God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward, they will come out with many possessions.” Genesis 15:13-15
We would be thrilled if God singled us out like Abram for a purpose and a blessing. But why did God also promise slavery? With the same determined force with which He promised blessing, God also promised slavery.
There are many parallels between Abram and Noah, and God’s covenant with Abram demonstrates that the flood story is not about God dealing with a surprise situation or problem. The flood of evil in the world was never God’s desire, but its existence was and is part of His will. God determined that slavery must be part of this story, not because it is good in itself, but because it creates space for good by its existence.
Love cannot exist without hatred as a possibility. I can believe that my friends love me, but until I offend them and find forgiveness with them, I do not know that they love me.
“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
What would love be if there was never a need to be kind, patient, forgiving,
gracious, merciful, selfless, humble, or enduring? Love would be nothing, non-existent.
God loves to prosper us. The problem
with the “prosperity gospel,” is not that God wants to bless us. The problem is that prosperity preachers usually preach blessings without the cross. God does want to prosper us, just as He wanted to bless Noah and Abram. But the blessings of God come through a cross, a red sea, and a flood of evil. God’s love is revealed in a world where evil can do its worst because, in a flood of evil, love can display its greater depth.
For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2
Food is better when there is contrast. Salty and sweet, crunchy and soft, sharp and mellow, etc. God does not want us to experience evil as though it has any redemptive quality. But evil’s existence allows us to taste something that does have incredibly powerful redemptive qualities: suffering.
Every child has a natural bond with his mother forged in the nine-month fire of pregnancy and childbirth. Nothing humbles a man and teaches him to love his wife, like witnessing childbirth. Nothing instills what we call “a natural bond” or a built-in love between child and mother, like childbirth. The elements needed to form a strong bond can exist close together, but they will never be joined without the fire of affliction. Even Jesus would not be Jesus without suffering.
“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8
This is a difficult statement: Jesus learned obedience through His suffering! Who knew that Jesus could learn something new? I am reminded of the truth that God will never send you into a storm He isn't willing to enter with you. Everything good and evil that God prophesied over Noah and Abraham, He prophesied over Himself. Jesus is the one who would bear our suffering and enter our slavery so that He could plunder the treasures of our enemy. Evil is our enemy but suffering is a gateway for God’s love. God will turn your suffering into plundering the enemy’s camp.