Summary: Pastor Jon continues his study through Hebrews, looking at ways in which the New Covenant in Jesus fulfills the Old Covenant.
If you were with us last week, you remember hearing about how Abram (later called Abraham) chased after the kings and their armies after they defeated Sodom and captured Lot. Lot was blessed by the King of Salem—Melchizedek. We learned that Melchizedek was superior to Abram because the blessing which was given went from the greater to the lesser, and the tithe (or offering) which was given went from the lesser to the greater. Since Melchizedek was greater than Abram, and since the priests of Levi were still within Abram, we know that priests in the line of Melchizedek are greater than the priests in the line of Levi. Since scripture tells us that Jesus was a priest in the order of Melchizedek, we know that the priestly work of Jesus is greater than that of the Levitical priests, and that the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant.
We’re going to pick up this week with the continuation of the narrative of Abram, found in Genesis chapter 15. He had just come back from defeating the kings and receiving this blessing when we read these words:
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, "O 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 coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens 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, "O 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 your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 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 fathers in 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 river 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."
May God add His Blessing to the Reading of His Word
You probably remember the first part of this lesson from a Sunday School lesson as a child. The image of counting the stars in the sky is probably one that has stayed with you throughout your life. You may even remember going outside one night and trying to count the stars, realizing that it was impossible, and then realizing how impossible God’s promise must have seemed to Abram. And yet, we’re told that Abram didn’t doubt this promise but believed God…and that it was credited to him as righteousness.
But God doesn’t stop there—He then makes another promise…that Abram would take possession of all of the land around him. Interestingly enough, even though Abram accepted the first promise without any question, it is this promise that he seems to have questions about, or even doubt. For he says to God, “How can I know that I will gain possession of the land?” In other words, “How do I know this will happen?” or even, “How can I know you will keep this promise?” It is that question which leads into a ritual that seems very bizarre to our 21st century western culture, but would have been very common to Abram’s ancient world.