FAITH IN THE PROMISE
Lord, You are the covenant-keeping God.
Read GENESIS 15
The Lord’s Covenant With Abram
15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ (Rom 8:24,25) May we be people of hope.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this chapter, both for Abram and for the whole Bible. The opening phrase, ‘After this …’, points back to Abram’s refusal of personal gain from the conflicts of the previous chapter so that his neighbors will never be able to claim ‘I made Abram rich’ (Gen 14:23,24) Now God responds with the promise of His continual presence and protection and with a ‘very great reward’ (1). What is striking is Abram’s reaction: he questions the words of God in the light of the pain of his own childlessness.
Two things should be noticed. First, the problem of infertility was a huge issue in ancient cultures (as it remains in many parts of the world today), bringing a degree of suffering which is hard to comprehend in modern, western culture. To this distress was added the fact that the lack of a child appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle to the fulfillment of God’s promise!
Second, Abram questions the ‘Sovereign LORD’ not once, but twice (vs 2,8). God permits, even encourages, a dialogue between Himself and His worshippers. The impossibility of the promise in the light of reality prompts a question which will be heard again in the Bible: ‘How can this happen?’ God is not offended by our questions; rather, He responds to Abram with a magnificent nature lesson, then with a contextually relevant, awe-inspiring ritual which conveys reassurance. Yet, the delay in the promise will continue throughout the coming chapters and Abram will die without witnessing its fulfillment. The faith which inspires hope always demands trust and patience, even for us who continue to cry, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.
Do you have a vision of a promised future about which you ask ‘How can this be?’ Take courage from today’s reading and trust God, with whom nothing is impossible.
Lord, thank You for including us, Your Church, as beneficiaries of the promises made to this great man of faith.