You never know what you’re going to get here. Yesterday we talked about yelling in the mall food court, today we’re on to Abraham of the book of Genesis. Either way, we are definitely off the beaten path. So it works.
I read about Abraham in my quiet time with God this morning. In fact, today’s reading (I’m reading the Bible through this year) was the passage where God actually changes his name from Abram to Abraham.
Yesterday’s reading ended with Abram deep in the middle of an intimate and powerful conversation with God. The God of the universe had just taken Abram out to see the stars of the heavens. Can you imagine how many stars you could see on a clear night back then? At any rate, God had told him, in Genesis 15:5, “count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” Wow.
And Abram believed God. Simple enough. You said it, God, I believe it. Never mind that I don’t even have a single child yet and my wife and I are getting on up in age. I’ll take your word for it. Abram was obviously feeling very secure in his God at that time. I’ve had those moments and you have too. Those are good moments.
But the very next moment, as is often the case, Abram wavered a little on something not even as unbelievable. In Genesis 15:7 God simply reminded Abram that He was the God who had brought him out of his homeland to possess the land he now stood on. Granted, Abram didn’t possess all of it yet, but he’d made a dent in acquiring it. He already lived in a portion of it and had given a few kings what for when they’d tried to bully him around in that land. I think I could have believed the whole promise of land a lot more easily than the gazillion billion trillion descendants thing.
But Abram kind of liked the star illustration God had given earlier I guess (I would have too) and so he asked, “How may I know that I shall possess it?” In other words, “You got another fantastic illustration of how much land I’m going to own or something?”
So God told Abram to bring Him (get this) a 3-year-old heifer, a 3-year-old female goat, a 3-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. O kaaaay…..
Personally, I would have said, “Oh never mind, I believe you,” and left it at that. I’m not much for wrangling up livestock and wild birds. But Abram, desperate for some affirmation, brought God everything He’d requested. He then somehow knew to cut them in two and laid each half opposite the other before God. I think he assumed he was entering into some sort of covenant with God and this is what you did when you cut a covenant or contract back then.
But here’s where it gets interesting to me and why we’ve gone down this long winding path today.
After God had requested these animals from Abram He obviously leaves him alone for a while with them because birds of prey (I’m thinking huge vultures) started trying to mess with Abram’s sacrifices. But Abram shooed them away. Then, as it got even later in the evening, Abram fell into a really deep sleep. I don’t know if this was a God-induced sleep or if Abram had just grown weary waiting for God to do something while shooing away the vultures.
Finally God spoke.
And when He did, what He said must have just left Abram speechless and thinking something like, “Note to self: Don’t ask for more explanation than God offers next time.”
God seemingly did everything but answer Abram’s question. Remember Abram’s question? How can I know I’ll possess this land?
- God told Abram that his descendants would go live in a strange land that wasn’t theirs. (hmmm.)
- He told him that they would be enslaved and treated badly there for 400 years.(groan)
- But, he told him, they’d eventually leave there with a lot of loot that wasn’t their own.(Yea)
- He told Abram that he would be buried at a good old age in peace. (Did I ask this?)
- He then started talking about the iniquity of the Amorite. (The what of the who?)
- He told Abram He’d already (in His economy) given the land to Abram’s descendants.(Oh, really?)
- He told him the parameters of the land He was giving them. (Ok, now we’re talking.)
- And finally He named all these other people who lived there now, but didn’t really give any explanation about what’s going to happen to them. (But what about…..? Oh well…)
That’s what I call classic TMI – Too Much Information.
And that, dear friends, is what sometimes happens when we go and start asking questions about things that God has already been as clear about as He intends to be.
“Lord, who will my child marry?”
“Lord, how can I know that you’ll take care of my family financially?”
“Lord, where are we going to live when we retire?”
“God, how will my children turn out?
“Lord, where will this career lead me in the future?”
“Lord, will I ever be able to retire?”
“Lord, where is this health care reform leading us?”
“Lord, what’s ever going to happen in the middle east?”
God gives us a promise, a huge and wonderful promise like He gave Abram, and we think we need more information. The truth is, we don’t.
And while we’re at it, let’s learn a few things from God’s response to Abram. When I read between the lines, here’s what I hear:
- This is not just about you.
- There’s a bigger picture here and you can’t possibly understand it all.
- I’ve got it all taken care of from now until your death, but you don’t really need to know all the in between stuff. You eventually die and the world will keep spinning.
- I’m doing some really big things here and you are just privileged to be a very small part of those big things.
- There will be some good, some bad, and some ugly. Do you really want to know the details right now?
- I love you.
I think it’s interesting that the Bible does not record a response from Abram after this event. Genesis 15 just ends with God’s final revelation about the land, the one where He names all the other nations living there. I don’t normally like to create scenarios in the Bible that aren’t written, but as I was reading this passage this morning in my quiet time, I could see the whole story playing out in my head like a Charlton Heston movie (I realize he played Moses, not Abram, but still). And when I got to the end of the chapter I couldn’t just leave Abram lying on the ground in his deep sleep and fade out to a commercial. In my mind, he got up slowly, very slowly, looked at the consumed animal offering he had left for God,dusted his clothes off, gulped, and walked down the mountain (I’m assuming he was on a mountain for some reason) very, very, very humbly.
And so today, I’m going to think twice before I ask my God for too much information about the future. I think He has it covered. I trust Him. And that’s enough for me.