Friday, May 11, 2012

Genesis 15: The Covenant with Abram & Salvation – Part 2

By Mark Hunnemann


God made (cut) a covenant with His people, but this was an agreement, not between equals, but between the King and His chosen vassals. In the text in Jeremiah, the Lord reminds the people that they had solemnized their relationship with Him as savior and Lord, with walking through  the severed animal pieces. But, they had been unfaithful to their  covenant vows to Yahweh...breaking the gracious terms habitually.

In addition, the sign of the covenant between God and His people was circumcision--in the NT, the sign of the covenant is baptism (Col.2:11.12). Male infants were circumcised, showing they (and the girls) were part of the covenant community. Being part of the covenant community did not mean they were saved, but that is not our focus here. For the rest of their lives, the male Jew would have a sign in his flesh, indicating the taking of covenantal vows--having walked between the pieces. Circumcision had a positive and a negative connotation:: positively, it signaled inclusion in the covenant community (not to be equated with being saved) and God's promise of covenant faithfulness. 
Negatively, it was a curse...a sign in the Jewish mans flesh, that he would be "cut off" if he was unfaithful to the terms of the covenant. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, then you will have read many times of so and so being "cut of"--that is, they were killed. It was a sign of both blessing and a curse--depending on each person's faith and obedience, or lack of it. So, circumcision was a reminder of the bloody covenantal oath they had taken. Bear with me, as the significance of all this will become clear shortly.

Back to the narrative...an eerie, horror of great darkness came upon Abram as the Lord was about to visit him. It was a darkness that could be felt. The greatest paranormal event in the Old Covenant was about to happen. The God of the bible is both awe-ful and awesome. Every godly  person in the OT who had a close encounter with the thrice Holy One, experienced what Otto referred to as the mysterium tremendum...it was not pleasant. Isaiah (ch.6), perhaps the most righteous man of his day, cursed himself and felt as if he were disintegrating, because God's  holiness revealed the bottomless pit of indwelling sin that resides in all of us. Something to consider..Satan, who is pure evil, can appear as angel of light; but God, who is infinitely pure holiness, graciously shields Himself in darkness, so that Abram might not die. The "hiddeness" of the God of the bible, is both a blessing a curse. We were made to see God face to face (which we shall do immediately upon death), but, now He must shield us from a frontal view of Himself.

Once it was completely dark, the most astonishing thing occurred. A smoking firepot and flaming torch passed between the halves of the carcasses. This is where I get chills, but not because of a cold spot. What is this, and why is it so significant? Try to picture this scene in your mind...According to the Old Testament, a smoking fire pot and flaming torch is symbolic of a theophany...an appearance of the God of fire (Exod. 3:2; 13:21; 19:18) "For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29) Is yours? As was said of Aslan, "He is a good Lion, but not a tame one." I am confident that a greater perception of the Father's holiness would render this debate absurd.

God is passing through the pieces, instead of Abram! As if to say, "I am making this covenant with you and your descendants. I know you cannot keep the law...the harder and more sincere you try, the more  miserably you will see that you fail. But I have passed through the pieces. I...I will be torn apart...I will be cursed and killed for you, as your substitute. I will kill Myself for you. The all-powerful God maxed out in securing our redemption, as we shall see.

While on the cross, Jesus became the embodiment of circumcision and its curse...the Great Circumcised One...cut off for us.."But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When He was hung on the cross, He took upon Himself the curse for our wrongdoing." (Gal. 3:13) When Jesus was on the cross, he screamed in agony a cry of dereliction, "My God, My God...why have you forsaken Me?" For the first time in backwards eternity, God the Father was not in perfect harmony with His infinitely beloved Son. In Rom. 3:25 and elsewhere, Jesus is called a propitiation. Because He became a substitute for our sins (covenant breaking), then He became the object of the Father's wrath for us. In Acts 20:28 God is said to have shed His blood for us. How can that be, since God does not have blood to shed? Furthermore, it is impossible for God to die...how could the Trinity be broken? It wasn't.  Touching His divine nature, Jesus Christ could not die. However, since the human nature of Jesus is in perfect union with His divine nature, then when He shed human blood, then it is was God shedding His blood. In other words, Jesus fulfilled His "walk through the pieces", even though it was we who broke the covenant. Listen to these comforting words from Hebrews.

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who receive the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. 

When we made a promise as a kid, we may have said something like "stick a needle in my eye.", or as adults we place our hand on the bible. In the latter, we are appealing to an authority higher than us. However, God has no-One behind or above Him. When God passed through the  slaughtered pieces (pre-figuring the slaughter of The Lamb) He bound Himself to an oath. The truly wonderful thing is that He gave us this graphic illustration of how ferociously dedicated He is to being a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls; so that we can have, not just hope, but great hope! Our souls are anchored NOW in the inner sanctuary....so that we might enjoy great hope!

Is it not shameful, that we would debate whether a soul, purchased by divine blood and already anchored in heaven, might get trapped here? If we have fled to Jesus, God wants us to have great confidence. Confidence of what? Hope!!! The almighty God maxed out His strength on the cross, so that we might have GREAT CONFIDENCE IN GOING TO HEAVEN UPON DEATH. Hope may include more than that, but it certainly does not include less. Ghost theory obliterates any sense of confidence, not to mention, great confidence, of hope. A God-centered approach is this. This is called an a fortiori argument ...(from greater to lesser) If God did the harder thing of "passing through the pieces" for us, (the horrible atonement), then how much easier it would be for Him to bring ALL these divinely blood-soaked souls SAFELY home. HOME!!! When, we don't place this issue in the proper theo-centric perspective, we get all caught up in trivial pursuits. If we take the time to marvel at the singular honor and dignity of Christ, and the perfection of the bloody atonement, we will be too busy worshipping God to believe in this demonic lie. I'm not sure my friends have thought through just how discomfiting this notion is...fear not!

I hesitated to even approach this text because I knew I could not do it justice...may our Lord look with favor upon us! Amen

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