And He said to him, I am the [same] Lord, Who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land as an inheritance.
Genesis 15:7 (AMP)
God had told Abraham that He would give the land of Canaan to him and his descendants (Genesis 12:7; 13:15, 17), and now He reaffirmed that promise. The land is an important part of the covenant for it is in the land of Israel that the divine drama of “salvation history” was enacted. The land of Israel will also be the stage for the final act of that drama when the Messiah returns to reign on earth.
And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
Genesis 15:8-12 (NKJV)
Abraham’s question was not a sign of unbelief but a request for a token of assurance. He was confident that God would give him the promised son, but the land was in the hands of ten pagan nations.
It was one thing for Abraham to own the land, but how would his descendants possess it so they could enjoy it?
What is described in verses 9-17 was known in that day as “cutting a covenant.” This solemn ritual involved the death of animals and the binding of people to a promise. The persons making the covenant would sacrifice several animals and divide the bodies, placing the halves opposite each other on the ground. Then the parties would walk between the pieces of the sacrifices in declaration that, if they failed to keep their word, they deserved the same fate as the animals. (See Jer. 34:18-19.)
Abram made the preparations for this covenant and then had to wait awhile before the Lord appeared and consummated this covenant. It may take a while after we have presented ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) before the Lord consumes that sacrifice. We need to keep that commitment to be living sacrifices and not let anyone or anything take it away.
But Abraham’s experience was different. He killed the animals, laid them on the ground, and spent the rest of the day fighting off the birds of prey that were attracted to the flesh and blood. This was sacred to Abram but carrion to the birds. We have to drive away every thought or person who tries to prey on that which we have dedicated to the Lord.
When the sun went down, Abraham fell into a deep sleep; and then God appeared to him and spoke to him. But God alone passed between the parts of the sacrifices! It was God who made promises to Abraham, not Abraham who made promises to God. There were no conditions attached; the covenant of grace came from the generous heart of God.
The “horror of great darkness” that Abram experienced was symbolic of the terrible events of captivity that his descendants would experience until the time that the Lord used Moses to deliver them from bondage to the Egyptians.
Out of the “horror of great darkness,” Abraham heard the terms of God’s covenant and discovered God’s plan for the nation, himself , and the land.
And [God] said to Abram, Know positively that your descendants will be strangers dwelling as temporary residents in a land that is not theirs [Egypt], and they will be slaves there and will be afflicted and oppressed for 400 years.
But I will bring judgment on that nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
Genesis 15:13-14 (AMP)
And in the fourth generation they [your descendants] shall come back here [to Canaan] again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full and complete.
When the sun had gone down and a [thick] darkness had come on, behold, a smoking oven and a flaming torch passed between those pieces.
Genesis 15:16-17 (AMP)
Jacob and his family went to Egypt to be protected by Joseph, and there they grew into a mighty people. Arriving in Egypt as honored guests, the Jews eventually became a threat; so Pharaoh made them slaves and afflicted them greatly (Ex. 1:11-12). Perhaps the smoking furnace (Gen. 15:17) was a symbol of the nation’s suffering in Egypt (Deut. 4:20). Pharaoh’s cruelty could not exterminate the nation because God had plans for His chosen people. God judged Egypt with ten plagues and then enabled Moses to lead the people out triumphantly (Ex. 5-15).
The supreme Judge promises Abram that He will judge the nation that holds Abram’s descendants as slaves. The events and their timing were in the hands of God. The 400 years of Genesis 15:13 refers to Israel’s entire stay in Egypt, from Jacob’s arrival to the Exodus. It is a round figure, because Exodus 12:40 puts it at 430 years. (See also Acts 7:6.)
Why did God wait so long to deliver His people?
Because God was long-suffering with the nations in Canaan and delayed their judgment so they might have more time to repent (2 Peter 3:8-9; Matt. 23:32). God waited four centuries for the Amorites to become so corrupt that, as an act of mercy toward them, He had to remove them. He executed His judgment using the instrument of the Israelites—the former slaves, the descendants of Abram—coming into the land to dispossess the Amorites of the land they inhabited. There is a lesson in this for us. We just have to wait when God is working something like this out. We just have to wait until the righteous Judge of all mankind says the time is right for Him to execute justice.
God even considers the heathen and gives them an opportunity to repent.
How long did God bear with Sodom and Gomorrah’s sinful behavior before He re blasted them into oblivion?
No one knows, but the Bible remarks about God’s patience and longsuffering in dealing with them.
Abraham’s “good old age” was 175 years (Gen. 25:7), which means he walked with God for a century (12:4). In spite of Abraham’s occasional failures, he accomplished the will of God and brought blessing to the whole world. This promise from God must have given Abraham and Sarah great encouragement during times of difficulty, just as promises like Philippians 1:6 and Ephesians 2:10 encourage God’s people today.
At the beginning of Abraham’s pilgrimage, God said to him, “I will show you” the land (12:1). Later He said, “I am giving all this land“ (13:15-17). But now His word is, “I have given this land to your descendants“ (15:18). God’s covenant made it a settled matter: The land belongs to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac.
Solomon exercised dominion over a vast area (1 Kings 4:21; Ps. 72:8), but Israel did not possess all that land. The kings merely acknowledged Solomon’s sovereignty and paid tribute to him. When Jesus Christ reigns from the throne of David (Matt. 19:28; Luke 1:32), the land of Israel will reach the full dimensions promised by God.
God’s covenant with Abraham stands no matter what Israel believes. The covenant is unconditional; its fulfillment does not depend on man’s faith or faithfulness. In like manner, the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ is dependable whether people accept it or not. Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ enter into that covenant and receive eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9; 9:12), an eternal inheritance (9:15), and eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10).
When Abraham was concerned about himself, God assured him by saying, “I AM!” When he was concerned about his heir, he heard God say, “I will!” God’s met his concern about the land, “I have given!”
In Jesus Christ, God gives those same assurances to His people today.
Abraham believed God.
Do you believe?
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I have a covenant with God. When [demon forces] come to defile that covenant, I forcefully drive them away. The terms of my covenant with God shall stand, and I will not allow the devil to rob me of its benefits.
Father, I fully understand that it is not your will that I suffer under the yoke of bondage. You have set me free and have bid me to enjoy Your prosperity. You will not allow oppression to reign over me. You always remember our covenant. Therefore, no matter what I endure in this life, I know I will emerge from it with great substance from Your treasuries of abundance.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
When my enemies rise again me, I am not afraid. My Father is always with me. In Him, I am indeed a stranger in a strange land. I am a different breed – born in the blood of the Lamb. I live above the confines of the world system. No matter what my oppressors do to me, I shall emerge triumphant with great substance as my reward.
I will live a full and abundant life. I spend my days in peace and will leave this earth at a ripe old age.