Summary: The smoking pot, flaming torch and God’s covenant with Himself that benefited Abraham is a reflection of our covenant of grace. This sermon looks at the promise that is not dependent upon us, but on God’s grace.
The Covenant of Grace
Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."
2 But Abram said, "Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"
4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir."
5 Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
8 And he said, "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"
9 So He said to 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."
10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, ..."
This is such a rich passage, it is hard to know which areas to dig into. I would like to point out that the foundation of this entire passage is laid on verse 1, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward”. The covenant wasn’t the reward. The promises were not the reward. Abraham’s inherited righteousness was not the reward. God and God alone was the reward. Abraham didn’t follow the promise; He followed God. From the beginning his focus was on God and he followed without even knowing what the promise was. Many churches today have this reversed. We are often taught to seek the blessings of God as if the relationship is secondary or not important at all. Those who seek the promise or the blessing and forget the relationship, don’t have anything of value to inherit. We were created for the purpose of having a relationship with our Creator. Anything short of that focus is doctrine based on error. If we could gain everything and claim every promise and not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we would be unsatisfied. Everything this life has to offer is worthless when placed in the eternal perspective. Once this life is over, only what is founded upon our relationship with God will remain. If we have intimacy with God, we are rich even in poverty, but if we have riches without God, we are destitute. Or as Jesus stated in Revelation 3:
17 "Because you say, ’I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked --
18 "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
Many who claim riches are blind to their poverty because God is not their shield and reward. As with Abraham, our entire Christian life is founded on this principle or we have no foundation at all. Built on this foundation are four principles of this passage: justification, promises, the covenant of God, and the benefits of the covenant.
Genesis 15:6 gives the clearest description of faith in the Bible in the simplest terms. Abraham believed in the Lord. This faith in God was accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:9). We tend to make Christianity complicated and faith has been made into a mystery. There are no faith formulas. Simply put, we believe God or we don’t. To those who believe God, the sins due are not imputed, but instead God’s own righteousness is imputed or credited to them. We have the gift of justification because we put our trust in God. Faith is believing God, trust is the evidence of our faith.
James adds clarity on this issue. James 2 says,
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?