In today’s society, executing a contract requires a stack of papers, a slew of signatures, and a lawyer. In ancient times, a contract—more specifically, a covenant—was sealed between men when each man walked through the severed carcasses of animals as if to say, “If I break this promise, may it be done to me as it has been to them.” Today’s scripture focuses on the covenant between God and Abram, and it culminates with God graphically signing the contract, promising an eternal reward to his most precious creation.
- Think of a recent time when you signed a contract. What did you commit yourself to when you signed the contract, and what was required of you to seal the deal?
READ THE WORD: GENESIS 15:1-21 (ESV)
15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own sonshall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
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. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
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.”
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- While Abram slept, God provided details of his covenant with Abram. List the promises God gave in verses 13-16, and label each as seemingly positive or negative.What is the significance of the smoking fire pot and flaming torch passing between the pieces of animals (vss. 17-20)? What can you infer from the fact that God alone passed between the animals while Abram slept?
- In what ways have you experienced the perceived highs and lows of God’s promises? How have you, a fellow sojourner with Abram, responded to these ups and downs?
RESPOND TO GOD
Like Abram, we are “sojourners in a land that is not [our own].” Like Abram, we must know that entering into a relationship with God will not ensure earthly ease. And like Abram, our covenant with God is dependent on his commitment to us. Through the act of Jesus on the cross, God passed through, sealing his covenant with us. This doesn’t promise us earthly possessions or land, but it does secure a final destination in the glorious promised land of eternity because God alone sealed the deal. We could not break the covenant if we tried.
- Thank God that he sealed his covenant with you through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and that your future is secure.
- Ask God to impress upon you the significance of the fact that our covenant is about him and him alone.