Why Is God Obsessed With Land?

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 15[1]

The facet of Christianity I’ve been exposed to is obsessed with going to Heaven. A “place” we know little about. The Bible offers sparse details about the place God lives. Angels who eat mana live there. Jesus is returning to earth on a horse, so there might be other animals there. Individuals who have had life after death experiences speak of light, love, beauty and family that have gone before them. Jesus said he was returning to his father in heaven to prepare a place for us. The last time the disciples saw Jesus, he ascended into the clouds. But the Bible concludes with everyone including God the father and Jesus coming back to earth.

In contrast to my experience in Christianity, God is obsessed with one son and land on earth. He promised one seed of Abram, who Christians call Lord Jesus, land on earth. He also promised land to Abram, but Abram had no greater prospects of possessing the land than he had of Sarai bearing a child.

After God affirmed that one of Abram’s children would become more numerous than the stars in the sky, he returned to the subject of land. “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it,” he said to Abram.

The Abram believed his seed would be more numerous than the stars of the sky but he wasn’t sure about possessing land that was already occupied. He wanted an assurance he would possess the land. God responded by making a covenant.[2] Animals were cut in two and both parties walked between the animals invoking as they did so that a violator of the covenant would be cut in two as the animals were. Therefore, if God does not do what he said, he must be killed. Since no one is more powerful than God, the enforcement of this covenant rest solely on God’s integrity.

Before God passed between the pieces of animals, he delivered a bittersweet message to Abram. For 400 years Abram’s family would be strangers on land they did not possess. A clear indication Abram will die without possessing the land God promised. The news gets worse before it gets better. Within those 400 years, Abram’s family will be enslaved and mistreated. Then God concludes on a positive note. Abram will die in peace after living a long life. God himself will punish the nation that mistreats Abram’s children, and they will return to Canaan with great possessions.

God also cited a good reason for the delay in taking possession of the land. “The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”[3] A tyrant would drive the people from the land or exterminate them without just cause. God does not operate like a tyrant. By the time Abram’s children returned the Amorites were in a state of complete apostasy. When Abram’s children arrived to possess the land God deflated any notions that they were in some way superior to others. Moses warned the people before they crossed Jordan,

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you…”[4]

Clearly, the extent of God’s plan reaches farther than the brief time and space Abram occupied on planet earth. Abram played a part in the plan, but that is all. At this point in his life, I doubt he understood his part. In fact, his faith may have been shaken when God covenanted to give the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates not to Abram but to that nonexistent, impossible to produce child.  

God answered Abram’s question, “How do I know I will possess the land?” by giving the land to the seed, one of Abram’s future descendants. A gospel of grace set the responsibility of keeping a covenant with God upon one person willing to include a multitude more numerous than the stars of the sky in the promises of God. Christians call him Jesus, and everything God gave Jesus begins with land on earth.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Making a covenant by walking between animals cut in two is also referenced in Jeremiah 34:18.

[3] Genesis 15:16

[4] Deuteronomy 9:4-5

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