Read Genesis 15:1-21 and Romans 4:3-4, Romans 4:9, Romans 4:22. How does Abram reveal what it means to live by faith? What is the meaning of the sacrifice that God had Abram perform?
God’s first response to Abram’s concern about an heir (Genesis 15:1-3) is that he will have a son from his “own body” (Genesis 15:4, NKJV). The same language is used by the prophet Nathan to refer to the seed of the future Messianic king (2 Samuel 7:12).
Abram was reassured and “believed in the LORD” (Genesis 15:6), because he understood that the fulfillment of God’s promise depended not on his own righteousness but on God’s (Genesis 15:6; compare with Romans 4:5-6).
This notion is extraordinary, especially in that culture. In the religion of the ancient Egyptians, for instance, judgment was evaluated on the basis of counting one’s human works of righteousness against the righteousness of the goddess Maat, who represented divine righteousness. In short, you had to earn “salvation.”
God then sets up a sacrificial ceremony for Abram to perform. Basically, the sacrifice points to Christ’s death for our sins. Humans are saved by grace, the gift of God’s righteousness, symbolized by these sacrifices. But this particular ceremony conveys specific messages for Abram. The preying of the vultures on the sacrificial animals (Genesis 15:9-11) means that Abram’s descendants will suffer slavery for a period of “four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13), or four generations (Genesis 15:16). Then in the fourth generation, Abram’s descendants “shall return here” (Genesis 15:16, NKJV).
The last scene of the sacrificial ceremony is dramatic: “a burning torch that passed between those pieces” (Genesis 15:17, NKJV). This extraordinary wonder signifies God’s commitment to fulfill His covenant promise of giving land to Abram’s descendants (Genesis 15:18).
The boundaries of this Promised Land, “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18, NKJV) remind us of the boundaries of the Garden of Eden (compare with Genesis 2:13-14). This prophecy has, therefore, more in view than just the Exodus and a homeland for Israel. On the distant horizon of this prophecy, in Abraham’s descendants taking the country of Canaan, looms the idea of the end-time salvation of God’s people, who will return to the Garden of Eden.
|How can we learn to keep focused on Christ and His righteousness as our only hope of salvation? What happens if we try to start counting up our good works?|