Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Jesus in Genesis 15

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As I started started sharing in my previous post, Jesus can be found all throughout the pages of Genesis. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study of all of those places and but every now and then I will post something on a specific chapter or story that stands out for me. And today I want to reveal how I believe Christ plays a primary role in Genesis 15. This is the chapter where God makes an everlasting covenant with Abram, promising him descendants as numerous as the stars. Verse 6 famously says, “And he (Abram) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness”.

There are two specific areas that I want to highlight in this chapter; the first is that in the very first verse it tells us that the exchange happens between Abram and ‘the Word of the LORD’ who appeared to Abram in a vision. Now we 21st Century Christians like referring to the Bible as the Word but as I have argued elsewhere, nowhere does scripture itself make such a claim, on the contrary, scripture states explicitly and repeatedly that Jesus is the true Word of God. You can click here to read an article I wrote on the subject elsewhere but for this particular piece let me just highlight two examples:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. – Revelation 19:13.

So when the Word of the Lord comes to Abram in verse 1, this is not the Bible or even just a message but a Person. This Person starts speaking to him and says, “Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” That sounds awful Jesus-like to me already, but then notice how Abram responds to Him in verse 2, “But Abram said, Lord God…”; so Abram calls this messenger ‘Adonia Yahweh’, a name which he repeats in verse 8 as well. Notice that throughout this chapter it is the Word of the Lord that is speaking with Abram. In verse 7 He says of Himself, “I am the LORD (Yahweh), who brought you out of Ur…”. Yahweh is the name above all names but when it is used it can be referring to any member of the Trinity (see here for more on that).

So I am convinced that this is Jesus speaking to Abram in chapter 15, otherwise the chapter would most likely have started by simply saying something like, "Now after these things the LORD..." instead of, "Now after these things the Word of the LORD..."; but the significance of this is even more remarkable when we consider the symbolism of the covenant itself. Though it would seem barbaric to us today, the Word of God instructs Abram to take a three-year old heifer, a three-year old ram and a three-year old goat (plus a dove and a pigeon) and to cut them in half, placing the severed pieces opposite one another with a pathway between them to walk through. This was pretty standard covenant ritual stuff back then, but normally, the two parties would both walk between the animal parts (see Jeremiah 34:18-19) with the implication being that the person who broke the covenant would suffer or accept a similar fate. The ceremonial ritual would then be binding on the two parties. What is interesting here though is that in this particular instance the (Word of the) LORD passed through the animal pieces (verse 17) but Abram did not (verse 12).

Unlike the Mosaic covenant which was conditional upon Israel’s faithfulness to God, the Abrahamic covenant is an everlasting covenant not dependent on our ability at all. As it is the blood of Jesus that makes us heirs according to the promise and Abraham’s seed, this story suddenly has so much more meaning to me. Jesus makes a covenant with Abraham and his seed which promises land, descendants and blessings and Jesus actually does die for us.

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to Him as righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham... And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:6-7, 29