We are not told how much time has passed since Lot’s rescue but God wants to renew His commitment to Abram. He strengthens His promise.
God gives Abram a vision where they talk face to face. He addressed Abram’s fear. He promised to be Abram’s shield and He promised him a GREAT reward. I don’t know what Abram was currently afraid of. What did he need protection from? Is it possible Abram had been thinking about the five kings and any retaliation they might be planning? Or was he thinking about the promise of an heir?
God didn’t list what He was protecting him against, nor did He list what Abram’s reward would be. Instead He waited on Abram to share his heart with Him. And Abram did just that. He voiced his greatest longing. Rewards meant nothing to him. He had more than enough goods and servants. But one thing was missing; an heir. The thing he lacked and longed for was a child. THAT is the reward he sought.
God knew this all along but he waited for Abram to give voice to it. He waited to hear Abram’s heart’s cry. And He answered that cry definitively. “Your very own son shall be your heir” (verse 4b). Then He showed him the “great reward” He had in store for him. He showed the man who had no children, who expected his family line to end with him, how great his descendants would truly be. Talk about a heart stopping promise. From “you will have a son” to “more descendants than the stars in the sky.” I can almost see the tears running down Abram’s face at this promise.
Abram’s cry reminds me of the stories I’ve heard of couples longing to have a child. They will try anything and pay whatever the cost for that one precious gift from God. It is just as painful today for those longing for a child as it was in Abram’s day. There was more stigma for the childless couple in Abram’s day than there is today but the emptiness still translates across the centuries. It’s a heart’s cry that He answered for me in short order. I have four beautiful children as my gifts directly from Him and two children He gave me as bonuses with my marriage. I honestly can’t claim to truly understand Abram’s pain.
Abram’s descendants didn’t stick with blood relatives. I’m one of those stars that can’t be numbered because I’m one of Abram’s descendants through faith. Abram believed God’s promise. He took it deep into his heart and applied it as a salve to the hurting places. From that moment on, every time he visited that hurt in his heart he also visited God’s promise. He poured God’s healing promise over that open wound until it was finally closed for good. That healing wasn’t immediate but it was so complete that he entrusted his son’s life into God’s hands, but that’s another story.
God knew that Abram would need something to look back on as a sure sign. His vision was awesome but doubt can creep in making one wonder if it wasn’t a wishful vivid dream instead. So God gave him a task to do. God told him which animals to gather but not specifically what to do with them. Abram used history as his guide for this. Abram prepared the animals as he normally would before the Lord but he didn’t start the fire. Instead he sat and waited. I find his waiting telling. Let me explain why.
God could have consumed Abram’s sacrifice immediately as he did later with Elijah and the prophets of Baal; but He didn’t. God could have started a fire that burned but didn’t consume like He would do later with Moses and the burning bush; but He didn’t do that either. What He did do was to wait and use a “teachable moment” in Abram’s life.
Abram was going to have to wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise. His heir wasn’t going to be born immediately. During the wait, Abram was going to have to fend off doubt and those who would get in the way of God’s plan. Abram got to practice this during his sacrifice by waiting LONG hours and fending off the scavenging birds. His actual waiting mirrored his spiritual wait. He held fast to the knowledge that God told him to prepare these animals and that God would do something with his obedience. He demonstrated faith. And this same faith would be used and stretched in his wait for God’s ultimate promise to him.
I wonder how much easier Abram’s journey to his heir would have been if he had remembered this lesson and run the “buzzards” off when they picked at his promise. Just in case you’re not sure, I’m classifying Sarai’s plan for using Hagar to bring about God’s plan as a “buzzard.” She swooped down and stole a piece of that promise and convinced Abram to treat her piece as the whole instead of snatching it back and returning to the wait.
When it comes to patience, I’m in Sarai’s boat. I have found myself “helping” God on more than one occasion. But His biggest promise to me, that of salvation and eternal life with Him, I HAVE to wait on. Just as Abram waited until finally God sent an unmistakable sign of the fire moving down the line of the sacrifice, I have to wait until He takes my hand and walks me home. We BOTH have to exercise our faith.
You can to join me in that exercise too and I promise you, it will be worth the wait. Don’t just take my word for it though. Ask Him for yourself. Jesus shares the prize for waiting MANY times in His stories. He also shares the rewards of being diligent in keeping the “buzzards” at bay. Take Him at His word and HE promises you won’t be disappointed.
Father God, one of the BEST things about agreeing to take You at Your word is the proof You provided as to how that word has held up over time. I can look back at the stories shared and see how, EVERY TIME You made a promise You kept it. I’m not putting my faith in someone unknown spouting empty promises but in a Someone with a proven track record. No “junk bonds” here!
Like Abram, I’m holding onto a promise for my “heirs.” I’m holding onto the promise “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). That’s not the only promise You made that I’m holding onto but it is the one I spend the most time “chasing buzzards” away from. I can’t sit back and enjoy the wait. Instead I have to be diligent to do my part. PLEASE don’t let me become like Sarai in this though. I will wait upon YOUR plan! I will also wait on Your ultimate promise with patience and gratitude. That doesn’t mean that I won’t come up with more “bench questions” along the way though.