1. Frequent reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant by God Himself
2. The issue of polygamy
3. The subject of circumcision
Chapter 15 opens with the reaffirmation of God's covenant with Abraham, and one of the first things we notice is that a part of the covenant God wants to emphasize to Abraham is encouragement. Waiting on God, even for us in this day and age, can be a frustrating experience. We know what God promises us, yet we often forget that these things come to pass in His perfect timing, and not ours. That is one reason why the important "gateway petition" of the Our Father, "Thy will be done," is so important. God's will is perfect, and although we may get impatient and want all the perks now, God knows the right timing for everything and we just need to trust Him for it. And, that leads me into a small tangent before the lesson continues.
Recently, one of my dear friends has been going through some issues with his marriage, and as I consider this guy almost like a brother, I wanted to be as supportive of him as possible. However, he is also one of these guys who seems to think that the words of some TV preacher mean something, and in his desperation he was going off in some weird areas - he was going to "speak positive things" and also somehow got it in his head that if he just spoke in tongues more, his prayer might be more effective. This is crap - excuse the blatant theological term! - that is often spouted by these TV hacks which also sets unrealistic expectations for those who take them seriously. To begin, tongues and the gift that utilizes it are in no way associated with effective results in prayers, and you don't even read that from Scripture - a separate study is warranted on spiritual gifts at some point in the future, but suffice to say when tongues is mentioned in Scripture, it is a gift utilized for two purposes - one is for evangelism, and the other is for edification of the Church. It is never some sort of merit system for having your prayers answered quicker, etc. To use tongues in that manner, as well as the so-called "positive confession" nonsense, is actually tantamount to heresy, in it reduces faith and devotion to some sort of manipulative magic show. This is why, when going through something like this and learning to "wait upon the Lord," it is important to first seek out God's will. If we do that, God will order things in His perfect timing, and it fosters growth and trust within us. This lesson though is a relevant one to all ages, and in Genesis 15 we see Abraham's own impatience attempting to "help God out" in the plan, and there are two mistakes Abraham makes in this lesson.
First, given Abraham's advanced age (not to mention Sarah's!) Abraham was of the mistaken notion that one of his beloved servants, Eliezar of Damascus, was to be his heir. In verse 2, we see Abraham's impatience getting the best of him when he says, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezar of Damascus?" But, in verse 4, God responds to this by saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." In other words, Abraham would have a biological son. In verse 6, Abraham is finally put to ease about this and accepts God's word for it. That being readied, God now wants to seal the covenant with a ceremonial demonstration.
Liturgical worship is intrinsic to religious life, and it is sort of hot-wired into our being despite how some try to ignore or deny it. We are meant to participate in our worship of God in a way that involves symbolism and ceremony, as it brings to life the reality of the faith we profess. God did this with His people throughout the Old Testament, and He continues it in the Church today. After God tells Abraham again that his descendants shall be as numerous as the stars (this symbolizing spiritual descendants, namely the Church). God also promises Abraham a substantial land grant, and then He seals the deal by directing Abraham to do what is a "covenant sacrifice." In the passage beginning with verse 9 and going through verse 18, this sacrifice is described in detail, and I will attempt to summarize it now.