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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.” – Genesis 15:12-18
Diane and I have lived in seven states during our lifetimes. I don’t think we’ll be making it to 8. Seven is a good number. We’ve lived in 14 different abodes: apartments or houses. One bedroom “shotgun” house, an upper loft, a dust-infested rambling apartment, a family of 6 in a 1200 square foot 3 br house. Several others, and now a very nice house for which I am very thankful.
On every outward level you would say that we chose where to live. We decided on the upstairs loft apartment and the shotgun house. We determined to move from one house to another in every city we’ve lived in since my first call to Utah. We chose.
Truth be told, however, we chose from within a very small range of options. We didn’t choose to live in a Manhattan high-rise apartment at $1MM down and $25,000 per month rent. We didn’t choose to live on a 40 acre lakeside country estate with a 200 foot shoreline. We chose where we would live based on what was available in our price range and at the time we needed housing.
Many of us live under the delusion that we have more control over our lives – like where to live – than we actually do have. Our choices are limited. But that’s not just a matter of time, money, and the currently-available real estate inventory. There is a providential component to the homes of our lives. God has a part to play in all this.
He certainly did for Abram and his descendants. God lays it all out for him. His descendants would be taken captive for 400 years. They would be slaves, but then they would be delivered from that bondage and brought back to the place of God’s promise. And he sealed it with an oath.
Paul picks up on this when he speaks to the people on Mars Hill in Athens:
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. – Acts 17:26-27
Perhaps it is a good reminder for us to consider God’s part in the lines of our lives at this time. Who are our friends? Who are our neighbors? With whom do we work? Just as God has prepared good works for us in advance that we may walk in them (Ephesians 2:10), so he has planted us where we are and has us in place for a reason.
Abram’s reason for being who and where was so that he would be the father of a great nation. He wouldn’t live to see the number of his descendants as great as the stars in the sky. Nor did he see his loved ones taken into slavery in Egypt. Nor did he see them rescued. Nor was he alive when they crossed into the Promised Land. None of that, however, undercut the promise and purpose of God in his life. He lived day by day as we do. And he heard and believed God’s promises as we must. And the ebb and flow of his life is for our instruction that by the encouragement of the Scriptures and endurance we might have hope (Romans 15:4).
Might someone be watching you today, or in the years to come even, and learning what it is to live by faith? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?