The Story: Day 4
“What’s it going to take for us to do business today?” That was the question Lauren and I were asked by a used car salesman when we purchased our first car as a married couple. I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy is really motivated to sell me a car. He’s ready to make me a deal.” How cruel the naïveté of youth can be.
God initially calls Abram to go to a land that that is unknown to him and Abram obeys. In chapter 12 it looks like a really good deal: Abram is going to be blessed and have numerous descendants. By the time we get to chapter 15, Abram and his wife Sarai are old. What seemed like a great deal in chapter 12, now does not seem so promising.
As the wrinkles in the mirror stare back at Abram, the promise seems to be in jeopardy. God comes to Abram in chapter 15 and reaffirms his promise.
“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 15:5–6 NIV (http://bible.com/111/gen.15.5–6.niv)
The deal of Genesis 12 gets a whole lot sweeter in Genesis 15. Abram believes in faith and God accepts that faith as credit for righteousness. The righteousness that is credited to Abram is a relational term: because Abram believes he is put in ‘right relatedness’ to God. In case you haven’t heard, that’s the best deal there is.
As Abram’s spiritual descendants, we get the same deal. Here are the terms: God imparts to us his righteousness when we trust in him. What an amazing transaction for us, but not without a great cost when you think about Christ’s death and resurrection which made it all possible. Through the infinite depths of love and obedience embodied in the Incarnation (Jesus coming to earth), God is able to impart to sinful humanity the treasure of “right-relatedness” in exchange for the meagerness of our faith.
Sound too good to be true? Abram thought so. With good reason he pushes back on the promise. This will happen several more times before Isaac is born. “Push back” may be a bit of an understatement in light of chapters 16–17.
God does something here in chapter 15 that affirms he will keep his word. He makes a covenant with Abram. The gory details of the animals split in two and God walking between them was an elaborate way of God saying, “May it be to me as has been done to these animals if I do not keep this covenant.” God’s reputation is on the line.
This deal is infinitely too good to be true, especially when you consider that Abram, the recipient of the deal, didn’t even have to walk between the animals. Covenants are made between two people, and while Abram was asleep, the presence of God manifested itself as a “smoking pot” and a “flaming torch.” This dual display of divine presence is an amazing image of Jesus’ willingness to walk between the slain animals on our behalf.
Such amazing grace seems too good to be true, and yet the Bible affirms again and again that this offer is bonafide and is available to all through faith.
So, what’s it going to take for us to do business today?