God Factors In Our Detours
“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 your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years… In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure'”. Genesis 15:12-16
God confuses me. I’ve been reading the book of Genesis, and His whole treatment of Abraham seems like a bundle of contradictions.
First, God told Abraham he would make him into a great nation (Gen. 12:2), and then He withheld the birth of Isaac for twenty-five years. Then God told Abraham to “look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever” (Gen. 13:14-15), while in chapter 15 God tells Abraham his descendants would live as slaves in Egypt for four hundred years before they would come back and possess the land. I’ve discovered that reading the Bible is a bit like reading a spy novel; you really don’t know how all the pieces fit together until you’ve read the last chapter. Of course, the same thing could be about my life. I won’t really know how all the parts fit together until I’ve lived the final chapter.
This is what challenges me about Genesis 15; sometimes when I think I’ve missed God’s direction for my life, it turns out that God has factored in my detours. Furthermore, about the time I think my detours are a result of a sin, I often find they are God’s gift to prepare me for my promise.
Until your life is over and there are daisies over your grave, you cannot truly miss God. And even if you try to hide from Him like Adam and Eve did, He still has a way of finding you! He knows the detours you will take and factors them into the equation of your life. Ps. 139:16 says God has counted all our days, and He even makes allowances for the times we think we’ve missed His will and direction. Time away from our Promised Land is a time for growth. The Israelites needed to grow large and strong as a nation and a family before the appointed time when God would release them to possess their inheritance. We may think the days and years we’ve spent doing things other than possessing our promises are wasted years, but this is not true in the economy of God.
Sometimes the detours in your life are simply God preparing you for your future, as He did with the Israelites. But God not only prepares us, He prepares the place we are going to inhabit. This hit home when I finally saw Gen. 15:16, where God told Abraham his descendants would return after four hundred years, “For the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction” (New Living Testament).
God will not punish a nation or an individual until the time warrants their destruction, or as the NIV phrases it, reaches “its full measure.” Not only is God preparing you and me for the next phase or our lives, He is also waiting patiently for others to find their place in His will. God would not give the land of Canaan to the Israelites because the Amorites did not yet deserve to be removed. God’s loving patience with others may be the reason I’m in the middle of a detour. But that is good, for ultimately God takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). God’s patience with sinners does not mean He approves of their behavior, but that He is allowing them time to repent. And until the time and place was prepared, the Israelites were not ready to inherit the land of God’s promise. Likewise, until others have had a chance to obey the Lord, it may not be time for us to move in and accomplish His will.
Phil. 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (NLT). So take heart if you do not know your future. Don’t despair if you think you’ve taken one detour after another in your travels with the Lord. God knows where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going. And if you find yourself on a detour, you might as well enjoy the scenery along the way.
Another refreshing read.
“Not only is God preparing you and me for the next phase or our lives, He is also waiting patiently for others to find their place in His will.”
That was a wonderful thought. It made me realise that each of us have a special place in His plans. No one is going to stamp on my feet when I’m placed somewhere according to God’s plan. Oh what a blessed feeling that realisation brought.
Thanks Jim for being such a wonderful instrument for our Lord.
Your detour has been a blessing for many of us who follow your blogs. 🙂
Thanks for posting this…. this passage was bothering me too and a google search turned up your post.
It is interesting that I’m grappling with some of the “detours” in my life at this point in time. This passage of scripture just happened to be in my daily reading and was not necessarily “bothering” me as it relates to my “detour(s)”, but rather that I just didn’t “get it”. Yet, in your post I find the fingerprint of God speaking to my detours….that is so totally God (and awesome)!
Thanks for letting me know this spoke to you. Bloggers tend to write and then wonder, “Is this REALLY making a difference to anyone?” Then we receive comments like yours and it helps me remember God is still using me to help others. Even in a small way. Even over the internet.
I really enjoyed your post about Abram and how God’s promise has a different timing than what we may consider appropriate. As a limitless God, I have to assume our Heavenly Father does not consider time as we do. What is 25 years to God who knows no beginning or end? But, your point is well taken.
When I study Abram’s life, one of the lessons I learn about our “detours” is that they can be detours of disobedience. Much like the detour of Abram leaving the land of promise to go to Egypt in Gen. 12 and then he lied about Sarai. Yet, God turned Abram’s disobedience and decption into something that advances His own plan. With hindsight, I see that God had helped Abram along the way from the calling out of Ur, enriching his life and growng his estate all along the way… even providing a temporary heir for his household (why did Lot follow from Ur?). Why would Abram think that God would not provide for his household during a famine? Once Abram escaped from the dangers of his lies and disobedience and migrated back into the land of promise, his reaction was worship … as ours should always be. God used these things for good according to God’s purpose.
But, my ultimate point is that God is executing a single, albiet infinately complex, plan that started before the creation of the Earth and will end in His glorification in the Day of the Lord. This includes the weaving in of all our lives (whether obedient or disobedient) into His plan. The higher question then is does God’s plan account for, anticipate, adjust, for our detours. I’m not sure I’m smart enough to figure out this theological principle, but I’m just glad that when my detours do happen, whether by something good or ill, that my God is not shaken by them and His will cannot be thwarted.
This very thing was reinforced when even after God appeared and made a covenant with Abram, Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands and tried to speed up God’s plan by having Abram sire a son through Hagar. Immediate results were problematic; long-term results were divine.
He is a good and gracious God.