Even when there’s nothing, there’s God.
God came to Abram, and reassured him that He was with Abram, protecting him. When we’re feeling a bit rubbish, instead on looking inwardly and dwelling on ourselves and our own problems, it is far healthier to dwell on God and his power. Not only does this stop the problems appearing insurmountable, but also it gives us a more realistic order of things. If we belong to God, then we have no business allowing things to squash us. There are solutions, and it always boils down to God. Abram doubted what God had told him, but God reassured him. It can seem sometimes that God isn’t doing much, there’s a lot that we can’t see. Perhaps Abram felt like this; that those promises that God had previously made were not resulting in anything. Perhaps he thought God had got it wrong, or had forgotten, or perhaps he thought he had misheard. Doubt can be hugely flattening to the spirits.
It happens so often that after a period of high emotion, of victory and euphoria, there’s a valley of depression and dinginess, or just plain not knowing what to do next. It is here, after Abram has taken part in rescuing his nephew Lot that God once again came to him – and not only that – he reaffirmed what he had already promised and also made a covenant with Abram and his descendants. If you’re alert you’ll notice that God does all the work – Abram just sleeps through the confirming of the covenant. This is important, it shows that the covenant is not conditional in Abram and his descendants playing their part – it’s all up to God. God promises him that Abram will have a son, that God is speaking literally. His timetable might not always be as we would like it, but it is always perfect. Once we look back, often we can see that for ourselves – God may take his time, but he’s never late.
Abram’s doubt stemmed from wondering how God could possibly do all he promised – he was looking at worldly limitations such as his and Sarai’s ages, and her barrenness. It’s not for us to wonder how God is going to do stuff, it is for us to be obedient and to trust him. We have something that Abram didn’t have – a Bible chock full of prophecies that have already been fulfilled in a literal manner. That is how God fulfills prophecies – so that there’s no ambiguity. God fulfilled the promises he gave to Abram literally, as with all the rest of fulfilled prophecy, and as he will do with the prophecy that is left to be fulfilled.
When God affirmed to Abram what he would do, Abram believed him – and God counted that belief as righteousness. That’s all we need to worry about – we need to believe God, and take him at his word. Nothing else is really our business. This is the essence of a relationship with God. This is where Christianity differs from every religion or belief system – everything else requires works or special knowledge; all God requires from us is faith. Naturally when we live in faith the acts follow, such as Abram being prepared to sacrifice his son, but it’s not the works that are the deal with God, it’s what’s behind them, the righteousness that really floats his boat, it’s the faith.
It’s easy to think that Israel’s always been there. It hasn’t. It was centuries after this dialogue with God that Israel became established, and then in the first century AD, Israel was cancelled out, and the Romans nicknamed the area ‘Palestine’ in an effort to remove every trace of Jewish history that there was there. For centuries believers were reading their Bibles and assuming that perhaps God was breaking with tradition here and maybe he had changed his mind about the Jews, or was not going to fulfil this prophecy literally, that Israel would never be established. Even as late as the 1930s people were still doubting whether there really would be a reestablishment of Israel. And yet there was. And now, it’s like it’s never not been there, to the point that we often take it for granted. It’s a miracle. For centuries people could not see how this could happen, how a people who had lost their country could survive outside of their nation for the best part of two thousand years, and then return to it – not least because they hadn’t even been using their native language! But yes, today, Hebrew is a language that is spoken by millions every day, even the language itself has been resurrected! God keeps his promises, and he keeps them literally, and spectacularly!