One of God’s promises was so strong that he didn’t even make the promise to a person, but rather, to himself. In a vision or dream of sorts, God told Abraham to set up a covenant ceremony. From what many commentators have come to understand, it seems that in ancient times you would perform these ceremonies to create a promise with another person by cutting animals in half and walking between the halves together. This action probably signified that if one of you didn’t follow through on your part of the promise, you too should be cut in half. How’s that for motivation to keep your word?
God wanted to use this ceremony to promise the childless man, Abraham, tons of offspring and land to possess. After Abraham set the scene for the promise to be made, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and walked between the animal halves, making the covenant promise to Abraham, without Abraham. Commentators typically agree that this pot and torch both represented God, which means that the vision that Abraham just witnessed was God’s way of saying, “I promise myself that this promise will happen or so what has been done to these animals will be done to me.”
In doing this, God guarantees his word will come true regardless of how Abraham responds. Had he promised Abraham and Abraham had broken his side of the deal, God would no longer have had to hold up his side of the deal. But now that he’s promised himself, he has no choice but to bring the promise to fruition, for God is not a backsliding mortal.
And it’s a good thing God promised himself, because Abraham didn’t exactly do a great job at being faithful to God’s promise. He wasn’t patient enough to wait for God to do a miracle and give him a child, so when his barren wife, Sarah, decided to go the surrogate mother route, he agreed. Abraham married Sarah’s servant Hagar so that Sarah could have a baby through Hagar via the cultural customs of the time.
But despite Abraham and Sarah’s alternate plan to have kids, God still follows through with his original promise. And what’s really surprising is that God goes so far as to bless Abraham and Hagar’s child with the same promise he meant for Abraham and Sarah to inherit, since this child was still technically Abraham’s offspring, which is who the original promise was for. An angel appears to Hagar and tells her the same thing Abraham was told: “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (Ge 16:10). God’s promise is so true that he even applies it to a scenario it wasn’t necessarily intended for.
This again is the radical faithfulness of God. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor 1:20). He takes good care of us; he is faithful to us in every last way; he blesses us with every good thing; and yet even when we sin, he decides to give us Jesus and leave us speechless.
This is an excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus.