Genesis 15:12 “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness fell over him.”

Observation: Earlier in the day the Lord had told Abram in a vision that He would be Abram’s “shield and very great reward.” (v. 1) Then God assured Abram that his descendents would be as numerous as the countable stars, and that this rich heritage would come from an heir produced personally by Abram. To prepare for memorializing the covenant, Abram was to bring before the Lord several large animals, each of which he cut in two and laid out to make a sort of aisle between the carcass halves. Then came Abram’s “deep sleep and a thick and dreadful darkness”.

Application: Why was the deep sleep important?  What was it that made a thick and dreadful darkness helpful? And why is it reported as coming while Abram was in a deep sleep?

No answers to these questions are readily apparent from the words of Scripture. But consider this: the God of all creation was about to enter into profound, permanent covenant with a created man. Abram’s full attention was demanded in order for faithfulness to arise. Perhaps God understood that He could be best heard by speaking while Abram slept. After all, the previous verse tells us that as the carcass halves lay waiting for the ceremony to begin, Abram drove away birds of prey that came to feed on warm flesh.

What a silly sight that must have been. Like Abram, I too often try to “fix things” for God . . . to help Him out. He maintains a storehouse of revelation for my benefit, yet I tend to busy myself with vultures and dead things. God had commanded the sacrifice; the covenant ceremony was at His initiative; surely He could have kept these particular carcasses free of vultures if He considered it important. Apparently God desired to bypass Abram’s consciousness.

So a deep sleep overcame Abram, strengthened by a thick and dreadful darkness. Into this place of utter silence God spoke, giving to Abram and his Hebrew descendants “this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.” (v. 18) Forever. Irrevocably. Initiated and completed by God, the covenant was spoken into Abram with such singularity as to echo yet today.

Prayer: Lord, there are times when I pray on the fly, while driving or while tending to daily chores. But I need more times of absolute quiet in my life, times when all possible interruptions have been eliminated. What have You wanted me to hear, what promises have You spoken, that my busyness has drowned out? Cause me to be quiet in Your presence. Let others chase vultures.