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And after these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I shield thee, thy reward shall be very great. And Abram said, Master and Lord, what wilt thou give me? whereas I am departing without a child, but the son of Masek my home-born female slave, this Eliezer of Damascus is mine heir. And Abram said, I am grieved since thou hast given me no seed, but my home-born servant shall succeed me. And immediately there was a voice of the Lord to him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come out of thee shall be thine heir. And he brought him out and said to him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars, if thou shalt be able to number them fully, and he said, Thus shall thy seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. And he said to him, I am God that brought thee out of the land of the Chaldeans, so as to give thee this land to inherit. And he said, Master and Lord, how shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said to him, Take for me an heifer in her third year, and a she-goat in her third year, and a ram in his third year, and a dove and a pigeon. So he took to him all these, and divided them in the midst, and set them opposite to each other, but the birds he did not divide. And birds came down upon the bodies, upon the divided parts of them, and Abram sat down by them. And about sunset a trance fell upon Abram, and lo! a great gloomy terror falls upon him. And it was said to Abram, Thou shalt surely know that thy seed shall be a sojourner in a land not their won, and they shall enslave them, and afflict them, and humble them four hundred years. And the nation whomsoever they shall serve I will judge; and after this, they shall come forth hither with much property. But thou shalt depart to thy fathers in peace, nourished in a good old age. – Genesis 15:1-15
This account, of Abram’s worries and insistence that God would confirm His promise, should console us greatly, since it shows that even a very great and holy man, who is in the state of divine vision, can still need to grow in faith and hope in God. This is something that goes on to the end of his life, and to the end of our lives. It shows that God does not chastise us when we question Him with childlike trust, “What wilt Thou give me?” Rather, He reassures us and increases the measure of our faith. Then, if we believe His promise and put our hope in Him, He accounts this to us as righteousness. Not great acts of asceticism or charity, but simply this: an act of faith and hope in Him.
God and Abram do not stop, however, at this noetic and verbal agreement. They make a physical covenant based upon sacrifice. Once again, Abram goes into ecstasy, into the state of divine vision, and he mystically beholds and speaks with God Who comes to make covenant with him upon the blood of sacrificed beasts of his flock. This is serious business: the cutting of the animals in two signifies, “You may do this to me and more if I break faith with you.”
The same Lord God who made this sacrificial covenant in blood with Abram has made an everlasting covenant with us, by the blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Precious Blood purchased us for God. All that we are and all that we have come from Him; all that we are and all that we have belong to Him. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (I Corinthians 6:20).” The entire Orthodox way of life – the fasting, the Church services, prayer, correction of our outward habits and inner thoughts, and every aspect of active Christian life – is designed to help us glorify God in body and spirit. He has accounted our faith as righteousness; we must show our thanks for His gift by struggling for holiness.
This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen