As I mentioned in last Saturday’s posting, the nature of my contribution to LifeTalk is changing a little. I’ll now be writing on Wednesdays and Fridays, with these devotions serving as preludes to what will be preached at Holston View United Methodist Church on Sundays.
Today’s Bible passage: Genesis 15
By Chuck Griffin
Religious covenants are serious business, much more serious than a simple contract. Hey, blood usually is involved.
To set aside a people through whom a savior eventually would come, God first established a covenant with Abram, later renamed Abraham after being designated father of the Israelites. In the 15th chapter of Genesis, we see that covenant formalized in a vision, one where God made binding the promises he had offered Abram if the old, childless man would move to a new place.
God’s grant of land, a vast number of descendants and even a blessing unto the whole world became guarantees for Abraham and his descendants at this point. A smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, symbols of God’s zeal and holiness, passed between the halves of sacrificial animals arranged at God’s instruction. In effect, God was saying, “If I fail in my promises, may the same be done to me as was done to these animals.”
Contracts usually have a termination point. A covenant with God goes much further, potentially creating an eternal relationship. It takes a lot of reading to explore the biblical concept of covenant—in many ways, it is the primary theme of the Bible. This covenant with Abraham and its ensuing effects keep arising in Scripture until finally we have that great blessing for the world, Jesus Christ.
Christ both affirmed the covenant made with Abraham and established a new way for all people to enter a covenant with God. He did this, of course, by going to the cross, shedding blood and dying to pay for our sins.
Again, God did all the real work and made all the promises in this relationship. Believe in what has been done, and we are drawn into the arrangement.
As the Book of Hebrews reminds us, this new covenant is embedded in our minds and written on our hearts. We are changed the moment we formally enter it through baptism, and the Holy Spirit continues to work within us for our betterment the rest of our lives.
Lord, help us as we read your word to grasp the importance of a covenant life with you. We thank you for the great gift of life you offer us. Amen.