Righteous Judgment for Sin
Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13-16)
When the LORD cut covenant with Abram He told him about the bittersweet future Abram’s descendants would experience. They would be afflicted in an alien land for over four centuries, but then God would judge the afflicting nation and bring out His people with great wealth. The alien land was Egypt; the descendants of Abram (Abraham) were the children of Israel. On a personal basis, Abram would live a long life.
Why were Abram’s descendants in Egypt for four hundred years? Why that length of time? The reason God gives was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete.
The designation Amorites is used as a term for all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. They were a wicked, idolatrous, evil people, yet the LORD allowed four hundred years for them to change their minds and hearts. If they did not repent, their culture would become completely unlivable, utterly unredeemable. They would forfeit their rights to live.
History records that they did not repent, therefore God sent forth His judgment. Much later, Moses would write about these people in a warning to Israel:
“Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 18:24-25)
Sin is spiritual cancer which metastasizes into an entire population. The spiritually dead die even more quickly. Evil spreads, infects, and destroys everyone in its path. For the LORD to bring His people back into the land of complete wickedness, He would have to eradicate them. Otherwise, Israel would not have been able to survive there.
Because God is merciful, He decided to begin afresh in that land, giving the Lord’s people the opportunity to thrive as God’s covenant people.
For Further Review
1. Read 2 Peter 3:9, and write down the ways in which God was merciful and gracious toward the Amorites.
2. Read 1 Timothy 1:15-16, and write down the ways in which God has been merciful and gracious toward you.
3. What effect does it have when sin is expunged from a culture?
4. What effect does it have when sin is not allowed to reign in one’s personal life?