In Genesis chapter 12, God made a spectacular promise to Abram. “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
But by Genesis chapter 15, Abram is having his doubts. He reflects on his advanced age and no heir. So God repeats His promise, “And behold, the word of the LORD came to Abram: ‘This man [Abram’s servant] shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then God said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and God counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:4-6).
Then God sealed His promise with a covenant in the remainder of Genesis chapter 15. To summarize the next several verses, God asked Abram to gather a heifer, a goat, a ram, and some birds. Abram cut the heifer, goat, and ram in halves and placed the halves opposite each other. Then a deep sleep fell upon Abram. He was out cold! When evening arrived and the sun went down, God in the form of a smoking fire pot and flaming torch passed between the animal pieces. God’s speech at this ceremony expanded on some specifics of His promise to Abram.
God confirmed His promise to Abram by making a covenant, sealed by passing between the animal parts, between Himself and … Himself. The covenant ceremony was between God and God. Abram was asleep! Abram had no part in the ceremony. Abram had nothing to contribute to the covenant. But he was clearly the beneficiary of the covenant between God and God. Sound familiar?
When God initiated the new covenant through the spilled blood of Jesus Christ, you and I were much more than asleep. We weren’t even born. And when we did arrive on the scene, we were worse than asleep, we were dead in our sins and trespasses. But we – while making absolutely no contribution to it – became the beneficiaries of the new covenant brought by Jesus’ death and resurrection. How? By believing.
The same way Abram became the beneficiary of God’s Genesis 15 covenant (“And he believed the LORD, and God counted it to him as righteousness” vs 6) is exactly how we receive all the promise and provision of the new covenant. “Then they said to Him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent’ (John 6:28-29). Simply believe!