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.” … “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. 7He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”—Genesis 15:1-7, NLT
The promises of God to Abram went beyond what he could have imagined, but he put his faith in God in order to receive them. The Lord reminded Abram that he was no accidental tourist, but rather an immigrant specifically chosen to take possession of the Promised Land.
As a token and guarantee of the promise, God offered to “cut a covenant” with Abram. According to the social practice of his day, Abram killed animals and laid their split carcasses in two rows. The covenant ritual required both parties—Abram and God in this case—to walk between the two rows, swearing to remain perfectly faithful to one another forever, lest they share the macabre fate of those animals.
As Abram contemplated the ceremony, a great fear came over him. He knew that neither he nor his descendants could walk perfectly before the Lord. Then the Lord appeared in two forms, an oven and a torch—symbolizing God the Father and God the Son. By walking the bloody rows without Abram, God promised to visit the penalty of unfaithfulness upon His Own Son instead of rejecting Abram’s descendents. While they would live for four hundred years as “strangers in a country not their own … enslaved and mistreated there” (15:13), God would see to it that afterward they would “come out with great possessions” (15:14).
No human being can maintain the standard of perfection required by the Divine Holiness. Every parent, immigrant or not, worries about whether their children will chose the right way. No one can guarantee anything but failure, and failure always includes a price. But the Gospel message declares that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has paid the price for our sin and if we put our faith in Him, God declares us righteous in spite of our failures. Like Abram and his descendants, if we will believe the Word of God, God will credit it to us as righteousness. When we walk in the faith of Abram the Immigrant of God and teach our children to do the same, God will walk with us wherever we go.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.