Going Deeper 3/12/2019

The first reading for Lent 2...
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18   After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, 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 childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"  And Abram said, "You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir."  But the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir."  He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them."  Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."  And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.   Then he said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you 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."  He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.  And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.   As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.  When the sun had gone down and it was dark, 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 descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates..."

Paul and other New Testament writers point to Abraham as being an example of a "man of faith. " This bizarre story helps us understand that Abraham's journey of faith included many times of struggle and doubt.  So has mine.  How about you?

God first called Abraham back in Genesis 12, promising that he would be blessed with a multitude of offspring who would one day occupy a "promised land", and through whom all of the nations of the world would be blessed.  In the subsequent chapters, we read about times of strong faith and times of very weak faith.  Not one or the other, but both.  And this week's story demonstrates this inconsistent yet saving faith.

As He already had several times, God came to Abram (not yet renamed "Abraham") in a vision, reiterating His promises.  Abram's response reveals a lack of confidence in the promises: "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless", which is followed by a suggested "Plan B."  

So the Lord uses a Covenantal 'Ritual' common in that time.  If two men were entering into a covenant agreement, they would each bring an animal and cut it in two pieces, and then pass through the divided animal stating something like: "May what happened to this animal happen to me if I do not keep my promise!"  God uses this vision to reaffirm His promises!!

Abram would still have ups and downs in his journey of faith, but God miraculously does fulfill what He had promised.  And in the end, Abraham demonstrates remarkable trust and faith through his willingness to sacrifice his long-awaited promised son... but God provides a lamb instead.

Our faith-journey will look a lot like Abraham's.  We will experience times of high-level trust and times of weakness and doubt.  But God remains faithful.  Most importantly, God has provided a Lamb to cover our sins and weaknesses and has kept His promise to bring us into His eternal Kingdom.  Trust Him!

With You in Him,
Mark Gabbert