God Cut a Covenant with Abram

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image of a flaming torch and a smoking fire pot from when God cut a covenant with Abram
Image source: Sweet Publishing

In today’s Bible reading*, we read that God cut a covenant with Abram. In the Old Testament days, when two people made an agreement, they would slaughter an animal, cut the animal in two pieces and walk together between the two pieces agreeing that if either broke the covenant, the covenant-breaker would suffer the fate of the dead animal. Perhaps that’s where we got the expression, “cut a deal”.

As you read the story, however, Abram fell into a deep and didn’t walk with God between the carcasses of the three-year-old cow, the three-year-old female goat, and the three-year-old ram. However, “when the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals. (Genesis 15:17 CSB) The very next sentence tells us what happened: “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” (Genesis 15:18 CSB)

While Abram was snoozing away, God ratified His covenant with him. God is the One Who initiated the covenant. God ratified the covenant. And God committed to keeping the covenant with his friend, Abram. (James 2:23) All Abram did was to believe — to trust — God and God credited his belief as righteousness. I have commented elsewhere about this accounting phrase, “counted“. Please check out the post.

When God cut a covenant with Abram,
all Abram had to do was believe … and show up.


Some have tried to pit the Apostle Paul and James against each other regarding justification by faith vs. justification by works. But, they don’t contradict each other at all. Instead, they complement each other. Paul says that Abram was justified by faith alone. And James agrees and says that Abram’s faith was not alone. His “work” was demonstrated by his belief.

Don’t think that you can ever earn your way into favor with God. Your sin debt can never be overcome by anything you can do or not do. Your sin debt against God was already dealt with by Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice. (Hebrews 7:27)

Have you responded in faith to the free offer of salvation? God credits Jesus’ righteousness to everyone who believes. God cut a covenant and Jesus was the sacrifice. And as with Abram, all you have to do is believe and show up.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
– Genesis 14
– Genesis 15
– Genesis 16

This devotional was originally published on January 9, 2021.

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