Abram trusts God, but doesn’t understand how all of this is going to work. He asks God how he can know God will deliver on such an amazing promise. God does not chastise Abram for asking this question. He grants Abram’s request by giving him a contract, a covenant that guarantees the outcome. What happens next is an incredible scene.
In the tradition of the time, they exchange a “blood covenant”. Animals are slain then sliced in two and set on opposing sides of a path, making an alleyway. Tradition dictated that the two covenant participants walk through the path, between the dead animal halves, representing each person’s agreement to the terms. The carcasses flanking them on either side testified to the penalty for breaking the oath: death.
God institutes a blood covenant with Abram, but with a twist. After the carcass-strewn alleyway is prepared, God appears in the form of a torch, and passes through the path of promise – alone.
God’s message here is clear: this is all on me! This is not a conditional promise. I am making a covenant granting you this land, requiring nothing further from you.
God’s acceptance is just like this. It is hard for us to receive, but sometimes God’s promises are unconditional. God accepts us as His child without further condition. It is a matter of grace. His relationship to us as father does not alter based on how we behave. He grants this to us unconditionally, through a blood covenant – the blood of Jesus.
Although the land has been granted unconditionally, their possession and enjoyment of the land is yet in the future. It will require further obedience. It remains to conquer and live faithfully in the land to enjoy the blessing of it. But it is always theirs. This covenant is not a promise of ease. It is a promise of ownership, heredity as God’s children.
We can earn approval, but we cannot earn his acceptance – that is freely given. God promised it. He passed through the alley of death on a cross to declare it for us. A one-way covenant granting us a place in His family – forever.