I have always taught throughout the past 30 years that the Old Testament was like a visual aid for the New Testament. The Old Testament events are all foreshadows and types of Christ. The message of salvation in Christ Jesus, the promises of God, and the power and protection of God are all shown throughout the Old Testament. One of those times is revealed in the promises God gave to Abraham.
Animal Sacrifices and promises equal covenant relationship
In ancient times the making of an agreement or covenant was serious business. God provided the customs and rituals of ancient cultures to reveal himself to man and to form a relationship with him. Animal sacrifices are as old as man and occurred even at the fall of man in the garden. One must understand at the onset that a most basic principal throughout the entire Bible is that “life” is in the blood. This principal fact is foundational to understanding the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Promises not fulfilled yet
God had been promising Abraham descendants for a good while in the book of Genesis: I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth..(Genesis 13:16). In chapter 16 the Lord came to Abraham to tell him to not be afraid and that He (GOD) was his great reward. Abraham voiced his concern to God over the promise of a child that had not yet happened for him. God took Abraham out to gaze at the stars and told him that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the heavens. Abraham believed the Lord and because of his belief God counted it as righteousness. God also promised that Abraham and his descendants would take possession of a vast amount of land. Abraham asked God for a sign over the inheritance of the land that was to be for his descendants forever.
Ever hear the term “let’s cut a deal”?
In the Old Testament, people made contracts or covenants with each other that were binding and could not be broken. They would literally cut a valuable animal (costly commitment) in two, join hands and walk between the pieces in a pathway of blood. After the covenant of blood was taken upon themselves, part of the sacrifice would be cooked and eaten in a covenantal meal to celebrate the new bond of friendship between them.The consequence for breaking whatever the agreement was that the one who broke it would allow the other to cut them asunder like the animals.
Abraham asked for a sign over the land
9 So 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.”
10 Abram 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.
11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.
14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.
16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates–
19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,
20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,
21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Colossal imagery for salvation
This whole scene is so rich with meaningful symbolism that only some of it will be mentioned here.
A heifer is a young she-cow that has not yet given birth and symbolizes not only purity but also the virgin that would give birth to Christ.
The goat is a symbol of sinfulness hence the term scapegoat for the removal of sins through forgiveness and provision of reconciliation.
The ram is an image of Christ who took all of our sins upon himself and became the final sacrifice.
The birds are deity which cannot be killed and represent Christ. They represent both the deity (turtle dove) and the humanity (pigeon) of Jesus.
Five animals denote the number of grace. Grace is through no merit of our own for man to receive cleansing, forgiveness, reconciliation with God for eternal life.
The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses. When we walk with Christ it is up to us to scatter all thoughts of doubt or wavering from ourselves or an enemy attack by focusing our hearts and minds on the Word of God. Think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
The sacrificial animals were all 3 years old. Jesus had ministered among the people in the world 3 years before he was sacrificed upon a cross.
A smoking oven (a pillar of cloud by day) and a blazing torch (a pillar of fire by night) (Exodus 13:21-22), representing God, passed between the pieces alone. The two making the covenant were to join hands and walk through the blood together with each having a responsibility to do his part. God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep. Essentially, God walked through the blood of his own Son, Jesus Christ. Abraham only watched from the sidelines, unable to do anything on his part to sign the agreement or contract. Abraham needed only to accept the terms. God walked out that agreement with himself, by himself. He completed the entire contract for Abraham and all of Abraham’s descendants down through the ages. Abraham’s descendants would include all who would join hands and walk with Christ in friendship. All those who believe in Christ as Abraham believed what God said will walk in the righteousness of Christ for salvation.
What about the land?
The land is real and earthly but the land is also destination heaven. God took Israel by the hand and walked them out of the land of Egypt after 400 years of slavery and bondage (Jeremiah 31:32). So, too, does Christ take our hand (if we ask ) and walk us out of the land of our own bondage to sin and slavery of our own evil human thoughts and ways.
What a great picture of the taste of heavenly things we are afforded through these passages of God’s Holy Word. To take them, read them, ponder them and dwell on them brings forth so much more than could possibly be presented here. This was an astoundingly fresh and yet deeper understanding of the magnificence of the God we serve. NO WHERE outside of the Bible does any other faith even offer or conceive the idea that God would reach down so low to desire to dwell with and form a friendship with the likes of mortal man. It’s unheard of anywhere you care to look.
By reaching out to take hold of Jesus’ hand in friendship you have eternal life on earth. It begins the moment you ask him to be your savior and the master of your life. A life with Christ is filled with promises. The chief of these promises is eternal life of happiness with him no matter what happens to us in this life.
With all the trials that are in our nation and our world today, this friendship relationship with Christ also affords us a true peace that the world cannot give. The world is running around calling out for “peace and security”and do not realize that Jesus himself said that the world will never have this kind of peace. It can only be found in Him. With the rapid escalation of calamity, mayhem, signs of judgement and the fulfillment of bible prophecy, Jesus is the only port anyone can have for the security and safety we will need. God can do anything. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Jesus truly wants to be our high tower of safety in the days to come. Grab hold of His hand and be safe.
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