10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. 12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he said unto Abram, 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; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
Yesterday we examined how God made a solemn covenant with Abram, in which He illustrated His absolute commitment to bringing His promises to fruition. But this was a long and involved ritual, and in the middle there were also several moments of distress.
First there was the matter of fowls trying to consume the sacrificial animals. There is an obvious symbolism here for all of the forces that try to sever us from God and His promises, all of the powers that would try to pull Abram and his descendants off the covenant path. But Abram was faithful, and through his efforts he kept them at bay. Then there was the “horror of great darkness,” and the revelation that Abram’s descendants would pass through many afflictions before inheriting this land.
So ultimately God did make a solemn vow to give Abram and his descendants great blessings, but He also admitted that it was going to be a long and hard road to get there. I appreciate this frankness from God, assuring us of good in the end, but not trying to diminish the considerable opposition we will have to face along the way. When all is said and done, God offers us all a happy ending at the end of the road, but he does not promise that the road will be clear and easy.