By Pastor Glem Melo
The Lord is merciful and gracious to His children. After confirming and reassuring Abram of His covenant promise, He set out to comfort and strengthen His child through a covenant ceremony.
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.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 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.” 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. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 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. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 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, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:7-21)
“Made a covenant” in verse 18 literally means cut a covenant. This is visually depicted in the cutting of animal sacrifices “in half” (10). Later on, fiery symbols of God’s person and presence “passed between these pieces” (17).
In his commentary on the book of Genesis, Victor Hamilton explains,
“[A]nimals were slaughtered in treaty contraction ceremonies… [T]the two parties to the treaty walked between the rows of freshly killed animal flesh, and in so doing placed a curse upon themselves if either party should prove disloyal to the terms of the treaty: May they too be torn apart if they are responsible in any way for violating the arrangement.”
In his book The Christ of the Covenants, O. Palmer Robertson gives an excellent definition and explanation of what a covenant is:
“A covenant is a bond-in-blood. It involves commitments with life-and-death consequences. At the point of covenantal inauguration, the parties of the covenant are committed to one another by a formalizing process of blood-shedding. This blood-shedding represents the intensity of the commitment of the covenant. By the covenant they are bound for life and death.”
This is astounding beyond words! To comfort and strengthen Abram, God used the ancient, bloody ritual of covenant-making or covenant-cutting. By the passing of His fiery symbols between the cut animal sacrifices, He made a solemn oath to his struggling child. Through the cutting of the covenant, He guaranteed the consummate fulfillment of all His promises. And this encouraged and enabled Abram to persevere in the life of faith.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, when we struggle in the Christian life, let us fix our eyes on our faithful, unchanging, unfailing covenant King and Father. Two thousand years ago, He sent His Son Jesus to save us and to establish ”the new covenant in his blood” (Luke 22:20). Through His sufferings and death, Christ paid for sins and God bound Himself to us with His solemn oath. His gracious, sacred commitment to us (gloriously manifested and displayed on the cross) guarantees the consummate fulfillment of all the promises of salvation and inheritance that He has given us in His word.
Fellow Christian pilgrims in a fallen world, let us expel all doubts, fears and worries by being rooted and grounded in the gospel of God’s new and eternal covenant in Christ’s blood.
- Through His sufferings and death, Christ totally paid for all your sins.
- Because of His pierced body and shed blood, your inheritance in the new heaven and new earth is 100% guaranteed.
Therefore, we can, and must, persevere in the life of faith and pilgrimage.