Summary: What had Abraham done that made him worthy of one of the greatest promises in Scripture?
OPEN: When you and I were children, there was a saying we’d often hear. I’m going to say the first half of the saying and let’s see if you know the 2nd half:
“Cross my heart and (hope to die)”
What was that child saying?
They were saying they’d made a promise, and if they were to break that promise they would expect something bad to happen.
Actually, the original phrase is a little longer:
"Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye."
The only thing kids could think of that was worse than dying was sticking needles in their eyes - and I would tend to agree. Kids understand the importance of promises. In fact parents have learned that they need to be very careful what promises they make to their kids. As my kids were growing up I learned that if I told them that…
• I was going to do something for them
• I was going to take them someplace
• I was going get something for them.
and then (for whatever reason) I didn’t do that, you know what they’d say to me?
BUT YOU PROMISED!
As children we learned that promises are were important and needed to be kept. God understands that and so He has repeatedly told us throughout the Bible that if He makes a promise He’ll keep it. And in the Bible one of the most significant kind of promises God made were called “Covenants”.
A covenant was the kind of promise that God made with Abram (renamed Abraham). God promised Abraham that if left his home and took his family to a place God would show him THEN God would then bless Him in several significant ways.
There are some people who think that Old Testament covenants are like our modern day contracts. And that’s kind of true… but covenants were like contracts on steroids:
Back in Bible days folks talked about “cutting a covenant”. If you “cut a covenant” with someone, you’d go through an elaborate ceremony where you’d cut an animal in two… and the parts were placed a few feet apart creating a path between the pieces of the dead animal.
Then the parties to the covenant would walk between those dead parts.
They were essentially declaring: “May I be like this dead animal if I ever break this covenant.”
Genesis 15 describes how God “cut” His covenant with Abram:
“… 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." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other….
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch (representing God) appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram”
(Genesis 15:9-10 and 17-18a)
God was declaring to Abram… may I be like these animals if I ever break my promise. It was God’s way of saying: “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye” except God’s covenant with Abraham wasn’t child’s play… it was a deadly serious vow. It was God’s way of saying: I WILL keep this promise.