I wanted to break down the Genesis 15 today and really point out the powerful covenant that God makes with Abraham in this chapter. This is probably one of my favorite chapters in all of the book of Genesis. This chapter starts out:
“After these events, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great.” ~Genesis 15:1
I’m not sure that the Scriptures ever give exact reasoning for this affirmation the Lord gives Abraham. Abraham had just came back from a battle with some of the kings from the land (Genesis 14), so perhaps he was anxious about what the kings may do. Maybe he was in distress about the promise that the Lord made in back Genesis 12 (ancestors, land, etc) had not came to pass. This seems likely due to Abraham’s response in the following verses:
“But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” ~Genesis 15:2-3
Whatever the reason may have been, it was clear that the Lord felt that Abraham needed some comforting. God answers Abraham question by assuring him that the heir will come from his own body.
“Now the word of the LORD came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” ~Genesis 15:4-5
Abraham, despite his old age, was promised to have a child. God again reaffirms the promise made to Abraham a few chapters back in Genesis that Abraham will have many descendants. Abraham immediately believed what God said. He didn’t wavor in unbelief. He didn’t wonder if God was really going to do it. He simply believed that God was going to do what He said He was going to do. So the Lord counted Abraham as righteous. (Genesis 15:6)
“He also said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “Lord GOD, how can I know that I will possess it?” He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” So he brought all these to Him, split them down the middle, and laid the pieces opposite each other, but he did not cut up the birds. Birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, a deep sleep fell on Abram, and suddenly great terror and darkness descended on him.” ~Genesis 15: 7-12
After assuring Abraham that his heir would indeed be his own child, God then reaffirms another part of the promise previously given (Genesis 12) by saying that He was going to give him a land that God Himself would show Abraham. Abraham then asks God, “How do I know that I will inherit this land?” Understand that disbelief is not what was in Abraham heart. He simply wanted to know how in the world this really could happen to him, especially at his age. I think any one of us would ask the same thing and feel the same way.
God responds by telling Abraham to get various animals and cut them down the middle from top to bottom (except the birds). He was then to lay the animals opposite of each other on the ground. For illustration purposes, picture and apple. You cut it down the middle from top to bottom. Then lay two sides opposite of each other. You then have a two symmetrically even pieces of apple and an opening in between them. That is the same concept of these animals. This was called a bedeth or “to cut a covenant”. This was a common way of expressing a covenant at that time. Usually two parties would stand on opposite ends of the animals, then pass through the opening in between the dead animals. That would then solidify the agreement for whatever the two parties were agreeing on. The idea was that if anyone breaks that covenant, may it what happened to the animals happen to the one who broke the promise. So basically, you break the promise, you die type of agreement. But notice an important detail that comes later in the chapter:
“When the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River: the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” ~Genesis 15:17-21
Notice that God alone passes through the animals. Abraham does nothing to contribute to this covenant. God alone passes through the animals, and Abraham has to simply believe that God’s promise is true. So basically what God was saying was, “May I die if I ever break this covenant”. How powerful! This paints a powerful parallel to the New Testament to us as Christians. Jesus Christ alone was hung on the cross. We could do nothing to satisfy God’s wrath. All we could do is simply sit back and watch as the Lord was crucified. Just like Abraham, all we are asked to do is believe. Just like Abraham, we are justified by faith. Understand that does not mean we aren’t expected to live to God’s holy standards as the Bible lays out. The Bible is clear that we are to make an effort on our part to maintain a life worthy of the Gospel (2 Peter 1:5-11, Ephesians 4:1, Thessalonians 5:12-23, Philippians 2:12). But understand that Jesus Christ alone is the only one who can save us. (To see read more about Faith and Salvation check out “Faith” and “What is the Way to Salvation” in my blog site joeycoons.wordpress.com) Paul makes this clear as well in the book of Romans:
“He (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” -Romans 4:20-25 (parentheses added)
I hope this post today encourages you and really speaks to you about the power of God’s promises. God is an amazing God and has great things that He wants to bestow on us all. We only need to believe and act upon His commands. God bless!