We live in a “I want it now” culture and few dispute this. One of the best examples of this is from an article on how video games have changed. It used to be that video games required continual practice and development of skill. We would sling in our quarters over and over again to build up the level of expertise we needed to progress through the levels. Don’t believe me? Think back to the old Centipede, Donkey Kong, or Space Invaders. When the fighting games came out in the late 1980s, the trend continued. It took a lot of plays to get to the point where you could beat the game with a character. And if that wasn’t enough, you had the opportunity to go head-to-head with other players. In time, players’ skills developed to where beating the game wasn’t the challenge. Surviving the onslaught of others was. These games required patience and, dare I say it, discipline. They cost us something and not just money, but time and effort as well.
And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
– Genesis 15:7-16, ESV
Abram still has questions. God makes clear what another part of Abram’s great reward is: the land. Abram doesn’t doubt that God can do it. But to Abram, why should God pick him? And so he asks for something to hold on to. Now, don’t get me wrong: this is unbelief. And generally speaking, we should trust and have faith in God. However, if there be anyone who says, “I never struggle with my faith,” then I have to wonder about them, because even the Apostle Paul struggled. God knew what was going in Abram’s heart. It wasn’t sin or arrogance that was causing Abram’s questions. It was a genuine, “Why, me?” And so God provides a way for Abram to know.
First, He has Abram go through an elaborate ceremony. Never discount the importance of ceremony. Ceremony helps make things more concrete in our minds. It gives us something to hang on to. Ceremony for the point of ceremony is useless. Ceremony as a reinforcement of something important is a different story. It’s the latter that’s going on here. Also note that God is setting up a precedent. Note the sacrificed animals offered and go spend some time in Leviticus. Coincidence? I think not. Also note the number 3. We tend to remember patterns. The number 3 is just such a case. We see it everywhere in Scripture, ultimately because it was going to point to Christ being in the tomb for 3 days. Ceremony and pattern were given by God for Abram’s benefit.
Then comes the how of the reward. Abram’s descendents would own the land. However, they would be servants first in another land. And they would suffer for 400 years. Then God would deliver those offspring of Abram. Why the wait? God was waiting on the Amorites. He knew their culture would eventually descend into a complete abomination where He would be forced to pronounce judgment on it. But He would wait until there was no other option. Also, we know that the time in Egypt defined Israel. It set into place the Passover, the Tabernacle, and other signs of God’s sovereignty. Abram wouldn’t see it, but it would come to pass, though not without great cost.
This is something we must all remember. Our salvation isn’t right now. In other words, we’re not in heaven yet. We have a life to live, a purpose to accomplish. It’s something we must wait on and we must go through this painful life before we are given it. Sometimes blessings will take a while in delivery. We must be patient. Sometimes they come with a price. We must be faithful. Don’t give up on God because He hasn’t delivered on a promise. Rather, trust Him even more. And don’t decline a promise because of the price. The promise is always worth it. Rather, thank Him for counting you worthy of the price.