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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, March 13, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Genesis 15:112, 1718

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 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.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates. (NRSV)

The focus of today’s verses is the covenant relationship God initiated with Abram and Sarai. Yet we find this profound moment in the midst of some of the most primitive materials in the scriptures, reflecting ancient practices—specifically the establishment of the covenant involves the cutting of animals in half, literally the cutting of the covenant, with our fiery God passing between the pieces.

Since even the scholars struggle to grasp what is being described, I am pleased to leave this image alone, entrusting it to the mystery of God’s work with our ancient spiritual ancestors. What matters is that God sought out Abram and Sarai to be our forebears, even though they could not yet conceive a child. A Brief Statement of Faith puts it this way: “In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth.”

As I share these reflections, millions of the families of God’s people, descendants with us of Abraham and Sarah, are under military attack. Our Ukrainian siblings have been invaded by Russian military forces and are in harm’s way. I pray that our God who seeks to bless all families of the earth will be with these beloved people of God with sustenance and strength. May the peacemaking purposes of God yet be at work. And I pray as well for the restraint of our Russian neighbors, that there might be fewer injuries and deaths.

God of justice and peace, guide me and all your people as we seek to accept ancient practices of our spiritual ancestors. May we hold fast to our longstanding covenant relationship with you. I pray your presence particularly with our Ukrainian neighbors in these life-threatening moments. Restrain the attacks of our Russian neighbors. Grant justice and peace, I pray, through Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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