God has a special interest in every individual believer. It is an intense, close-up interest, which has its root on God binding Himself to the believer in a covenant bond in such a way that God stakes His own honour, yes, even His very existence on keeping the believer secure in his salvation. This is graphically illustrated for us in Genesis 15, verses 10 to 21. These are ominous verses to read, but then covenants had ominous implications for those entering into them. They were not things to be entered into lightly. The benefit of grasping this is crucial to our understanding of covenant relationship, which in turn is crucial to our ongoing joy in our salvation.
In order for us to understand this passage, we must understand the background. In Abraham’s day, when something of immense consequence was to be agreed between two parties, they would enter into a covenant agreement. The procedure involved the killing of a small number of animals and cutting them into pieces. The pieces of each animal were then divided into two mixed heaps with a space between the heaps sufficient for two people to pass through. The two parties then stood, one at each end of the passage between the pieces. At the crucial moment of confirmation of the agreement, the two parties walked between the pieces, each from one end of the passage to the other. Each was saying, “If I break this agreement, then let me be cut in pieces like these slain animals”. The one that broke the agreement could rightly and lawfully be cut in pieces by the other.
When we look at the passage in Genesis 15, we see something astonishing beyond all imagination. God appears as a “smoking furnace and a burning lamp”, and He, and He only, passes between the pieces. Abraham does not pass between the pieces. What is God doing here, He is saying, your salvation depends entirely on Me. If I fail to keep my promise to you, then let me be as these cut-up animals. How secure is the christian in his salvation? So secure that if one was saved and then lost, the very Godhead would fall. This would mean that the the universe, presently upheld moment by moment by God, would crumble. It simply cannot happen.
Why did God not require Abraham to pass between the pieces? because God knew what was in fallen man, even in faithful Abraham. He knew that it was impossible for fallen man, even when saved, to walk in perfect obedience, and so keep ‘his side’ of a two-sided covenant. God in His abundant mercy did not enter into that kind of covenant with Abraham, nor does He with us, because that covenant would not last a moment. The wisdom, goodness and grace of God shines forth here in a way that causes us to fall on our faces before God in love, adoration and worship
This leaves us with a very important question: how do the promises made to Abraham connect with sinners in the present age, making them RightWithGod, and keeping them RightWithGod? We will begin to deal with this very important question next week.