Background Scripture Nehemiah 9 and 10.
Ezra leads the people in confession. The people agree to obey.
Why would Abram be afraid? Perhaps he feared revenge from the kings he had just defeated. God gave him two good reasons for courage: (1) he promised to defend Abram ("I am thy shield"), and (2) he promised to be Abram's "exceeding great reward." When you fear what lies ahead, remember that God will stay with you through difficult times and that he has promised you great blessings.
According to custom, if Abram were to die without a son, his eldest servant would become his heir. Although Abram loved his servant, he wanted a son to carry on the family line.
Abram wanted promised wealth or fame, he already had that. God promised descendants like the stars and the grains of sand by the sea, too numerous to count. To appreciate the vast number of stars scattered through the sky, you need to be, like Abram, away from any interfering lights or buildings. Or pick up a handful of sand and try to count the grains - it can not be done! God's blessings are beyond our imaginations!
Although Abram had been demonstrating his faith through his actions, it was believing in the Lord, not actions, that made Abram right with God. We too can have a right relationship with God by trusting him with our lives. Our outward actions - church attendance, prayer, good deeds - will not by themselves make us right with God. A right relationship is based on faith - the heartfelt inner confidence that God is who he says he is and does what he says he will do. Right actions follow naturally as a by - product.
Why did God send this strange vision to Abram? God's covenant with Abram was serious business. It represented an incredible promise from God and a huge responsibilities for Abram. To confirm his promise, God gave Abram a sign - the smoking furnace and burning lamp. God took the initiative, gave the confirmation and followed through on his promises. The sign to Abram was a visible assurance to him that the covenant with God had made was real.
Reference summary used from The Life Application Bible, KJV, Tyndale Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL