While Abraham is sometimes a model of great faith, he did doubt and he did some stupid things. At the root of this whole drama is Abraham’s practical problem. The promises of redemption are tied to Abraham’s descendants, but Abraham has not been able to have children and he and his wife are quite old. To ensure his commitment to his promises, God makes a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) which will extend to his children. The form of this covenant would have been familiar with Abraham and people of his time, but walking through dead animal pieces seems strange to modern people. The impact of this covenant ceremony was meant to show that the weaker party (in this case Abraham) would experience the same type of cutting apart if he broke the terms of the covenant. This would have been an effective ceremony for ancient “Emperors” to use so as to ensure the loyalty of their subjects. But in a surprise twist, it is not Abraham who walks between the slain animals, but in a vision God himself move through the pieces in the form of a smoking firepot. Even at the start of redemptive history God showed that he would take the failures of his people upon himself. This covenant of grace would shape the entire rest of the Bible. It is further expanded in chapter 17 and circumcision is given as a sign to mark all the male members of the covenant community. God will continue to deal graciously with Abraham and his descendants in spite of their weaknesses. This is great news, because sandwiched right between these two great, covenant making chapters… Abraham does something really stupid. Rather than trust God, he takes action into his own hands, and tries to produce an heir through his wife’s servant (with her encouragement.) This may have been normal in the ancient world, but it is outside God’s plan for family life and covenant fulfilment… and it creates a world hurt for everyone involved.
Reflect: Where are your tempted to take matters into your own hands and go outside of God’s commands for your life? Where are do you struggle to trust God’s purposes as you face disappointment in life? (As childless Abraham did.)
Connect: Jeremiah is an Old Testament prophet who showed how God would work to bring a New Covenant. This is a continuance of the same covenant of grace given through Abraham, but when it is fulfilled in Christ, it will lead to the transformation of the hearts of God’s people.
Jeremiah 31:33-37 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.