“Why would God curse himself?”, Genesis 15

A sermon for the Watford church of Christ

Introduction

God more a focus than AbramWhat’s going on?!Chapter 13/14 context:

  • Reconnection with God after Egypt
  • Generosity with Lot
  • Courage to rescue Lot
  • Melchizedek / King of Sodom

Explanation

v1

  • God shows his approval of how Abram handled Lot’s complaint, his need to be rescued and the demands of the king of Sodom.
  • Shield – You do not need to shield yourself.
    • Abram is a warrior for Lot, but God is a warrior for Abram.
  • Reward – “I am your reward”
    • Abram successful in business, but success with God is a greater reward

vv2-3

  • Typical way to solve inheritance when no heir
  • Is he accusatory, or expectant of God to sort it out?

vv4-6

  • God does not rebuke Abram for his question – nor the later one (v8)
  • It’s as if God is agreeing to partner with Abram to sort out the problem
  • “will not…but…”: Very definite, specific, almost commanding. There is no doubt what God has in mind.
  • From your body
  • Stars – uncountable, majestic, beautiful
  • “believed”: Faith, trust, rightness with God – credited, not earned
    • The ‘believed’ does not indicate flawless faith, but a trajectory of faith, an habitual faith
    • About faithfulness to a relationship, not morals
    • Picked up by Paul to illustrate the
    • “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatians 3:6–9 NAS95)
  • Don’t rely on your ancestry or circumcision
  • Don’t rely on church membership, baptism
  • Trust in God

Lays out fundamental way God relates to humankind: trusting relationship. Both parties committed. Humans to do what they can. God to do what only he can.

v7

  • This land, specifically
  • YHWH – Exodus connection (1 of only 4 times God refers to himself with this ‘name’)

v8

  • Not, “will you”, but “how”?
  • God does not rebuke Abram for his question here either, but sees it as an opportunity to affirm the covenant
  • The “how” not really answered by God

vv9-11

  • Leviticus – sacrifice
  • “and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a calf, a bull, for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without defect, and offer them before the LORD. “Then to the sons of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both one year old, without defect, for a burnt offering,” (Leviticus 9:2–3 NAS95)
    • 3 years – 3 generations in Egypt
  • Gentiles – birds (Ezek 17:23)
  • Protecting honour of God / his relationship with God

v12

  • Like Adam (Gen 2:21; sleep) and Sinai (Deut 4:11; fear)
  • Deep sleep protective of Abram
  • “Cut” a covenant
  • Sheep’s throat cut: Alalakh 18thC BC

“Abban (King) swore to YarimLim (vassal) The oath of the gods And cut the neck of a lamb (saying): “(May I be cursed) If I take back What I gave you.” If ever in the future YarimLim sins against Abban If he lets go of the hem of Abban’s garment And takes hold of the hem Of another king’s garment He shall forfeit his cities and territories.” DJ Wiseman, ‘Abban and Alalakh’ JCS 12 (1958) 124-129

vv13-16

  • 400 years – four generations
  • Shalom – first appearance in scripture

v17-20

  • Theophany – like Exodus (Ex 14:19-20; pillar of fire), and Sinai (Deut 5:23; fire on the mountain)
    • God is present and personal
  • Covenant – “cut”; curse; made from the stronger to the weaker – very familiar and very strange
    • First mention of covenant in connection with Abram
    • God placing himself under a ‘curse’
    • Unique – no example of greater party taking on role of lesser party.

Discussion Section 1: God

  • What do we learn about the heart of God?
    • Willing to pay any price to reassure us
  • What do we learn about the way God relates to us humans?
    • He accommodates us

Discussion Section 2: Abram

  • What do we learn about the heart of Abram?
    • Trust builds as life goes on
    • Decides to trust
  • What do we learn about the way for us to relate to God?
    • Enter the mystery willingly
    • Might be strange, but wonderful

Conclusion

What does this mean for us?

  1. God has a bigger vision that we can possibly conceive – and all connected to his desire for us to know him, enjoy him, by healed and live in his love
  2. We have doubts, questions and confusions – soem God answers now, some he acts on, some he asks us to trust him for.
  3. He accepts our habit/attitude of trust as an invitation to welcome us into his love
  4. He will pay any price to bring about our healing – even to the extent of causing a curse to fall upon himself – Gal 3:7-14

“Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:7–14 NAS95)

Let’s pray before we take bread and wine…….

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God bless, Malcolm