further reflections on Genesis 15.

I’m finishing up a writing project for work this week. We’re writing on Genesis as a part of our fall churchwide Bible reading plan called Project 119. I assigned the Scriptures, so you could say I got my pick of passages – but there are hairy passages all over Genesis. I assumed it would be difficult for me to write about the flood, and it was. But I thought that my last passage for the devotional, based on a reading from Genesis 15, would be one of those “softball passages” – where the words would easily flow from such an accessible, familiar text. That wasn’t the case.

I think Genesis 15 has a lot to say about singleness. And that’s why it was hard to know how to put words to the faithfulness of God – in that passage in particular. Now, I know at first when you read Genesis 15, it’s all about God’s promise to Abram, to make him a great nation and to give him a land and a people to possess for his own. And it’s about a bigger plan too – about how the nations will be blessed because of the faithfulness of Abram and the faithfulness of Abram’s God.

Trust is at the center of Genesis 15. Walter Brueggemann says that Genesis 15 attempts to answer two questions – “Can Abram trust?” and “Can God be trusted?” The specific inquiry for trust, in this situation, relates to progeny. Abram has been promised a child but he and Sarai are old and childless – and she is barren. Will God provide what he has promised? Can Abram trust that, despite the evidence he sees, God is faithful?

Well, we know the answer to this question is yes, because, well, we know the rest of the story. We know that Isaac will be born. We know that the rest of the Old Testament is in fact about how God is faithful to keep his promises to Abram and to Abram’s descendants, even when they remain faithless. And even in the rest of Genesis 15, we’re shown that God can be trusted by the sign he gives. He makes a covenant with Abram, that what he has promised will come to pass. The animals are cut in half, and it is as if God says, “If I fail to keep my promises, on my own head be it.” But we know that God keeps his promises and that he keeps his covenant-love regardless. His love is unconditional.

So what does this have to do with singleness? It may not seem like a lot at first. But what I have been thinking about, over and over, is that we can trust in a God who keeps the promises He makes. For Abram and Sarai, he promised them progeny. That they would have a child. He promised them hope in spite of the hopelessness they felt. Paul records in Romans 4 that Abram’s body was as good as dead. Medically, this promise seemed impossible – but Abram and Sarai trusted in the God who gives life to what is dead – even wombs. They trusted that God would keep the promise he made.

God has not promised a spouse to me, or biological children, or a well-paying job, or a home, or a life of ease, or whatever it is that we long for so deeply in the quiet places of our hearts. This promise to Abram was unique. But what’s not unique about Abram is the call to believe and trust despite the evidence. Isn’t it the call for us all? To believe and trust and hold fast to a God who says he is good? To a God who has a bigger and a better plan in mind? To a God who promises to be faithful, even when every situation we see looks anything like faithfulness from our blurry perspective? We see dimly, but his vision is eternal.

You see, Genesis 15 is a hard and beautiful and truthful passage for me because it is a reminder that God keeps the promises he makes, and even if he did not promise all of those things I wish he did promise, he has promised something better, and that is himself. He promises that he will never leave or never forsake us. He promises that all of the promises of God are yes in Christ. He promises that there is coming a  day when everything sad will come untrue. He promises that he is enough for today and for tomorrow and for every day ahead, whether those days are marked by relationships and wedding dresses and marriages and children or singleness or funerals or pain or disease or brokenness.

I think about how hard it must have been for Abram and Sarai to pack up their belongings and leave for an unknown land. To hear that God was promising all of these extravagant things, and yet to see little fruit of his faithfulness. Andrew Peterson’s “Canaan Bound” is the perfect expression of the waiting for me. And yet Hebrews 11 says that, even though Abram may have received a child and was the father of the nations, he and the other saints of the Old Testament didn’t receive all they were promised, because they were waiting on something better – or, rather, someone better. At the revelation of Christ, all of the promises of God are kept. The cross is the “signed, sealed, delivered” stamp of God’s love for us in Jesus. The picture of how far he would go to show his love to his children.

This, this is a God we can trust, for whatever days are ahead.

 

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