About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Covenant With Abram (ch. 15:1 - 19)
Verse 1 tells us that
some time after the events of chapter 14 God spoke to Abraham in a
vision. Not every time we
see God speaking to Abraham we know just how He spoke, but this time it
was in a vision.
God told Abraham not to
be afraid. As expected, mere
man does fear when He comes in contact with the Most High God, even if
it was in a vision. God told
Abraham that He would be his shield.
The shield speaks of protection.
God also says that He is
Abraham's "very great reward."
As Christians, we often think of things as being rewards.
We often think that God will someday reward us with a crown, or
whatever. But really, as
this passage clearly states, the most important reward we'll receive is
God Himself. Yet that being
said, you might view the covenant of this chapter, which is known as the
Abrahamic Covenant a reward as well.
In verse 2 Abraham says,
"O sovereign Lord." The
Hebrew for this is "Adonay Yahweh".
We've talked about "Yahweh" before, meaning, "I
implies "ownership". Abraham
is saying that the "I am' is his owner.
He belongs to "Yahweh".
God first comes to
Abraham. Once God introduces
Himself, Abraham takes the opportunity to ask God to give him a
biological son. Having sons
were so important in those days to carry on the family name and
We see the name
"Eliezer" in verse 2. He was Abraham's servant, and would have
become Abraham's heir if Abraham did not have a biological
son. This is what
Abraham did not want to happen. Of
course, if you understand the story of Abraham as interpreted throughout
the Bible, you will certainly conclude that Abraham's problem was God's
will. It only goes to show
that not all problems are from the devil or made by man.
God can be behind our problems as well.
This will also show that God is always made perfect in our
weaknesses. By this I mean
that God can use us best when we are unable to do His will in our own
Abraham repeats himself
in verse 3 by telling God once again the "He has not given him a
son," therefore Eliezer would become his heir.
The one new thought we have hear is that Abraham viewed God as
being the one who gives children to parents.
This isn't normally our western way of thinking, but it was
Abraham's way of thinking.
In verse 4 "the word
of the Lord came to Abraham." When
the text speaks of "the word of the Lord", as it does here and
elsewhere in the Bible, it means that God has a specific thing He wants
the recipient of the word to both hear and to understand.
In this case God tells Abraham that Eliezer will not be his heir,
but a man-child will be born from his own body.
Eliezer was not born from Abraham. He was simply a servant.
In verse 5 God tells
Abraham to look up into the sky and see the stars.
God says that His offspring will number as many as the stars n
the sky. At this point I
need to distinguish between the word "offspring" and the word
"descendents". When the Genesis account uses the word
"descendents" plural, and it's usually in the plural form, it
means all the descendents born through Abraham and his children. That's
Therefore, when God tells
Abraham in this specific setting that his "offspring" will
number as many as the stars in the sky, that offspring speaks of Jesus.
That means that because of, and through Jesus, Abraham will have
a great number within his family tree, and when you combine this with
other Scripture, this number is great due to the fact that Gentiles are
When God promises Abraham
great numbers here, this specific promise
comes through Jesus. As Paul
says, Jesus is the offspring, but we will note later on in this chapter
that the descendents of Abraham, that's Israel, will also get the same promise.
Verse 6 gives Abraham's
response to what God had just promised him.
The text says that Abraham believed what God said.
He actually trusted God to do as He said He would do, even though
what God said He'd do was humanly impossible.
Because Abraham trusted God, God then viewed Abraham as a
righteous man, even though in reality he was not righteous.
Paul, in Romans tells us all about the trust that Abraham had,
and relates it to us in New Testament times.
Paul says that God viewed Abraham as being righteous solely based
on the fact that he trusted in God.
He trusted God to do as He said He would.
Paul then goes on to say that salvation, that which was promised
by God to mankind is then by faith, that is, by trusting in God.
Abraham was viewed as
righteous because he trusted God, and by the same token, we are viewed
as righteous by God as well, if we trust Him for our salvation.
It is not a matter of works, not a matter of anything that we do.
It's all a matter of God being faithful to His word and us
Righteousness is the
state of being where one is perfectly right in the essence of who he is
all the time, even as God Himself is perfectly right in the essence of
who He is all the time. It's
more than doing right, it's being right.
It's a state of being, which is different than simply doing right
In verse 7 God reminds
Abraham that He is the one who brought him out of
In verse 8 Abram asked
God how he could know for sure that this promised land would be given to
him. One might wonder that
if God spoke to you, you wouldn't have any doubts, but it's clear that
Abram had some doubts. It is
also clear that Abram, even though in the land did not yet possess the
land. So the rest of this
chapter is God's response to Abram's doubt.
In Old Testament times,
among the Jews, and also among other ethnic people, when two people
entered into a covenant there was normally some kind of ritual.
Usually it required the shedding of blood.
The two parties would state their part to play in
the covenant and also state the penalties for withdrawing from the
So in verse 9 God tells
Abram to gather up a heifer, a goat, a ram.
These animals were to be three years old. He was also told to get
a dove and a young pigeon. The
animals being three years of age is most likely prophetically
In verse 10 and 11 God
tells Abram to cut the animals in half and place each half across from
the other half. He was not
to cut the birds in half. While
doing this, scavenger birds attempted to swoop down and eat the animals
that he had cut in half and he drove them away.
One might see some prophetic significance in this as well, that
is, the scavengers being demons.
In verse 12 we note that
Abram falls into a deep sleep. He
didn't just fall asleep. He
fell into a deep sleep, and it was God who put him to sleep.
Besides this deep sleep, dreadful darkness fell over him.
I don't believe this sleep or this darkness is an ordinary thing.
I believe God put Abram into this deep sleep, and I believe God
sent the darkness. I
also believe that this darkness is prophetically significant, especially
in relation to the darkness that fell over the world while Jesus was
hanging on the cross. Beyond
this, I'm not quite sure what this darkness represents.
Could it be an evil darkness.
God was about to do something significant and possibly satan was
trying to interfere.
It is interesting to note
that the Hebrew root from which the Hebrew word for "dreadful"
here means to
"twist or to bind". This
is interesting since this covenant ritual is a binding of a contract.
Once Abram is in this
deep sleep, the first thing that God tells him is found in verse 13, and
it wasn't really good news. God
told Abram that his descendents would be enslaved and mistreated for
four hundred years.
Then in verse 14 God
tells Abram that the nation that enslaved his descendents would be
punished for the way they treated Abram's descendents.
This is actually in conjunction with the first recorded words we
have God speaking to Abram. In
Genesis 12 2 and 3 God told Abram that He'd curse any nation that cursed
Him. So, what God says here
is consistent with what He said earlier. I believe these words still
have significance for today.
Verse 14 also says that
Abram's descendents would come out of this slavery and they'd come out
with great possessions. Time
and time again throughout the Old Testament we see the descendents of
The next thing God tells
Abram is found in verse 15. The
first thing concerned Abram's descendents.
The second thing concerned Abram himself.
God said that he would die in peace at a good old age.
In verse 17 we have
mentioned the Amorites. This
was one of the four nations that Abram helped fight the battle with in
Genesis 14. They
subsequently become a thorn in the side of Israel
throughout the Old Testament. God
speaks of the "sin of the Amorites" reaching its full measure.
This suggests to me that national sins are a reality.
God knows when the peak of national sins will increase and seems
to bring judgment on these nations when this peak comes about.
I believe that God still judges nations today when their national
sin reaches its peak as well. You might wonder if the western nations
today are fast reaching their peak of national sins.
Verse 17 speaks of a fire
passing between the pieces of animals.
As was often the case with covenant rituals back then.
The participants would walk through the pieces of animals as they
lay on the ground, but not so in this case.
Abram was asleep. God
alone walked through the pieces. This
is very significant because God made this covenant with Himself.
He did not make it with Abram.
Abram was asleep. God
simply agreed with himself to fulfill what was promised in this ritual.
The keeping of this covenant did not depend on what Abram or his
descendents did. God alone
would keep this covenant all by Himself.
Verse 18 says, "on
that day". This is to
emphasize that right then, during that ritual, on that particular day
God promised Abraham something. The
promise was that He'd give this land to Abrahams descendents.
It was a specific piece of land that stretched from the
You will note that in
Numbers 34:1 through 15 this land is mentioned again.
The question then arises.
"Why the difference between Genesis and Numbers?"
I believe God did promise the land all the way east to the
Verse 19 states the
nations that were presently living n the land of promise.
This covenant of Genesis
15 concerns Abraham, his descendents, and his offspring getting the land
in which he presently lived, and even more land than that.
In verse 5 the land is promised to his offspring who Paul says is
Jesus, and in verse 13 the land is promised to the descendents who is Israel. This has been a debated
issue for centuries. Some
suggest that this land was given to Israel, and then they forfeited it by being unfaithful to God,
never to get it back again. But
the story of this chapter is all about Abram being put to sleep and not
participating in the covenant ritual that signifies that this
promise was all about God's doing.
Abram and his descendents would have no part in its fulfillment.
We also know from other times when God speaks to Abram About the land
that the promise would be forever, not just for a time being.
did lose some land. They
never got it all in the first place.
They will get it all at some future point.
It will be God's doing, not their doing, and they will possess
the land for ever, and forever means forever.
We must distinguish here
between the singular word "offspring" and the plural word
tells us that because the word "offspring" is singular it can
only refer to one person, and he says that is Jesus.
What Paul doesn't comment on in Galatians 3 is the word
"descendents" which is obviously plural.
I conclude that offspring then refers to Jesus, and descendents
still refers to
Hebrews 6:13 and 14 are
relevant to this chapter. The
writer of the book of Hebrews says that God made a promise to Abraham,
and since there was no one greater than God to swear by, He swore by
Himself. That's the main
theme to Genesis 15. So
you can be certain that what God promised here in Genesis 15 will be
fulfilled, even though it's not fulfilled as yet, and even though there
is no human way it can be fulfilled.