Let's Make A Deal

In reading through Genesis 15:1-ff we come across the story of Abraham being promised a biological child with his wife Sarah.  This child was no ordinary child but the one in which the descendant, Jesus, would come about as promised back in Genesis 12:1-3 and declared in Genesis 3:15.  

What makes this story so unique is that for one, Sarah was 65+ years old... her biological clock had run out, she was totally barren.  The second is the way in which God makes the promise to Abraham.

As typical of ancient covenants, several animals were cut in half and laid forth on the ground with half on one side and the other half of the animal on the other side.  Many times these covenants were made between a powerful ruling king and a subordinate participant.  Once the agreement was settled, the subordinate participant would walk between the cut up animals as a pledge that such a fate would come upon him if he were to violate the agreement.  I can imagine the subordinates saying to themselves, "If I don’t follow through with this agreement I am going to be butchered like these animals, the pressure is on, I better not mess this up." 

As previously mentioned, in this passage the Lord comes to Abraham in a vision and makes the promise of an offspring, an heir (i.e. the promised Messiah).  To seal the deal, God called Abraham to go forth and collect several animals and cut them up in the ancient covenant manner.  One might then expect to see Abraham anxiously walking through the animals with a knot in his throat from the stress of entering the promised descendant covenant, however, something interesting happens.  While Abraham is in a deep sleep, God, not Abraham, goes between the animals.  God makes the covenant, God makes the deal. 

Think about this for a moment, God goes through the cut up animals not Abraham.  God is active and Abraham is sleeping.  God makes and seals the deal and Abraham is a passive, inactive, sleeping recipient.  The covenant is unilateral or one could say that the deal is unconditional from Abraham's perspective!

God essentially takes the burden upon Himself of making sure that Abraham would be given an heir.  God is taking the burden of the covenant and the consequences of a possible broken covenant upon Himself while Abraham is completely passive.  

This is a not only a great example of grace but 'is' grace alone!  God's working of salvation through history and His working of salvation on the cross are both His doing, work that is given to us as sheer gift.  From scripture we see that mankind is completely passive and dead in sin, 'not' active and drowsy in sin.  Yet, God accomplishes salvation on behalf and in spite of mankind being dead and passive.  Ironically, according to the Lutheran Study Bible, "it is God's own Son who will assume the burden of our breaking God's Law, being sacrificed on the cross to atone for our offenses."

What great news that God went through the animals so as to seal our eternal covenant.  What great news that Christ became disfigured on the cross, like the cut animals, for our failures.  What great news that Christ assumed the burden and consequence of our breaking of the Law.   What great news that God has made a deal in Christ and continually gives this salvation to us in the way of gift.  

Let's Make A Deal?  The deal if finished in Christ... Amen!