Keywords: darkness, faith, fear, promises, sin, vision
"And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him."
Normally, when I think of God giving a vision, I assume it will be a vision of encouragement and hope, something that will edify me and draw me into a greater state of joy. This verse shows that is not always the case.
Abram asked for some kind of assurance AFTER he believed God's promise AFTER it "was counted to him for righteousness". He wanted to know how he could be sure that he would inherit that land promised to him.
God immediately asked him to make a sacrifice, then, as he fought to keep the fowls of the air away from the carcasses, he went into this deep sleep and saw the "horror of darkness". God told him:
"Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land [that is] not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites [is] not yet full."
Several things came home to Abram... first, the promise was to his seed; he himself would never see that promise fulfilled in his lifetime. Secondly, his immediate descendants would suffer in bondage 400 years; they too would not see the promised land until the fourth generation.
Thirdly, God would judge the nation that held them in bondage. but, fourth, they would come out of it with possessions -- that would later profit them in their journey, their entrance into and their life in the land.
Fifth, the delay had something to do with the sin of the Amorites -- it had not reached the place where God would turn them over to judgment and use the Israelites to conquer and destroy them.
Then God passed alone between the sacrifices of the covenant made, declaring with that action that He alone would bring it to pass.
There is a dark side to every promise, a cost of sorts for each great thing that God will do. The making of the covenant itself cost the life of the sacrificial animals and birds. The promise included bondage, not that God put the people there but that their condition necessitated a deep and vivid illustration of the greater deliverance the Exodus would illustrate.
I believe this is what Abram's "horror of great darkness" showed. In it, he saw the awfulness of sin. It is bondage to a taskmaster that was and is not the intended "land" that God would have for His people. It is only fit for judgment.
Yet the "former" life that it illustrates is rich in a kind of substance that God's people can use -- their experiences and developed skills, that when yielded to the Lord in the land of promise, are useful booty indeed.
Also there is a sense that with a changed life comes a new enemy. It was there as bondage in Egypt, now it is an enemy to be conquered in Canaan. Before, the answer was to be delivered from it, escaped, set free. Now the answer is face it with all the weapons God has provided and utterly destroy it. There is a horror of darkness in that too.
God had given the vision, and in it was darkness. Abram did not see the light for 13 years. During that time, he acted without it and his self-sufficiency was destroyed. He eventually became a yielded and willing servant.
In his experience to follow was also the "horror of darkness" of not following God's will and walking in his own, of making bad decisions and having his world fall apart, of learning what it means to die to self... so that the only thing that is left is fitted for the promised land, even though he himself never saw it.
For me, there is also a promise from God... the land is the exchanged life where I am: "crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
It is also a land of milk and honey but in that promise is also the "horror of darkness". First the enslaving sin. May I never forget what I have been delivered from. Secondly, the sacrifice necessary to the covenant -- my life. To truly die to myself is a horror of darkness. On that journey there are many black tunnels and shadowy passageways. Thirdly, the pain of death is very real. A horror.
And the fourth thing is the birds that bother the carcass. Satan is not satisfied that it exists. He pokes and prods it, not to destroy but to provoke to life. That is a horror.
Another is the battle against the "amorites" in the land, the enemy whose sin is full and whose roots are down deep. Sometimes the light is not there and the battle rages in blackness and in horror.
It is not pessimism to think on these things. It is good, for in thinking of my own horrors of darkness, the awe of light stands in sharp contrast, breaking into my soul with dazzling brilliance. I could not see the horror if it were not for this blinding light.
The Lord God has delivered me and is delivering me. It is His light that brings me away from the horror, and from even a worse horror -- I tend to flirt with the dark and tumble into it apart from the vision He gives, and like Abram, need my 13 years of silence until my self-sufficiency and foolishness is ready for His altar.
TODAY: It is time again to realize the horror of sin. It is too easy to let it tantalize and tease until I give in. Abram fell asleep and then saw the horror. I need to stay awake and walk in the light that the Lord God has graciously granted unto me. With thanksgiving, I begin this day, awake.
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