In Genesis 15, the call to Abram and his dialog with God form a microcosm of the call to all fathers—you and me included. As I conclude this little intro series in the next few verses, things quickly take a strange turn. What’s going on?
“And (God) said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.’ And he said, ‘O Lord GOD, how may I know that I shall possess it?’ So He said to him, ‘Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.” (Gen. 15:7-11)
While these sorts of archaic traditions may seem bizarre to modern minds, we see four important truths at work:
1. Faith abandons the norm. Since God brings us out before He brings us in, by faith we must emotionally anticipate what cannot be mentally verified. Abram’s obedience was first a risk before it was ever a reward. He had to leave the comforts of his homeland in order to inherit the great gift of God, Isaac. Similarly, we often want the surety of what only Time and Obedience can grant. Men may be born to fight, but the fact is, nearly all of us have a lazy streak. (Hint: the chair is called a La-Z-Boy, not La-Z-Girl, for a reason!) Men want the easy score, but this is the path to stunted manhood and small influence. As a lifestyle, resist it! Embrace uncomfortableness and uncertainty instead. Abram had the faith to leave what he knew in order to gain what he did not know. Men, let go the tether. Discover something beyond your control.
2. Covenant is Calling. God confirmed his promise with a brutal covenant of blood and sacrifice. The heifer, goat, ram, dove and pigeon were slain, cut and their pieces divided. Later, Abram witnessed God passing as a burning fire between these bloody pieces. This was typical of the oath-making process between two parties in Mesopotamian culture. The inference: if I break my promise to you, let it be done to me—and even worse!—what was done to these animals. Surprisingly, in this instance, God alone made the covenant. Abram’s call to greatness as a father was enacted by a covenant God, who committed unilaterally to his success. Dads, please take comfort in this. Not only are you called to a high calling, but God has your back. He is for you!
3. Obedience Prepares New Revelation. Theologians have noted the unilateral nature of this operation, meaning God committed to Abram regardless and in spite of anything Abram would or could do. While this is true—i.e. covenant with God is never based on our works, only His kindness and faithfulness—please note that #1 above has not changed. The atmosphere and location of the covenant occurred in the place of obedience and departure from the norm which Abram had already demonstrated, thus positioning himself for this critical new revelation of God.
4. Calling is Contending. Finally, in the midst of God’s initiative, when “birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.” As fathers and men, we must humbly recognize that while God supplies the raw materials, it is our solemn duty to contend for them. The evidence of our covenant, both with God and our wives, is our children. Our sons and daughters are living examples of God’s action in our lives. Though covenant is ultimately an action of God, we must not be passive in protecting and defending the gifts God has given. Today, more than ever before, our children are in the fight of their lives. Men…fathers…fight for them!