This post is way late. The day just would not cooperate, but I learned something new today that I thought I’d pass along.
I’ll let the Christ Seminary-Seminex Professor of Old Testament, emeritus, at Luther Seminary tell you in his own words,
“In verses 7-12 and 17-18 Abraham again has trouble believing the promise, this time the promise of the land: “How am I to know that I shall in fact possess it?” God told Abraham to take a series of animals, cut them in two, and lay each half opposite its counterpart. Then, at sunset, a deep sleep fell on Abraham, much like the deep sleep that overcame Adam before God took one of his ribs and built it into a woman (Genesis 2:21). The point is not to be missed: Abraham is fast asleep for the rest of the pericope, and he contributes nothing to the making of the covenant after he has prepared the animals.
In a dream or vision Abraham observes a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passing between the cut up animals. On that day the Lord made with Abraham and Sarah a covenant, saying, “To your descendants I give this land.”
Again, this is God’s good news for their bad situation, but what does this ceremony mean? In making an agreement, our ancient ancestors often invoked on themselves a curse. An eighth-century treaty from a place called Sefire says: “Just as I am tearing the shoulder off this sheep, may my own shoulder be torn from its socket if I violate this agreement.”
Abraham and Sarah had a hard time believing the promise of the land. Would it help God says if I would invoke upon myself a curse? That is, may I be cut in pieces like these animals if I don’t fulfill this promise? At other times in the Old Testament God reinforces his promises by “swearing by himself” or “by raising his hand to heaven.” When a promise is hard to believe, God reinforces the promise by putting himself at risk. Now can you believe?
The crucifixion of Jesus is interpreted in a variety of ways in the New Testament and in Christian theology. One way of interpreting it is to say that God took upon himself the curse that was meant for us: Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree. When God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, is this not good news that empowers our trust? And is not the God of the Old Testament much like the God of the New Testament in putting himself on the line?
Genesis 15 recognizes that it is sometimes hard to believe when we are in bad situations. But God addresses our bad situations with promises that ring true to our needs, just as God doubled down on the promises to Abraham and Sarah. God lives up to his relationship with us by demonstrating that his news for us is indeed good, that he is willing to risk his very self so that we might believe.” (Read the whole commentary here).
In this section may be the coolest sentence I’ve ever read. “Just as I am tearing the shoulder off this sheep, may my own shoulder be torn from its socket if I violate this agreement.” I mean, how cool is that! SHW and I closed on a refinance on our house last week. There were no torn shoulders, no promises of physical harm. We’ve lost a great way of sealing covenant relationships with the end of animal sacrifices.
Anyway, I’m not sure if this’ll preach, I hope it does, but even if it doesn’t, I can rest easy knowing that I have shared this great insight by Ralph Klein.