Genesis 15:17-18. 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.
Remember when you were a kid and when you made a promise you would say “cross my heart hope to die, stick a needle in my eye?” That whole “hope to die” part always seemed a bit extreme didn’t it? But in the Bible when God makes promises to people the penalty of death for breaking the promise was always on the table.
It’s called a covenant. In the Bible a covenant is an agreement between two parties that creates a loving relationship that is also legally binding, breakable only by death (cross my heart hope to die). This was graphically illustrated in the covenant ceremonies of the ancient near east. A ceremony God and Abraham went through in Genesis 15.
When Abraham was full of fear and doubts God formalized his promises to Abraham with the traditional covenant ceremony. It was called “cutting the covenant,” and it was quite intense. Animals were cut in pieces and spread out creating a bloody aisle that both parties would walk through as they made their promises to each other. It was as if to say, “may I be cut in half like these animals if I do not keep my promise.”
But the covenant cutting between God and Abraham looked a bit different than normal. The Bible describes a deep darkness that came over Abraham like a trance. Then God, appearing as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, passed through the carcasses of the animals alone, while Abraham did nothing.
What does this mean? It means that God was both making promises TO Abraham, and he was making promises AS Abraham. It means God was promising to uphold both ends of the covenant. It means that God will be Abraham’s righteousness (Gen. 15:6). It means that God will die if he breaks the covenant (which won’t happen), but that he will also die if Abraham or his descendants break the covenant (which will happen). It means that God is risking his life for this relationship. He “crossed his heart and hoped to die.” For us.
Why would God do all this? Isn’t it risky for God to even deal with us at all? But to risk his own life for this relationship? That’s beyond risky, isn’t it?
Not if you’re in love.
And it will be this same love that will cause God to cut another covenant with mankind 2000 years after Abraham. On another day of deep darkness Jesus was torn in two for us. His body was broken. His blood was spilled. On that day Jesus Christ, the God-man, passed through death as we watched helplessly in the darkness, unable to contribute anything to our own salvation. But like the smoke and fire walking between the animals, Jesus passed all the way through to the other side. To life. To light. To love.
In Christ, God has made a new covenant with us. And like his covenant with Abraham, God will keep it himself. Jesus our God will keep the obligations of God, and Jesus our substitute will keep the obligations of man. Praise God!
“To live is Christ” means that we now live in the glory of God’s new covenant with us. Like Father Abraham, we can live each day in the peace of knowing that our union with Christ has granted to us every blessing of his covenant faithfulness. The blessings of the presence of God.
So when you doubt God’s love, look at the cross where the covenant was cut for you. When you break the covenant, remember Jesus was broken for you. When the darkness is overwhelming, remember that Jesus made a way through it. And as you remember the covenant it will empower you to live for him. A living sacrifice, not torn in half, but united to Christ.
Where do you find yourself doubting the love of God lately?
You in Christ
In Christ you have every covenant blessing. How does this truth relieve your doubts and fears?
Christ in you
How can knowing that covenant obedience has already been accomplished make obeying God a joy today, rather than a hassle?
Playlist: God’s Promises
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