Questions for Littles: What reason does Abram give God for why having a great reward doesn’t help him (v2-3)? From where does God say Abram’s heir will come (v4)? What does God give as a picture of how many descendants Abram will have (v5)? How was Abram accounted as righteous (v6)? After Abram already believes the Lord, what does the Lord declare in v7? What does Abram ask in v8? What does God tell Abram to bring Him (v9)? What does God tell him to do with the animals (v10)? What three things fall upon Abram in v12? What things does God promise Abram in vv13-16? Why will this not happen immediately? What happens when the sun goes down (v17)? What is God making with Abram in this ceremony (v18)? What does God promise to give him? Whose land is it currently (v19-20)?In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we are reminded once again that God wants us to be sure of what He has promised us.
At first, Abram has a problem with the promise of God as his shield and great reward. The big problem is death. It wouldn’t matter what Abram got, if Abram would just disappear, and he doesn’t even have any descendants.
Of course, the Lord makes the fantastic promises about his descendants here. But, there is also a glorious (though subtly delivered) promise in v15. God promises something beyond death.
On one hand, Abram’s body will be buried. Not burned, but buried. When it goes into the grave, he won’t be done with it yet. Abram learns this lesson well—when his wife dies, he buys his first piece of his inheritance to bury her in it.
But the promise about his soul is even better than the one about his body. His soul will not merely disappear at death. He will go to his fathers in peace. That Hebrew word doesn’t just mean the absence of conflict. It means wholeness and wellbeing.
Abram just wanted to know about descendants. But when Abram had believed in the promise of his offspring—when Abram believed in Christ (however incomplete his understanding of Christ was at the time)—the Lord promised him eternal life!
The meat of the chapter, however, isn’t the promise. It’s the covenant ceremony that the Lord performs in order to make Abram sure of that promise. The Lord appears in enough of His glory to make great terror fall upon Abram even in a deep sleep.
But then, the covenantal passing between the cut-up animals isn’t between the Lord and Abraham. Instead, the Lord makes that covenant with Himself. It was a common ceremony: the covenanting parties walk between the animals, signifying that they are committed to this bond unto the death.
Not unto Abram’s death, however. Unto the Lord’s! By the time God is done keeping this promise, He will have to have become a man in order to be able to die.
It’s a marvelous ceremony—a marvelous display of God’s commitment to delivering upon His promises.
Dear believer, the Lord doesn’t just want you to believe Him. He wants strengthen your confidence in His promises until it has grown up into a full assurance of faith.
What use are we making of the things that the Lord gave us to stir up our assurance?Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”