The Lord's Promise
1Later the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision, “Abram, don't be afraid! I will protect you and reward you greatly.”
2But Abram answered, “Lord All-Powerful, you have given me everything I could ask for, except children. And when I die, Eliezer of Damascus will get all I own. 3You have not given me any children, and this servant of mine will inherit everything.”
4The Lord replied, “No, he won't! You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his.” 5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That's how many descendants you will have.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, so the Lord was pleased with him and accepted him.
The Lord Makes
7The Lord said to Abram, “I brought you here from Ur in Chaldea, and I gave you this land.”
8Abram asked, “Lord God, how can I know the land will be mine?”
9Then the Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon.”
10Abram obeyed the Lord. Then he cut the animals in half and laid the two halves of each animal opposite each other on the ground. But he did not cut the doves and pigeons in half. 11And when birds came down to eat the animals, Abram chased them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and everything became dark and frightening. 13-15 Then the Lord said:
Abram, you will live to an old age and die in peace.
But I solemnly promise that your descendants will live as foreigners in a land that doesn't belong to them. They will be forced into slavery and abused for 400 years. But I will terribly punish the nation that enslaves them, and they will leave with many possessions.
16Four generations later, your descendants will return here and take this land, because only then will the people who live here be so sinful that they deserve to be punished.
17Sometime after sunset, when it was very dark, a smoking cooking pot and a flaming fire passed between the two halves of each animal. 18 At that time the Lord made an agreement with Abram and told him:
I will give your descendants the land east of the Shihor River on the border of Egypt as far as the Euphrates River. 19They will possess the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaites, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
This is the most beautiful chapter in the Bible for me because it so vividly helps us feel how Abram felt when he experienced God’s tenderness, patience, and commitment.
Experience Today’s Reading
Read this chapter as if you were living it:
- see the dark sky and twinkling stars,
- hear the sounds of chirping crickets,
- feel the moist dew in the cool night-time air,
- smell the scents of the outdoor wilderness, and
- imagine the wonder and even terror of watching the smoking pot and fire, representing God, processing on their own between the animal carcasses.
In Abram’s day, people making covenants acted out the terrible punishment that would befall them if they broke the covenant. The vision was God’s way of saying, “May what was done to these animals be done to me if I break this covenant.”
Be Real With God
Have you got questions for God? Are you willing, like Abraham, to ask them? Some people are afraid to question God, so they maintain a pious silence and pretend it’s all good. But people in genuine relationship talk things out. The Psalms show how David talks out his anger and doubt with God.
God’s Response to Questions
When Abram asked honest, sincere questions, God’s response was warm. It was as if he put his arm around Abram when he said, “Now Abram, come with me and look at the sky…” He answered Abram’s question and rewarded him by converting His promise of land to a legal agreement—a covenant!
I find asking God questions the best way to hear from Him. Nicodemus is another man who asked a sincere question, and received a full answer from Jesus (John 3:1-21).
Be real with God. Tell Him how you really feel, good or bad, and let Him respond.
God my Father, You are loving, patient and kind. Help me be real with you so that we can enjoy a true, deep, honest relationship forevermore, through Jesus Christ who suffered, died and rose again so that I could have a relationship with You.
John Pellowe is the CEO of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, an association of 3,200 Christian churches and agencies. His passion is to help ministry leaders reflect on the application of their faith to their leadership practices in order that how ministries operate is as much a presentation of the Gospel as what they do.