7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:7-12, 17-21 ESV)
Yesterday, in looking at the story of Noah, we were introduced to an important biblical concept called “covenant.” We said, “A covenant is simply an agreement that binds two parties together and lays out what is expected of each party if they are to have a relationship. It also describes what the relationship will look like if the parties live up to their end of the agreement, and lays out the consequences if a party does not live up to the terms of the covenant.” Today’s story continues with this theme.
Sometime after Noah, a man named Abram (later Abraham) was given a promise from God (Genesis 12) that includes the prophecy that God will make Abram a great nation and from this nation God will bless the entire world. God reaffirms that covenant in our reading for today. Abram is told to bring various animals and cut them each in half. He then is to divide the halves. Many scholars believe that this “cutting of a covenant” is a picture signifying what will happen if a party to the covenant does not live up to their end of the bargain. In other words, even God is promising that if He doesn’t fulfill His covenant responsibilities, He will become like the dead animals (see Jeremiah 34:18-19). What a picture!
Then something incredible happens. Normally, both parties would walk through the cut-up animals together, showing that each is committing themselves to the consequences of not fulfilling the covenantal terms. But in Genesis 15, God makes Abram fall into a deep sleep, where he is unable to walk through and make such promises. God walks through alone. As we saw yesterday, mankind has always failed to live up to his end of the deal when it came to having a relationship with a holy God. God understands our inability to do so, so He walks through and makes the promise for both parties. As we saw yesterday, this is what Jesus did when He became a Man – He entered the world to live a perfectly righteous life (thus living up to our end of the bargain for us) and taking the punishment for not being able to live up to the covenant upon Himself (thus, being crucified in our place). Because He did what He did for us, we are now truly able to have a covenant relationship with God!