by faith and not by sight. It is an opportunity for me to be counted righteous like Abraham was.