“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh what a foretaste of glory divine…” This popular hymn is filled with hope, confidence and surety. These things are difficult to come by these days. With natural disasters, economic inequality, racism, sexism, horrendous presidents…one begins to wonder just how much hope can be reasonably had in a God that can’t be seen. Why trust in His promises, ones that oftentimes feel vague and distant, when we can rely on our own strength and abilities?
We can see in this chapter of the Bible that Abram wrestled with some of these same doubts. God visits him and promises him enough offspring to fill the earth as well as prosperity and land. Abram believes God when He promises him children (verse 6), but the idea of owning the land of Canaan is too much for him. He asks God how he can be sure that this will happen.
God responds by giving Abram a mini-trial. He asks Abram to make him a sacrifice. Abram sacrifices a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon. Then he waits. He waits so long that the sun begins to set (verse 12) and scavengers fly down, looking to eat the dead animals (verse 11). Finally, God accepts Abram’s sacrifice by sending fire, passing it between the pieces of the sacrificed animals.
As Abram receives the acceptance that he waited so long for, God repeats His promise about Abram’s offspring – they will inherit acres upon acres of land, land that belongs to many peoples. It will all belong to the children that come from Abram. God reiterates these promises to Abram, filling him with blessed assurance.
The Treasures Within:
God makes promises to each of us. They may not involve hundreds of children or entire countries to ourselves, but we find them all throughout the Bible. We are told that God’s promises should give us hope and comfort. But all too often we find ourselves asking the same question Abram did in verse 8. How can we know that God will actually do what He said He would? From a distance, we can see how silly it is to doubt God. He has all the power and all the wisdom and all the love in the world. What could possibly keep Him from delivering on His promises?
But when we are in the midst of a faith trial, our vision becomes clouded with doubts. Perhaps we think God actually can’t do what He said. Or perhaps that He’ll change His mind in a few years. Maybe our view of God is obscured by our present – all we can see is how opposite our current situations are from what God promised, so we cannot fathom His words ever coming true. The reasons are endless, but the bottom line is that we doubt God, just like Abram did. So God, just like He did for Abram, asks us to taste and see.
God doesn’t tell Abram how he can trust Him, He shows him. He asks him to make a sacrifice and then gives Abram a mini-test of his faith. Imagine how stressed Abram was as he waited for God’s answer, hours slipping by, birds trying to scavenge the decaying sacrifice. The darkness that fell over Abram must have been as thick as his despair as he waited, worried, desperate. Finally, as Abram was wondering whether he should give up and go home, God accepted his sacrifice. A divine fire pot passed through the pieces of the sacrifice. It was as if God was saying “How can you know that I will do what I said? You just saw it happen.”
God wants us to trust Him. The things He allows us to go through – the waiting periods, the times of darkness – these are the things that show us that we can trust God’s promises. It is during these times that we put God on trial. And it is when He brings us through these times that we know that we can believe Him, just like Abram did (verse 3).
Waiting on God the way Abram did is tough. But it’s not the only way for us to be sure that God will keep His promises. As we wait on the present, we can strengthen our faith by looking at the past. Look at Abram! As we read the Bible we see how Abram struggled to believe God’s promises. We see all the things he went through. But we also know that everything that God promised Abram actually happened. We already know that Abram really did have offspring like the stars in the sky. We already know that they really did come to live in Canaan. Knowing this boosts our own faith in God. We see that someone who struggled with faith so much actually saw the blessings promised him. If Abram could push through, we can do the same. We can have hope for our future thanks to Abram’s past.
God’s Message to Us:
“Believe me when I make you a promise.” When God says “I’m coming back” or “I have loved you with an everlasting love” or “I have overcome the world”, we can believe Him. We can stake our life on His promises. It’s hard to believe this when the promises are not instantly fulfilled, but God still calls us to trust Him. He asks us to put Him on trial, to wait on Him to see if He will keep His promises. God provides us the triumphs of people in the past to strengthen our faith even more. Little by little, as we focus more and more on what He has done, we will be filled with that wonderful blessed assurance.
There Are Always Questions:
- I was sort of taken aback in verse 13 and 14 when God told Abram that his offspring would be enslaved for years – this would suggest that God planned for that to happen, right? Why? Verse 1 seems to give a clue as to why. God says “I am your shield, your very great reward”. A reward comes after some sort of effort or struggle. If things were all rainbows and unicorns for the descendants of Abram or anyone else, perhaps we wouldn’t believe that God was our shield or our reward. We would trust in our wealth, our well-being, or something else. It is when we are denied these things that we realize that all we can really rely on is God. Perhaps this is one of the reasons God allowed the Israelites to be enslaved. But what were the other reasons?
What do you think? How would you answer this question? Why do you think God asked Abram to make a sacrifice? What do you think God’s message was to you with this chapter of the Bible?