Read Genesis 15
The Lord’s Covenant With Abram
1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestorsin peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
This chapter builds off of the previous one, where we saw Abram, victorious in battle, properly giving credit where credit is due. He remembers God’s faithfulness to him thus far, and this passage begins with God appearing to him in a vision, assuring him of God’s continued commitment to him. Throughout this entire chapter, God formally establishes His covenant with Abram. He again promises Abram many descendants, saying his offspring will be so many that they will be like the stars in the sky (which is why we’re still singing Father Abraham to this day).
All of this had to still feel far-fetched to Abram, right? He had heard this before, yet he still didn’t have a son of his own. He and his wife were both of old age. Yet God still continued to promise to make him a father to an entire nation. It would’ve been easy for Abram to doubt God; we often doubt God’s promises that seem far more likely to come true than what God was promising Abram. But verse 6 tells us everything we need to know about Abram: Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Abram trusted God. Abram believed that God was who He said He was. Abram had faith. This verse is so pivotal that James and Paul would both quote it in the New Testament as one of the cornerstone doctrines of the faith: God accepts us by His grace and our faith. God also shows Abram a glimpse of what is to come for his people while Abram is in a deep sleep. It’s not all good. In fact, some of it is going to be terrible. But God, as He has done all along, will deliver His people once again because He is faithful and He keeps His promises.
What do you notice about Abram’s response to God in this passage? What about God’s response to Abram?
Is reflecting on God’s faithfulness something you do well? Or do you often forget and doubt God’s goodness over time?
What do you learn about God in verse 6? What’s the theological significance of this verse?
Did You Know?
In verse 17, both the “smoking fire pot” and “flaming torch” are meant to symbolize God and His holiness. The blazing fire is a great symbol for God, as it is purifying, captivating, and all-consuming. Other places where God is referred to as fire/a flame include 1 Corinthians 3:13, Exodus 19:18, and Exodus 24:17.