Yesterday, we saw that Abram finally had saving faith in God. As a result of His saving faith, God renews his covenant with Abram. Yet, Abram still doubts and asks for a sign. That’s the fickle thing about doubt: it never quite goes away, but keeps resurfacing. Abram asks for a sign, and boy does God give him one! It may seem strange to us, but God used a ritual that Abram would understand in order to emphasize the covenant that He was making.
Please read Genesis 15:7-21.
This ritual that Abram performs is not one that is widely attested either in Scripture or outside of it. It does appear in Jeremiah 34:18, and enough extrabiblical texts for us to know that this was not unique, but it sure seems strange. Typically, when such a covenant was made between two parties, they would sever the bodies of an animal sacrifice, and both parties would walk through them, essentially saying, “if I break this covenant, may my body be torn in two like these animals.” It was a deadly oath that the parties were swearing in order to promise that they would not break the covenant.
Yet, God Himself does not walk through the animal carcasses. He makes a promise to Abram, and then, Abram has a dream. In this dream, symbols of God pass through the sacrifice on His behalf. While this is a strange ritual to us, the point was made clearly to the ancient audience: God will most definitely, certainly, absolutely fulfill this covenant that He is making with Abram.
And what exactly are the terms of that covenant? God promises that Abram’s descendants will eventually conquer the Promised Land, four generations after Abram has died. What is Abram’s part in the covenant? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. God makes a promise, but Abram is under no such obligation.
This is striking, because a covenant of this type requires two parties coming together and making promises to each other. Yet, Abram is required to make no promise. God will fulfill His promise no matter what.
This is the same kind of assurance that we have today in our salvation. No matter what I might do, no matter how far I might fall, no matter how sinful my thoughts, words, or actions may be, nothing can take me out of my Father’s hands. If I ever was truly saved, then I always will be truly saved. There is nothing that I could ever do to earn my salvation, and there is nothing that I could ever do to keep my salvation. It is all completely a gift of God!
He alone deserves all the praise, honor and glory. He alone deserves all the sacrifice. Except, in today’s world, maybe don’t chop a heifer in half and chase away birds from the carcass. Sacrifice to God today by presenting “your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Do this not out of obligation, as if you’ve made a covenant with God, but out of gratitude for the covenant that He has made with us through Jesus Christ.