And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not…..….And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him……..And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces….In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram. (Gen 15:8-9, 12, 17-18)
A covenant is more than a contract. A contract is only binding for a limited period of time or until the terms are fulfilled. A covenant, however, is perpetual. The only way a covenant is annulled is when one of the parties dies. In Bible times, when you were to cut a covenant with someone you brought an animal which you killed and cut in two. The next step is that you face your covenant partner and the two of you walk towards each other between the parts of the animal, passing each other in the middle.
Now both parties are obligated to protect and provide for each other. What is yours belongs to your covenant partner and vice versa. It is obvious that the major benefiter is the weaker or lesser part. The tremendous fact is that God has cut a covenant with man. We have nothing to give Him, whilst He, the creator of the universe, the one from whom we derive our life, possess all the riches of the universe and the spiritual realm. It should be quite clear that man is the chief benefiter of this amazing covenant.
There are terms which must be met also in a covenant. Failing to meet the conditions can have dire implications for the part which violate the covenant terms. The Israelites repeatedly failed to meet the terms of the covenant Moses as their representative had cut with God at Mount Sinai. The Old Testament is ripe with examples of the different chastisements Israel had to endure as a consequence of their disobedience. The covenant between Israel and God which foundation was the law was doomed to fail due to their mere humanity. This was a covenant which was effected far later than the covenant between Abraham and God. The epistle to the Hebrews explains explicitly that the covenant which terms found their justification in the law now is obsolete, because God found faults with it.
The Abraham covenant prefigures the new covenant which now is in effect on account of Jesus’ sacrifice for all mankind. The smoking furnace and the burning lamb which passed each other between the killed animals were our savior and God. On Abraham’s behalf Jesus cut the covenant with God. In other words, Jesus took Abrahams place. He was the perfect man representing Abraham and us when He cut the covenant with His Father. Jesus would thus now be responsible to meet the terms of the covenant as Abraham’s representative; a representative who far outshines Moses and whose glory never fades, because He represents a perpetual covenant.
The fact that a deep sleep fell on Abraham is significant. It symbolizes our nothingness, our helplessness; that without God we can do nothing. That was the lesson Adam had to learn when he had been granted life, but not yet touched any of the trees. Would he acknowledge his helplessness and eat from the tree of life and be sustained by Christ’s life and power or would he have greater faith in his imagined innate potential for goodness and hence follow the lust of his eyes and eat from the wrong tree? Through the fall he discovered his nothingness and that outside God the desires of hell would enthrall him until the day Christ bruised the serpent’s head.
The astounding reality that we through the Abraham covenant have access to all God’s resources magnificently solidifies our high calling as co-heirs of the universe. The word that inaugurates us as co-operators of the universe alongside the Son is confirmed in the Abraham covenant. Through our choosing of the Son the innate goodness of God is now an integral part of our fabric through the magnificent union with God, and hence the tree of life is our daily nourishment which refreshing sap is our guarantee that we abide in Christ.
As mentioned, a covenant is annulled when one of the parties dies. The covenant of Moses ceased to exist when we died in Christ at the cross. Jesus said about Himself that He is the eternal life. Therefore, the far superior covenant He cut with God is a perpetual covenant which forever secures our standing before God.