R.C. Sproul says Genesis 15:17 is his all-time favorite verse…
“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. “
Really? Smoking fire pot?
Really? Flaming torch?
Let’s look at the context of the passage.
God had just announced His “covenant” with Abram. According to Theopedia, this Hebrew word derives from a root which means “to cut” and hence a covenant is a “cutting” with reference to the ancient custom of cutting or dividing animals into two parts with the contracting parties passing between them, in making a covenant, see for example Jeremiah 34:18-19. Some suggest the parties of the covenant are thereby saying in essence, “May I be torn apart like these animals if I fail to uphold my part of this covenant.”
So what we read in this Genesis 15:17 is a “theophany”-an outward external manifestation of the invisible God. (Like burning bush to Moses, pillar of fire during exodus …often a type of fire. In the New Testament, we read that God is a consuming fire. This is a normal manner of revealing Himself.)
- GOD Himself is moving between the pieces of animals.
- GOD alone passes between the slaughtered animals (while Abram sleeps!), again emphasizing the one-sided nature of this covenant, as well as the ultimate level of commitment involved –
- GOD putting his very life on line, as it were, as guarantee.
- GOD proving his reliability of His promise to Abram.
God was saying, “IF I FAIL TO KEEP MY PROMISE…MAY I BE RIPPED APART!”
In Hebrews 6:13-18 we read
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
God could swear by nothing greater than himself. He could not say “raise my right hand, hope to die, or on my mother’s grave”
R.C. Sproul says,
“He would cease to BE GOD if He did not fulfill His part of the covenant! He puts His deity on the line! What certainty! He vowed by His own nature! When I doubt, I want to read this passage. Abraham does not walk the gauntlet, it is all one-sided!”
A great verse to have as a favorite, after all!
Indeed, as Hebrews says, we can “have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us!”
As you read through the Bible this year, make a list of your favorite verses, and see what you learn about God.