April 16 I Friday
1 Samuel 30-31
“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…” —Genesis 15:17-18
Each time God revealed Himself and His promise to Abram, it was through His words. At God’s fourth reaffirmation of His commitment to Abram, He did it in a peculiar manner. God reminded Abram, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” Abram believed the Lord, but he wanted some certainty, so he asked, “Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:7-8).
God is true to His Word. However, in His grace, to set Abram’s mind at peace, He sealed His promise with a covenant. The Lord said, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram…along with a dove and a young pigeon.” When Abram brought all these animals, he “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” (Genesis 15:9-11).
Afterwards, Abram fell into a deep sleep and a thick, dreadful darkness came over him. God gave him a glimpse of the future, saying, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and ill-treated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves… In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here....” (Genesis 15:13-16). Not only did God establish a formal covenant agreement with Abram, but He also gave him a glimpse of how all this was going to come to pass.
God assured Abram of His promise, but revealed that there would be some generations of pain before it came to fulfillment. Just as birds of prey came down on the carcasses that Abram laid, there would be enslavement, mistreatment, oppression and slavery of Abram’s descendants. But God’s sure promise to deliver them is confirmed in a remarkable way.
God used an ancient Near Eastern cultural practice to seal the covenant. After the animals were cut in half and laid on both sides, both parties would walk through the carcasses of the animal, which in effect symbolically stated if either party did not carry out their part of the deal, they would be treated like one of the animals. Also, if either party breached the covenant made, their life would end like the sacrifices that were made. The fascinating point is that Abram was not required to pass through the offering, God walked through it by Himself. We can have full assurance of God’s sure promises in Scripture because He is always true.
Prayer: Dear Sovereign Lord, Your promises are sure because You are always true. I can place my complete trust in You. Thank You, Lord.