“Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; ….’” Genesis 15:13 (NRSV)
If you could know the future, would you want to know what it holds for you? Now realize you can’t pick just the good things of which to have foreknowledge. To know the future would mean that you would also know the bad things. That seems to be the situation in Genesis 15.
God had previously told faithful Abram that God would make of him a great nation and that through Abram all of the families of the earth would be blessed. (Chapter 12:1-3) In Chapter 15 Abram still bemoans the fact that he and his wife Sarai are childless. Abram admits that as it stands now, Eliezer of Damascus, a slave born in his house, will inherit what Abram has. God says to Abram, “This man shall not be your heir. [God] brought [Abram] outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.’” (15:4b-5) Abram believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. God has affirmed that Abram will be given an heir, a son, and that Abram will have many descendants. That’s the good news! That’s also where we often stop reading, but the chapter continues.
Now take a look at Genesis 15:12-15! Listen: “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.” That’s a mixed bag of news … bad news that Abram’s descendants will be aliens, slaves and oppressed for four hundred years. I suppose the good news is that Abram will have a good long life, will die in peace and never live to see those years of oppression. (Note: though I have read this passage several times, it is the first time that I have recognized the pre-figuring of Moses, the Hebrews bondage in Egypt and their deliverance to go and take possession of the land God has promised to Abram. Had you noticed this?)
When it comes to knowing the future and all it holds, I think I might defer to subscribing to the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss.” While I would like to know the good things the future holds for me, I suspect I would prefer not to be informed of the bad things. The good things thus would always be surprises and hopefully God will supply the courage, grace and strength to deal with the bad things when they materialize. Remember Jesus said, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34b) I don’t choose to be totally ignorant. For you see best of all, I know who holds me in the palm of His hand and who holds my, your, our futures too.
God of Abram and Sarai, help us to cling to Your promises as we endeavor to live faithfully each day. Keep our eyes fixed on the joy of living in Your eternal kingdom. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.