Inspired by Genesis 15:1-18
“[God] said to [Abram], ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two…When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’” Genesis 15:9-10, 17-18 (NRSV)
Most of us are familiar with legal contracts. They are documents that outline agreements between two or more parties, with the responsibilities of each detailed along with the consequences of violating the agreement. Usually the consequence is that a transaction will not occur; sometimes there are fines or other financial penalties involved. Depending on the agreement, punitive action such as prison may result from reneging on a contract. As serious as these consequences are, they are nothing compared to what God agreed to with Abram.
When God took the form of a smoking fire pot and flaming torch and passed between the pieces of mutilated animals, he was proclaiming that the same would happen to him if he failed to deliver on his promise to Abram. If he did not give Abram’s descendants the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, then God would agree to be destroyed as thoroughly as those animals had been.
God offered his own self as surety for his promise.
God did give that land to the descendants of Abram. And he promised that he would be our God, and that we would be his people. And when we strayed so far away from him that that promise was in danger of going unfulfilled, God did give himself to us. He took on our flesh, took on our sin, and provided a way back to him.
God keeps his promises.
Let us pray. Trustworthy God, you are faithful to your word. Help us to trust in you, that we may enjoy the peace that comes from living in your loving embrace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.