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January 14, 2014 – Genesis 15

Click here to read Genesis 15 on BibleGateway.com

194No question about it, the Bible has many passages that are somewhat difficult to understand. Ridiculous might be a better word. Swallowed by a big fish? Really? Coins in a fish’s mouth? And let’s not forget the ever popular maul-children-with-a-bear. Sometimes it seems like God enjoys using the bizarre to get our attention.

Yet there’s a pot of delicious Lucky Charms at the end of the Rainbow of Confusion. If we do a little bit of digging, these confusing passages not only become less confusatory, they may even be some of the deepest passages in the Bible.


So what’s going on in Genesis 15? Abram and God are hanging out shooting the breeze, and Abram tells God that he wants some little offspring to run around the tent-stead. God tells Abram to get a bunch of animals, cut them half, and put them in a line. Then Abram falls asleep, and a “smoking firepot with a blazing torch” moves between the carcasses. Seems like a ridiculously uninformative response for an omniscient being.

Once again, a little more info reveals the depth of what is going on here. In the ancient world, when a superior party made a treaty with a vasal, they would both take a “self-maledictory oath.” This is like bringing a curse upon yourself if you are unfaithful to the treaty. In this case, it means something like “if i don’t keep my end of the bargain, then may the same thing happened to me as happened to these animals.” Abram and God are making a deal; Abram will keep God’s commands, and God will bless Abram with children and other merriments.


However, Abram already knows that he won’t be able to keep this bargain. His portion of the treaty is to remain faithful to God, and to keep His commands. But Abram already knows that he’s going to fail. He’s revealed himself to be a liar, adulterer, killer, con-man, and who knows what else. Just like all of us, Abram knows that deep down he’s pretty much a despicable scumbag. He basically knows he’s signing his own death warrant.

But this is the beautiful part; God steps in. He passes through the line of carcasses alone, taking Abram’s place. What’s He saying? He’s telling Abram “yes, I know you’re going to break this covenant; but when you do, I’ll make sure the worst of the curse falls on me.” Abram didn’t need to fear; God has it in control.

Jesus fulfilled that promise on the Cross. He took the full brunt of Abram’s (and our) failure. God continues to uphold His end of the deal made with Abram, despite his failure. He was split and tortured for our inability to keep our end of the deal with God. He took our failure and weakness, our sin and selfishness, and took all the pain and curse all on Himself. Is there anything that illustrates God’s grace more?

What ridiculous thing is God doing for you today?

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