The Lord comes to Abram “after these things.” After what things? The verses immediately preceding tell us that Abram has come from battle with those who captured his nephew. The Lord comes to Abram when he is weary from war, old, and childless; when his world is shrinking along with his hope; when his body is tired and his mind will not let him rest in peace.
The Lord comes with this message: “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” From Abram’s perspective, God’s promises—that Abram’s descendants will be more than the stars in the heavens and his heirs will possess the land—seem pretty far-fetched.
The story does not say that Abram suddenly “gets it,” makes an agreement with God, pulls down the shades, and nods off to sleep. Instead Abram falls into a deep sleep as a terrifying darkness descends on him. While he sleeps, while it is pitch dark, and while he cannot reciprocate even if he wants to, God makes a covenant with him. Only when Abram cannot see a thing does God speak to him.
Have you known weariness, sorrow, and desolation? Have the circumstances of your life robbed you of hope for the future? Have you ever been terrified by the darkness? The Lord speaks to you and to me: “Do not be afraid.” Remember that “when the sun goes down,” God will speak.
O God, help me to see you when you come in my hour of darkness. Amen.
This week’s readings give witness to the ways of God and provide confidence and hope in our faith. In Genesis we read of God’s promise to Abram, a promise that seems very unlikely to a man with no children. But God seals the covenant, and the story later shows that God never breaks God’s promises. The psalmist even while mired in conflict praises God for being his light, his salvation, his stronghold. The psalmist longs to be in God’s presence forever, a desire that can inspire all of us as believers. Paul says that in the future reality, we will no longer experience resistance from those who oppose God. One day Christ will fully transform us to our citizenship in heaven. Jesus himself experienced resistance even in Jerusalem, yet he ultimately triumphs, as will all those who trust in God.
Read Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18. How can you take a step forward in the dark toward God’s seemingly impossible promises for the future?
Read Psalm 27. Recall a time when you waited in the shadows of your life. What did you learn about God’s provision during this time?
Read Philippians 3:17–4:1. How do you live in the paradox of standing firm in faith by being vulnerable?
Read Luke 13:31-35. When have you been unwilling to accept love? How can you comprehend the depth and yearning of God’s love for you?
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