When Lent started I decided to go through a reading plan on my Bible app on my phone. A few days in was the topic of covenant. The passage was Genesis 15. You may be familiar with this passage, it's when God makes a covenant with Abraham. This is after God promises to make Abraham the father of a great nation. Years later, Abraham still has no children. He's thinking that God might be a little crazy, so he questions God. (Sound familiar, eh?) God asks Abraham to bring him a heifer, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon. Abraham does as God asks and cuts the heifer and ram in half and sets the halves facing each other a distance apart.
Ok, so I know by now you're thinking... this girl is crazy! Welcome back blog posts and we're talking about chopped up animals?! Well, stick with me. Abraham does this because this was the typical way people made a covenant with each other. In historical context, a covenant was more than a promise. A covenant was something you didn't go back on. And they made a covenant with each other by splitting an animal in half and each walking through the space in between the halves. Once this was done, the covenant was set. It symbolized that if the covenant was not upheld, they would offer their life in the same manner as the animal.
Alright, back to our scripture. Abraham arranges the animals, and once he does this God causes him to fall into a deep sleep. Basically, in the dream God explains to Abraham the path of his ancestors. Then, God presents himself to Abraham as a torch and fire pot. He passes through the animals making a covenant with Abraham. Yeah yeah, ok, so what. Well, here's the kicker... God doesn't require Abraham to pass through the animal pieces. Only he does.
Ok, now you think I've really lost my mind. Animal pieces, a torch, a dream. I know, kinda of crazy sounding but here it is...
In God's graceful love towards us, He covenants with us. BUT, he does not require us to covenant with him. He doesn't require it because he understands our human condition. He knows that we will question. We will whine. We will stray. He knows that the sin that's bound up in us will always keep us from being able to fulfill the demands of such a covenant. He hung on that cross, he offered himself, he took our punishment on himself because he loves us. He took our punishment of breaking a covenant on himself.
Maybe this is still all a little muddled to you. I know I've read this passage at least a dozen times and never realized any of this. I never realized the significance of God not making Abraham pass through the animal. (In fact, I think I was probably always disturbed by the idea of walking through a chopped in half animal). But, it's actually quite plain. God has made a covenant with you to love you, to guide you, to never leave you or forsake you. He made a deal. And he entered that deal with us knowing that we wouldn't keep up our end. But he did it any way. Because he loves us. More than anything.