Verse: “A thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” Genesis 15:12
Admittedly, this is not an explicit story of spiritual warfare. But rather, Genesis 15 is one of immense darkness and horror. In the previous chapter Abram experienced great victory by exercising a courageous faith, where he towered upon the mountaintop of triumph. However, now he is afraid. Abram pours his heart out to the Lord- divulging his fears, concerns, anxieties and heartaches. Soon, the man finds himself walking through the Valley of Darkness.
“In this Scripture passage, the sun had finally gone down, and the eastern night had swiftly cast its heavy veil over the entire scene. Worn out by the mental conflict, and the exertion and the cares of the day, Abraham ‘fell into a deep sleep.’ During his sleep, his soul was oppressed with ‘a thick and dreadful darkness,’ which seemed to smother him and felt like a nightmare in his heart. Do you have an understanding of the horror of that kind of darkness? Have you ever experienced a terrible sorrow that seems difficult to reconcile with God’s perfect love- a sorrow that comes crashing down upon you, wrings from your soul its peaceful rest in the grace of God, and casts it into a sea of darkness that is unlit by even one ray of hope? Have you experienced a sorrow caused by unkindness, when others cruelly mistreat your trusting heart, and you even begin to wonder if there is really a God above who sees what is happening yet continues to allow it? If you know this kind of sorrow, then you know something of this ‘thick and dreadful darkness.’” Streams in the Desert
“Abraham had an experience of what spiritual directors call ‘the dark night of the soul.’ The term comes from a sixteenth-century spiritual classic of that title by St. John of the Cross. Based on the night scenes described in the Son of Songs, the book tells how the child of God enters into deeper love and faith by experiencing temporary darkness and seeming separation from God. It is not an easy thing to experience, but sometimes necessary.” The Wiersbe Bible Old Testament Commentary, Volume 1
Undoubtedly God was faithful in the end. Though, the Lord fulfilled the Covenant in His own timing- not Abraham’s. This is God’s M.O. While our patience frequently grows thin, the Lord moves along as He pleases. Not only are His ways not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), but “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Only God knows if Abraham was encountering a spiritual warfare. I can only make assumptions based off the text. Yet there will be times God ordains a “thick and dreadful darkness” for our own good. Not every bad experience can be chalked up to demons vs. angels- though the intensity very well may feel like one. Furthermore, there will also be occasions when we feel as though the Lord has abandoned us. Yet in reality He is only a short distance away. Consider Matthew 14:22-33, which we recently discussed last month. As the Disciples drifted through a storm amidst the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was atop of a mountain praying.
The men looked around. Jesus was nowhere to be found. Only darkness and gigantic waves could be seen. But a few hours before the sun would raise the Son of Man appeared in glory, walking on the water. He quieted the winds, and led them to safe shores. Never forget of the hope which anchors the soul for the one who has trusted in Jesus. He is our Forerunner (Hebrews 6:19-20).
Often times when journeying this path of “thick and dreadful darkness” our vision becomes distorted. Seeing our hand is difficult enough in the pitch blackness, much less ten feet ahead. Nevertheless, our eyes must be firmly focused in on Jesus Christ. This is where courageous faith is required. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. As God said to Abram in Genesis 15, “Do not fear…I am a shield to you…” This is the very first time the commandment “Do not fear” is mentioned in the entire Bible. Our flesh frequently forgets that “God’s I AM is perfectly adequate for man’s ‘I am not.’” Warren Wiersbe
Jesus is our armor. Hide behind His unwavering protection. He is the One who conquered the world. “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Quote: “One who truly fears God, and is obedient to Him, may be in a condition of darkness, and have no light; and he may walk many days and years in that condition.” Puritan Thomas Goodwin
Additional Readings: Genesis 15, Deuteronomy 32:17, John 16, and Ephesians 6:10-20
Prayer: “Father God please forgive me for my fear. Give me a courageous faith like Abraham once had. When I journey through the “thick and dreadful darkness,” carry me through the valley. Be my Light and compass amidst the blackness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”