Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you 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 turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him….
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, –Genesis 15:7-12, 17-18
The image of Abram working frantically to keep the birds of prey from eating his burnt offering reminds me of my futile attempts to stop something I deemed to be an offense to God and could not. Abram tried his best to honor God in the way that God had instructed and outside forces threatened to destroy all his work. We do not know what happened, because Abram, being a human, fell asleep. God spoke to Abram in his sleep, in a dream perhaps, telling him that he would have many offspring and that they would eventually become slaves for 400 years and they would escape and prosper in the land that God was giving Abram at that time and place. Did Abram want his descendants to face such oppression? He appears to have no choice. From where did the smoking fire-pot and flaming torch come? Were they also a part of a dream? Is this story a Hebrew taste of God’s grace?
Truth is we cannot predict the outcomes of any of our offspring. We can only give them the best that we have to offer and trust then to God’s loving mercy. God’s grace is sufficient.
Most of my lost efforts relate to justice issues and the impact is still the same. Outside forces seem to win the day despite my best efforts. Where would we be today, if Abram had not opened himself to a relationship with God, if Joseph had not overcome adversity to save his people from famine, if Moses had not led those same people out of slavery into the promise land, if Jesus had not come to show us what justice looks like? These are names we remember well, but God’s work requires the best from all of us.
Prayer: Help us discern the difference between faith and fate. Grow our trust in you to help us be the tools we can be to hasten your dominion over all the earth. Amen.
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.