“Cutting” a Covenant

  S (Scripture): Genesis 15:9 The Lord said to him, “Take for me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram took all these for him and then cut them in two and placed each half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds in half. 11 When birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep, and great terror overwhelmed him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch passed between the animal parts. 18 That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River – 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”

O (Observation): The Hebrews didn’t “make” a covenant, or “establish” one, or “sign” one.  They literally “CUT” a covenant.  That is the Hebrew verb in the phrase “cut a covenant.”  

What does that looks like?  2 parties would come to an agreement – a covenant.  To “seal the deal” they would sacrifice an animal and lay the 2 halves opposite each other.   Then, both parties would literally pass through / walk in between the two halves of the sacrificed animal.  The purpose of this was to say, “Should I break this covenant, may I become as this creature that has been split in two.”   You would literally stake your life on keeping your end of the bargain. 

Notice how this applies to Abram’s situation.   Abram sleeps and God (in the form of a smoking firepot and a flaming torch) passes between the halves of the animal parts from the animals that were sacrificed earlier in the day.  

ABRAM DOES NOT PASS THROUGH THE ANIMAL PARTS!  This covenant is clearly one-sided.   

What follows are promises to God’s people, what are and what will be the descendants of Abram.  

A (Application): The same one-sided deal God made with Abram is the same sort of deal God makes with us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ sacrifice was not based on a quid pro quo. Nothing is required of us.  

Now…do show gratitude and thankfulness?  Yes!!!   Will grace be removed from us if we don’t?  No!   That’s the tricky part about our faith – a stumbling block for many.  

I look to the covenants – from the Old Testament and in Jesus – and I see a God that gives grace, free and undeserved.  

How does that affect me?  I do my best to give the same grace to others, for I have received it, and it is not mine to keep. 

What are you most troubled by in terms of forgiveness and grace?    Where is it a stumbling block for you?   

For me, knowing that forgiveness is available to all is a bit troubling.   But as soon as I draw a line, I’m the one playing God and I’m not comfortable with that.  Because that leads to judgment and that leads me to becoming a Pharisee again.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to know that your grace is available to all who call on your name.  Amen. 


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