Every person can know that God keeps his promises by looking at the facts we see in this passage.
One day, while my son Zac and I were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs, I heard a voice from above me yell, "Hey Dad! Catch me!" I turned around to see Zac joyfully jumping off a rock straight at me. He had jumped and then yelled "Hey Dad!" I became an instant circus act, catching him. We both fell to the ground. For a moment after I caught him I could hardly talk.
When I found my voice again I gasped in exasperation: "Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that???"
He responded with remarkable calmness: "Sure...because you're my Dad." His whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy. He could live life to the hilt because I could be trusted. Isn't this even more true for a Christian?
Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, pp. 46-47.
Don’t you think this is kind of relationship that God wants to have with each one of us. He wanted that kind of relationship with Abram and I want to give you some facts from Abram’s life that demonstrate God’s level of trustworthiness.
Fact I. Abram would have a son
A. It seems as if Abram is hearing the same tune over and over again. God keeps telling Abram that he would have a son. This time it is following Abram’s questioning of God about this son. He is probably in his nineties by now with his wife a few years behind him. It really seems very unlikely to Abram that he would have a child at his age. He was an old man. He was not the kind of guy you would look at as a parent. Even at my age people will sometimes look at my younger children and ask if they are my grandchildren. Imagine the questions Abram would get if he was carrying around a baby at 90 years old. Even at his age God continues to tell Abram that he will have a son and it will be his son. He will not have to accept the child of another.
B. God even goes farther with Abram. He invites Abram to go outside and count the stars in the sky. Earlier God had invited Abram to count the grains of sand. Both times God is showing Abram how big his family will be. Just as either of these would be too many to count, so would it be with Abram’s descendents. They would be so many that he would not be able to count all of them.
C. I am sure this seemed really unlikely to Abram, just as it is with us. Just a few chapters down the road God gives Abram names for this son he will have. He is to give him the name Isaac. Then in chapter 21 we are told that Sarah gave birth to a son. This happened well after Abram should have been fathering children. It was also after the time when women are able to give birth. Both of these things that God had promised came to pass. According to human standards this was an impossible event. Medically we would probably be told that neither one of these people would ever be parents. God made a promise to Abram and he kept that promise. This was something that was really outrageous.
D. Perhaps there are things in your life that seem to be unreachable. Maybe everyone is telling you this is impossible. When God is in it nothing is impossible. God can do anything.
Fact II. Israel would be slaves
A. Even though Abram believed what God was saying to him, he was still uncertain of how all of this was going to work. In v. 8 Abram asks, “How can I know that I will gain possession of it?” asking about the land. In response God directs Abram to prepare some sacrifices. He prepared the sacrifices, but they were not ignited. While all of this was happening Abram fell into a deep sleep and he was giving a vision, in which the Lord spoke to him. In this vision the Lord warns Abram that his descendents will be enslaved in a foreign country for a period of 400 years. Even though this would have been a frightening bit of news it was something that God came through with. Abram would never see it, but the people of Israel would see this fulfilled.
B. At the end of the book of Genesis Joseph leads his family, the Israelites out of the country into Egypt because of a famine in Israel. As soon as you get to the first chapter of Exodus you see Israel enslaved for a period of about 400 years. This is the fulfillment of what God told Abram in chapter 15. This was what God had warned Abram would happen several generations earlier. We can really see that God knew what he was talking about. He knew that these things would happen. He was able to warn Abram of what would happen to his family.
C. I would put this one into the category of things that are amazing, but not really something you wanted to know. I am sure that Abram was amazed that God was able to see these events coming down the road, but at the same time he had to be grieved to know that he descendants would suffer like this. It is like knowing your child is in trouble. You don’t want to know it, but as a responsible parent you need to know those things.
Fact III. Israel would acquire great wealth
A. As God is speaking to Abram he tells him that things will not stay bad for his descendants. For one thing God will punish those who enslaved Abram’s descendants. We see this being fulfilled as God brought repeated plagues on the Egyptians while the descendants were slaves there. In the final plague all of the firstborn are killed. It was a devastating time for the Egyptian people. It would have had to be a very sad time for them. They learned through this experience who the real God was. It was not the idols they had built. It was the God of Abram’s descendants. Just as God had promised, these people were punished.
B. Right after that in v. 14 God tells Abram that they will come out with great possessions. Even though they go into Egypt as slaves they are going to come out with great wealth. It is not exactly what you would think of as the end of slavery. Most of the time when someone comes out of slavery you might think of them coming with very little. They might only leave with the clothes they have with them. In this situation God tells Abram that they will leave with great possessions. In Exodus 12 we are told that the Israelites were instructed to ask for possessions from the Egyptians. “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” (Ex 12:35-36 NIVUS) Not only were they leaving a life of slavery, but they were also walking out of that country with much of its wealth.
C. Perhaps this news made the information Abram was receiving a little more sweet. His descendants would be slaves, but they would leave the country where they were slaves. They would go back to the land that God had promised to them. They would take with them a great deal of possessions.
D. Wouldn’t it have been a nicer story if the people could skip over the years of slavery? It would be nicer if they could just go from life in the Promised Land to life in the Promised Land with great possessions. God used the low time to bring blessing to the people of Israel. They were able to acquire much by spending years in slavery and spending years getting to know the people they were living near. The Egyptian people liked them and therefore allowed them to have their stuff. It was through the low time that God brought wealth.
Fact IV. Abram would die at home
A. In this good news bad news scenario Abram is promised that he will die in his own country. That could be both good news and bad news. Even though his descendants will end up in slavery Abram will not. Instead he is promised to end up dying at his home. I would think that Abram is still pretty much a foreigner in this country. So for God to promise Abram that he would be allowed to live out the rest of his years in this country would mean something to Abram.
B. We should remember that Abram is an old man. He is not the sort of person you would expect to be having children. His wife is no spring chicken either. They are both beyond child bearing years. Yet God is making these grand promises to Abram that he will have a child. He will be a father of many nations. He will possess many blessings and he will have a land connected to his name.
C. In Genesis 25 we can read of the death of Abram. It was just as God said it would be. He said that Abram would be buried in his land with his ancestors. Abram was buried next to his wife. He son Isaac carried on his legacy. Isaac gave birth to Jacob who gave birth to Joseph. This was the beginning of the nation of Israel.
God speaks to us. He speaks through many different means, and we don’t always want to hear what he has to say. In the case of Abram, I don’t think he wanted to hear that his ancestors would end up in slavery for a period of time. Through this difficult time God was able to bless them.
God does not promise us that everything he tells us is going to be rosy. There will be times when it might be some pretty negative information he has to pass along. No matter what he gives us we need to be willing to accept it. Maybe the negative we receive will be something that will help us in the future. Don’t let God’s negatives scare you away from a right relationship with Him.