Day 016: When God Makes a Covenant (Genesis 12-15)

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… (Genesis 15:17-18a)

There is a strange (and fairly gruesome) ancient near east custom described in Genesis 15. When two parties made a covenant in ancient times, they would ratify the covenant by slaughtering an animal (or several animals) and split the carcasses in half. Then both parties would walk between the pieces. The symbolism has become obscure over the centuries, but essentially each party was saying, “May the gods make me as one of these carcasses if I break this covenant.” (Fun fact, there is a theory that this is where the idiom “cutting a deal” comes from).

So when the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham in Genesis, all the elements of the covenant ceremony are there. The animals are killed. The carcasses are divided. But there the similarity stops, because only one party to the covenant walks between the carcasses. Verse 17 tells us that “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces.” But Abraham did not.

Here’s what I take away from this. Although verse 18 says that “the Lord made a covenant with Abram,” the truth is God is the one faithful party to this covenant. Human beings break their promises to God all the time. But God is the ever faithful, never failing, covenant keeping God. When God swears to keep a promise, He swears by Himself (see Isaiah 45:23; Genesis 22:16). If God was a witness in a courtroom, He would swear, “So help Me, Me.” Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13). We can trust God to always keep His promises.

Author: James

I pastor Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama. I read a lot, write a little, and drink lots of coffee. I have three callings in life: surrender to Christ, be a husband to Trish, and be the best father/grandfather I can be. Everything else is an assignment, because everything else can be done by someone else.

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