In this passage, the conversation of our last post continues, this time Abraham asks God how he can be sure that God will give him the land of Canaan, an amazing question all things considered. God’s reply is even more amazing: He swears out a covenant.
So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. (15:9-11)
God’s response was to tell Abram to gather certain animals together, which Abram did and cut them in half, laying the carcasses out with the halves side by side. In doing so, Abram consented to the covenant in blood without swearing an oath which is not the Old Testament norm.
Then, God swears an oath:
Beginning in verse 13, God tells Abram that his descendants will be taken to Egypt where they will be enslaved 400 years which is a part of the Covenant we don’t often bring up in Sunday School. Abram will not be involved in that phase as he will have died at a ripe old age. Then God will save the people out of Egypt after they become enriched from the wealth of that land (15:13-16).
Next, God passed through the carcasses in the form of fire, swearing that He gives the Land to Abram’s descendants (15:17-21). Normally both parties would march through the bloody carcasses, symbolizing that if they broke their covenant, this would be their fate, but here only God passes through. Why was it done this way?
There was no way for Abraham to avoid sinning against God because there was no provision for atonement for sins in this covenant; that would come along much later. When you step back and consider these incredible events, you quickly find yourself in one of those “Wow” moments, for God had sworn and passed through the blood on Abram’s behalf. This means that God took the penalty for the sins of Abram and those who would follow upon Himself, setting the stage for our Christmas Story, for when the Lamb of God appeared as a babe in that manger, God was fulfilling His obligation to Abram to pay for his sin.
Merry Christmas indeed!