Eternity Daily Bible Study
The Life Of Abraham
Verses: Genesis 15:7-21
Topic: The Covenant of Pieces
Date: 13th December 2005
Genesis 15:7-21 MKJV And He said to him, I am Jehovah that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it. (8) And he said, Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it? (9) And He said to him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. (10) And he took all these to himself, and divided them in the middle, and laid each piece against one another; but he did not divide the birds. (11) And when the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (12) And it happened as the sun was setting, and a deep sleep fell upon Abram. And, behold, a horror of great darkness fell upon him! (13) And He said to Abram, You must surely know that your seed shall be a stranger in a land not theirs, and shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years. (14) And also I will judge that nation whom they shall serve. And afterward they shall come out with great substance. (15) And you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in a good old age. (16) But in the fourth generation they shall come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (17) And it happened, the sun went down, and it was dark and behold, a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp passed between those pieces. (18) In the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, I have given this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, (19) the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, (20) and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the giants, (21) and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
Here is something many of us find strange, if not difficult. Visions, dreams, sacrifices, a “horror of great darkness” and solemn apparitions and prophecies that go far into the future. It is a deeply mystical moment quite unlike “normal church life in the suburbs”. And here is a problem. Which is right? Dangerous mysticism or safe suburban Christianity? The paranormal or the absolutely normal? Are we to engage in animal sacrifices? Some African independent churches do!
The experience of God is a vast field that includes prophets like Ezekiel and his wheels, and Isaiah walking naked and barefoot for three years or David dancing shamelessly before the Ark. It includes Peter walking on water, Paul seeing the resurrected Jesus, and healings, miracles and prophecies by the dozen. How do we fit this in with four hymns, an offering and a sermon? Do we all become snake-handlers? I press this point because we seem to have an automatic filter that blocks out the stranger parts of the Bible in an effort to create a highly cognitive theological system that can be reasonably discussed over coffee in a seminary cafeteria!
his Narnia series C.S Lewis has this wonderful little scene concerning the
lion Aslan (Jesus) who stands blocking Lucy's way to a much needed drink of
"Then he isn't safe?" asks Lucy.
"Safe?" replies Mr. Beaver. "Course he isn't safe. But he's good."
God, in His Book, is definitely not safe. He sends Jonah off to dreadful Nineveh, makes Paul go hungry, thirsty and naked and crucifies His own beloved Son! God is good but risky and “dread-full” a numinous being of great unpredictability, totally free and stranger than the four living creatures in the throne room scenes of the book of Revelation (see chapters 4 & 5). Hence the burning pot and the horror of great darkness that came upon Abram.
This strange ceremony is a solemn pact between God and Abraham by which God binds Himself to do certain things especially that He will give to Abram's descendants all the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates River (which flows through Baghdad).
This vast territory covers Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq and depending on interpretation – possibly the entire Arabian peninsula. God made a pact with Abraham that would have everlasting consequences and is still having an impact on global politics today.
This promise was going to take place “in the fourth generation” (v13) or after 400 years (v.16) thus equating a generation to about 100-120 years, which is consistent with the declaration of the Lord in Genesis 6:
Genesis 6:3 MKJV And Jehovah said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, in his erring; he is flesh. Yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.
The reason for this delay was” for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” God was going to bring the judgment of Joshua on the Amorites when their iniquity had grown to a point that God calls “full”. There is a point, decided beforehand by God, when He has “had enough” and calls down judgment – but in this case it was going to take four hundred years of idolatry and paganism to bring it about. We have a very patient and long-suffering God!
This theme of judgment also applies to Egypt: “And He said to Abram, You must surely know that your seed shall be a stranger in a land not theirs, and shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years. (14) And also I will judge that nation whom they shall serve. And afterward they shall come out with great substance.”
How can God allow His precious people to undergo four hundred years of affliction? People would live and die, generation after generation, without hope and oppressed. Surely God is unjust to make an entire lifetime miserable? And then their children's lifetime as well? Just because he was giving the Amorites a chance? If the entire purpose of our existence is in this lifetime, what we do during seventy or so years on earth, then four hundred years of oppression is intolerable. But if, on the other hand, we are eternal living beings who are God's offspring and live and move and have our being in Him then it is a small blip, a drop in the ocean of our existence. If consciousness persists forever then those years, those terrible times, can be “made up” - and indeed we do endure! Jesus indicates that Abram, Isaac and Jacob are still alive today, dwelling in eternity with God and were able to see Moses at the burning bush and Jesus in His ministry.
Matthew 22:31-32 HCSB Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven't you read what was spoken to you by God: (32) I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
John 8:56 HCSB Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced."
God's purposes for us stretch far, far beyond this lifetime. If you do not understand the purpose of your life it may be because your highest purpose lies outside of this life. This earthly life may just be training you for an eternal future of great glory.
Finally, God is a covenant-making God. He is a God who binds Himself to His people with solemn promises about what He will do for them. He is not just a “force” that can be tapped into, but a personal loving God who makes and keeps commitments. God has a fixed eternal resolve to bless us and to do us good, and He is prepared to put that into covenant specifics.
God has entered into a New Covenant with us for the forgiveness of sins. The sacrifice was Christ and at the cross a great darkness came over the land. The earth shook and the veil was torn in two with the death of God's Son. The cross was the solemn covenant making ceremony. God has promised Himself to you, committing Himself to forgive your sins and to bless you.
Now I have deliberately not answered my provocative question about the “strange” and mystical elements of our faith. I do think there is more to Christianity than our imaginations can ever comprehend. I don't think God will ever fit into a neat theological, doctrinal or ecclesiastical box. In fact, God can be very uncomfortable. But God is always good and you can trust Him!
John Edmiston (email@example.com)
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