The facet of Christianity I’ve been exposed to is obsessed with going to Heaven; a “place” we know little about. The Bible offers sparse details. The place called heaven is somewhere in the northern sky. Some individuals who have had after death experiences speak of light, love, beauty and family that have gone before them. Jesus said he was returning to his father in heaven to prepare a place for us. The last time his disciples saw Jesus, he ascended into the clouds. But the Bible concludes with everyone including Jesus coming back to earth.
In contrast to my experience in Christianity, God is obsessed with one son and land on earth. He promised one seed of Abram, who Christians call Lord Jesus, land on earth. He also promised land to Abram, but Abram has no greater prospects of possessing the land than he has of Sarai bearing a child.
After God affirmed that one of Abram’s children would become more numerous than the stars in the sky, he returned to the subject of land. “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it,” he said to Abram. The man who believed his seed would be more numerous than the stars of the sky wasn’t so sure about possessing land.
Abram wanted an assurance he would possess the land. God responded by making a covenant. Animals were cut in two and both parties walked between the animals invoking as they did so that a violator of the covenant would be cut in two as the animals were. Therefore, if God does not do what he said, he must be killed. Since no one is more powerful than God, the enforcement of this covenant rest solely on God’s integrity.
Before God passed between the pieces of animals, he delivered a bittersweet message to Abram. For 400 years Abram’s family would be strangers on land they do not possess. A clear indication Abram will die without possessing the land God promised. The news gets worse before it gets better. At some point within those 400 years Abram’s family will be enslaved and mistreated. But God concludes on a positive note. Abram will die in peace after living a long life. God himself will punish the nation that mistreats Abram’s children, and they will return to Canaan with great possessions.
God also cited a good reason for the delay in taking possession of the land. “The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” A tyrant would drive the people from the land or exterminate them without just cause. God does not operate like a tyrant. By the time Abram’s children returned the Amorites were in a state of complete apostasy. When Abram’s children arrived to possess the land God deflated any notions that they were in some way superior to others. Moses warned the people before they crossed Jordan,
After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord you God will drive them out before you…”
Clearly, God’s plan is much greater than the brief time and space Abram occupies on planet earth. Abram played a part in the plan, but that is all. At this point in his life, I doubt he understood his part. In fact his faith may have been shaken when God covenanted to give the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River not to Abram but to that nonexistent, impossible to produce child.
God answered Abram’s question, “How do I know I will possess the land?” by preaching a gospel of grace. God gave the land to one of Abram’s future descendants who remained sinless. A gospel of grace sets the responsibility of keeping a covenant with God upon one person willing to include a multitude more numerous than the stars of the sky in the promises of God. Christians call him Jesus.
 All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Making a covenant by walking between animals cut in two is also referenced in Jeremiah 34:18.
 Genesis 15:16
 Deuteronomy 9:4-5