Thankfully, God works with us inside each step of our obedience. Abram obeyed and went (thus, going all-in); and we see God leading Abram on a path of a righteous life. Though he believed and it was credited to him as righteousness, he still had a faith journey to walk, much like we learned about in the 1 John series. God had to break down Abram’s stubbornness and reliance on self, which we see in numerous stories between chapters 12 and 22. Yet in our text today, we see Abram growing a ton while dealing with this situation with Lot. He was given an opportunity to grow through the consequences that came because of him bringing Lot in the first place.
- Abram finally obeyed that command in letting Lot go, doing so in a generous and loving way. This is when God tells Abram to lift his eyes and see all around – all that land will be his with descendants that cannot be numbered. A reminder of the promise.
- God responds by lifting Abram’s eyes to see the promise (vs. Lot who chose on his own to go to Sodom) in 13:10-13. Sodom–known for its exceeding wickedness (13:13). We see of the city’s problems in 14:2-4, where the King of Sodom and some of his city-state king friends rebel against the bigger King over Elam (farther to the east). This ends up with the evil kings losing and Lot being captured in the war, thus needing Abram’s help.
- Abram then wins a major battle of vengeance for the coward kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (they run away and hide during the battle) and recognizes God’s thumbprint in this victory with the arrival of Melchizidek, King of Salem. Abram doesn’t know who this guy is, but Abram recognizes his faithfulness to God and sees a choice before him: either take from the King of Sodom or give to the King of Salem. We can understand this a little better by reading Hebrews 7, but the Israelites (as the intended recipients), nor Abram knew who Melchizidek was at the time. To Abram, he saw Mel as the one whom God approved as opposed to the king of Sodom and ultimately saw this is a choice between righteousness and sin. Abram chose wisely.
God does not rely on our obedience to accomplish His plans, but works with us on this journey. He patiently walked with Abram as he realized his mistakes and started to make better choices.
- Despite all the steps forward, Abram takes a step back. He complains that God hasn’t given him an heir and his main benefactor is a servant in his house. God’s response is to show him His promises still apply by laying out the details of God’s promise to Abram (ch. 12) in ch. 15.
- 2 questions: what were the terms of the contract? And why all the animal slaughter?
- Terms: the terms of the promise never change and create a clear line all the way to today – with Abram’s seed leading to Jesus, all in the world are blessed by His grace. Those who join Abram’s family (place their faith in Jesus) get to partake in the complete promise made through this covenant.
- Why animal slaughter? That was the cultural tender for a legal contract at the time. Two people entering an agreement would take those animals, slice them in half and create a path to walk through the middle of them. The consequence of breaking the covenant/contract was that they would be like those sacrificed animals. It’s gruesome, but important.
- What is most important to note here, though, is just who walked through the path. God puts Abram into a deep sleep, then God alone walks through the path. This shows that these promises are not dependent on Abram, but on God alone. There is nothing here for Abram to fulfill. It means this covenant is unconditional; God will bring it to pass fully on his own, regardless of what Abram or his descendants do.
We see God clearly leading Abram on a journey of faith; NOT a decision of faith. Yes, Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (15:6), but as we all know, that doesn’t mean all our choices after that are perfect. Faith and obedience with God is a journey and Abram is walking his path, tripping and falling on his way. Yet that doesn’t deter God’s plan for him.
Look at this from the Israelites perspective sitting on the plains of Moab ready to enter the promised land. They are fully aware that they have not been fully obedient either; if they had, their wilderness journey would have been 38 years shorter. They have dealt with the consequences of their sin just like Abram did and are on the cusp of physically receiving the promised land God walked through that covenant path to guarantee. God holds his promise true and fulfills it to completion regardless of our obedience. As Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”