6 Everlasting Covenant (1) 

Liz was having a big fight with her mum; she was seen with guys of questionable reputation and was at the point of denouncing her faith. Out of helplessness, her mother wrote a heartfelt letter to her:

My dearest Liz,

This is the most important letter I have ever written to you, and I hope you will take it as seriously as it is intended. I have given a great amount of thought and prayer to the matter I want to convey and believe I am right in what I’ve decided to do.

For the past several years, you and I have been involved in a painful tug-of-war. You have been struggling to free yourself of my values and my wishes for your life. At the same time, I have been trying to hold you to what we both know is right. Even at the risk of nagging, I have been saying, “Go to church,” “Choose the right friends,” “Make good grades in school,” “Live a Christian life,” “Prepare wisely for your future,” etc. I’m sure you’ve gotten tired of this urging and warning, but I have only wanted the best for you. This is the only way I knew to keep you from making some of the mistakes so many others have made.

However, I’ve thought this entire over during the last month, and I believe that my job as your mother is now finished. Since the day you were born, I have done my best to do what was right for you. I have not always been successful – I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve failed in many ways. Someday you will learn how difficult it is to be a good parent, and perhaps then you’ll understand me better than you do now. But there’s one area where I have never wavered: I’ve loved you with everything that is within me. It is impossible to convey the depth of my love for you through these years, and that affection is as great today as it’s ever been. It will continue to be there in the future, although our relationship will change from this moment. As of now, you are free! You may reject God or accept Him, as you choose. Ultimately, you will answer only to Him anyway. You may marry whomever you wish without protest from me. You may go to Waterloo or Queen’s or any other college of your selection. You may fail or succeed in each of life’s responsibilities. The umbilical cord is now broken.

I am not saying these things out of bitterness or anger. I still care what happens to you and am concerned for your welfare. I will pray for you daily, and if you come to me for advice, I’ll offer my opinion. But the responsibility now shifts from my shoulders to yours. Throughout your life I’ve tried to build a foundation of values that would prepare you for this moment of womanhood and independence.

I have confidence in you. You are gifted and have been blessed in so many ways. I believe God will lead you and guide your footsteps, because I trust in His promise and I have offered you to Him since you were born. I am sure that by God’s Grace, you will be saved! Regardless of the outcome, I promise I will always love you!

                                                                                                                With all my heart,

                                                                                                                               Your mother

Your Initial Response

Why do you think this mother has such great confidence in Liz? Does she believe in salvation by grace or by works? Do you have the same assurance?

Genesis 15:1–21

1After 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.” 

2But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 

3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 

4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 

5He 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.” 

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.” 

8But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 

10Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 

11Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 

12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 

13Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 

14But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 

15You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 

16In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” 

17When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 

18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—

19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 

20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 

21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:1–21 NIV)

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Who is Abram (Genesis 15:1)?

3 Who is Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2)?

4 What is a vision (Genesis 15:1)?

5 What is meant by faith (Genesis 15:6)?

6 What is making a covenant (Genesis 15:17)?

7 Use a highlighter to underline all of the words about “the Lord” in this passage.

8 Put a circle next to the newly found insight.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

The eternal Lord took the initiation of revealing and making a covenant with humankind that we can be blessed and justified before God. Justification of a believer is purely not according to one’s deeds, and it is the fruit of one’s faith in God and one’s personal relationship with God.

1 Why did God have to reveal Himself in a vision (Genesis 15:1)?

2 Why did God have to lead Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 15:7)?

3 What is the significance of God asking Abram to offer these offerings (Genesis 15:8)?

4 Why did God foretell Abram’s descendants would suffer in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13)?

5 Why is it God make promises to Abram but humankind didn’t have to make any commitment (Genesis 15:18)?

Genesis 15:1

There are two points especially important in this passage: 1. Abram was justified by faith in God (15:6). 2. God took the initiation to make a covenant with Abram (15:18-21). “After this,” meant the events happened in chapter 14. In Abram’s life, this was the fifth time that God communicated with him. God manifested again to Abram, and talked to His servant in a vision. A “vision” is different to a dream, and one of the main differences is: the focal point of a vision is God’s proclaimed words (the sense of hearing), but the key points of a dream are the vision that one sees and words that one hears (the visual and audio aspects). In this manifestation, God spoke to Abram again, granting him a reward. God reminded Abram not to be afraid, for He was the shield of His servant. The Bible hasn’t said anything about Abram’s fear; but according to the speculations of some Bible scholars, they have offered the explanations as follows: 1. He was afraid because he had seen God’s majesty. 2. Hebrews regard childless couples as if they are without future, and they equate barrenness as God’s judgment pronounced on them. Abram reckoned he could not inherit God’s reward as he didn’t have his own son, and that was why he was scared. 3. Abram fought with four kings earlier and was scared that they would revenge (cf. 14).

Genesis 15:2

A “shield” not only has the meaning of protection, but it relates to God’s reward as well. The worthiest point was that, God did not only grant Abram a reward on His own initiative, but also unconditionally.

Genesis 15:2-3

According to the custom at that time, a master could adopt a servant as his son. Therefore, Abram demanded God for an answer since God hadn’t granted him a son up to that present moment. He wanted to see if his servant, Eliezer, could inherit the reward.

Genesis 15:4-5

God firmly pointed out that Eliezer would not be the heir, and guaranteed Abram that he could have his own son. For the sake of emphasis, God led Abram to the open-air and employed the heavenly stars as a teaching aid. God challenged if Abram could count the stars, and moved on to state that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.

Genesis 15:6

Abram’s faith was based on God’s words or promises. Abram firmly believed God would grant him a son of his own, and his descendants would be as many as the stars. In simple terms, Abram was convinced that God’s promise would come to pass. God called Abram to leave his home country, Ur of the Chaldeans, a place of idolatry; he resolutely forsook all and embarked on a journey of faith (12:1). As Abram believed in God, God imputed righteousness to him or declared him as righteous. God imputed righteousness to Abram because Abram had fulfilled His requirement, that is to say, the requirement of establishing a relationship between God and humankind was met. By employing today’s jargon, Abram had passed the test, and he was chosen and accepted by God as a result. We reckon Abram is saved according to his faith, and this is not only the principle of the New Testament, but the foundation of the Old Testament as well.

Genesis 15:7

Before making the covenant, God reminded Abram to hold on firmly to his past experience. Not only did God appear to Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans, He also granted him the Promised Land.

Genesis 15:8

Asking for a proof or sign was not an expression of unbelief in the Old Testament era, for they expected to see God’s vindication on the fulfillment of His promise (cf. Judges 6:34-40; 2 Kings 20:8-11). On the contrary, if people didn’t ask for a confirmation, they were the faithless ones (cf. Isaiah 7:10-14).

Genesis 15:9-10

God didn’t blame Abram, but asked him to arrange the particulars of the covenant-making ceremony. By staging such a ceremony, God assured Abram that His promise must be fulfilled. All clean animals were used as offerings in this ceremony. As for the reason of using birds and animals of three years old? God didn’t state why, therefore, there is no need for us to make further speculations. Abram cut the animals in two halves; all except the birds, for their size were too small. He arranged the halves opposite each other, and there was a corridor in between them. In ancient covenants, the pledging parties could walk through this pathway, and pronounced that they would be cut in two halves if they broke the covenant.

Genesis 15:11

“Birds of prey” is the meaning of the original manuscript. A paraphrased version renders it as “vultures.” Birds of prey came to land on the offerings was perhaps an omen, for they could devour the offerings that Abram used in the covenant-making with God; thus, interrupting the procession of the ceremony. For this reason, Abram chased them away from the place of the covenant-making ceremony.

Genesis 15:12

In the ancient covenant-making ceremony, the pledging parties would walk through the pathway in between the two rows of meat, as they would curse themselves, stating that they would be cut in two halves like the animals if they broke the covenant. Many scholars inferred that it was God who made Abram asleep, so that He could walk through the pathway with two rows of meat alone (cf. 15:8). God did it with a good intention in mind, for He knew humans had difficulties of keeping the covenant. Since He alone was faithful and trustworthy to accomplish the particulars of the covenant, Abram did not need to bear the consequence.

Genesis 15:12

Abram experienced a thick and dreadful darkness in his dream, and it greatly frightened him; subsequently, God moved on to reveal the future of Abram and his descendants to Abram. By employing a thick and dreadful darkness, God prepared Abram to respond to Him with a God-fearing heart.

Genesis 15:13-16

God first revealed His promise to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4, and He mentioned about His promise on another two occasions, stating that His promise was very trustworthy (13:14-17; 15:1-7). God told Abram the things that must come to pass, so that he would know His promise would be fulfilled for sure. There are seven points that are worthy for our attention: 1. The descendants of Abram must reside in a foreign land (15:13; 46:2-4). 2. The descendants of Abram would be served as slaves in that foreign land (15:13; Ex. 1:7-14). 3. They would serve as slaves for four hundred years (to be exact, 430 years) (15:13; Ex. 12:40). 4. God would judge the nation that enslaved them (15:14; Ex. Chapter 7 to 12). 5. Abram would not undergo the mentioned suffering (15:15; 25:7-8). 6. The Israelites would return to Canaan after four generations (15:16; Ex. 6:16-20). Amorites are the general term for the Canaanites (Josh. 24:15). God’s intention was good by allowing the Israelites to reside in a foreign land: first, He offered an opportunity for the Canaanites to repent (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9-12); secondly, He let His Chosen People to reside in a foreign place so that they could receive spiritual discipline there. Moreover, if they could be in Canaan earlier, they would be contaminated by the evil Canaanite culture. God delayed them in entering Canaan (cf. Lev. 18:24-30; 20:20-24). 7. The Israelites would leave Egypt with great possessions (15:14; Ex. 12:35-36).

Genesis 15:18-21

“Smoking firepot” and “blazing torch” are symbols of Yahweh’s presence. In the peak of the covenant-making ceremony, God passed through the pathway laid with meat. He guaranteed this covenant would come to pass, and let Abram know that this was a blessed and unconditional covenant. As the covenant-making ceremony came to an end, God reaffirmed the promise of granting the land and its covered territory to Abram’s descendants.

Conclusion

In the course of the covenant-making ceremony from start to finish, the most important thing is that, Abram is saved through faith, and there are a few things that we need to pay attention: 1. Yahweh was present with Abram in the covenant-making ceremony. 2. God ensured Abram could have a good future. 3. God guaranteed Abram would have his own offspring. 4. God foretold Abram’s descendants would suffer in the future, but they would be delivered by God. 5. God would punish those who enslaved Abram’s descendants. 6. God ensured Abram would inherit the Promised Land.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Even the Father of faith, Abram (Abraham), has deficiency in his faith, so let’s ask God to increase our faith (Genesis 15:2).

2 Abram and his descendants cannot enter the Promised Land straightaway (Genesis 15:13); let’s learn to wait upon God and be patient.

3 We have to believe in God’s words, for He cannot deny himself.

4 Resolve that we can personally experience God’s might and guidance (Genesis 15:1, 7).

5 Resolve that we can hear the voice of the Lord in our hectic and stressful daily living (Genesis 15:1).

6 As we face challenges and difficulties in life, let’s learn that the Lord is our shield, trust in Him and be not afraid (Genesis 15:1).

7 God made an unconditional covenant with Abram and Lord Jesus made a similar covenant with His believers as well. Hence, we can be saved by solely trusting the salvation of Jesus Christ.

8 Faith and experience are united together, that is, a heart to trust in God derives from one’s experience in God (Genesis 15:6, 7). Let’s experience God more so that we can produce a greater faith in Him.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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