At Gateway South and Gateway Central, we are going through two part series called: Bloodline.
Kenny Green spoke at Gateway South on “The Covenant.”
Here are the next steps questions for this message:
- What did you discover from the message?
- What intrigued you?
- What challenged you?
- What is your next step to apply what you heard?
Here is the audio of the message Kenny shared:
Here are notes from the message:
Do you ever consider the areas in your life that have been a struggle along with the injustice and violence in our world and wonder: “God, how long until you’ll answer my prayers? How long will we have to wait for you to act or to intervene here?”
In situations and seasons where we find it difficult to wait on God and to trust Him our questions and our doubts can very often make it difficult to move forward in our own spiritual journey. As a result, this can also make it difficult for us to move forward together as a community.
Throughout the ups and downs of my life, I’ve repeatedly dealt with the following questions in different seasons of my life:
On Trusting God
What if I have questions and doubts about God or struggling with trusting Him, can I still walk with God?
On Trusting Myself
Considering all the times I’ve failed God before and all of the times I will surely fail Him again, can I still walk with God?
Can I still live a life of faith with all of my imperfections and with all of these questions and doubts?
What’s so beautiful about being part of a community like ours is that wherever you are on your journey with God, we can all journey together in love and in respect for one another even as we come from different perspectives.
God and Abram
As we jump into this conversation that we’re calling Bloodline, I want to explore a part of the amazing story of God and Abram. I want to see what we can learn about God’s character and about trusting Him. I want to see if maybe you and I can find our place in this story as well.
First thing we need is a little context:
The history of God and Abram’s relationship begins back pretty close to the beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis. We meet Abram in Genesis 11 and don’t really know much about him. We learn a little bit about his family of origin and that he has a wife named Sarai who was barren.
Then Genesis 12 begins with these words:
The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…
– Genesis 12:1-4
God came to Abram in his native country and He tells him to go. He tells him:
“I want you to leave everything that is familiar to you and I want you go to a land that I’ll reveal to you later and the reason I’ve called you to leave your country is because I am going to give you offspring – enough to make a great nation. Not only that but out of your descendants will come one through whom all the peoples of the world will be blessed.”
As the story keeps moving forward some real tension and frustration are building because God has made these promises to Abram and yet year after year times passes and Abram still doesn’t have any kids.
People often say that “God’s timing is always perfect” and although I don’t disagree, it usually doesn’t feel that way while we’re waiting does it?
So that brings us to Genesis 15…
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’
But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’
– Genesis 15:1-3
To the frustrated Abram, the word of the Lord came to him:
‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:4-6
There’s a couple really important things happening.
1st we’re told that: “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
The passage doesn’t say he believed “in” God but that he believed God. He trusted God.
Remember, it’s very possible and far too common for people to believe in God but to put absolutely no faith or no trust in Him.
Abram trusted in the promises of God, and he ended up basing his entire life around those promises.
He trusted the things God said, but Abram also had questions and doubts just like we do.
Many people say that trusting God means moving forward without questioning.
Trusting God means moving forward with our questions and with our doubts. It means moving forward without having all of the answers and without having all of the information.
The opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is sight.
With all of his questions and doubts, Abram believed God and he trusted Him. As a result, God credited to him as righteousness.
God re-affirms his promises but then we read:
“But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know?’” – Genesis 15:8
In other words, how can I know you’re going to come through on all of this?
God is not the least bit thrown or angered by Abram’s question. Instead, God responds to Abram’s question with the following:
So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’
Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.
– Genesis 15:9-10
What is going on here?
God initiated a covenant ceremony with Abram.
This ceremony that would have been very well known to Abram and others in his culture. This idea of a covenant ceremony is completely foreign to us, but I want you to notice that Abram knew exactly what to do here. Even though God only told him to bring Him these animals, Abram brought the animals and knew to cut them in two (except the birds). Abram knew to arrange the halves opposite each other.
What you do in a blood covenant ceremony is that you would take the animals and you cut them in half longways. After digging a shallow trench, you place the halves of the animal on either side of the trench so their blood pools down the middle.
They didn’t have notary publics or lawyers yet at this time, so they would make agreements or covenants with each other. This one was the most serious covenant you could make – a blood covenant.
Here’s the way this would work :
- Two parties would come to an agreement.
- The greater party would dictate the terms of the covenant for both.
- Once an agreement was reached, the greater party would walk through the blood first saying: “if I or my descendants fail to keep the terms of the covenant, you can do to me what we’ve done to the animals.”
- The lesser party would go through saying: “If I do not live up to the stipulations of the covenant, may you do to me what we’ve done to these animals.”
- Both parties would now have blood on the hem of their robes, and the blood represented the surety of the promise they were making to each other.
Abram knew exactly what was happening, and he knew that he was about to get in to a contract with God.
Abram could have never seen what God was about to do….
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
– Genesis 15:12
Because of what God was showing him, Abram was terrified! He was entering into a blood covenant with God, and God was showing Him the terms!
God promised Abram land, descendants, and blessing. In a blood covenant, God was saying that if I do not provide for you, you can do to me what we’ve done to these animals.
What was Abram’s part of the covenant?
In Genesis 17 we read:
“… the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’”
– Genesis 17:1-2
Do you see why Abram was terrified?
Abram knows that if walks through the blood between the pieces of these animals then he’s saying that if me or my descendants fail to be walk faithfully and blamelessly before God then God can do to Abram and his descendants what’s been done to those animals.
This next verse has become one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible:
“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.”
– Genesis 15:17
Abram saw the pieces of the animals laying in 2 rows and the river of blood that has pooled into a trench between the pieces, so Abram sits on the ground terrified as He prepares for this covenant ceremony to begin.
Smoke and Fire
Then, just as the sun sets and darkness falls all around Abram, a smoking firepot appears with a flaming torch and passes through the blood between the pieces.
Remember, the greater of the 2 parties would always go first so the smoking firepot passing through the pieces represents God.
This is consistent with the fact that God’s presence manifests as smoke in other places in the Old Testament story as well.
- The temple would fill with the smoke.
- The people of Israel were led out of Egypt by a cloud of smoke.
- The presence of God appeared as smoke on the top of Mt. Sinai.
Next, the lesser party is supposes to walk through to complete the covenant, but notice what happens.
Instead of Abram going next, we’re told that a flaming torch then passed through the pieces. To the best of my knowledge, people are never represented by fire in scripture – only the presence of God.
- The tongues of fire in Acts.
- “Our God is a consuming fire…”
- God led the Exodus in a pillar of fire by night.
God goes through the pieces in the form of smoke and the form of fire. In doing so, God is saying to Abram:
“If I fail to keep my end of this contract for you (land, descendants, and blessing) then may you and your descendants do to me what’s been done to these animals, AND instead of making Abram walk through to make a promise he can never keep, God goes through again on behalf of Abram. In doing so God is saying: “Abram, if you and your descendants don’t live up to your end of the contract (to walk blamelessly before me), may you do to me what we’ve done to these animals”.
God passes through the pieces in 2 different forms, and says: “If I fail you then you can do this to me, but if you fail (and you will), you can do this to me. Either way, the consequences fall on me.”
What’s so amazing is that if you keep following the story, what you’ll find is that everything came to pass just as God said it would.
God Fulfills The Covenant
Eventually, Abram miraculously has a son named Isaac who eventually has a son named Jacob. From their family grew a great nation with a land of their own. Through their descendants, centuries later a man was born through whom all the peoples of the world will be blessed and His name was Jesus.
At the age of 33 years, on a Friday during passover, centuries after God made this blood covenant with Abram, Jesus was tortured to the point of his body being torn to pieces and then He was crucified.
Just before He breathed His last breath, John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus cried out the words: “It Is Finished” and then He died.
Incredibly, scholars tell us that the word that Jesus spoke: “Teleo” translated “It Is Finished” is a word that spoke specifically of the completion or fulfillment of a contract.
Can you see it? Can you see God’s faithfulness?!
Can you see the lengths that God has gone through to show us He can be trusted?
We can entrust our lives to Him!
Everything that ever needed to be done so that you and I could live under the blessing and the promises of God has been accomplished by Jesus on the cross.
This conversation isn’t inviting us into a religion but into a relationship – a covenant relationship with God through Jesus.
Being in this covenant relationship means that you and I must understand the terms of this covenant. That means we have to understand that God passed through twice. He passed through the pieces for us and that centuries later Jesus gave His life as the fulfillment of that covenant meaning that for any of us who would say “yes” to Jesus, the price for all of our failures and all of our sin and all of our shame and all of our guilt has been paid in full – completely covered by the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross. As a result, you and I are free – free to love God and to receive His love – free to choose to live our lives differently than we ever have before. We are free to live without shame and guilt and perhaps most importantly today, we are free to love each other because God first loved us.
We are living in a world that is so full of violence and injustice where evil is trying to pit us against each other and where we need to fight back with prayer and through loving each other. Our world needs hope and faith and love more than ever before. Because of what has been done for us, now we are free to be a source hope and love for others, and we can change our world together.
God can be trusted, and I want you to know how much God loves you today – just the way you are right now – with all of your questions and with all of your doubts. For all of you who believe and those who aren’t sure yet, God promises that:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
God looks at our broken lives and says, “everything needed for you to be made right with me has been covered by the work of Jesus on the cross…
“It is Finished!”
The question is: do we trust Him?