“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him… When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces (of meat). On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates…”
Genesis 15:12, 17-18 (NIV).
For a nomad, the promise of land ownership would have been difficult to believe. So it is not surprising that Abram asked, “How am I to know that I shall possess it?” (Genesis 15:8).
What is surprising is the answer that God provided.
He had several animals split in two…and then arrayed before Abram. The writer then says that as the sun went down, Abram experienced a “dreadful and great darkness.”
In the midst of this darkness, he sees a smoking fire pot and flaming torch pass between the pieces of meat. The episode ends with the statement, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” (Genesis 15:18).
Honestly, these are the kinds of strange occurrences that make many of us stay away from the Bible…but let’s add some context to it.
In those days, when parties entered into an agreement…instead of signing a contract…they often dramatized an enactment of the penalty that would befall the party who did not hold up their end of the bargain.
In this case Abram’s fate would be the same as that of the sacrificed animals…fire.
However, in the darkness, Abram witnesses God (represented as a fire pot and torch) passing through the pieces of meat, and yet he Abram was not required to do same!
But God did this on purpose….to be a sign to us of what was to come.
When Jesus died, darkness fell over the land, and God made a sacrifice in order to honor His promises to us…but we were not required to make the same sacrifice.
Although it was we who sinned, Jesus alone bore the consequence.
He went to the grave to give us life…
He became alienated that we might be saved…
He experienced deep darkness to bring us into the light…
Father, in all I do…my life, my work, my service to You…help me not to be afraid. Remind me that even in the still of the darkest night…Your promise to me still holds. That You will strengthen me and help me…that You will uphold me with Your righteous right hand...Amen!