Gen 15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (ESV)
This has always been God’s promise to us. Our fallen nature screams for some kind of balance or payment. Our incessant cry for jurisprudence requires some kind of punishment for a crime. We chant from our pews “we need blood.” All the while God, our Father, Jesus has pursued us without ceasing. He wants us to know we are His children. He wants to provide for us like a Father, a good Father, a loving Father and generous Father. It is us, not God, that wants “vengeance.” It is us, not God, that wants “wrath.” It is us, not God, who has been unfaithful to Him. He just asks us to believe He is that good. He becomes a man to prove He is that good. He lets us kill Him on a cross so we can see how far He will go. He is raised again on the third day to love us when, by our standards, He should punish us. He comes to make His home in us instead of leaving us trapped in our lake of fury and punishment. He saves us from the hell we live in to the Kingdom of Himself. All of that…every promise….every provision…salvation from ourselves….and He wants nothing in return. If we would just believe.
Sometimes you hear a great teaching that puts a new light on a familiar story. I heard one of those from Gregory Boyd the other day. I recommend you check Him out at ReKnew.org. He also has tons of sermons as podcasts and videos from Woodland Hills Church at this web site:http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermons.
Greg taught about the covenant with Abraham. What a powerful story. It is more than that. This covenant with Abraham is the very essence of God’s nature towards mankind. It starts with what He said in Gen 15:1 above. It is so simple but so profound. Don’t fear, let Me protect you, I will reward you. What does Abraham do? Look close. It isn’t a cosmic puzzle of moral absolutes in hiding. Abraham does nothing. We do nothing. Abraham receives. We receive. How does he receive? He believes. We believe. That should be good enough knowing how awesome is our God. But God goes the extra mile. Still Abraham is required to do NOTHING. Check out what happens when Abraham says “but God that isn’t real and I don’t see how it is possible and can’t you see how horrible my situation really is and if you would just do something…” (I hear that kind of thing a lot as “proof” that God isn’t good).
Gen 15:2 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?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (ESV)
Do you see how good God is? He doesn’t balk at all. He speaks directly into Abraham’s concerns. Then what happens?
Gen 15:6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (ESV)
And there it is. We believe and we are righteous (in a right relationship with a God that has always been right towards us when we were even hiding in the bushes and ignoring how amazing and loving He really was but instead insisted on an angry God of wrath and punishment and violent torture when He really looks just like Jesus on a cross that saves and doesn’t want punishment or sacrifice or anything else but a contrite heart that is willing to be saved by the love of the universe). Whew….woah Nelly…easy girl.
But there is more. Just when you think it is good enough God goes even farther. He makes a covenant with Abraham. In this ancient culture a convenient was a serious matter. The two parties would cut animal in two pieces and walk between them as a declaration of their intent. They are saying by demonstration that “if I break this covenant I would wish that what has been done to these animals would be done to me.” Wow, that is intense. Sure enough that is what God does with Abraham:
Gen 15:9 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.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. (ESV)
Don’t miss the most important part. Who walks between the animals?
Gen 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. (ESV)
God does. Not God and Abraham, just God. I don’t know if you can “see” what has just happened. The covenant is still with Abraham but God is saying if He breaks the covenant or if Abraham breaks the covenant God declares that “what has been done to these animals will be done to Me (God alone).” Even if Abraham ignores God and blames Him for all the bad stuff that happens in the world and declares to everyone that God is really angry at us or choses to reject the loving kindness of God…there I go again…then God will be horrifically killed. Oh yeah, that is exactly what happened. The part that really gets me deep in my very soul is that God lets us (with the help of the enemy) do the killing. We broke covenant with God and He lets us exact the consequences on Himself. We insisted on an angry, religious tyrant in God. That was our violation of the covenant so God surrenders to the cross. Our part of the covenant was to just believe that God was good enough to keep His promise. We failed to do that and still fail to do that today. His promise is for us:
Gal 4:28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (ESV)
God makes it very clear that we just need to believe that He is good enough to deliver on His promises.
Rom 4:4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (ESV)
In the next verses David shows us what it looks like when we trust God.
Rom 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (ESV)
As I blaze this narrow path of truth (Jesus) and explore the Word (Jesus) and reveal the Good News (Jesus) I find much resistance by the “establishment.” I don’t apologize. I do mean what I say. I expect that I will find even more push back as we forge ahead. Jesus is the exact nature of God. Jesus is not a murder. Jesus forgives those who killed Him. God is a God of forgiveness. Sin has never been His problem but our obsession. Jesus sets us free from all that junk if we would just let Him. The more we hang on to our fallen way of thinking the more we are turning our backs on a covenant keeping God. This God, the one we call Abba, comes all the way to us to fulfill His part of the covenant that we break. All He asks of us is we see who He really is. Eternal life is knowing Him. Jesus shows us who He is. He is our shield and great reward.