According to the Reese Chronological Bible, God appeared to Abram in 1882 B.C., making Abram about 85 years old at the time. Abram asked a valid question about God’s earlier assurance that Abram would be “paid” for his faithfulness. It’s a question any normal man or woman would wonder about: “WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME?” The key word here is “ME”! Abram is already rich in livestock, silver and gold (Genesis 13:2). In fact, he and Lot were so rich they couldn’t continue living together went their separate ways. So what does Abram care about getting more money? As far as Abram knows, his time on earth will soon end, and Sarah has yet to bear him a child.
Abram doesn’t want more things; he wants someone to leave his things to. Abram knows what you and I know. One day, we will die. What good is all the stuff we have acquired if we can’t leave it to someone we love. It had been ten years since Abram arrived in Canaan, and God has not kept his word to give him a son through Sarai. Therefore, Abram complained to God, “The only heir I have is a servant I picked up in Damascus. I don’t want to leave the fruits of my labor to a servant; I want to leave my labor to a son. So what will you give me, God? Will you give me a son?”
All Abram wanted was a son to leave an inheritance to — and that, is the same thing God wants, for Abram and for us. Many Christians think the only thing God desires is to give us is better lives today. “Bible teachers” teach people how to “use their faith” to get healed and their needs met, but we don’t teach people how to use their faith to obtain an inheritance that can never be corrupted.
According to the Apostle Paul, if there is no resurrection of the dead, our faith is vain. Why did Jesus need to die and rise again if ALL God desires to do is satisfy your temporal earthly needs? He could have done that without Jesus sacrificing his life. The Old Testament records miracles of healing and provision accomplished before Jesus were born, so why is the resurrection so important that our faith is vain without it?
God can be difficult to understand because there is no selfishness in him and he thinks big. We are by nature selfish, and we tend to think small. While Abram was asking God for one son to leave his wealth to, God was thinking about many sons. Let’s examine God’s response:
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him [Abram], saying, “This one [Eliezer of Damascus] shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir. Then He [God] brought him [Abram] outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. And He said to him, “So shall your seed [descendants] be” (Genesis 15:4-5, NKJ).
God told Abram, “Eliezer will not be your heir. A son from your own body will be your heir.” Then God took Abram outside for a bigger picture and promised to make his seed as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Astronomers estimate that more than 100 million stars occupy the heavens. God had more on his mind than Isaac when he promised Abram that his sons would be “more numerous than the stars of heaven.” Abram’s flesh descendants have never been so numerous they could not be counted.
The Apostle Paul hangs his argument that salvation cannot be earned but is received through faith on the next verse:
God intended to fulfill his promise to give Abram more descendants than he could count by making Abram the “Father of our faith.” Abram’s faith in God marked him as a righteous man. Abram had his mind on one son to leave his things to when he dies. God has his mind on many sons to give God’s “things” to when they live.
Consider Abram’s original question: “WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME? ME, God! ME, ME,ME …What will you give ME!” God hasn’t answered Abram’s question yet. And in truth, God’s discourse about the son and the many descendants wasn’t a direct answer to Abram’s question!
In God’s mind, the “son” or the “seed” of promise is Jesus, not Isaac. Jesus did not “belong” to Abram, nor do the descendants on God’s mind belong to Abram because, “…ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:23, KJV). Jesus belongs to God, and we, including Abram, belong to Jesus. If you’re following what’s on God’s mind here, it should be clear that God hasn’t answered Abram’s query, “What will you give ME?” Abram brought up the problem of who would inherit his goods, so God dealt with that issue before he answered Abram’s question. The descendants that will inherit the fulfillment of God’s promises come through Abram’s one seed given to everyone through divine intervention. Just as God intervened in the life of Abram and Sarai to do the impossible — give them Isaac — God also intervened to do the impossible when he gave the world Jesus, who had an earthly mother but not an earthly father.
God kept his part of a covenant with Abram’s flesh descendants through Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob’s twelve sons became the nation of Israel. They broke the covenant of law and were cursed, but God made a way out before the curse of the law came upon them. Abraham’s flesh descendants receive the blessings of God the same way the Gentiles do: Confess with our mouths Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. Israel looked forward to a prophet who would come. The prophet was Jesus, but they refused to accept a humble man who made himself a sacrifice. Today, we look back to a prophet who obeyed God, and now sits at the right hand of God.
Abram had one reason to believe God told him the truth – the justice in God’s plan. Abram hoped against hope to obtain the fulfillment of the promises God had made. In Abraham’s lifetime, we read of no miracles, save of Sarah having a baby. We read of no prophets screaming “Judgment!” Abram took God at his word based on the miracle of creation, so common and abundant that it’s taken for granted by most people to this day. In other words, Abram heard a “voice” louder than spoken words – the voice of God’s actions.
In verse 7, God finally answered Abram’s question, “What will you give ME?”
Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it” (Genesis 15:7, NKJ).
From the very beginning of God’s dealings with Abram, God planned to give Abram some land. He has the same thing in mind for you. God said to Abram, “I brought you out of Ur to give you this land.” Abram was not looking for a son when he left Ur. He was looking for a “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10, NIV). The issue of barren Sarai having a son didn’t arise until Abram arrived in Canaan and saw the land. Abram didn’t ask God for a son. The son was God’s idea. God’s intent from the very beginning was to give Abram the land, BUT… the only way to possess the land was though a son.
Land! Here we go again! Abram is 85 years old. Except for his trip to Egypt, he had been living in the God promised to give him for 10 years, but not one square inch belongs to him yet. He did buy a portion of land later to bury his dead. But at the time of this conversation with God, he owns a lot of livestock, silver and gold, but no land. He will have a son, and a lot of descendants through this son, but Abram doesn’t own the son or the descendants that God had on his mind. The son God had in mind belongs to God, and the descendants, including Abram belong to the Son. The only thing Abram will possess is some land, which stirs up the next logical question:
“But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:8, NIV)
“How do I know I will inherit any of this land, God?” Under the circumstances that’s a reasonable question, don’t you think? None of Abram’s family owns any of the land God has promised to him. His father and brother Haran died without ever setting foot in the promised land. He has a brother, Nahor, living in the city of Haran, but Nahor doesn’t own any of the promised land. Lot’s fortune had been devastated by war. What reason did Abram have to believe that he will ever inherit any of the land? And from whom would he inherit it?
Think about it. God had been dealing with Abram for more than 25 years now, and Abram possesses nothing but promises. He did not have anything more than Christians possess today – faith and hope that God will fulfill his promises. If we possessed the things God promises, we’d have no need for faith and hope. If you think you can or should have it all now, the Apostle Paul would ask you a question: “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24)
You don’t need to hope for what you already possess. You don’t need faith to believe what you hope for will come true when you possess what you hoped for. Up to now Abram has received nothing from God except temporary wealth. Livestock, silver and gold mean nothing when we die. That’s one of the reasons Abram was concerned about having an heir — he knew what we all know. One day I will die.
God’s answer to Abram indicated the necessity for eternal life. To obtain the fulfillment of the promises God made, Abram must come back from the dead, for he will only inherit the land through someone who hasn’t been born yet! You need a body to live on the earth. That’s the way God planned it from the beginning, and he hasn’t changed his mind. To the contrary, Jesus paid a terrible price so God can legally reunite you with your body. God doesn’t have a problem giving us wealth. The problem is keeping us alive to enjoy that wealth.
God responded to Abram’s question — “how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” – by instructing Abram to offer a sacrifice. No doubt, there’s more here than I’m qualified to teach you; I’m not exhaustively versed in sacrifices and all of what they represent symbolically. I will not attempt to teach you something I don’t understand. All I’ll say about Genesis 15:9-11 is that a sacrifice will guarantee that you won’t lose your inheritance through death.
Abraham made the sacrifice and spent the rest of the day driving away scavengers who wanted to devour the animals and birds that he used. When the sun set, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and God spoke to him again:
…Know certainly that your seed [descendants] will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete (Genesis 15:13-16, NKJ).
God gave Abram a basic outline that applied to the kingdom his flesh descendants became, which also created a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17). God told Abram three things about the kingdom:
First, they would live as strangers and foreigners in a land “not theirs.” Abram and his children lived as strangers and foreigners until God rescued the children of Jacob from Egypt. This is the same thing God’s people are doing today. The New Testament says we are strangers and foreigners here, just passing through. Second, God’s people would be afflicted. This has always been true of the kingdom’s citizens, especially when deliverance draws near. Before Moses was born, Egypt began to afflict God’s people. To this day, nations afflict or persecute the Christians who live among them. Third, the nation in which Abram’s descendants live would be judged by God.” Egypt was severely judged by God for abusing his people as all the nations that afflict God’s people will be judged for doing so. The seas and rivers will run red with blood during the great tribulation. An angel declared this judgment by God righteous, “for they have shed the blood of saints and prophets; therefore God gave them blood to drink for it is their just due.” (Revelation 16:6)
Do you want to know where the spiritual kingdom is today? We are living as strangers and foreigners in a land not ours. Throughout the world, some of our brethren are being afflicted. We even have a measure of it in this country, by people who want to strip the very mention of God from all of public life. We don’t know how long we will continue to live as strangers and foreigners. God gave Abram some time frames that were for the kingdom that came through Isaac. Don’t try to apply those to the spiritual kingdom that comes through Jesus. Jesus said, “It’s not for us to know the times and seasons God has placed in his own power.”
After explaining to Abram what would happen to his descendants, God finally answered Abram’s question: ” Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Here’s the answer — how Abram knows he will inherit the land: “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates…” (Gen. 15:18, KJV). Some translations say “descendants.” The KJV says “seed.” The original Hebrew reads: “On the day that he made Yahweh with Abram covenant to say to descendant of you I give the land this from river of Egypt to the river the great river of Euphrates.” In other words, as the Apostle Paul points out, God made a covenant to give the land not to Abram but to Abram’s seed, one descendant. Here’s how the Apostle to the Gentiles understood it:
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say And to seeds as of many, but as of one, and to your Seed, who is Christ. And this I say that the law which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law it is no longer of promise but God gave it to Abraham by promise (Galatians 3:16-18, NKJ).
God guaranteed that Abram would inherit the land by making a covenant to give the land, not to Abram, but to the only seed of Abram whom God knew would be sinless. God himself would come in human flesh and do what no other man was or is able to do. Keep a conditional covenant with God without failure. God cannot bless sin and be justified in what he is doing. If he blessed one sinful man, than he must bless all sinful men because justice demands impartial judgments. God used the principle of equality to exclude everyone, so he could use the same principle of equality to include everyone if they want to be included.
Yes, Abram was chosen by God, but that did not give Abram an unfair advantage. It has always been God’s desire to bless everyone. It has always been the desire of God’s heart that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9). Abram’s guarantee is my guarantee — if I will do what Abram did — live by faith and die in faith. If I believe in the one, Jesus, who obtained God’s promised blessings by living a sinless life Jesus will share that inheritance with me. Jesus is the only one to whom God can give the land without obligating himself to bless wicked men who hate him. God is gracious, but he is not dumb.
Abram never saw or possessed the kingdom the children of Jacob became. If you look at God’s plan only from the natural man’s point of view, you can rightly conclude that Abram was a fool. All he received from God in his lifetime on earth was one son by Sarah and some unfulfilled promises.
Was Abram a fool, or do God’s dealings with Abram and the Gentiles justify that God is whom he says he is — the creator who has no beginning or end, the same yesterday, today and forever? What reason do we have to be angry with God when his dealings with humanity prove he’s fair and shows no bias? God is known as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. Jesus used that title of God to prove to the Sadducees that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, thereby proving that the dead will rise.
Abram and everyone who trusted in the seed, or prophet to come, are still living somewhere with God, waiting for the day when they will return to take possession of the promised inheritance, the “land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…” God has given that land to Jesus, and from that land Jesus will rule the world. That, my friend, is heaven’s future address, because heaven is wherever God is!
One day, Jesus will return to establish a nation of true equality on the land between the rivers, a nation to rule all nations, a nation with foundations that can never be moved. A nation that will heal the nations, a nation in which anything good that we can imagine will be possible. A light to all nations, a home of our own, with a government that will never corrupt. A nation that will never call what is so obviously perverse “normal” never sanction the slaughter of the most innocent helpless members of its society. Never waver in its opinion about right and wrong. Never enrich itself at the expense of its citizens.
How do I know these things will be true? I take God at his word like Abram who became Abraham, the father of my faith, did. But how do I know that God’s word is good? I won’t know for sure until I possess what he promised. I do have a “down payment” in the Spirit he sent on the day of Pentecost who bears witness with my spirit that I am marked for adoption.
Is there anything I am sure of? Yes! There is one thing I am sure of. Humanity lies. I’ve been lied to by everyone from my pastor to my parents. Employers have lied to me, friends have lied to me, the ungodly and the godly have lied to me. Those who rule us lie to us. I have told a few lies myself. I know that no mere man’s word is good, so why shouldn’t I put my trust in God’s word? Why should I believe your claim that God is a liar when I know you will lie to me? The serpent told Adam and Eve that God lied to them; they would not die. Death proves that God speaks the truth.
Heaven doesn’t stand on a cloud someplace behind a star. Heaven is more than a place. Heaven is a person, and Heaven is where ever that person is. Heaven has an address. One day God himself will come to live on the land between two rivers – the land he promised to Abram and his seed. And if you walk in the steps of Abram’s faith, it is your land, too — but only if there is a resurrection from death, because if there is no resurrection, our faith is indeed vain!