God makes a lot of promises to Abraham; He seals a lot of covenants with the faithful man. But it doesn't escape our perception that most of the promises, the covenants, are really just the same promise over and over and over again - you will be a great nation, and I will give this land to your descendants.
Actually, God wants Abraham to not have to wait for his descendants, so the Lord brings the man to the land that He promises to give him, even in his lifetime. He takes him to the place He's promised and says, "Check this out. This land, this whole land, this beautiful and fertile and great land, is going to be yours."
But not yet.
Abraham has been promised the land - multiple times - but if we watch carefully in the story of Abraham, we see that everywhere Abraham goes in his lifetime, he's an alien. A foreigner. A stranger. The land has been promised to him, but it's not his yet, and every time we see Abraham, he's deferring to the people who currently live in the land, trying to appease them, trying to live in harmony with them.
He never asserts his authority, never claims his promise. He doesn't storm in and declare that the land is now his. He doesn't take more than he pays for. He doesn't set up his home and push everyone else out. He's meek about the whole thing, truly meek.
Because he believes in God's promise, he doesn't have to be anything else.
It's an important principle for us. We are a people who like to storm into our own lives, take charge and take names. We're a people who like to claim what's coming to us and hold on tight, taking our lives in our own hands and declaring every honor, privilege, gift that we deserve. Most of us, if given the promise that something is ours, would just go and take it.
Foreigners? Ha. Strangers? Not a chance. How could we be strangers in our own land? How can we be aliens on a piece of property that's been promised - essentially deeded - to us? It's not our fault that other persons happen to live here, happen to be in the way. This is ours, and we're taking it.
Our complete inability to be gentle with our own lives, ravenously devouring every promise and every chance and every hope that we have, has left us completely unable to be gentle with others, as well. So while we're busy taking our own lives by storm, we're running bulldozers over the rest of the world to get it.
All the while, usually, proclaiming the love and goodness of God. Because, you know.
It's interesting to watch Abraham live this story. It's telling to see how he does it, how it demonstrates his great faith and faithfulness. He's the only man in the entire world, at this point, with a real home. He's the only one who has a promise to any part of the land. And he lives as a foreigner, so as not to harm those who don't have the same promise, who don't have the same hope.
It makes me wonder what our lives, our world, would look like if we did the same. What if we took the promise that we have, the hope that we have, and let it make us meek? What if we used our promise, our hope, as a reason not to act the way the rest of the world acts? What if we were so sure of our place called Home that we were confident and comfortable enough to live as foreigners here?
We are strangers in a strange land. We always have been. The promise doesn't change that. In fact, it ought to humble us into knowing it all the more.