GOD CONFIRMING HIS PROMISE BY MAKING A COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM THROUGH CHRIST
Because Abraham found it difficult to believe in God regarding the promise of the land, God was forced to make a covenant with him. In 15:9-21 we see that God confirmed His promise by making a covenant with Abraham through Christ. The way in which God made this covenant with Abraham was very peculiar. This portion of the Word is difficult for people to understand. We need to see that God was forced to make this covenant with Abraham. As far as God was concerned, there was no need for Him to do this. If Abraham had immediately believed in God for the promise of the land, Genesis 15 would have been much shorter than it is now. There would have been no need for many things that are mentioned there: the dividing of the heifer, the she-goat, and the ram; the offering of the turtledove and the young pigeon; the deep sleep that fell upon Abraham; the horror of great darkness that came upon him; God’s passing through the pieces as a smoking furnace and as a torch of fire; and the mention of the four hundred years. It seems that nothing was pleasant. It was not the time of sunrise but of sunset, and God did not come in a lovely way but as a smoking furnace and a flaming torch. If we had witnessed such a scene, we probably would have been frightened to death, being unable to withstand it and finding it altogether a terrifying thing. This scene, however, has a very sweet flavor because in it God made a covenant with His dear called one; He had no intention of terrifying him.
I have spent much time in trying to understand this portion of the Word. In the early days I could not understand it because I lacked experience. I looked into some books, but none of them said anything helpful about this matter. But eventually by experiences through the years the Lord has shown me the real significance of this portion of the Word. This incident in Genesis 15 is the consummation of a covenant, the record of God’s enacting of a covenant. The first covenant that God made was with Noah (9:8-17), a covenant that had a rainbow as its sign. Here, in Genesis 15, is the second covenant made by God with man. We need to keep this fact firmly in mind.
THREE CATTLE SIGNIFYING THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST • In making His covenant with Abraham, God told him to take a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon (v. 9). The three cattle, all of which were three years of age, were divided in half, but the two birds were not; they were kept alive. It was through these that God made His covenant with Abraham, implying that it was in this way that Abraham could fulfill God’s eternal purpose.
We need to see the significance of the three cattle and the two birds. In typology, all things offered to God by man are a type of Christ. Based upon this principle, each of these five things undoubtedly is a type of Christ. Christ is firstly the crucified Christ, the cut Christ, and secondly He is the resurrected, living Christ. If we see this, then we can immediately understand that the three cattle, which were cut and killed, are types of the crucified Christ. The crucified Christ was the One who became flesh, living on earth in His humanity. John chapter one says that the Word who was God became flesh (v. 14). Then it speaks of this One as the Lamb of God (v. 29). The Lamb of God was the One who was the Word of God becoming flesh. Thus, the three cattle in Genesis 15 should signify Christ in His humanity being crucified for us.
If we read Genesis 15 along with the book of Leviticus, we can see that the female heifer was for a peace offering (Lev. 3:1). Why does the peace offering come first? Because when God was making a covenant with His called one, there was the need of peace. In making a covenant or any agreement between two parties there is the need of peace. In order for God to make a covenant with His called one, there was firstly the need of a peace offering. And Christ was that peace offering. The she-goat was a type of Christ as our sin offering (Lev. 4:28; 5:6). Regardless of how good we may be as God’s called ones, we are still sinful. Thus, following the peace offering we need the sin offering. Hallelujah, the problem of sin has been settled! It has been taken away by Christ as our she-goat, as our sin offering. Following this there was the need of the burnt offering, the offering which signifies that everything must be for God (Lev. 1:10). After the peace offering, there was the sin offering, and after the sin offering, there was the burnt offering. Christ was all of the offerings that God passed through in making a covenant with His called one.
Why were the three cattle all three years old? Because Christ was not killed in death but in resurrection. He was not offered in death but in resurrection. Referring to His crucifixion, the Lord told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Lord was killed when He was “three years old,” meaning that He was killed in resurrection. Even before He was killed He was already in resurrection because He was always in resurrection (John 11:25). Therefore, when He was killed, He was killed in resurrection, and this was why He could be resurrected. Christ offered Himself to God in resurrection. He was nailed to the cross in resurrection. Regardless of how strong you may be, if you were to be killed, you would be killed in death, not in resurrection. But the Lord Jesus was killed in resurrection.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)