In Genesis chapter 15, we find Abram having a vision from God. In the vision, God reassures Abram that there is nothing to fear, God is his protection (his shield), and that Abram shall be rewarded (meaning he did something worthy of a reward). Abram says to God, “look I don’t want a reward, I just want a child (remember that God promised him offspring? Abram remembers that too, but hasn’t seen anything…) but I still don’t have one. The closest thing I have is one of the dudes who works in my house. Is this really how I’m going to die, leaving all my stuff to that guy Eliezer?” Basically Abram said, I know You promised me this God, but I haven’t seen it yet. So God once again said that he would bless Abram with so many offspring that he wouldn’t be able to count them. Then God went on to remind Abram of all the good things He has done for him.
After that, God tells Abram to bring him some animals to be cut in half. Now this seems weird to us, but in Abram’s days, this is how people made covenants (agreements/legal contracts) with one another. Now as Abram is preparing everything for God to show up and make this covenant with him, birds of prey started showing up trying to get at the animals that were set aside for sacrifice for the covenant. Doesn’t that always happen when we are waiting in anticipation of a promise, something comes in and attacks it and we either have to defend our promise or roll over and let someone (or something) take it from us. Abram could have let the birds pick at the sacrificial animals and then not had anything set aside to establish his covenant, but his covenant with God was important to him and was something he honored so he protected it and shooed away the birds.
Before God signed on the contract’s dotted line, he put Abram into a deep sleep (the same kind Adam went into in Genesis chapter 2 when God took his rib to form Eve). In that sleep, God tells Abram of the future of his offspring: they will be slaves for 400 years, but then they will be set free and God would place judgement on their captors.
Then the sun went down and Abram saw the fire pass between the two halves of the sacrificed animals (the symbol of the covenant). God said to Abram that He would give his offspring this land. The covenant – the promise that God gave to Abram did not require anything of Abram or anyone else, it was just God’s promise to Abram and is the second covenant in the Bible (the first is with Noah). God promises that Abram will have offspring and that his offspring will have land. And that is where we end chapter 15.
The thing I really appreciate about this chapter is that Abram was very human. He told God what was really on his heart, what had been on his heart for years, that he wanted a child. Abram expressed doubt, even though God had spoken directly to this man three times previous to this chapter and said he would have offspring, Abram couldn’t see it and questioned it. OH BUT GOD! God swooped in on the scene and reminded Abram of who he was, what he had done for this man and then reaffirmed His promise with Abram in a way that Abram would understand (a legal binding contract – a covenant).
Sometimes when we are holding onto a promise for some time, it is hard to keep running in a direction when you don’t see any results. We get tired, we question God, we question ourselves and it is so easy to think that when we see the birds of prey circling up above that our promise is dead and we will never see the end result. Can I tell you from personal experience that when you see those birds circling, chase them away! They can’t attack your promise from God. And that thing in your life that looks dead, the thing that attracts those birds of prey might just be the sacrifice that God needs to reaffirm His covenant with you.
Be encouraged! If God said it, He will do it. It might take some time, but He will be the one to uphold His promise. And if hope is fading in the process, ask God to remind you of all the things He has done for you. If He promised you something before and He came through, won’t He do it for this promise too?