Trusting God Alone

Posted: April 5, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 14-15, “Trusting God Alone”

One of the things to love about the book of Genesis (and the Bible as a whole) is its honesty. There are times that it shows the heroes of the faith doing well, and times it shows them failing miserably. When they fail, our hearts break; when they do well, we rejoice. For Genesis 14-15, this is one of the times we can rejoice! 🙂

What takes place in the life of Abram in these two chapters are pivotal events – things to which the New Testament often return. These are some of the moments when the man called the “Father of faith,” demonstrates why he has that label. Not that he always did well. Abram, like all of us, was a mixed bag. He had been called by God to live his homeland of Ur in Babylon, and God promised him a land, a nation, a name, and the opportunity to be a blessing to all the world. Initially Abram followed the Lord, saw the land of his future inheritance, and did well. Afterwards, Abram had a crisis of faith during a famine and almost lost it all in Egypt. He misled Pharaoh regarding the relationship with his wife Sarai, and by all rights, should have been killed by the king of Egypt. Yet God protected Abram, even bringing him out of Egypt with great wealth. (God is merciful!)

From there, Genesis showed Abram back in the land, eventually coming to a crisis in his family as he and his nephew Lot each grew too prosperous to dwell side-by-side. This time, Abram trusted the Lord as he gave the pick of the land to Lot, who chose what he believed was the better portion (but would soon lead to his downfall). Lot settled not far from Sodom, which was already known as an exceedingly wicked city. As for Abram, his trust in the Lord was well-placed, as God declared how Abram would receive all the land he could see…and even more.

What happens now is that Abram continues to walk in faith. He’ll have future crises later, but at the present, he trusts God. His faith is in God alone, and his relationship with God is itself a blessed reward…just as it is with us. God blesses us not because we’ve earned anything, but only because of His grace. He Himself is our reward because Jesus Christ is our Lord, Savior, and Friend…and His blessing of salvation comes through faith alone.

Genesis 14 – Abram the worshipping warrior

  • Regional war (14:1-12)

1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

  1. Because of the age of the original writing, some of the places are difficult to identify & others have changed names through the centuries. Most likely, Shinar = Babylon, Ellasar = eastern Turkey, Elam = elsewhere in Iraq, “Nations” is the translated form of “Goiim” (NASB, ESV) = perhaps referring to the Hittites. The other city-states were located east of the Dead Sea (“Salt Sea”) in modern-day Jordan. The overall idea is that a confederacy of kingdoms, led by Chedorlaomer, expanded their imperial rule out to the lands neighboring Canaan/Israel. The five Transjordanian city-states served this way for 12 years, but eventually rebelled and went to war. (War has always existed in the Middle East!)
  2. The Bible does not typically follow the politics of the world outside of Israel, but when it does, it is usually because it affects God’s people in one way or the other. That’s the case here, although it takes a while for the scene to be set. For now, the regional conflict and players are described.

5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. 8 And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.

  1. Chedorlaomer, along with the other three kings, came with their armies against the five rebellious cities, and basically ran rampant along the way, easily winning all their battles. Wherever they went, they experienced victory, and those rebelling against them fled.

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

  1. Although we might expect the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah to have the homefield advantage, the topography of the land actually worked against them. Their armies were bogged down by the asphalt/tar, and Chedorlaomer was able to defeat them, and loot them entirely.
  2. Part of what/who was looted was Lot. He had gotten caught up in the troubles of Sodom, not only because he had originally chosen to live close to the city, but because over time he chose to live in the city: he “dwelt in Sodom.” Lot had chosen to compromise once, and that only opened the door to more compromise down the line. Although Lot knew better, he was soon living among the wicked of the wicked.
    1. For Christians, sin is a no-compromise issue. In military terms, it’s no-quarter. We cannot reason with sin, nor compromise our values or the word of God. We are to reckon ourselves dead to it (Rom 6:11). That’s the only way to deal with it.
  • Abram rescues Lot (14:13-16)

13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.

  1. Out of the grand defeat of the five local kings, there were some survivors. Apparently one knew of Lot’s relation with Abram, and that’s where the person ran. Abram had settled in the land shown him by God, even developing friendships with his neighbors. Those friendships were about to come in very handy!
  2. FYI: First mention of “” Scholars are uncertain as to the etymology. It’s possibly derived from “Eber,” one of the sons of Shem (Gen 10:21). A different ethnic group was known as the “Habiru,” who were warriors – it’s possible the context pulls a bit of the warrior imagery for Abram. He was but one man, but he was known as powerful & someone not easily intimidated. Others believe that the name “Hebrew” is derived from the word for “slave” (‘eved), referring to Abram’s act of serving the Lord. Whatever the origin of the term, the name stuck! To be a “Hebrew” is to be a child of Abraham, and thus a servant of the Living God, by faith sharing in the inheritance of Abraham.

14 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus.

  1. The scene is fairly incredible for casual readers of Genesis. To this point, it would have seemed as if Abram was a wealthy shepherd, but little more. Although it was true that his flock and Lot’s flock had grown too large to dwell together, it would be easy to think of Abram as having a few servants, but a small household overall. Not so! Abram had “three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house.” Abram had 318 men ready for battle – no telling how many women and children were with them. Before Abram ever had a child of his own, he was responsible for a small town’s worth of people. Truly this man was wealthy, incredibly blessed by God! 
  2. Additionally, these men were “trained” – they were prepared for such a time as this. Abram hadn’t sat around eating grapes & figs, kicking back on his wealth. He knew danger existed out in the wider world, and he needed to be ready at any time to defend himself or his loved ones. He may not have lived in constant battle, but he was prepared for it when it came.
    1. What do you do in terms of preparation? How have you trained yourself for the spiritual battles sure to come?
  3. Dan” is probably anachronistic, meaning that this was not the original name of the town in the days of Abraham. But neither is it likely a reference to the future tribe of Dan. Remember that Genesis was written/edited by Moses, and when Moses wrote, the tribes of Israel were not yet settled in their regions. When they did settle, Dan’s home was coastal, almost the midpoint between north & south…a location not in view here in Genesis 14:14. This most likely refers to a town much further north of the Sea of Galilee, showing the extent to which Abram pursued the army of Chedorlaomer.
    1. The point? Even if Moses as the editor did update the location names, he did so in a way that his original readers would understand, and that is trustworthy. We don’t want to let similarities between other named locations cause us to doubt the truth of God’s word.
  4. In any case, be careful not to miss the forest for the trees. Abram pursued the enemy a long way! When he learned his nephew was in trouble, Abram didn’t delay – he did what was necessary to rescue his family. When it comes to family, you do what needs to be done, and Abram was no exception.
  5. And he was successful! 

16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

  1. Abram, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner won the victory! Taking their 318 men against the armies of Chedorlaomer and the three other kings, the Hebrew came out on top. From a military standpoint, these were unbeatable odds. The four kings had no trouble defeating the combined armies of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., but when it came to Abram & his men, things were profoundly different. 
  2. What made the difference? The blessing and power of God! God was with Abram, and that made all the difference in the world. It didn’t matter that Abram had 318 men – he could have had three…and it still would have been more than enough. When God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
    1. This is a bit of a preview of God’s relationship with the future nation of Israel. Especially when we remember that Moses was writing/editing this for the Hebrew nation as they were on their way to the Promised Land (either initially, or during their 40 years of wandering). If they wanted proof that God’s promise that one man could turn aside 1000 (Dt 32:30), then they need look no further than Abraham. He experienced this blessing of God centuries before the law of God was ever given! Abram walked by faith – exactly what all of the Hebrews ought to have done all along. (And exactly as we ought to do today!)
  • Abram chooses Salem vs. Sodom (14:17-24)

17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.

  1. The king of Sodom was the one most benefited by Abram, so he “went out to meet him,” but someone else got to Abram first: the king of Salem…

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

  1. Who is Melchizedek? He is a unique character in Scripture, being both king & priest – something that would normally be forbidden among the tribes of Israel. Within Israel, kings came from Judah & priests came from Levi; Melchizedek came from neither & provides a different example altogether. He was both king of Salem (peace/righteousness, i.e. Jerusalem), and the priest of God Most High (El Elyon). Although we sometimes think that Abram was the only man alive worshipping the true God, that wasn’t the case. There was even a priest of the Most High God during the days of Abram – Abram had a tremendous ally, and even an intercessor on his behalf: Melchizedek.
  2. Who does Melchizedek represent? Or perhaps, who was he really? Hebrews 7:1–3, “(1) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, (2) to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” (3) without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”Hebrews 7:15–17, “(15) And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest (16) who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. (17) For He testifies: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”” Some believe that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Jesus, though there is no way to know for certain. What is clear is that Melchizedek represents Jesus in all kinds of ways. Jesus is both King & Priest, being of a superior/older order than the priestly order of Levi. Levi (via Abraham) paid homage to Melchizedek, showing deference to the better priest. This is our Jesus! He is our great High Priest – the King of Righteousness who grants us peace – the One without beginning or end – the One who provides for us and intercedes for us. There is no better priest than Priest Jesus!
  3. As for Melchizedek, he brought out provisions for Abram, the bread and wine surely not coincidental in his priestly role. The two communed together, and worshipped together…

19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

  1. Just as Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High, his blessing was given because of God Most High, the “Possessor of heaven and earth.” “Possessor” might be better translated “Creator.” The Hebrew word most often translated “to buy/acquire,” but context can be “to create.” God obviously has no need to purchase the heavens and the earth, but He did make them. The point made by Melchizedek is that Abram was indeed “blessed,” by none other than the Creator God. The king/priest blessed Abram, but Abram was already in a blessed relationship with the Lord of the Universe. That’s why it didn’t matter what king or confederacy of kings Abram fought – the Creator of the world is more powerful than all of them. Again, when God is for us, who can be against us? When we are in the middle of God’s will, no scheme of man can possibly overturn it.
  2. More than the results is the relationship. More than the gifts is the Giver. Abram was “blessed…of God Most High,” because Abram knew God Most High. That relationship made all the difference! That relationship was the foundation – the cornerstone for everything else that followed.
    1. It doesn’t matter what we think we have in Jesus, if we have no relationship with Him. It doesn’t matter what experiences we believe we’ve had with the Lord God, if we don’t know Him. We need to know Him – we can know Him. We experience the same blessing Abram experienced when we know God in faith.

21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”

  1. Some have seen this as the king’s disdain of Abram, but the context seems to imply this was more of a bribe. Bela (the king of Sodom) no doubt wanted “the persons” returned to him – he didn’t want his subjects to become Abram’s slaves/servants, when he could keep them for himself. At the same time, Bela thought he could richly compensate Abram by “allowing” Abram to keep all of the wealth (the goods – the booty) he had recovered from Chedorlaomer. It was an extremely generous offer, though not likely made from the goodness of his heart. If Abram agreed, then Bela and Abram would be allied together. If they were allied, then Abram would be (at least somewhat) responsible for the various wickedness that took place in Sodom with Bela’s approval. They would share in wealth, and in sin.
  2. Worse yet, if Abram received this gift from the king of Sodom, then Abram would be indebted to the king of Sodom. He would “owe” Bela, basically being required to show allegiance to him. This was a bad deal, indeed!
  3. Thankfully, Abram saw right through this scheme…

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

  1. Abram was dependent upon God alone. He didn’t need a thing from Sodom, because the Creator/Possessor of heaven and earth was his provider! What could Bela of Sodom offer Abram in comparison with that? 

Genesis 15 – God’s one-sided covenant

  • God’s promise of a people (15:1-6)

1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

  1. Notice the connection in the narrative: “after these things.” God knew what Abram had done, and what Abram had refused because of his love and loyalty unto God. And God spoke up! Abram was right to refuse the reward of Bela of Sodom, because Abram already had one: God. God Himself was Abram’s “exceedingly great reward.
    1. Again, to know Christ is our blessing! Do we remember this, or are we always looking for stuff? 

2 But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

  1. Considering Abram’s earlier worship alongside Melchizedek, is this a lapse in faith? No; it’s an honest question. Abram remembered God’s promise of Genesis 12, but he hadn’t seen how it might come true. At this point, Abram’s simply trying to figure things out, so he asks God about His word and His covenant. Skeptical cynicism is not honored by the Lord, but honest questions are. There’s nothing wrong with asking God honest questions. Job did, and although eventually Job needed an attitude adjustment, God never once declares that Job is anything other than His “servant,” who spoke what was right about God (Job 42:7-8). Questions borne out of faith are fine; doubts arising from disbelief are not. Ask your questions; God can handle them!
  2. Notice: If Abram is asking how God’s word is going to be fulfilled, then Abram already believes that God’s word will be fulfilled. He knows God can be trusted; he just wants to know what to expect in the meantime. All he had at the moment were servants: people acquired from other lands and their sons born in his house. Who would receive the covenant promises of God from Abram, already aged & well-advanced in years? To that, God had an answer…

4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

  1. God points Abram beyond the present to the future. Something was still coming, but Abram had to be willing to wait.
  2. God reminds Abram that His power and grace is abundant! God’s promise was good because God had the power to pull it off. If Abram wanted to know how many descendants would come from his own loins, all he needed to do was look up at the night sky. The Milky Way could not number those who descended from him! (We’re included in that number, as is everyone who has faith in Christ! – Gal 3:29)

6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

  1. Had Abram not previously believed the Lord? Of course he had. His faith was demonstrated in his move from Ur, and in his worship alongside Melchizedek. The point of verse 6 is not to tell us when Abram came to faith and was saved, but how Abram was saved. It wasn’t by his act of worship with Melchizedek, nor by his obedience out of Ur. It certainly wasn’t by his obedience in circumcision, as God had not yet even given that commandment, nor any other. Abram’s salvation (the righteousness seen in him by God) was given to him by God on account of his faith. Throughout all of this, Abram “believed in the LORD,” – his trust was in God alone, standing firm on the word of YHWH and none other. As a result, God credited to him (thought towards him, reckoned to him) “” On his own, Abram seemed like a pretty decent guy, trying to do the right thing. He even had some pretty amazing spiritual experiences along the way. But none of that gave Abram the righteousness he required to be in a right relationship with God. What he needed, only God could give to him – and God gave it due to faith. Abram believed, and that alone verified God’s gift of righteousness.
  2. This is a crucial concept in the New Testament regarding salvation! Romans 4:1–3, “(1) What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.””Romans 4:20–25, “(20) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (22) And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (23) Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, (24) but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, (25) who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” How are we saved? The same way Abraham was saved: by faith! We believe the word (gospel) of God regarding Jesus Christ – we place our faith & trust solely in Him, and God credits the righteousness of Jesus to our account. 
  • God’s promise of a possession (15:7-21)

7 Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

  1. Covenant name already used, but this is the first time Scripture shows God introducing Himself by it. Why? This is the formal beginning of a covenant commitment. Something similar is seen at Mt. Sinai when God gives Moses the 10 Commandments: Exodus 20:1–2, “(1) And God spoke all these words, saying: (2) “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” It’s not that Abram nor Moses nor the children of Israel needed to be introduced to the Lord all over again; it’s that God was declaring a formalized covenant. Just like a modern contract spells out all of the details, specifying who exactly is included, so does God do with His covenant promises to Israel. Unto Abram, God identified Himself by His covenant name and His acts of deliverance and grace.
    1. How is it we know our Jesus? By His name and by His acts of deliverance and grace! We know Him by the name Jesus, because He has declared that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one goes to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6). There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). And we know Him by His acts of deliverance: the cross and resurrection! The resurrection is the divine declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom 1:4). The resurrection is God’s assurance given to men that Jesus will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). God the Son has been declared to us, the proof being His resurrection. We must believe and respond in faith!
  2. To Abram, God declared His name and His promise. There was yet a future inheritance for Abram: “this land” upon which he stood. That brought up a great question for Abram. How could he know – what assurance would he have of the future, considering he was old enough to die of old age at any moment?

8 And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” 9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

  1. When the Bible speaks about covenants, it often uses the literal language of “cutting” a covenant. What happens in vss. 8-10 seem to reflect the basic idea behind it. God has Abram gather several kinds of sacrificial animals (most of which are reflected in the later Levitical laws, showing that Abram had the law of God written on his heart, even if it had not yet been written down on paper), and then physically divide the animals in two parts. At the time Abram did it, nothing happened, but God would soon use these parts to demonstrate His own commitment to His covenant promise.
  2. One thing did happen: “vultures came down on the carcasses.” As might be expected with animal carcasses sitting out in the open sun in the desert/wilderness, carrion birds soon arrived. Abram quickly took action and “drove them away.” From a physical, natural standpoint, this all makes perfect sense. It does from a spiritual standpoint, as well. We don’t want to read too much into this, but the picture with Abram certainly calls to mind another word picture given us by the Lord Jesus as He described seed being cast upon the ground and birds swooping in to eat it up (Mt 13:4). He later describes the seed as the word, and the birds as the wicked one who “comes and snatches away what was sown,” (Mt 13:19). When God gives the gospel, the devil is eager to snatch it away from those who might receive His gracious promises. How do we guard against it? Take heed & shoo off the vultures! Do what needs to be done to hold fast to God’s promises of grace in Jesus!
  3. Abram acted according to God’s command during the day; God gave him a vision at night…

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

  1. That fear “fell upon” Abram isn’t too surprising. After all, the fear of the Lord is a good thing, as it’s the beginning of wisdom. But even if we don’t know all the details surrounding Abram’s terror, we know that God soon spoke to him, and reiterated His promise.
  2. There would indeed be a future nation arise from Abram. He would have many “descendants” – so many, in fact, that they would be large enough to be enslaved in a foreign land. They would remain in that land a long time (400 years), but God would not abandon them to that land. He would bring them out, and just as Abram had come out of Egypt with riches, so would his descendants “come out with great possessions.
  3. Two key thoughts: (1) This was all future, (2) God was all in control. (1) Abram was thinking in the short-term. He wanted to know what was happening in the next few days, weeks, and months. God had a plan that reached much further! God’s plan for Abram’s descendants lasted the next 400 years. In fact, God’s plan for his descendants lasted the next 4,000 years and beyond! (Though God only revealed a bit at the present time.) God’s plan for Abram and his children was greater than Abram could possibly imagine. But that leads to the second point, (2) God was totally in control of it all. Yes, God would keep His promise to grant a nation of descendants to Abram (good!). But that nation would also be enslaved (bad!). Yet God would judge the enslaving nation, and the Hebrews would come out again (good!). However it appeared from the outside, Abram needed to trust that God knew what He was doing. God had a plan for it all; Abram simply needed to maintain faith.

15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

  1. More to the present, God assured Abram that Abram wouldn’t see those future days. He would die in peace, being far older than what he was at the present. Abram would dwell in his land inheritance, though he wouldn’t possess it. True possession/ownership would have to wait until the 400 years of slavery (fourth generation) was complete, because that was when God would bring them back.
  2. Interestingly, God gives an additional reason for the wait. Among the other aspects of God’s timing, God was extending mercy to the Amorites: “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” This is important to remember when later reading of the conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua. It can seem truly harsh and cruel for God to command so much bloodshed, as entire cities of people were to be slain without mercy. But God had given them mercy. He had given them 400 years of mercy (and more, considering He was merciful to them prior to raising up Abraham). God had given them ample opportunity to repent, and they refused to do so, even with the later witnesses of the clans of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living among them. At some point, God had to bring His judgment, and prevent future generations from being born into hell-bound depravity. That was why He used Joshua in that way. But God had been merciful the entire time…His mercies are beyond our comprehension, being new every morning!
  3. That was all of God’s proclamation, but there was still a sign to be given. 

17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

  1. Here’s where all the split animal carcasses came into play. They were lying upon the ground, and a supernatural appearance of the presence of God “passed between” them. The “smoking oven” & “burning torch” are symbols of God’s glory. He is an all-consuming fire (Heb 12:29), and His presence often appears as either smoke/cloud (as it did on Mt. Sinai), or fire (such as the pillar of fire in the wilderness, or the burning bush of Moses). The whole idea is that God Himself passed through the slain animals.
  2. This was the cutting of the covenant. When animals were cut in two, it was as if the covenant-makers were saying, “May this happen to me, if I break my covenant vow.” We say something similar in marriage ceremonies today (which are modern covenants): “till death do we part.” IOW, may nothing except death break this vow. That was the vow God made unto Abram. He promised to keep His commitment unto death, under penalty of death.
    1. That’s what makes this so amazing! Can God die? So will God’s promise ever fail? No! God gave to Abram an unbreakable promise, and He made it completely one-sided. Not a single aspect of this vow was dependent upon Abram’s obedience; it was solely based on the word of God.
    2. Guess what our relationship with Jesus is? A one-sided covenant commitment from God, based upon the death of His Son. 

18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

  1. God concludes with a bit of detail about Abram’s future inheritance. God had promised him a land – now God tells him the borders. It was bigger than Abram could have possibly imagined! It would range from the border of Egyptian influence (not the Nile, but the wadi on the Sinai peninsula) all the way to the Euphrates river. Did Abram see this fulfilled? The nation of Israel got only the briefest taste of it…but they’ll experience it forever in the future. God’s promises never return void!


Praise God for the faith of Abram – and praise God that we can all share in that same faith! Abram trusted the Lord God alone. He had drawn his line in the sand with sin, clearly determined to trust none other but God. He trusted God in battle – he trusted God in worship – he trusted God with his future…he trusted God with everything. What God said, Abram believed. He took it as gospel, and trusted it with his life. And God can be trusted! He fulfills His promises, basing His own existence and reputation on it.

May we trust God in that same way! May we be those who trust Jesus for our daily provisions, but more than that, we trust Jesus with our very existence. May we be those who realize that the best reward is Jesus Himself – that knowing God in real relationship through real faith is better than any material thing the world can possibly offer.


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