Thur., Jan. 27/22
Occasionally, when I am under great stress, overtired, or exposed to a sudden flash of light, I experience what is called an “opthalmic” or “ocular” migraine. Caused by blood vessel spasms in the retina, these episodes create a strange visual experience where one sees in fragmented, jumbled or partly missing pieces of imagery. They are not painful, though they are exhausting. But the worst thing about them is the most fearsome terror that accompanies them! I do not understand this terror. I know my distorted vision will clear within about 40 minutes, yet there remains this horrible terror, this dark dread! Others also have testified to this.
So when I read of Abraham’s experience in Genesis 15 I can well imagine the “thick and dreadful darkness” which flooded in upon him. How horrible to be roused from deep sleep to this! This horror of darkness and unexplained dread! But just what is going on here? — Why is this happening to Abraham?
Abraham was 75 years old when God said to him, “I will make you into a great nation… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:2-3). He repeated the promise in 13:16 and again in 15:5. Abraham is now in his mid-80s yet “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6).
In Abraham’s day contracts were made by the parties to the agreement walking between the split carcasses of sacrificially slain animals. Abraham knew this practice well and the Almighty directs him to prepare for it. (Gen. 15:18; See also Jer. 34:18-20). Exhausted from all this and from chasing away the birds of prey which had other plans, Abraham falls into a deep, but interrupted, sleep: “When the sun was setting, a deep sleep overcame Abram, and a horror (a terror, a shuddering fear) of great darkness assailed and oppressed him.” (Gen. 15:12, Amplified Bible).
In Proverbs we learn that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge… the beginning of wisdom… [our] strong confidence” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 14:26). One function of the darkness and the horror Abram experienced, says Henry, was to strike awe and holy reverence in Abraham.
We see a similar thing in Exodus 20, in the giving of the Ten Commandments: “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (v. 18-19)
But Moses understood and said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” And scripture records, “So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” (v. 20 -21). Moses chose to be where God was. Moses pressed on into the darkness… “the thick darkness where God was.”
American author Annie Dillard has noted, “If…you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required.” Where do you prefer to be? Afar off, where you feel safe? Or in the present darkness, where God is? This is a question worthy of some very careful consideration.
Sometimes the darkness is a tragedy, a trial brought by the fallen state of this present world, a loss, a challenge. But with this darkness comes the deep and awesome Presence of God. He is in that darkness… with you. Do not run to flee the darkness. Run deeper into Him… into the thick darkness… where God is.