The year 2020 has been chock-full of uncertainty – uncertain timelines, uncertain outcomes.
And though the end of the year is approaching, it doesn’t feel as though our worries about the future will come to a halt.
Disillusionment can be especially difficult for Christians because we tend to feel guilty for experiencing feelings of doubt. While asking myself, “What do we do when even the simplest act of faith feels too much to bear?” God reminded me of a fascinating part of the story of Abraham – a patriarch known for his faith.
Most of us remember Abraham as the man whom God chose to bring forth the nation of Israel because of his faith – but there is a piece of his story not as widely taught that reveals the astounding lengths God goes to for the people who love Him.
In Genesis 15 God famously told a 100-year-old, childless Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and Abraham, despite being married to a barren, 90-year-old woman, believed Him. God then went on to tell Abraham that He would give him a piece of land where he had never even been, as a dwelling place for His descendants forever.
But what happened next is what truly shocked me. Abraham responded, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?”
Notice here that Abraham believed God’s promise for him to have a child, yet He questioned how God would help him take possession of the Promised Land. One might read Abraham’s question and, at first glance, assume God would be frustrated by it – but God’s response is breathtaking.
He instructs Abraham to prepare a ceremony common at that time for making legal agreements by cutting different animal carcasses in half and placing each half opposite one another, so as to create an aisle. The Zondervan Study Bible explains that the purpose of this practice was for the person making the oath to walk through the animal carcasses, symbolizing that if they were to break their pledge to the other person, they would become like one of the animals cut in half.
When I first read this explanation, I assumed God was probably setting the scene for Abraham to walk through the animal carcasses as an official way to demonstrate his full, blind faith in God. To my great surprise, the opposite was true.
The reality of God’s promise is so incredibly intense – I can hardly believe it.
In Genesis 17 we learn that God came down in the form of a smoking fire pot and flaming torch and He alone passed through the animal carcasses – while Abraham was asleep. God was making the covenant with Abraham. He was making the promise, all as Abraham slept, so as to further assure him that this was all on God’s shoulders and had nothing to do with his efforts.
Just think about that! Not only did God use this as a way to address Abraham’s worries or doubts – He puts His own skin in the game. It’s as though God was saying that if He were not to follow through on this promise to Abraham, He Himself would cease to exist.
The reality of God’s promise is so incredibly intense – I can hardly believe it. But amazingly, this IS the incredible nature of our God!
So despite uncertainty when our faith starts to fade, remember faith is not about who we are, it’s about who God is. Just as Abraham recognized God’s faithful nature and received God’s oath to lead him to a promised land, we have the opportunity to put our faith in Jesus Christ, who died to save us from sin and lead us to our forever home – Heaven. This was God’s ultimate plan for humanity, which He exemplified through His dealings with Abraham and then fulfilled through his genealogical line.
Galatians 3: 29 tells us, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Therefore as Christians, we know we too inherit God’s unbreakable promises. One of these is found in Deuteronomy 31:8, where God reassures His people, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
In all things, God goes before His people, preparing the way Himself, just as He did thousands of years ago for Abraham.
Let this story also remind us that God’s grace goes even so far as to allow room for us to ask Him questions about how He will carry out His promises in our individual lives. We might not always get an answer as clear cut as Abraham’s, but we can rest assured that God does keep His promises to all who know and love His son Jesus.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)