Gen 15 – The True Promise Keeper
Let us recap what God had verbally promised to Abram so far.
1. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.”
2. “I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
3. “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse.”
4. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
5. “To your offspring I will give this land.”
As to the Promise Coin image, I’m borrowing this symbol of God’s promises from the Youtube channel, The Bible Project. According to their videos, the promise coin is one of those symbols (just like the Crimson Thread) of God’s plan to get mankind back on track to His real intention for us; and that is Eternal Life for us. Focus on the tree symbol above the word ‘Promise’. That tree represent the Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden. So, whenever you see this coin in my blog, take notice it is a promise of God for us.
In Genesis 13, when Lot separated from Abram, we see again God reinforcing Abram’s faith.
The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring a forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord. [Gen 13:14-18]
Years later, God revisited Abram in Genesis 15 which is considered a significantly important chapter in the book of Genesis and even the Bible.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” [Gen 15:1]
God gave Abram two reasons not to fear. The first was that God Himself will be Abram’s shield. God will protect Abram. Maybe Abram was scared that the armies he had just defeated (in Gen 14) would regroup and then return for revenge. With God as his shield, Abram had nothing to fear. God would protect Abram and be his shield. This same idea is found in Psalm 3:3 where the Psalmist sings, “You, Oh Lord, are a shield about me, You’re my glory, You’re the lifter of my head.”
God will also be Abram’s reward.
Not just any reward, but an exceedingly great reward. There is no greater reward than this. There is no greater reward than God. All the gold and diamonds of the world are less valuable than a grain of dust in comparison to having God as a reward.
But what does it mean to have God as a reward? How can God be a reward? We belong to Him; He does not belong to us. God makes a very perplexing statement to Abram. How can the God of heavens and earth, the Creator of the universe, give Himself as a reward to humans, let alone a single individual? Abram could have been a bit confused by this as well.
Maybe in his own mind, Abram tried to tone down this audacious promise by God. “God can’t mean that He will give Himself to me. He must mean He will just work on my behalf. He will work to protect me and provide for me. That must be what God means.”
But that is not what God meant. God meant that He Himself is what Abram is seeking. God Himself is what Abram wants and what Abram needs. God Himself is the missing piece of Abram’s life. God Himself is Abram’s exceedingly great reward.
[from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]
In truth, God Himself is the missing piece in all our lives. However, since Jesus Christ had ascended into Heaven there are many that walks this world that had been granted a piece of Him (so, to speak) and are living as He had intended for both this world and eternity. For now, this part of HIStory will have be revealed much later. However, you can contact me contact me by leaving a request in the comment area below.
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” [Gen 15:2-3]
In Genesis 15:3, Abram expressed his concern that someone other than his son would be his heir. According to the Hammurabi Code, if a man died without a natural heir, his possessions would go to the chief servant of his house, in this case, Eliezer of Damascus. Though Eliezer was probably a very good man, he was not a son. Abram wanted a son. [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” [Gen 15:4-5]
The stars are a reminder, an altar, telling Abram and us that God keeps His promises.
Verse 5 is a promise that Abram’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Previously, God reminded Abram that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand. Scientists estimate that there are 2000 billion-billion grains of sand on the earth, and probably twenty five times as many stars. Obviously, since there haven’t been this many people alive on planet earth since the beginning, God is using a figure of speech to say that Abram’s descendants will be too numerous to count. And of course, according to Galatians 3:29, Abram not only has physical descendants according to blood, who are the Jews, but spiritual descendants according to faith, who are all believers. Together, these descendants are an astronomical number, and God says that the stars will remind us, will be a celestial reminder of this promise. Abram responds to God’s promise in Genesis 15:6. [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” [Gen 15:6-7]
If Genesis 15 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible, Genesis 15:6 is the most important verse in this chapter, which makes it one of the most important verses in the Bible; definitely the most important verse in the Old Testament. Genesis 15:6 teaches that Abram was justified, he was declared righteous by God simply because he believed what God had said. Abram believed God, and God credited Abram with righteousness. Romans 4 makes it clear that this is when Abram was saved. Genesis 15:6 is Abram’s conversion. Prior to this, Abram was unsaved. It is here that he believed God, and God accounted it to him for righteousness.
This means that everything Abram did in Genesis 12, 13 and 14 was done as an unsaved person. What did Abram do? He took a step of faith by leaving Ur. He followed God in great obedience by leaving Haran and coming to Canaan. He worshiped God by building altars. Yes, there was that incident where he went to Egypt and lied about his wife, but even there, God protected and blessed Abram. [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” [Gen 15:8]
So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
So, let us understand why the animal carcasses were laid out that way.
In ancient Near Eastern royal land grant treaties, this type of ritual was done to “seal” the promises made. The parties involved would walk the path between the slaughtered animals so to say, “May this be done to me if I do not keep my oath.” Jeremiah 34:18-19 also speaks about this type of oath-making.
[From article by Tony Mariot, Doctor of Philosophy Theology, Christ Church, Oxford (2009)]
Abram understood the ritual and expected to partake in the covenant as a participant. But then God put him into a deep sleep. God clearly wanted to be the only participant. How?
The smoking oven and the burning torch symbolize God passing between the pieces. The most important thing to realize is that God walks through alone. Normally, both parties of the covenant would walk through together, showing that they both had responsibilities to keep in order to maintain the covenant. But when God walks through alone, He shows Abram that there is absolutely nothing Abram or his descendants have to do in order for God to keep this covenant.
It is a one sided covenant. God takes all the responsibility for fulfilling it upon Himself. No matter what Abram does or doesn’t do from this point on, God will keep His promise. No matter what Israel has or has not done in history, God will keep His promise. There are many who say that God has abandoned Israel and His promises to her, and have transferred those promises to the church. But if this has happened, Genesis 15:17 is a lie, and God is a covenant breaker. He makes this covenant alone, and no matter how much sin Abram commits, no matter how rebellious Abram’s descendants become, God will not, cannot, break this covenant with them.
God does it all. This chapter is about God doing it all. God does not meet us half way. God doesn’t even meet us most of the way. God does it all. We do nothing. I hear a lot today, and in recent years, about making commitments to God. In men’s groups, we hear a lot about being promise keepers, and promise makers. In evangelistic programs, we are instructed to tell people to commit their lives to Jesus, to give themselves to Him. In discipleship programs, we hear about making commitments and covenants with God.
But this passage reveals something else entirely. We aren’t the promise keepers. God is. He makes the promises to us, and He keeps them all by Himself. We don’t give ourselves to God. He has already given Himself fully and completely to us. We don’t make covenants with Him. He makes covenants with us, and there is only one name to sign on the bottom – His. [from the article: The True Promise Keeper‘ by Jeremy Myers]
God said other prophetic things (a look unto the future) in Abram’s deep vision. Those words we will study further in future blog posts.