Covenant has fallen on hard times. Contract is more the way of the world today. Once upon a time, culture, still imbued with something of a Christian ethos/ethic, while still not being genuinely Christian in the biblical sense (maybe somewhat in the way of Christendom, though even that’s highly doubtful as well), but culture in those days took something of covenant for granted. Here is Thomas Cranmer’s words from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer:
I take thee to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart.
What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.
Nowadays a marriage is nothing more than a contract, sometimes not worth the paper it’s written on should a better deal come along the way.
Father Michael Cupp from the readings on Sunday, particularly from the Genesis 15 reading underscored for us the emphasis God puts on God’s promise fulfilled in and through Jesus. God is faithful, even though we being sinners are not. But God’s faithfulness can help us over time become more faithful. As we trust in God’s word, even as Abraham did, God reckons (or I prefer the NIV‘s term credits) us as righteous. And God binds himself to us, yes to us, to be taken up and included in his fulfillment in and through Jesus.
In the case of Abraham it may have been that God was saying something like this: Like these animals, cut in two and lying on the ground, may the same thing be done to me, you can do that to me, Abraham, if I don’t fulfill my promise to you in this covenant (Scot McKnight). That sounds quite strange in our ears today, but whether or not that was the case, something toward that at least in God binding himself covenantally was going on there at the end of Genesis 15.
By extension as the children of Abraham through faith, we can rest assured, and count on it completely that God will come through on his promise, that he won’t renege, that he is faithful no matter what, even when we are not faithful. But knowing that to be the case can help us stay the course, and gain in strength even in and we can say especially through our weakness, to hold on to the one who is holding on to us. And whose good will for us and for the world is as certain (and more so) as the sun rising and setting, in and through Jesus.