Genesis 15: The Covenant Overture

I write today from the Bengal Lair at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. So far, no actual tigers but I am keeping an eye out. I hear those things are sneaky!

It was about a 1.5 mile walk to get here and on the way I began noticing things. I saw the old, college-town houses I love so much. I saw bright red cardinals that we just don’t have in Oregon. I saw a giant nightcrawler working its way across the sidewalk.

There is something that happens when you walk through a town. You notice things you never saw before and the town becomes so much more alive. That is what I am hoping happens with the Bible. I want to walk through it. I want to notice what I never saw before.

And I want it to come more alive.

Genesis 15 then?

The Overture

Rock Me Amadeus!

While I was reading chapter 15, the image that kept coming to mind was that of a symphony. To be more specific, the overture. This is the part of the piece where the musical themes get introduced. Later, they will be developed and expanded but all we get in the overture is a little snippet; a scooby-snack if you will. Many of the themes that will come up again and again in the rest of the Bible are introduced in chapter 15. Here is a list:

  • “The word of the LORD came to . . .”
  • A vision
  • “Do not be afraid”
  • “I am your shield”
  • A main character without a child
  • Believing the LORD
  • A definition of righteousness
  • “I am the LORD who brought you out of . . . “
  • A commanded sacrifice
  • God appearing as fire and smoke

There are a lot of themes that just got introduced. Did I miss any? Good thing this book is really long so we have some time to develop them!

The Covenant

Once again, God goes and gets himself into a covenant that requires basically nothing of the other person involved. What is with that guy anyway? Only this time it is like 7 times more intense. God reenacts an ancient covenant practice involving dead animals. I am told that both parties would walk through the dead animals as if to say, “may the same thing be done to me if I don’t hold my end of the deal.” The crazy thing is that Abram never has to go through it.

God goes through alone.

He is the only one on the line for this covenant. And if the image is correct, it is his life on the line. What is God communicating to Abram (us) with this covenant?


A final thought. In chapter 13 God compared Abrams descendants to the dust of the earth. Here they are like the stars in the sky. So Abrams offspring are dust and stars. They are earthy, mortal, and dirty and at the same time glorious, bright, and majestic. What do you think about these comparrissons?

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