As the story of Abram continues, we finally hear him voice his doubts over receiving the promises because he has no heir. God continues to guide Abram. He uses a method Abram would immediately recognize.
Heir Apparent-Less? (1-6)
This is a very deep concern. No matter what God gives to Abram, unless he has a son to perpetuate his name, Abram could be forgotten. Certainly, Eliezer could be grateful to his master, yet for posterity’s sake you are not likely to tell the story that you were once a servant and when the master died you got everything. You might hide that bit of personal history and in so doing the name of your master would be forgotten. It happens, and Abram knows this. Yet God is not callous to this concern. If the land is promised to Abram, then he must have a son to receive it.
Up to this point, what has God shown to prove Abram will receive the promise?
A Treaty Setting (7-11)
God reminds Abram who it was that brought him thus far, so there is continuity in the story. When Abram asks again how he will know if he (even vicariously) will receive the land, God answers with strange instructions about livestock. The animals are pretty specific, and even more so is the arrangement that Abram seems to automatically know how to place the carcasses. He knows to butchered them into halves and set them in a certain way on the ground. But how is this? This chapter is depicting a common form of treaty ratification in the Ancient Near East. The two parties would walk between the cut pieces of meat and declare, “May what has happened to these animals, happen to me if I break this covenant with you.” Abram is ready for the ratification ceremony to occur, he continues to chase off the scavengers that try to desecrate the ceremonial animals. He’s waiting…
Recall that Abram has left everything and has been waiting for years already. How patient have you been in waiting on an answer from God?
Great and Dreadful Darkness (12-16)
Abram falls asleep after waiting for the other treaty party, God, to show up for the ceremony. We often think about God’s presence in bright and cheery terms, yet Scripture shows a different picture. When angels appear to God’s people there is often a reaction of fear. As God’s people gathered around Sinai to receive the law, they were terrified. Isaiah was mortified to the point of death when he faced the throne. These instances show the magnitude of seriousness that comes with a Divine encounter. Meeting God can be scary! The message that God had about his descendants (slavery in Egypt) was not a positive one either.
How does this picture of an encounter with God impact you? Does it confirm, challenge, or confuse your understanding of God?
Remember before I said that both parties would walk through the cut pieces of animals and say to each other, “May this happen to me if I break covenant with you.” However, who goes between the cut pieces before Abram? Sometimes only the weaker party in a treaty would walk through the pieces, in submission to the stronger king to prevent their destruction in a war. However, God is not the weaker party in this case. This is a covenant that Abram does not deserve. Like an adult “pinky swearing” with a small child, coming down to their level so they understand the absoluteness of the promise being made. God goes through this treaty ratification process common in Abram’s day as a sign of things to come.
Why is this scene so important for Abram’s faith and relationship with God?
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