This morning I woke up as I have for the last several weeks already sick and unable to eat or even drink. Yesterday, I nearly lost consciousness in the grocery store. I’ve been waiting for years for healing. I’ve prayed, been prayed over, prayed with, and prayed for. I’ve done whatever I’ve been told to do in order to regain my strength from memorizing healing scriptures to using oils to trying to force foods and fluids. I’ve been to see doctors and I only keep getting sicker and thinner.
This morning, I woke up and just knew that I was going to die soon from whatever this ailment is. It may sound overdramatic, but I know there is no way I can keep living when I can’t get nutrition into my body and what little I can take becomes less and less as the days pass. I felt hopeless. I felt as if I’ve been kidding myself that God will make me well. Then I prayed. I said, “God, whatever you do, it’s okay. If you heal me, I will praise you and if I die from this, I’ll die well and be healed in New Jerusalem. Then I read today’s chapter, chapter 15 of Genesis. It begins with a conversation between Abram and The LORD. Verses 1-3 say,
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
The Lord had promised Abram offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth, yet he remained childless. He had already consigned himself to his servant Eliezer being his heir. Has God promised you something but it has been so long since the promise was made that you have relegated yourself into believing you were mistaken or that the promise was not from God? Have you suffered in affliction so long you can’t see the hope of deliverance? Have you like Abram and like me just given up hope that it would happen? Maybe you shouldn’t give up hope just yet. Maybe like Abram, you should bring your pain and frustration to the Lord and listen to what He has to say.
He might say, “You were right, I never promised you that, you wanted it but I want something better for you.” Maybe He’ll say, “I promised that to you but it won’t happen the way you think.” Or maybe as He did for Abram, He will reiterate the promise to you. Verses 4-6 read,
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”
There were no streetlights to outshine the stars, there were no buildings to block their view, there was open sky filled with too many stars for a man to count. I remember many years ago, I was on a trip in the Amazon in Brazil. We were on a boat in the middle of a territory where people lived a primitive lifestyle. I was astounded by the sheer number of stars in the sky. I had never known there were so many. Even camping back at home had not made it so clear just how many stars I couldn’t see. Abram’s hope was restored, he believed, and it was counted as righteousness.
He didn’t know it yet, but that act of belief made him the father of faith to believers all over the world today. We are his children of faith. He was saved by faith and so are we.
How did Abram prove his belief? He said, “Alright Lord, you made me another promise too and I want to know how that one will come about.” Verses 8-11 read,
But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
How did God answer? Did He sit and explain the future of Abram’s grandson Jacob and his great grandson Joseph and what would happen to Israel? No, He gave Abram a command. And Abram obeyed. And then he waited and he waited for something to happen. He wouldn’t give the crows or vultures a chance to eat the sacrifice, he protected it and he waited. Verses 12-21 read,
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
God’s word is enough, but He made a covenant with Abram that included a sacrifice. He manifested as a smoking fire pot or furnace and a flaming torch going between the halves of the animals. The covenant the Lord made with Abram was one performed normally by two people who were making a contract, obligating each party to keep up their end of the deal. The persons making the contract would sacrifice animals, divide the bodies, and then walk between the pieces of the sacrifices in testimony that if they neglected to keep their word, they deserved death[i] (Jeremiah 34:18-19). But in this case, two parties did not walk through the center of the pieces. In this case Abram watched as God went between the pieces as a smoking fire pot, which represented the afflictions of Israel in Egypt and their blindness to their condition, and as a flaming torch which represented the light of salvation, their deliverance from affliction. God walked through the pieces Himself. He carried the promise alone. It would not be fulfilled by anything Abram did or Israel did. Salvation would be by Him and only Him, the pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire in the wilderness, The Light of the world, Jesus Christ.
God does not require us, in order for Him to keep His promises. He does not require us for our salvation. He asks that we believe, that we have faith. Our faith is expressed in our obedience, in our wiliness to bow down to His will. As we convey our faith through submission (that is obedience and letting God have His way) God does the work of saving us, sanctifying us, and keeping His word. It is not automatic, He will not save you against your will. He will not transform you without your permission. But when you allow Him to, He saves and He delivers His promises.
The Jewish people of Jesus’ day were waiting for the Promised Messiah. They were waiting to be delivered from the tyranny of Rome by a king who would bring a new kingdom to earth. They had misunderstood the promise and twisted it to their own desires so that most of them missed the Messiah. Most of them are still waiting for an earthly king to save them and have not received the King of kings and Prince of Peace. They’re blinded by the smoke of their afflictions and do not see the promise of Christ has already come.
I don’t know the specifics of the promise or deliverance you are waiting for. I do know that you can talk to God and He will tell you, what He wants you to do. Does He want you to wait for the right time? Does He want you to recognize what you thought was a promise was your own desire and not his? Does He want you to see His promise doesn’t look like what you think it ought to? Have faith, trust God for His promises and not your wishes and notions. God always keeps His word.
[i] Warren W. Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series