“Then the LORD told him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.’”Genesis 15:7 (NLT)
What is a promise? Two people make an agreement. If you do this, then I will do that. But what if only one person makes the promise? Then we call it a unilateral agreement. Where God is the one involved, we call it an unconditional promise. God swears to do something based on nothing else but His own character. That is a promise you can count on.
God told Abram that He would give him the land of Canaan as his possession. Abram replied, “How shall I know that I will inherit it?” So God told him to divide a heifer, goat and ram and to sacrifice a turtledove and young pigeon. When the sun went down, a deep sleep, horror and darkness fell upon him. This was the dark night of Abram’s soul.
“Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth.’”Genesis 15:13-14 (NLT)
God used an ancient method of solemnizing an agreement. They would sacrifice an animal, divide it in half, and the two parties would walk between the pieces. The idea was that if either party failed to perform the terms, then the same fate would happen to him as happened to the animal! But God made the covenant with five animals, making the promise even more secure. Moreover, God passed through the divided carcasses with a smoking firepot and flaming torch (v. 17) showing that He alone was making the agreement. Abram’s part was only to believe, which he had already done (Genesis 15:6).
But this promise did not come without cost. First, the five animals were sacrificed. God always requires the shedding of blood to make atonement for man’s sins. Second, Abram’s descendants would be oppressed as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. This would be the dark night of the Hebrew people, but they would come away with great wealth.
All of this pointed to the cross of Jesus Christ. For in the sacrifice of His only Son, God makes an unconditional promise to us that He will forgive us of our sins and give us His kingdom as our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:7; Luke 12:32). This is a covenant of grace (unmerited favor) because we do nothing except to believe in Jesus Christ (John 6:28-29). God has made this solemn promise based on His own character. But we don’t receive this without some affliction. Jesus promised that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But we can take heart, because as Jesus overcame, so shall we.
Each Easter after church, my dad would take our entire family to the top of premiere hotel in downtown Sacramento for Sunday brunch. It was a wonderful time of joy, fellowship and feasting. It cost us nothing, but it wasn’t free. Likewise, God “picked up the tab” for our salvation, but it wasn’t free. It cost Jesus His life.
Can you trust a God who would make a promise like that?
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