At first glance this might appear to be a boring subject. The reality however, is that our lives are governed by covenants in its various modern forms.
From leasing or buying your home, to leasing or buying a car, from engagement and marriage to bank and credit cards, covenants in modern form order our lives. And as many have experienced, any covenant of man can be broken, with various consequences for doing so.
But there is a covenant that cannot be broken.
The proper term is actually, ‘cutting the covenant’, for all ancient covenants included the shedding of blood. The covenant heads, which are the 2 cutting the covenant, first had to agree to enter into covenant. Once coming into agreement, they gave each other their most valuable possession. There was always a celebratory feast after the covenant had been cut. There were always vows spoken with blessings pronounced for keeping covenant and curses if they did not.
These elements: Agreement, Blood, exchanging gifts, vows, and celebratory meal, though ancient, govern our spiritual lives in Christ to this day – and beyond!
In Genesis 15 we see the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim) showing Abram the stars and promising this childless man that he would indeed have offspring too numerous for him to count. It was there in v6 Abram agreed to enter into covenant with Jehovah Elohim: “And he believed in the Lord (Jehovah), and it was counted to him for righteousness.”
You’ll recall from the previous study how the Lord God is. The One who came out of the Elohim to form Adam’s body, made the first blood sacrifice as clothing for Adam and Eve, spoke to Moses from the burning bush: Who Jesus claimed to be in John 8: 58.
They had a verbal agreement between them, but Abram then asked how he knew for sure he would have a son. To that, Jehovah gave instructions to formalize their verbal agreement.
He instructed Abram to divide in half a 3 year old heifer, a 3 year old she-goat and a 3 year old ram, and set their halves opposite each other. He did not divide the dove and pigeon, but set one on one side and the other on the other side. (15: 8-10)
In a normal ceremony of Abram’s day, the less powerful of the covenant heads would walk between the divided animals. This was done as the less powerful covenant head was saying if he broke the covenant he would become as one of those animals.
This practice is referred to in Jeremiah 34: 18: “Those who violate my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and walked between the pieces.”
Abram was to walk between the pieces as the lesser of the two making covenant, swearing he would be as one of those animals should he violate the covenant.
But the Lord did something unexpected.
He caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abram, leaving him incapable of walking with Jehovah between the carcasses, leaving Jehovah to walk by Himself between them, making the covenant with Himself.
Genesis 15: 17 says: “A smoking lamp and burning furnace passed between the pieces. And that day the Lord (Jehovah) made covenant with Abram saying…”
There are many commentaries about the burning lamp and smoking furnace. The context is the Lord talking to Abram about his descendants’ 400 years in Egypt. Some suggest the smoking lamp is the smoke of destruction and the light of salvation (deliverance) from Egypt.
I tend to think of it this way: The Hebrew of ‘smoking furnace’ is that of a baking oven, which to me signifies God’s provision in the midst of slavery in Egypt. The burning lamp is how the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush and kept Israel warm in the desert with a pillar of fire – deliverance and direction.
Instead of Abram as the weaker one making covenant passing between the animals, It was the Lord becoming the weaker one, passing between the animals. The Lord promised and then confirmed His promise by making the covenant. He did so in a way to promise Abram provision and direction, unbroken forever.
This is explained in Hebrews 6: 13-20 which says in part:
“When God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself….for men always swear by something greater than themselves, and that oath is final, it ends all argument. In the same way God, to show His heirs the unchangeable nature and purpose (in making covenant) He swore by Himself and then made covenant. That by these unchangeable things, that God cannot lie and He made covenant to confirm it, we have fled as a refuge of the hope set before us…”
This is what was happening when Jehovah put a deep sleep on Abram and passed between the halved animals. He made a promise to Abram, and then made a covenant with Himself to confirm His promise. There is nothing more sure in the universe than that!
Hebrews 6 tells us the more complete thought, of how we can be assured of our salvation, be assured of our trust in Jesus:
“We have fled as a refuge to the hope (heaven) set before us. This hope is an anchor for our soul, firm and secure. It enters behind the veil where our forerunner, Jesus, has already entered, who is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
The main point today is the Lord God made covenant with Himself, as if He were the weaker of the two making covenant. This alludes to Christ the Son of God, emptying Himself of all rights and priviledges as God’s Son, to become a human being. And as Philippians 2: 6-11 says, “Finding Himself in fashion as a man, humbled Himself to death, even the death of the cross…” Centuries early, as that weaker one, He made promise of salvation and then made covenant with Himself to confirm it – then He Himself became one of us to fulfill the terms of the covenant. “It is finished.”
That is the covenant that cannot be broken. Wow. Amazing grace.
More next week, until then, blessings,