Last week, I mentioned that, from the example of Jacob, I have noticed how I tend to make conditions with God, in my walk with Him. But on the other side, God doesn’t make conditional promises upon us, in order to receive salvation.
In Genesis 15 we see God forming a covenant with Abraham.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue[a] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[b] shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
I don’t know about you, but many times when reading this story, I find it very strange that Abraham takes animals, and cuts them in halves, when preparing to form this covenant with God, that is until, I understood, that in Abraham’s time, it was common, when forming a covenant between two equal parties, to take a set of animals, slice them in two, and then both parties would walk between the halves. The understanding being, if you fail to meet your side of the covenant, then what has been done to these animals will be done to you.
However, in the case of God, God waits until Abraham falls asleep, and then God himself walks between the animal halves, thus saying to Abraham, I know you won’t be able to keep your end of the bargain, but I will. God in his grace, knows that Abraham, and his descendants will not keep their end of the bargain, but God will keep his promise. We see this idea throughout the whole of the Bible. Even though the descendants of Abraham did not live perfect lives, and often lived in such a way as to bring about God’s judgement upon them, God still brought His Son through the line of Abraham.
So it is with us, God, saved us when we were completely dead in our sin, and had no understanding of who He was, and had no desire to follow Him. And yet, he sent His own Son, down to earth to become a man, and to die as a sacrifice for our sin. Paul even states in Romans 5, that Christ died for us, while we were still His enemies.
Now this idea of the unconditional love of God, is not meant to be a license to say, well I’m saved now, I can do whatever I want. But rather it is a freeing from the burden of religion. Now, we obey God out of love for Him, not because we are trying to earn His love, because we already know that He loves us!
I hope that this is encouraging for you, and removes some of the burden of trying to please God, and instead rest in the knowledge that God is already pleased with you, and that our hope is not in ourselves, and hoping we can keep our end of the bargain, but instead our hope is in God, and knowing that He always keeps his promises.