The Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
— Genesis 15:9
Recently in one of my high-school classes, students became quite engaged in discussing what it means to submit. They argued that it wasn’t appealing and that it might cause people to agree to things that could be harmful for them. In their view, submission is potentially dangerous. In a way, they’re right. Submitting is risky.
Today’s story about Abram believing God’s word and submitting to God’s promise is complex, and it has many cultural layers that can be hard for us to grasp. For example, we don’t make promises today by dividing animals and then walking through the pieces. In those days that meant, “If I break my promise, may the same be done to me.”
Notice, however, that Abram doesn’t walk through the divided animals, as would have been the custom. Instead, Abram goes into a deep sleep, and God passes through the pieces. The emphasis here is on God making and keeping the promise. Abram’s task will be to believe God’s promise and to live according to it.
Believing that God will keep his promises challenges us to submit and invite him to take control in our lives. And, rather than reducing our power, as some people are fearful of, this way of living brings us to live fully in the strength of God’s faithfulness and power.
Promise-keeping God, your plans for us are way beyond what we can imagine for ourselves. Help us to trust in you always. Through Jesus, Amen.