Genesis 15:12-21 To your descendants I give this land

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

Genesis 15:12-21

Are you blessed? Have you received abundant blessings from God? In case you’re interested in learning how to receive God’s best, before us we have a case study in Abram on how to do just that. First we’ll look at the five blessings Abram received from God on this day and then we’ll look at four keys to Abram’s life that resulted in his receiving God’s best.

Abram’s Blessings

1) From Abram’s descendants a great nation:

Referring to Israel’s 400 years of captivity in Egypt, in verses 13 and 14 God tells Abram, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.” (v. 13)  

Slavery doesn’t sound like a blessing but if you think about it, Abram and Sarai haven’t even produced one child yet, and God is already providing information about the future of their descendants the nation of Israel. That’s big.

2) God’s protection:

In verse 14 God continues, “But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” God promised Abram that his descendants would become a great nation of people and that He would protect them in the end. Though they would endure a season of difficulty, in the end God promises to rescue them and to bring justice upon the nation that enslaved Israel.

3) Peace and long life:

God promises Abram peace and a long life when He tells Abram that he will go to his ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. (v. 15)

4) Tangible material blessing:

God blesses Abram’s descendants, the nation of Israel, with a very large territory, a vast tract of land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (v. 18-21) A territory that’s somewhere around 300,000 square miles in size.

Royal Land Grant that God gave to Israel through the Abraham Covenant (courtesy of Files From Toni Blog)

The red line that’s overlaid onto a current map of the Middle East, indicates what the size of the territory that God gave to Abram might look like.

5) A glimpse into the future:

Finally, all of these blessings are given as promises. They’re given to Abram in the form of the prophetic word coming directly from God Himself. Abram receives the rare blessing of an intimate encounter with God Himself, a glimpse into his own future, and the future of his descendants.

Can you imagine!? What must that have been like? Say you’ve purposed in your heart to spend some time alone with God. You find a quiet place. You read a verse from scripture, you pray, you read. After awhile the sun sets and you drift off to sleep. But it’s not a normal sleep. You can tell that something’s different. You feel it. You sense it. And then, you find yourself in God’s presence. He’s sharing with you. He’s talking directly to you. He’s giving you the scoop on the future of your descendants. You’re given a promise by God himself that you’re going to live a long and peaceful life. And finally, God promises you a family ranch that’s larger than the state of Texas.

Abram’s Life

So how did Abram come to experience these tremendous blessings from above. Was he just lucky?

What can you do to experience God’s blessings in the way that Abram did? Below you’ll find five keys to Abram’s life that resulted in his receiving God’s best.

1) Abram went where God was.

Abram was told by God where to go and Abram went.

In Genesis 12 God said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you…” (Genesis 12:1) Abram was told by God where to go and Abram went there and there, not too surprisingly, he found God.

And that’s how it is for you and for me. When you’re where God wants you to be your chances of encountering God increase dramatically.

So if God is telling you, “Go from the couch, your TV, and your bag of chips to My word and to prayer.” Then go there.

Or if He’s saying, “Go from your Facebook page to your car and head for church.” Then go.

Go where God is and you’ll receive promises, you’ll be blessed. If you’re not where God wants you to be you’re missing out on God’s best for your life.

Go into His word. Go to prayer. Hang out with other Christ followers. Sing praises to Him.

Go to church.

If blessings are being poured out from God’s spout, if you’re not under the spout, you won’t be showered with His blessings.

Go where God is. That’s where the blessings are.

2) Abram sacrificed things of value.

When Abram set up for the covenant he brought a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. (Genesis 15:9) In Abram’s day these were all things of great value. Heifers provided meat. Goats produced milk. Rams gave wool. Doves and pigeons were food. When Abram brought these to the Lord it cost him something.

When you come to the Lord it costs you something. It costs you your time. It costs you energy. If you invest in His kingdom by tithing and/or giving to your church it costs you money. Sometimes your commitment to Him and His ways may cost you a promotion at work. Sometimes your passion for Him may cost you friends.

Be quick to sacrifice temporal things of value in your life to engage with God. Sacrifice some of your time. Sacrifice some of your money. Sacrifice some of your hobby. Sacrifice some of your time in front of the TV.

The God who created the universe is worth it.

3) Abram waited.

Abram set the stage for the covenant — then he waited. He’s one in a long list of Godly men and women who practiced waiting on God’s timing. The Bible is full of God’s people who have waited. Sarah waited for a son. Moses waited for his people to be delivered. David waited to become king of Israel. Joseph waited in prison for the king’s servant to remember him. Ruth waited for a husband. Noah waited for the flood waters to recede. The list goes on and on.

Wait on God. Be faithful in your waiting. Trust in His timing.

God usually takes longer than I’d like Him to but in the end His timing always turns out to be perfect.


4) Abram drove away the birds of prey.

We looked at this in the last post. Abram drove away the birds of prey that descended on the sacrifices laid before the Lord for the making of the covenant. (Genesis 15:11) In your life these birds of prey look like distractions, negative thoughts or feelings, or even family or friends who might  begin to feel uncomfortable around you as God grows you into who He wants you to become. See Your very great reward for more on driving away the birds of prey.

I’m not saying that if you practice what Abram did, you’ll inherit a ranch larger than Texas. God blesses each of his children uniquely. What He had in mind for Abram is different from what He has in mind for you. And what He has in mind for you is different than what He has in mind for me.

Intimacy with God results in different blessings for different people.

But to receive God’s best we have to live our lives according to Abram’s pattern.

Do what Abram did — go deep in your relationship with God.

Get radical: fast and pray for a day, read a little bit of God’s word every day for three weeks, write a blog about the Lord, volunteer at your church, help out at the Gospel mission, teach a Bible study.

Do it.

God’s worth it.

You’ll never regret it.


Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament Vol. 1, by Jon Courson, Thomas Nelson 2005

Bible Gateway

Genesis 15:1-11 Your very great reward

Your Very Great Reward (image courtesy of

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.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

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.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

Genesis 15:1-11

Abram is spending time with the Lord. He’s experiencing an amazing conversation with the Almighty. The first words out of God’s mouth are:

 “Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

Genesis 15:1

It gives me hope to see that God’s first words to Abram, the father of faith are “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield…” (verse 1)

“Do not be afraid,” God said to Joshua when he began his new job as leader of Israel. (Joshua 1:9)

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to the shepherds the night that Jesus was born. (Luke 2:10)

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to a dejected Paul in Acts 27:24.

God knows we have fears. Even Joshua who saw the walls of Jericho fall had fears. Even Paul the great apostle had fears. Even Abram the father of faith had fears.

We all have fears.

God knows this.

Watch what happens next.

Abram fears that his inheritance, the great blessings that he’s received from his God above, will be left to Eliezer of Damascus, the top male servant in his household. This was according to the custom of that time. If a man had no heirs his inheritance would go to his senior ranking male servant.

But even though Abram fears, God reassures. God tells Abram that his fears won’t be realized. He takes Abram outside and together God and Abram look up at the stars. “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” I can only imagine that God said this with a great deal of warmth and with a smile on His face. Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (v. 5)

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (v. 6)

Abram’s fear of losing his inheritance was overcome! Abram’s fear of living a life without children fell away! And not only that, but his belief in God’s words were credited to him as righteousness!

How amazing is that!

But then what happens? God tells Abram that He’s giving him all the land around him, and Abram, the father of faith, who just overcame one fear, moves on to another. (v. 7)

“…how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Abram asks in verse 8. You can almost hear the whine in his voice. What God does next is incredible. It would seem that a logical reaction to Abram’s questioning attitude might be,

“Hey, I chose you to be the father of faith. But you’re behavior isn’t measuring up. You’re fired! I’m done with you.”

But that’s not who God is.

God is so loving. God is so patient with Abram, and with you, and with me. Instead God says, alright, here’s what we’ll do, I’ll make a covenant with you.

At this time, in this place, a covenant or contract was entered into by splitting an animal in two and sealing the deal by clasping arms while standing in between the two halves of the animal.

So God meets Abram right where he is. You fear I won’t give you this land? You’re familiar with this covenant ritual? Bring back the required animals and prepare them for our covenant.

Abram obeys and sets everything up. And then something very interesting happens.

…birds of prey came down on the carcasses (v. 11)

At first glance this verse seems almost irrelevant. What does this have to do with our story?

Throughout scripture birds represent the enemies of God. Genesis 15:11 is no different. Abram has moved into a place of great intimacy with his Lord. And he is met with resistance from the enemy.

You’ll find that it’s the same for you.

There are birds of prey that seek to thwart any attempt on your part to draw close to your God. But the birds of prey don’t look like birds. They look like the elements of your everyday life.

So what are you and I to do with these birds that look like the elements of our everyday life? What does God’s word say to do? In verse 11 we see that Abram drove them away. And so as Abram did we must also drive them away.

Below you’ll find three categories of birds of prey described, followed by some wisdom to help you drive them away.

1) The birds of prey in your life look like everyday distractions:

These birds look like YouTube videos. They look like Facebook and Farmville. They look like TV and first person shooter games. They look like, dare I say it, shopping.

Though none of the distractions listed are bad in and of themselves, we can, to a large extent, replace our investment in these distractions with greater investment in God. We can replace some YouTube time with time in God’s word. We can replace much of our Facebook and Farmville time with time in prayer. We can replace TV time with time in church. We can replace time shopping with time in service to our God. Invest in God to draw near to God. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34)

2) Sometimes the birds of prey even look like your family and friends:

A wise man once told me that he wanted to give me a new definition for anger. That new definition, he said, is “violated expectations.” When your new interest in drawing close to your God begins to manifest into investing more of yourself in Him, spending more time in His word, more time and involvement in church, more time in prayer, then some of your friends and family may become uncomfortable because you’re not meeting their expectation of what’s normal for you. In fact, the greater your new found attraction to your God, the stranger some of your friends and family may behave. You may hear them say that “You’ve changed,” or “You’re not the same person you used to be.” They may become moody, even resentful.

When it comes to family and friends, we have to remember that …our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against… …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) Though friends and family may become uncomfortable with your drawing closer to your God, the birds of prey are not your friends and family. The birds of prey are the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The birds of prey are the enemies of God Himself attempting to influence you away from Him. They’re principalities and powers. They’re not people. They’re invisible.

You must drive them away by showing Christ’s love to the very people the birds of prey are attempting to use to assault God’s kingdom. As Peter instructed the wives who were married to unsaved husbands, we’re to win our family and friends over by our behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2) By showing them God’s love. By praying blessing upon them.

You can learn from experience but it doesn’t have to be your own experience. Learn from the experience of my life and others who have gone before you on this same path. Concerning family and friends, to drive away the birds of prey it’s essential that we recognize the following.

Showing family and friends Christ’s countenance and God’s love is where it’s at!


Praying for family and friends is where it’s at!


Did I already mention, DEBATE IS FRUITLESS?

It’s the kindness of God that leads people to Him. (Romans 2:4)

Anytime family and friends show discomfort with you, show them Christ’s love.

3) Finally, the birds of prey may come in the form of your own thoughts and feelings:

When you begin to experience intimacy with God you may have thoughts of awkwardness. Feelings of anxiousness. Feelings of discomfort.

When you begin to draw close to God it’s normal to have thoughts that this direction is too strange or too awkward. Martin Luther once said something that speaks to these negative thoughts and feelings. He said,

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

It’s the same with your thoughts. Normal thoughts that are negative toward God may enter your mind on occasion but you can choose to think on other things. Positive things. Godly things. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

When it comes to your thoughts, you have a choice.

As you spend time in intimacy with God through prayer, praise, reading His word, serving in church, you’ll find that living out Philippians 4:8 becomes easier and easier.

So back to Abram. Abram, the father of faith, proves himself faithful on two counts:

1) “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6)

2) Abram chased away the birds of prey. (v. 11)

We’ve seen how to chase away the birds of prey, but how can we overcome our fears and believe God as Abram did. The key is in verse 1 where God tells Abram one of the great truths of the universe.

God is your very great reward. (v. 1)

God is your very great reward. (v. 1) The great riches that God blessed Abram with, the descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens, the promised land that God gifted to Abram, all of these, as great as they are, are but tiny in comparison to the gift of God himself.

God is your very great reward, Abram is told. (v. 1) Abram’s belief in God’s word came as a result of this gift. Were it not for the fact that Abram was walking with God, investing in God, and experiencing this time of intimate conversation with God, Abram would not have, could not have overcome his fears and believed.

It’s the same for you and it’s the same for me. If you want to overcome your fears. If you want to believe. If you want to experience faith in God. You have to walk with Him, invest in Him, and enter into intimacy with Him. To overcome fear as Abram did Spend time alone with God as Abram did.

Enter into conversation with Him. Listen to Him — read His word. Share with Him — pray to Him. Pray with your Bible open. Read a verse then pray your answer. Pray to Him then read a verse. Converse with Him.

Intimacy with God. That’s the greatest reward you’ll ever experience. Pursue it with all that you have.

You, God, are my God, 
   earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, 
   my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land 
   where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

While in this portion of scripture it’s impossible for me not to share that, regarding Abram in Genesis 15:6, the words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25) This passage of scripture will reward further study. Paul’s explanation of salvation through Jesus Christ is founded on Genesis 15:6 — see Romans 4 and Galatians 5

If you’re reading this post and you haven’t yet entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ you might be interested in learning how. Go to Join Christ’s Family.


Matthew Henry

Jon Courson