Thursday, November 28, 2013

Abraham's Need For Assurance

Jewel with the Donkey-1
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. - 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

"Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield your very great reward." 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? " And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." 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." 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." Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land and take possession of it" Genesis 12:1-8 NIV

For my power is made perfect in weakness...
Two things are promised in the verses above - a son from his own body and a land. God's absolute power displayed in weakness, Abram, was a stranger in a foreign land and the husband of a barren wife. The God of the universe chooses us despite our weakness and frailties and then exults Himself through our weakness. When we trust God to use us despite our weakness, He alone gets the glory. When we trust Him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves we are given redemption and righteousness. God credited Abraham's belief in the Lord as righteousness. The verses I quoted above and below are from the NIV Bible but the New American Standard Bible actually says that Abraham believed IN the LORD and He credited it to him as righteousness.
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" 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 pigeon. Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged them opposite each other; the birds however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. Genesis 15:8-11 NIV
It was his need for assurance that led to a covenant being cut on his behalf. What is a covenant? A covenant is a solemn-binding agreement made by passing between pieces of flesh. It's an everlasting agreement between two parties. It acknowledges God's sovereignty and his position as sovereign administrator of covenant. If the covenant is broken it means death. This practice was common during the old and new testament times. In fact, testament literally translated means covenant. The old covenant being the Old Testament and the new covenant being the New Testament. When the two parties passed between the pieces they did so in a figure eight pattern, pointing to the slain animals and then to God, saying if I break this covenant then do to me as I have done to these animals. It was an acknowledgement that God is a sovereign judge and witness to the union being made. Abraham after being declared righteous prepared the sacrifice by cutting a heifer, a ram and a goat in two. He then waited.....
We see from the text that it was either the night before or early morning when God took Abraham outside to show him the stars in the sky and told Abraham to prepare the sacrifice, we also see that as he waited, birds of prey came to descend upon and devour the sacrifice. But, as the sun was setting, Abraham fell into a deep sleep and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. And as he slept between the pieces of flesh, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch passed between the pieces of flesh on Abraham's behalf.
I wonder if the birds of prey that tried to descend upon the sacrifice were constant reminders of the fall of man. These birds that came to nick pick the sacred offering and devour all that is Holy. The birds reminded me of the doubt I experience as I wait on the Lord. These birds swoop in during the early morning hours and whisper...."do you really believe this stuff." The doubt that settles in on me as I once again focus on my failure to perform. I wonder if while Abraham was waiting for God to accept the sacrifice, he was anticipating the walk between the pieces of flesh, thinking he had a part to play in His salvation and the promises given to him. But then sleep overcame him and the Lord caused him to give way to his weakness.
I love God's declaration to Abraham as a greeting, I am your shield, your very great reward. It makes me think of the shield of faith found in Ephesians 6:16. He declares who He is to Abraham before Abraham believed in Him. I also love the intimacy between God and Abraham and Abraham's sorrowful words to his Maker, "but you have given me no children" Genesis 15:3
Two passed between the pieces on his behalf, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch and the animals which were cut in two surrounded Abraham as he slept. These animals represent our Savior. His flesh was torn in two and only through Him do we have access to the Father. It is only by the blood of Jesus that we have been declared righteous. Our justification is by faith alone, in Christ alone. It's trusting in the finished work of Christ and allowing Him to use us in our weakness. It's when we come to the end of ourselves that we find the One who paid it all and we rest between the sacrifice in His finished work.
Sundown in Masada-1

Picture on the Top: Our friend in Nazareth Village - Nazareth, Israel
Picture Below: Sundown in Masada, Israel

Post above written January 2011