Four thousand and one hundred years ago, yes 41 centuries ago God made a promise called a covenant with a man we know named Abraham. God did not only speak this promise, it was dramatically displayed by a ceremony called “cutting a covenant”. In the style we know was known to Abraham from his culture God took the slaying, dividing, and laying out of sacrificial animals on the ground as a setting for His Promise made to Himself and for Abraham that could never be broken. We call this Promise the Abrahamic Covenant.
In Genesis 12:1–3, God declares that His primary focus will be on His promises to Abraham. Genesis is written in the first 11 chapters with all the world in focus, but starting in Genesis 12 God turns His attention toward one small nation, Israel, through whom He promised to progressively accomplish His redemptive plan. God planned for Israel’s mission to be “a light to the Gentiles” (Is. 42:6). In Genesis 12 God promised three elements:
a land, multiplied descendants (seed), and His Special Blessing.
This 3-fold promise became, in turn, the basis of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:1–20). All the rest of Scripture bears out the fulfillment of these promises.
15:7 to give you this land to inherit it. That a specifically identifiable land (see vv. 18–21) was intimately linked with Abram’s having many descendants in God’s purpose and in the Abrahamic Covenant was clearly revealed and, in a formal ceremony (vv. 9–21), would be placed irrevocably beyond dispute.
In Genesis 15 we find one of the greatest events in the history of salvation, The Lord Himself commemorated it with a special sign. He ordered Abram to make a “cutting of the covenant” by sacrifices divided into two piles. Then, when the sun had set, God appeared in the night as “a smoking firepot with a blazing torch… and passed between the pieces” (v. 17) in the traditional figure-eight pattern of the covenant, signifying that his promise was unconditional and that he (God) would be torn asunder like the pieces if he failed to keep his promise. To be sure, Abram’s unwavering faith displayed at this great moment (cf. Romans 4:10ff.) did suffer some future lapses, but his faith also grew to towering proportions through the hard times that were to come.
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