The Smoking Oven and Burning Torch
“And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” - Genesis 15:17 & 18
I’ve been establishing the Holiness of the Lamb of God, His power and preeminence, so how does the smoking oven and the burning torch from Genesis 15 have anything to do with that topic? Because it is an image of God’s faithful commitment to His promises that cannot be overlooked. It establishes, in a powerful way that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith.
Genesis 15 is the covenant that God made with Abraham and the items that passed between the pieces that were laid out by Abraham are extremely symbolic, however, one must have an understanding of the historical context. In the time of Abraham, covenants were often sealed in the very same way. The parties to the covenant would divide an animal in half and then walk together between the two halves to signify what would happen to them if they were to break the covenant; basically, “let me be as this animal or these animals if I don’t keep my part of the covenant.”
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this passage, but an entire book would be required to contain them, for the moment, I want to focus on just one part. As I already mentioned the parties of the covenant would pass between the two halves making a promise to keep their end of the deal. I have no doubt that Abraham was expecting God to come to him and walk between the two halves along with him, because he spent the entire day chasing off the buzzards who were trying to get at the carcasses. However, God did something very different, which is not uncommon when dealing with God.
Instead of coming and walking between the halves with Abraham, God came in a symbolic way and passed between those two halves alone. He came as a smoking oven and a burning torch. The representation of Himself in that way is a representation of the divine trinity. God the father is represented in the oven or kiln from which all things were created and all provisions are given, the smoke is a representation of His Holy Spirit and the burning torch is a representation of the Light of the World or Jesus Christ, the son. The more important representation here, however, is the fact that ONLY God passed between the two halves.
By passing through the two halves alone, God is communicating to Abraham and even to you and I that regardless of whether or not we keep our end of the deal, He is going to provide the promises of the covenant. In other words, He will not only make the covenant, but He will also fulfill it, which is precisely what He has done through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
God, continuously promises to fulfill His covenant throughout the Old Testament including, in what is perhaps the most poignant of promises, this one from Ezekiel 36:26 & 27:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
In this promise, God is clearly establishing that HE will fulfill it, that HE will make that change in us. We won’t do it, we can’t do it and we have no power to do it. Therefore, God is going to do it for us. There is really no greater assurance for a Christian than this. It isn’t dependent upon us to fulfill this promise. Paul points this out in numerous places throughout his letters.
“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” – Romans 9:16
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8 & 9.
“…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” – Philippians 1:6.
“… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2.
Over and over and over, throughout the scriptures, God has been calling His people to surrender themselves to allowing Him to be the author and finisher of the covenant. God has been trying to get us to stop believing that we have the power to save ourselves. God has been trying to get us to understand that He has provided all things for us, even to the point of sending His own son to be the ultimate sacrificial lamb in order to fulfill His covenant; even Jesus Christ.
We can have no boasting or glorying in ourselves for our salvation. We cannot rob God of this particular glory and this miracle of rebirth. It is His great work and His alone and I dare say that we will not witness the full power of that great work until we allow ourselves to let go of our own part in it and recognize that God not only made the promise, but also fulfilled it, even in our own lives.