Summary: Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away" Notice there is ALWAYS SOMETHING OR SOMEONE WHO WILL TRY TO STOP YOU ENTERING INTO A COVENANT relationship with God, and you will have to refuse to let them.
Part 2 - Genesis 15:6-21 - CHASING AWAY THE VULTURES
Moving to Sydney from the Whitsunday's in Australia is like moving to a new country - it has a culture of it's own which is vastly different. Moving into a new ministry also has it's challenges and so I can identify with Abram as God brought him out of his comfort zone in Ur of the Chaldeans to the promised land. God says to me and to you today as he said to Abram in ages past "Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you (or "I am Your shield" - NASB), and your reward will be great." And He calls us by name as He identifies with us personally.
Just before Easter I attended a training class to increase my skills in people centred ministry areas. I had SO MANY QUESTIONS. The trainer, Lillian, had so many qualifications and was able to draw on her years of experience, including her more recent work with Jewish Holocaust victims.
When Abram was told of the new territory he would be moving into and possessing as his own, he also had LOTS OF QUESTIONS. He asks in Genesis 15:8 "O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?"
Abram has already asked God a lot of questions. I like this. He sees God as SOVEREIGN. God can do anything He wants to do, and Abram wants to CO-OPERATE WITH HIS PURPOSES. As I get to know God as being my sovereign Lord, then I want to submit myself more to Him. THAT DOESN'T MEAN LESS QUESTIONS. It means more, so that I can do what I am called to do with competence and more importantly in His ways. Lord, I want to co-operate with Your sovereign purposes in my life today.
He brings me to the place of covenant - the place where His promises are confirmed.
For Abram it occurred in Genesis 15:9-11 "The Lord told him, "Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon." So Abram presented all these to Him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away" Notice there is ALWAYS SOMETHING OR SOMEONE WHO WILL TRY TO STOP YOU ENTERING INTO A COVENANT relationship with God, and you will have to refuse to let them. You have to chase away the vultures to receive what God intends.
This is the way of making a covenant in the Old Testament. It was probably something Abram was already familiar with. Why does he kill them and cut them down the middle? Why are the birds left uncut?
The covenant ceremony involved a walking path between the animals which had been cut in half. The dove and pigeon were placed whole at the end of rows of halved animals. Normally each person entering into the covenant would walk down the path between the pieces of sacrificed animals. While they walked, they would declare the promises of the contract. If they failed to keep the covenant then they deserved the same fate as the animals. The penalty for sin or not keeping your part of the promises was death. When Israel failed to keep the covenant made in Jeremiah 34:18 (NLT) God says "Because you have broken the terms of our covenant, I will cut you apart just as you cut apart the calf when you walked between its halves to solemnize your vows." What would Abram be thinking at this time? Perhaps it was "Oh No! There's no way I can keep my side of this covenant? I have enough trouble keeping the promises I make to my wife!"
In Genesis 15:12 Abram falls into a deep sleep and a terrifying darkness comes over him. God speaks to him in A PROPHETIC DREAM which outlines how his descendents will be slaves in Egypt for 400 years. They'll be delivered from Egypt. Egypt will be punished but they will have to wait before coming into the promised land. After 4 generations, Abram's descendents will return to the very land where Abram now is sleeping. Then it says something interesting which shows THE GRACE OF GOD...
What does it mean that He is not yet ready to destroy the Amorites for their sins? He says "for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction." (Genesis 15:16). It seems to me that He allows time for the Amorites to repent before bringing judgment on them. His love and justice meet in His grace and they are given 400 years.
So what's with the SMOKING FIREPOT AND THE FLAMING TORCH that moves through the pathway caused by the dissected animals? It seems God chooses to reveal Himself with fire and smoke throughout the Bible - smoke fills the temple, burning bush, pillar of fire, fire on the altar, fire on Mt Sinai, , tongues of fire. Follow it through. Where-ever God goes, He seems to want to burn away the rubbish and light the way ahead.