7 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.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 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.” 10 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. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 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. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
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, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
We know from archeology that a common practice in the Middle East of Abraham’s day was to make a covenant that involved the slaughter of animals. A king could make a binding agreement with his subject and that agreement had promises and obligations. Animals would then be slaughtered and divided. The servant, entering the covenant with the king, would walk between the animal parts. It symbolized that if the servant failed to keep his end of the deal, he would wind up like the animals.
Abraham knew this. God tells Abraham that he will possess great land and his offspring shall be numerous like the stars. Abraham was old and childless, but God promised him these things.
God then told Abraham to cut up the animal parts. Surely, given the pattern of the age, Abraham expected to walk between the parts. But that is not what happened. Here in Genesis we have one of the most unusual aspects of the Judeo-Christian heritage. The God of the Jews and Christians enters into a covenant with Abraham — a contractual arrangement between the two with blessings and curses on both of them. Gods of other religions do not negotiate contracts with their faithful. But our God wants not just our worship, but a relationship with us.
Look what happens. Instead of Abraham walking between the parts of the animals to symbolize what will happen should he fail, the God of all Creation does it. Abraham knows the meaning of the smoking fire pot and flaming torch. He knows it is the presence of God himself.
What a great Lord. God makes a covenant with Abraham and binds himself for eternity to see that it is fulfilled. God shows Abraham that he will make sure even Abraham’s part of the covenant is fulfilled. God will take on both sides of the covenant and God will die in order to honor the terms of the agreement if Abraham cannot fulfill his end of the bargain.
Yes! Look at that! God is willing to die in Abraham’s place should Abraham fail his part of the covenant. God walked between the animal parts in Abraham’s place.
Friend, cast your burdens on the Lord. Know that you can. Look at God with Father Abraham. God is willing to fulfill the covenant with Abraham and ultimately does on the cross. If God is willing to ensure Abraham cannot fail, despite being a sinful, failing man, think what God is willing to do in your life.
The God of all creation entered into a binding covenant with Abraham and pledged His own death if Abraham should fail his part of the agreement or if God should fail his part of the agreement. No god of any religion has ever done that save the one true God.
We see that love on the cross and it is a love that can take on all your burdens, all your worries, and wash you in loving redemption. You cannot fail with your trust in God because God made a promise thousands of years ago to Abraham. And in that promise God said he would pass through the slaughter for us.
Look to Heaven for our God is a great God of mercy who keeps his promises till the end of all days.