In our study of Genesis chapter fifteen, we will look at God's covenant with Abram and how it applies to our lives in Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered why the so-called "Mideast Peace Process" fails every time? We will see the answer to this question as well as the question of whether you can lose your salvation or not.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.'
In chapter 14, we saw Abram turn down the spoils of his victory that were offered by the king of Sodom. Now, Abram has a vision from the Lord and is assured that God is in control and that He will give him much more than he turned down. This reminds us of the fact that we have choices every day but we often don't realize that there are three kinds of choices and not just two. We all know that there are good choices and bad choices based on their outcome but there are also best choices which align with God's will for our lives. We can settle for the good things or we can seek the will of God and make the best choices. Like Abram, when we make the best choices, God assures us that the rewards far surpass what we passed up.
But Abram said, 'O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?' And Abram said, 'You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.'
We often forget that, although Abram is the father of the faith, he was still just a man. Like us, he had questions and doubts at times and here we see that. His reaction to God's words are very human in that he basically says that you promised me a son so keep your promise. We see that Abram "got real" with God in voicing his fears and doubts. We, likewise can and should get real with God when we have questions in our faith. He already knows them so why should we keep them in?
Then the word of the Lord came to him: 'This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.' He took him outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'
God answered Abram's question with words and a picture of the magnitude of His promise. God took him out in the night and promised that his children would be so many that men cannot count them. Like Abram, we can expect an answer when we give God our questions and concerns.
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Abram accepted God's answer and believed that God would keep His promise. This is a picture of salvation through Jesus Christ as, like Abram, we must just accept God's answer to our problem of sin and believe that Jesus paid for it. You can imagine that Abram could not understand how he was going to have so many children especially since he was getting old. In the same way, we don't have to understand how the Son of God could come down and pay our sin debt. We just have to believe! We do not sin by questioning God; we sin by not believing His answer.
He also said to him, 'I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.' But Abram said, 'O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?'
Now, we see that Abram has another question. God reminds Abram that he was brought from Ur to Canaan to take possession of the land. Abram did not see it happening even though he had just returned from winning a great battle and retrieving his nephew. He asks God for proof and we see this happen throughout the Bible. Is it wrong to ask for such proof?
So the Lord said to him, 'Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.' Abram brought all of these to him, 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.
This may seem like a strange answer to us but God's instructions are basically for Abram to prepare for the contract signing. The way that agreements were made between two parties began with offering a sacrifice and dividing it in half. We also see that Satan (using the birds of prey) wanted to stop the covenant but Abram drove the birds off. We may ask what this means to us today and the basic answer is that God is still the God of contracts. Jesus was the sacrifice provided at our salvation contract signing and we must hold on to that fact. Like the birds of prey with Abram, Satan tries to send false teachings to rob us of the assurance that we are saved.
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, 'Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.'
Abram had just received promises from God and yet we see, here, that "a thick dreadful darkness came over him". What is this darkness? This is fear and doubt which is sin and we see that it was in his mind as he fell asleep. While he was in this darkness, God spoke to him and reassured him of the promise and gave him details of what was to come. We are reminded that, throughout the Bible, the number four is associated with earthly trials. In the details that God gave him, we see that Abram's people were going to face the great trial of slavery but, in the end, they would be drawn to God. This same pattern of trials being used to bring people to God is repeated over and over throughout the Bible. This is also the basis for the period of time that is referred to as the Great Tribulation and is described in Revelation. Just as God spoke to Abram during his darkness of doubt, He calls to us in our times of trials. He calls us back to the promises that are contained in His word through Jesus Christ.
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
We must assume that Abram was awoke and, now, he sees a firepot and torch passing between the separated pieces of the sacrifice. In those days, the final part of the contract involved the two parties walking together between the divided offerings. Since Abram did not have anything to perform in this contract, he did not have to walk between the offerings. The firepot (furnace) speaks of judgment and the torch the word of God. Together they are a picture of Jesus Christ and it is through Him that the contract is sealed.
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates - the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.'
The contract contains the legal description of the land of Israel. Although man does not accept these boundaries today, our acceptance does not change the fact that these are the borders of the land that was given to them by God. God does not break His contracts.