Read His Words Before Ours!
As Abram gathered the animals for the sacrifice, he must have done so with trepidation.
This would be no ordinary sacrifice. He was preparing to enter into a covenant, a binding agreement, with the Almighty God. This was a serious matter.
Abram knew he was unworthy. He had always been unworthy. His life had been spent worshipping idols until his encounter with the true, living God changed everything, prompting him to step out in faith and obedience leave his homeland, Ur, to travel to Canaan. (Genesis 12:1-4)
Since then, Abram had seen God’s faithfulness. God had led him to Canaan, blessed him, and promised him an abundance of descendants. His words to Abram had always been full of grace and encouragement, and Abram believed God, despite the seeming impossibility of the promise.
Even so, Abram felt uneasy. He knew he was far from perfect. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked God for reassurance about His promise. (Genesis 15:2-3, 8) As he gathered the cow, the female goat, the ram, the turtledove, and the pigeon God required, he was all too aware of their fate, and he began to ponder his own fate for failing the covenant.
Who was he to make a covenant with God?
Then came the part he was dreading the most, cutting the animals in half. As the blood of the animals was splattered and spilled and he arranged half of each animal to line either side of a small ditch, allowing the blood to pool, Abram reflected on the covenant into which God was directing him to enter. To seal a covenant, both parties would walk the path of blood, symbolising how, if they broke the terms of the covenant, they too could be slaughtered like the animals.
Here was the cause of his fear: Abram doubted his ability to keep the covenant. What would happen to him if his choices failed to honour God? Deep down, he knew that it wasn’t so much a matter of “if” he would fail, but “when.” At some point, it was inevitable.
God, however, was fully aware of Abram’s unworthiness, still He also knew his faith, and it pleased Him. (Hebrews 11:6) He had seen Abram’s faith in action as Abram responded to the call to leave his home and step into the unknown. God knew that despite his imperfection, Abram trusted His promises, and God had a plan. Faith would save where works could not. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
God knew that Abram would never be able to keep the terms of the covenant. If it depended on Abram’s goodness and his ability to keep the moral law, it would certainly fail. God knew that the only way to preserve Abram’s family line and this covenant promise was for Him to walk the blood path for both of them.
So, as darkness fell, God put Abram into a deep rest while allowing him to see the vision of what He was about to do on Abram’s behalf. The silence of night surrounded Abram and the ground where blood gathered became sacred as a smoking fire pot and flaming torch passed between the pieces of the animals; God secured His promise by His own faithfulness. Smoke and fire are common symbols of God’s presence in the Bible, e.g. the smoke on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:17-19) and the burning bush where God met with Moses (Exodus 3:1-2). Here, they represent God walking the path of blood. God alone.
How relieved Abram must have been to find that he was not required to walk the path, to discover that the covenant did not depend on his own faithfulness but on God’s, and therefore, it could not fail. (2 Timothy 2:13)
Abram would have a child, and, despite enduring 400 years of slavery, his descendants would return to possess the land. (Joshua 1:1-9)
All of this pointed ahead to a day when an even greater sacrifice would be made; when, in Jesus, God sacrificed Himself. (John 19) As blood dripped from His thorn-crowned head and poured from the nail-wounds piercing His hands and feet, He sealed His promise forever
And He secured the hope for all who trust in Him that we, like Abram’s descendants, would one day be brought home, not simply to Canaan, but to the Promised Land of eternity where God and man would dwell together, free from sin’s entanglement. (Revelation 21:1-4)
For us, as for Abram, the good news is that this does not depend on our goodness, our ability, or our faithfulness. As He walked the blood path of incredible sacrifice, Jesus did all that was necessary.
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