Five dead animals, a smoking fire pot, a flaming torch, and the eternal covenant of God - Part 3

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

April 30, 2017
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Five dead animals, a smoking fire pot, a flaming torch, and the eternal covenant of God

Genesis 15:1-21—Part 3

If you are like me, you forget things.

  • Where you left your keys.
  • Where you parked.
  • Why you walked into a room.
  • Your children’s birthdays.
  • What the pastor preached last week, or the week before that…

A bad memory isn’t good, is it? One fellow saw it differently…

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” 

― Friedrich Nietzsche

I could probably get away with preaching a message over and over and you might never know.

Since you no doubt have forgotten the first two messages in the first round of My Preaching Bucket List, here’s a review of Five dead animals, a smoking fire pot, a flaming torch, and the eternal covenant of God…

In part 1 we saw how Genesis is the book of beginnings. It tells the origin story of the human race in chapters 1-10. Those chapters answer the question Where did we come from? and why are we here? It also answers the question Why are things the way they are?

But in chapter 11, there’s a distinct narrowing of focus down to one man, Abram, who will later be named Abraham, the father of the Israelites.

Genesis gives us the beginning of the human race and the beginning of the Hebrew race. It answers the question where do we come from, but more specifically, where do the Hebrews come from?That’s why chapter 11 on centers on the origins of God’s chosen people.

In chapter 12, we saw how Abram was called by the one true God out of a pagan nation who worshipped the false moon god, to pick up everything and leave for a land he would show him. And with that call came a promise (and oh how important that promise was and is). This promise included…

  1. Land - the land of Canaan which was occupied.
  2. Offspring - even though Abram and and his wife Sarai had no children and were of a more mature persuasion.
  3. Blessing - God said that in Abram “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Imagine how hard it must have been for Abram to see how God could deliver such a lofty promise, to give him a land already inhabited, give him offspring even though he had no children and was too old, and bless all families of all time through his offspring, his descendants. 

In chapter 15 (our focus text) we locked on to one verse, the most important verse in the OT and maybe the whole Bible.

Genesis 15:6 (ESV) — 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

This verse tells us the way man is made right with God has never been works; it has never been the keeping of the law. It’s by faith, by believing in His promises.

This especially clear in light of the fact that the law had not been given yet!

In part 2, we saw how the promise of land, seed, and blessing pointed forward 2,000 years to Jesus, who was a descendant of Abraham that would bless all the families of the earth with his sacrifice.

So Genesis 15:6 also tells us that the way to salvation, the way to be made right with God is belief in his promises, and his promises point to Jesus and his work on the cross.

The gospel has been the same from the beginning!

And now we are getting ready to move on in the text to the strange part, the part with five dead animals, a smoking fire pot, and a flaming torch. 

Genesis 15:7–18 (ESV) — 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…

Just like verse 6, this seemingly bizarre text in Genesis 15 is inextricably connected to the gospel of Jesus, and this connection links directly to what we are celebrating today, the Lord’s Supper.

You heard me right. This eerie interaction between God and Abraham is undeniably joined to the juice and the bread.

And next week I’ll show you how.

But for now, let’s look at the text in Luke’s gospel where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper…

Luke 22:14–20 (ESV) — 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

We were commanded or ordered to (that’s why it’s called an ordinance)…

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

For a Jew (all the first disciples were Jews) this was easily done because to this day they celebrate the Passover meal together much the same way Jesus and His disciples did that night 2,000 years ago. The Passover meal was a reminder of their deliverance by God from the bondage of Egypt.

But Jesus added a new dimension to it: now celebrate this meal in remembrance of our deliverance from the bondage of sin. This points us to the cross.

We do it because Jesus told us to and we do it because it reminds us of what He did for us on the cross. He delivered us from sin and death.

But we could ask another question...

What does it do?

This has been a debate over the centuries. Our friends in the Catholic church believe it’s necessary for salvation, that it carries some kind of saving grace.

This can’t be true because it would add a human work to the simple plan of God: saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

It doesn’t save us or make us more saved, it reminds us of what Jesus did for us in the past.

  • The bread, the symbol of His body hung on a cross.
  • The fruit of the vine, the symbol of His blood spilled on a cross.

And reminds us something of infinite importance in the future...

1 Corinthians 11:26 (ESV) — 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So the Lord’s Supper is a time to remember what Jesus did for us.

The Lord’s Supper is also a time to examine ourselves…

1 Corinthians 11:28 (ESV) — 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Only those who know Christ in a personal way may celebrate.

Examine yourself to see if there is an unrepentant attitude. Paul makes it clear…

1 Corinthians 11:27 (ESV) — 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.

I’m afraid for some Paul’s words give the impression that the Lord’s Supper is only for those walking in perfect fellowship, only for those not struggling with failures.  No. Paul speaks of those who claim to know Christ yet live in open rebellion against Him. They aren’t sorry for their sin. They have no plans to repent of it. They come to the table callously.

If you are here today and there is failure, there is conviction and sorrow, the Lord’s Table is for you!

Psalm 51:17 (NLT) — 17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Bring that to the table with you today.

The Lord’s Supper is one of two ordinances. The other is baptism. It’s a big day in the life of the church when we get to enjoy both ordinances in one service!

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