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As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” – Genesis 15:12-21
Give me flowers. No war. No bloodshed. No harsh reality. Give me peace. Give me joy. No hardship. No difficulty. No gritty brutality. I realize it’s very naive, but I’m with Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” History shows otherwise. People fight and quarrel. They posture and bluster. They assert their powers and impose their wishes on us. We might want to play nice, but there are those who don’t give a wit about playing nice. They don’t care whether you like them or not. They have no fear of God. Or they suppose that their way is so right that they will do anything necessary to impose it on others. Think the Inquisition. Think Sheria Law. Think Stalin. Think Hitler. Pol Pot. Fidel. Kim Jong-un. Saddam Hussein.
Or think Amorites. Or Egyptians in the years to come. Or the Babylonians. Or the Taliban. Or…well, the list can go on and on.
I regularly post portions of the Psalms on Sunday mornings. I choose verses from Psalms based on the days of the month. Last Sunday, the 11th, I posted verses from Psalms 11, 41, 71, 101, and 131. Take the day of the month, and start with the Psalm of that number, then add thirty. If you read the Psalms in that manner, over a month’s time, you will have read through all 150 Psalms. Sometimes the Psalms in the range for a given Sunday are imprecatory. They wish for the complete destruction of their enemies. They call down the judgement and vengeance of God on their enemies. There seems to be no self-conscious hesitation in regard to that.
These verses reveal a side of God that aligns with such imprecations. “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete,” the Lord says. That bodes poorly for those who will be in the vortex of the Amorites’ iniquity. Sinful behavior is destructive to the victim. It will also prove to be the destruction of the perpetrator as well.
And I wish it were not so. I wish we could all just get along. I wish God didn’t have to judge. I wish the children of Abram did not have to go into captivity – even though it would afford God a grand opportunity to intervene in a dramatic way to redeem his chosen people.
But, as they say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” So there will be a sojourn into Egypt for God’s chosen people. The iniquity of the Amorites will be completed. And there will come a redemption. It will be harsh and brutal. But it will come.
Look in that manner at Jesus on the cross. This is a time of grave brutality. But it is also God’s redemptive moment. And through this redemption, all people may be saved. For in Jesus, God’s chosen people are all the people of the world. God so loved the world. Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
The path of our redemption may take us to a brutal moment 2000 years ago. But it also leads us to an empty tomb, and points us toward the fullness of that redemption that will be revealed on the Great Last Day.