Promises Show We Value the Other Person

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Promises are important. When we do not keep our word, we communicate to the other person that we do not value them. An unkept promise harms a relationship while a kept promise strengthens. In this passage, once again God doubles down on the commitment to bless the whole world through the lineage of Abraham. Seems like God is trying to get across to us!

This passage reflects a common practice in the Ancient Near East called “cutting a covenant.” As you have read, both parties cleave larger animals and separate the pieces. Small animals are not halved. Both parties then speak their commitments and declare, “May you do this to me if I am not faithful to my word.” High stakes. This is beyond “stick a needle in my eye!” Promises are important.

At this point, God has stated and restated the promise: I will give you land and descendants and through your line, the world will be blessed.

You may be asking a question, “Sure, God can remain faithful to the covenant, but can Abraham remain faithful?” Abraham has given us reason to doubt his ability to be on the up-and-up. He has placed his and Sarah’s life in danger in an excursion to Egypt, what will happen? Is this story doomed to fail like all the others so far?

But notice this! Abraham doesn’t walk through the center, only God, represented by the pot, “walks” through the center. God is taking responsibility for both sides. Abraham could fail, yet God would remain faithful. I cannot state emphatically enough, how significant this act is. God is not fickle with commitments. God will see to it that the promise is kept, no matter the cost, no matter what we do or don’t do.

Why this Matters to Us Right Now

There is a consistent idea that crops up in certain streams of Christianity that place our “right living” as the focal point. If you obey, God blesses. If you don’t, then God withholds. Connected to this thought is the idea that if my life is going well, it’s because I’m being good enough and God sees me and is rewarding me. The opposite is also true, if my life is falling apart it is likely my fault. This is why the book of Job is important and dismantles these false notions. We’ll get to that book in due time.

What change would come about within us if we took God’s commitment to us seriously? Ephesians 1 tells us that before we were born God set love upon us. Before I acted or knew, God knew and loved and acted. Turn the focus from your performance to God’s commitment and the world begins to change!

God cut a covenant with us and said, “May you do so to me if I don’t keep it.” That covenant, to bless the world through a descendant of Abraham, is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus (see Galatians 3). God has remained true. We do not need to strive or earn. Instead, we need to bask in this grace, accept it, and live in response to it.

I come to this passage delighted in God’s big-hearted commitment to be faithful no matter what – even when I have bad days, even when I leave something undone. We can respond with gratitude and thankfulness and grow in an unshakeable faith knowing that God will never forsake us or leave us.

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