Abraham is a familiar biblical figure for many of us. We may know him as Father Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, and think of him as the old man staring up at the stars in the pictures of our children’s Bibles. Fourteen chapters in the book of Genesis tell us about his life and death, and many more in both the Old Testament and the New Testament reference him, either in passing or in detail. We are familiar with him for good reason, as understanding Abraham and his life helps us greatly in understanding the story of the Bible, the gospel message, and our 21st century lives.
Our introduction to Abraham begins in earnest in Genesis 12, back when he was called Abram, and right away, we see God making promises to bless him with many descendants and to give a place to those descendants, despite the fact that in his very old age, he had neither a son nor a piece of land to call his own. Yet Abram “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). God made these promises many more times throughout Abram’s life, reassuring Abram as the years went by.
In Genesis 15, God did more than just give Abram verbal assurances that he will one day have this land; He ratified these promises with a covenant. In this ceremony, Abram gathered the animals that God told him to gather, sacrificed them by cutting them in half, and laid the pieces out across from each other (Genesis 15:7-11). This sounds strange to us, but back in Abram’s day, it was a common ceremony. What was meant to happen was that the two parties would walk through the pieces, as if to say, “If I do not fulfill my promises, then may what has been done to these animals be done to me.” Only this time, in this covenant with God, Abram is not invited to participate. God Himself, and God alone, in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, walked through the pieces, and by doing so, promised to take the entire curse of the covenant on Himself if it didn’t come to pass. God promised it, and God would do it.
The incredible thing about this is that this covenant is based solely on God’s character. If we look back at the text, we realize that after Abram prepared the sacrifice, he fell asleep. Abram did not walk through the sacrifice. It is God’s faithfulness that is on the line, and His faithfulness is what He shows to His people time and time again. And a few hundred years after this covenant was made, when God brought hundreds of thousands of Abram’s descendants out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land, the Israelites saw, and we see, that our God is a promise-keeping God.
This God who made and kept the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their many descendants is the same God who continues to fulfill His promises to us today.
Time and time again in His Word, He makes promises to His people. He promised to bring us out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). He promised to bring us out of sin and to righteousness (Romans 6:18). He promised that one day, in the New Jerusalem, He will be our God, and we will be His people (Jeremiah 31:33-34), and in that New Jerusalem, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death nor mourning nor crying nor pain anymore (Revelation 21:2-4).
That’s a lot of very big promises from a very good and faithful God. But in our busy daily lives, we forget history, and we doubt the faithfulness of our God. And like Abram back in Genesis, we might be tempted to ask for a sign, for a guarantee that God will do what He has promised to do. Thankfully, God has already given us this guarantee, in His Son:
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant of my blood.’” (Luke 22:19-20)
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, allowed humans to do to Him what instead should have been done to us. He allowed His body to be broken and His blood to be spilled by sinful, unfaithful humans. By putting to death the One who perfectly fulfilled the Law, the crowds that day unintentionally offered the perfect sacrifice that was necessary for our forgiveness and freedom. While we were still dead in our sins, unable to help ourselves, Jesus took our curse upon Himself in order to forgive us of our sins, to bring us out of slavery to sin and into our new, Spirit-filled life in Him forever, to extend to us the blessings of Abraham, the blessings of spiritual descendants and a new home in a new Promised Land.
Once again, God’s faithfulness to His people has been proven to us. We are an unfaithful people who have rebelled against the King who loves us. I don’t deserve a single ounce of blessing that He extends to me. And even when I want to try to earn my way into the blessing, I find myself like Abram, asleep next to the sacrifice, unable to contribute anything, unable to earn it, unable to prove myself worthy of it.
Yet, praise God, His faithfulness does not depend on me. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Our God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Because of His great love for His people, the faithful God of the universe reached down and committed Himself to us, and He will not, He cannot, abandon His people. Because of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, we have hope – sure and certain expectation – that God keeps His promises, that even now we can begin new life in His Kingdom, free from the penalty of sin, and one day we will live in God’s perfect presence forever. We can believe, as Abram believed, the LORD.
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness/How He Loves” by Celtic Worship
“He’s Always Been Faithful” by Worship Initiative