Read Genesis 15:1-18.
An old man runs toward a bunch of buzzards, yelling and swinging his cane to scare them away from the increasingly putrid carcasses in the middle of the road. As the birds flap away to a safe distance, the man looks up to the sky and asks — or maybe demands — “What am I doing here, God?!? I was captivated when you showed up out of nowhere. I believed you when you promised a family, and again when you promised a homeland…but then you just disappeared. Now, I ask for a sign, and you repeat the same old promises, and tell me to make a sacrifice. So, here it is; here we are, dead and good as dead, waiting on you to show up…yet again. Am I a sucker for believing you? For chasing those damn birds away…yet again?”
As soon as Abram’s eyes close, the buzzards are back at it, but by this point, he is too tired to care. As the predators return, and the last daylight fades, an old man drifts off to sleep and the universe seems utterly, terrifyingly void.
To this point in the story, Abram’s experience of God has been limited to the promise of blessing. God exists — as far as he can tell — to solve problems. To establish utopias. But here, for the first time, Abram perceives God’s presence amid the more complex and harsh realities of created life: slavery, oppression, pain, some of which endures seven lifetimes. It turns out that the promise is not a life free of want, pain, or injustice, but one, in spite of it all, free of despair.
O God, make haste to save us.
Rev. Will Norman