“God said, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, and a dove and a young pigeon.’ [Abram] brought all these animals to him, split them down the middle, and laid the halves opposite each other. But he didn’t split the birds. Vultures swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them off. As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy… When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses. That’s when God made a covenant with Abram: ‘I’m giving this land to your children, from the Nile River in Egypt to the River Euphrates in Assyria—the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites’”
(Genesis 15:9-12, 17-21, The Message)
Either you don’t understand what you’ve just read or you’re saying What?!! to this bloody business, I find that this encounter is interesting. Abram killed three large animals, cut each in half through bone and muscle, and laid the pieces out. But lucky birds, their bodies remain in one piece (but probably their heads were chopped off. Easy dead). Imagine the smell of meat and blood. Thus, Abram had to scare the vultures off.
I assumed Abram probably recognized the making of the familiar ritual – the Cutting of a Covenant – during the Old Testament period. When two kings made a covenant, they sometimes cut an animal in half and walked between the pieces as way of saying, “If I don’t keep this agreement, may I be like this animal.” Sometimes both parties walked between the pieces, sometimes it was only the weaker of the two kings.
“As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy.” Many commentaries tells us that Abram woke to a vision of God. In a form of “a smoking firepot and a flaming touch” God passing between the pieces of the animals. If it was God, then I assured you, it was not the weaker of the two parties putting Himself on the line for the sake of the Covenant, but the stronger. The only One. I interprets it as of God was saying, “If I don’t give this land to your offspring as I have promised, may I be broken like these broken animals.”
God came to the man and woman who waited in faith. There is no record of Abram walking between the pieces since God’s Covenant is not a bargain between equals. It is totally dependent on God’s initiative of grace. Abram role – our role even today – is to receive what God gives, obey what God commands and so live in the enjoyment of God’s blessings. I learned, through my darkest moments, when I don’t understand why I have to wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled, I know that that is precisely the moment for faith to hold on to God’s Word and to say,
“I know that the God who has brought me to this point is not going to let me down now, so I am going to confirm my commitment to Him, whatever the appearance may be, because He is committed to me forever. Amen.”
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.