Deliverance from the Curse God’s promise to Abram isn’t simply futuristic. Surely, it holds out hope for the future. Yet, it was a promise to guard and protect Abram from an evil. God says, “I will bless those that bless you. I will curse those who curse you.” The story of the Old Testament is about how God’s people lived while holding onto his promises.
The amazing thing about God’s promise to Abraham is how God personally reveals himself to Abraham as he struggles to believe and obey God’s promises. It gives a believer an appreciation of what God is doing in the life of every believer seeking to obey.
Time passes after God’s initial promise to Abram. Abram begins to question God’s promise.
15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward."
2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."
8 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" NIV
We are so much like Abram. We question God as seek to walk by faith in the unseen. God promises to be Abram’s shield [protector] and his very great reward. Hope seems so mysteriously vague. God renews his promise to Abram. Still, Abram persist asking, “How can I know . . .?” How can he know God’s promises are true? How can we know his promises are true?
God speaks to Abram saying, "You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, and they will be oppressed as slaves for four hundred years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. (But you will die in peace, at a ripe old age.) After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, when the sin of the Amorites has run its course" (Genesis 15:13-16 NLT).
Prophetic statements such as this one are often disconcerting. We may question God. We ask ourselves, “Why would God do this to Abraham’s offspring.” God says, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land . . . oppressed . . . enslaved . . .” Initially, it seems as though God is bringing a curse upon Abraham and his descendants.
God knew Abram’s descendants would be living among those who were allowing the destructive course of evil to run its course. He knew the precise hardships they would face as they sought to live in an evil world. It is not the curse of God but evil’s curse bringing this to Abram’s descendants. He knew the curse would seem overpowering and debilitating as they lived as strangers in this foreign land. This is a promise of deliverance despite the evil forces. It is a promise of his ultimate protection. It was a renewal of the promise made to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4—God would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who sought to curse him.
The value of the biblical stories is that they are filled with examples of warning and encouragement as we struggle to follow Christ. The Bible reveals that we can’t hide from the curse or isolate ourselves from its affects, but we can trust in God for deliverance. God sees the end from the beginning. He sees what sin is going to do. He sees the fruit it bears before it begins to germinate in hearts. God knows the outcome of every evil action. God has already made a way of escape.
1 Corinthians 10:11-13
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV
God continues to bless those who bless his children and curse those who curse his children as he provides a way of escape for his children. It is God’s way of reminding us he is in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it. He wants us to be able to focus on what he is asking rather than fighting the curse of evil.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. NIV
In the previous chapter of Genesis, Abram fights with the kings of the plains of Sodom as he sought to rescue his nephew Lot. God gave him victory, but his victory didn’t leave him feeling confident. He knows aggression breeds aggression. Others would perceive him as a very real threat to be defeated. God steps in and reveals his plan for the deliverance of Abram and his descendants. God reveals the future of Abraham’s descendants for the next four hundred years, then God makes a personal promise to Abraham, “Your people will return to inherit this land . . . you will die in peace, at a ripe old age” (Genesis 15:13-16).
God’s salvation and deliverance in the ancient world was all inclusive. It went beyond forgiveness as a merciful God interceded in the affairs of their world. It was a promise to sustain and protect them as they trusted God to work out his plan for their lives. They weren’t trusting God to do the miraculous. They trusted him daily for the ordinary things of life.
Salvation history reveals evil running its destructive course. About five hundred years after Abram God judged the Amorites and gave their land to Abram’s descendants as he led them through the Red Sea. When sin ran its course God exterminated the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.