Abraham returned from victory and was a marked man
God appeared to Abraham when he returned from rescuing Lot and defeating the Mesopotamian kings. God comforted Him in two ways. The kings knew who he was and they would probably return. (Genesis 15:1-6)
God was his shield
God told him that He would be Abraham’s shield, his protector. He had nothing to fear from those kings or any other military force.
God was his reward
God also told him that he would receive a great reward. Abraham took no reward from the King of Sodom. He would not allow that king to say that he has made Abraham rich. God would give him a very great reward.
Who would be Abraham’s heir?
Abraham brought up another issue. He had obviously been brooding over God’s promises to him. God promised land, descendants and blessing. He had been blessed by God. He was a wealthy and respected man. But there were no descendants, not even one heir. The best choice was Eliezer of Damascus, his trusted steward. He had made a decision about Lot, his nephew, a natural choice. Abraham did not choose him. (Genesis 15:2-6)
God told him that his heir would not be Eliezer but his own son yet to be born. God then reiterated the promise of descendants and told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham faced a choice. This seemed impossible but he believed.
Abraham’s descendant would receive the land
God again promised the land. Abraham asked how could he know this.
God then told him to prepare for a brutal and impossible ritual of promise. Butchered animals would serve as a reminder of the pact between the two of them. Any violation by either part would result in being mutilated like the animals. How could one expect to enter into such an agreement with God and survive? But while Abraham slept only God passed through the animals. Only God was obligated.
God repeated the promise but with new details. Abraham’s descendants would serve another nation as slaves for four hundred years. Then God would judge the nation they served and bring them to this land, their land, Abraham’s land. Abraham would die in peace at an old age.(Genesis 15:7-20)
Why the delay?
The wickedness of the people in this Promised Land was not yet worthy of devastating judgement. God would be patient with them for four centuries before he judged them. (Genesis 15:16-20)
Would God’s answer be acceptable to us?
I have taught this passage in many settings. I usually ask people to identify with Abraham. God would tell them in a way that could not be doubted that their greatest prayer would be answered but it would take four hundred years.
Would that answer be acceptable?
Usually there is more than one audible “NO.”
But that is how God worked four thousand years ago.