In our study of Genesis chapter fifteen, we will look at God's covenant with Avram 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.
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Some time later the word of ADONAI came to Avram in a vision: "Don't be afraid, Avram. I am your protector; your reward will be very great."
In chapter 14, we saw Avram turn down the spoils of his victory that were offered by the king of Sodom. Now, Avram 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 Avram, when we make the best choices, God assures us that the rewards far surpass what we passed up.
Avram replied, "ADONAI, God, what good will your gifts be to me if I continue childless; and Eli'ezer from Dammesek inherits my possessions? You haven't given me a child," Avram continued, "so someone born in my house will be my heir."
We often forget that, although Avram 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 Avram "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?
But the word of ADONAI came to him: "This man will not be your heir. No, your heir will be a child from your own body." Then he brought him outside and said, "Look up at the sky, and count the stars - if you can count them! Your descendants will be that many!"
God answered Avram'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 Avram, we can expect an answer when we give God our questions and concerns.
He believed in ADONAI, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Avram accepted God's answer and believed that God would keep His promise. This is a picture of salvation through Jesus Christ as, like Avram, we must just accept God's answer to our problem of sin and believe that Jesus paid for it. You can imagine that Avram 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.
Then he said to him, "I am ADONAI, who brought you out from Ur-Kasdim to give you this land as your possession." He replied, "ADONAI, God, how am I to know that I will possess it?"
Now, we see that Avram has another question. God reminds Avram that he was brought from Ur to Canaan to take possession of the land. Avram 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?
He answered him, "Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove and a young pigeon." He brought him all these, cut the animals in two and placed the pieces opposite each other; but he didn't cut the birds in half. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Avram drove them away.
God's answer to Avram was for Avram to bring him three very specific animals and a specific bird. The Hebrew word "gozal" is translated here as a "young pigeon" but it literally means "young bird" and is being used here to clarify that Avram is to bring God a young dove. So, after Avram cut the animals in two, he would have had a total of seven pieces and the number seven refers to completeness. This may seem like a strange answer to us but God's instructions are basically for Avram 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 Avram 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 Avram, Satan tries to send false teachings to rob us of the assurance that we are saved.
As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell on Avram; horror and great darkness came over him. ADONAI said to Avram, "Know this for certain: your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs. They will be slaves and held in oppression there four hundred years. But I will also judge that nation, the one that makes them slaves. Afterwards, they will leave with many possessions. As for you, you will join your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. Only in the fourth generation will your descendants come back here, because only then will the Emori be ripe for punishment."
Avram 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 Avram'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 Avram 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.
After the sun had set and there was thick darkness, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared, which passed between these animal parts.
We must assume that Avram 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 Avram 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.
That day ADONAI made a covenant with Avram: "I have given this land to your descendants - from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River - the territory of the Keni, the K'nizi, the Kadmoni, the Hitti, the P'rizi, the Refa'im, the Emori, the Kena'ani, the Girgashi and the Y'vusi."
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.