This is probably the most important passage in the Old Testament for a number of reasons. At this point Abram is somewhere between the ages of 75 (Genesis 12) and 99 (Genesis 17). He had been given an unconditional covenant that a great nation would spring from him (his lineage) and possess the land (Genesis 13), and that through him the world would be blessed . But now in Genesis 15, we begin to see cracks in Abram’s outright belief in what God said He would do.
Stop for a moment: have you ever doubted God’s clear promises in His Word in your own life? What do you do with your doubts? For instance, in Hebrews 13:5 the writer makes it clear that God in no sense will ever turn His back on us. The original language is very forceful … “never, no never, no never” will He ever turn His face from you.” Now, have you ever felt like God had abandoned you? Was there ever a time that it felt like His face had been turned away? It’s clear that all of us have stood wondering how solid God’s promises to us really are. I would suggest that rather than seeing Old Testament characters as people to emulate, what we actually see is them pointing to something greater, the ultimate “yes” to His promises.
Abram asks two questions: “What about a son?” and “What about the land?” To the first question, God, in a sense, puts His arm around Abram, takes him outside and shows him the vast array of stars as representing Abram’s descendants. “Abram, if you have any doubts about this promise, the stars will be a visible reminder that I will make this happen.”
But now, “What about the land you promised?” To the second question, God performs a well-known rite with Abram. As it was customary in those days, a covenant was an agreement between two parties. As a king would “cut a covenant” with another person, animals would be split in two and both parties would walk through the pieces signifying, “If I do not do what I promised, may I end up like these animals…cut in two.”
What’s absolutely unique in this covenant is that only God goes through the pieces. What this communicates is that “Abram, if I fail on my end to fulfill my promise to you, may I be cut in two.” But it goes further to say, “And even if you fail in this covenant may I be cut in two.”
It’s clear that the gospel is pictured here! Paul in the 2 Cor. 1:20 writes, “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Christ they are ‘yes’”. The New Covenant completely depends on God. He is faithful to His promises even when we experience doubt. What assurance can we have? The death of Christ on the cross tells us that even when we fail to live up to “our end”, the second Person of the Trinity took it upon Himself to seal the deal. He was cut and bled real blood for us.
What does this tell us about how to overcome doubt? Is it simply trying or even believing harder? Was there ever a time in your life when you doubted God’s clear promise to you? What was that like? What were sensing at the time? How has Christ’s work on your behalf lifted the weight of doubt from your shoulders?