Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Promises Sealed With Split Carcasses

Suggested Reading: Genesis 15:1-21

I've experienced a couple of one-sided relationships in my life. You know, those relationships where only one person seems to put in all of the effort to make the relationship work. Whenever there's a phone call, it's always the same person who makes it. If you meet up to do something, it's always at the same person's place because one of you can't be bothered to go anywhere unnecessary. All of the energy and emotion appears to flow in one direction. And sometimes you know the person giving the time and energy is really the only person capable of it.

In Genesis 15, we witness a similarly one-sided relationship. God had promised Abram great blessings. Abram then complained that those blessings were worthless because he didn't have a son to inherit his wealth. So, God promised Abram that he would have a son. Then God added an additional promise, laying out the borders of what would come to be known as the Promised Land and promising Abram that he would possess it through his descendants. After all of these promises, Abram wanted an assurance they were true. Abram said, '"Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?" God said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon"' (Genesis 15:8-9, HCSB). Abram then took these animals and split the carcasses in half, laying them out in a line.

Normally, both members of an agreement would walk through the middle of these carcasses. The idea was that they were saying, "May we turn out just like these carcasses if we break this agreement." But Abram never walked through them. God's presence appeared and moved through the slaughtered animals but Abram never did because Abram's side of the agreement didn't require anything of him. All Abram had to do was receive the blessings God was promising.

Most of the time, our relationship with God has a similar dynamic. God, in God's grace, extends to us a number of blessings: forgiveness for sins, the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us, lives that are changed and cleansed from the power of sin, a guarantee that our needs will be met. But God takes all the responsibility for these promises. Yes, we must cooperate with God, allowing God to extend these gifts to us, permitting the Holy Spirit to point out our sin and following the Spirit's directions to avoid sin, allowing God to have the control he desires in our lives. But, ultimately, all of these things result from the power of the promise of God, not because we are capable of causing these things. Our relationship with God is very one-sided.

By definition, our relationship with God must be one-sided. We do not have the power to give God anything or do anything to bless God, with one exception: we can allow God to do what God wants in our lives. We can cooperate with God and willingly receive the gifts and instructions God extends to us rather than fighting God to maintain our imaginary independence. We can allow God the chance to fulfill God's promises by opening up our lives and giving God free reign to change us in whatever ways need changing and then praise God for it.

Most one-sided relationships are unhealthy. Our relationship with God, however, works best when we acknowledge and embrace its benevolent, one-sided nature.

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