After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: "Don't be afraid, Abram. I'm your shield. Your reward will be grand!"
Abram said, "God, Master, what use are your gifts as long as I'm childless and Eliezer of Damascus is going to inherit everything?"
Abram continued, "See, you've given me no children, and now a mere house servant is going to get it all."
Then God's Message came: "Don't worry, he won't be your heir; a son from your body will be your heir."
Then he took him outside and said, "Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You're going to have a big family, Abram!"
And he believed! Believed God! God declared him "Set-Right-with-God."
God continued, "I'm the same God who brought you from Ur of the Chaldees and gave you this land to own."
Abram said, "Master God, how am I to know this, that it will all be mine?"
God said, "Bring me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, and a dove and a young pigeon."
He brought all these animals to him, split them down the middle, and laid the halves opposite each other. But he didn't split the birds.
Vultures swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them off.
As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy.
God said to Abram, "Know this: your descendants will live as outsiders in a land not theirs; they'll be enslaved and beaten down for 400 years.
Then I'll punish their slave masters; your offspring will march out of there loaded with plunder.
But not you; you'll have a long and full life and die a good and peaceful death.
Not until the fourth generation will your descendants return here; sin is still a thriving business among the Amorites."
When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses.
That's when God made a covenant with Abram: "I'm giving this land to your children, from the Nile River in Egypt to the River Euphrates in Assyria -
the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,
Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim,
Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)