As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces [of a sacrificed animal, vv 7-10]. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” [Genesis 15:12-22,ESV]
God chose fire as a symbol of his covenant with Abraham. Smoke, burning coals and flame – they are often associated with his commitment to his people.
Fire consumes everything it touches. Heat it enough and it will melt any metal, incinerate any material. It is destructive and violent. Only a few chapters later in Genesis, the same flame that was a sign of covenant to Abraham will be the agent of complete genocide in Sodom and Gomorrah.
I’d rather be in Abraham’s shoes than in Sodom or Gomorrah when God chooses to light things up!
Because meeting with God is playing with fire, we have to learn to respect his power and trust his touch. What could destroy us could also be our greatest blessing. The one who will destroy the heavens and earth with his fire [2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 21:1] deserves to be respected and feared, but he also wields power to be a blessing unlike anything you’ve ever known.
God, I am terrified of the power of your flame
It is destructive, hungry and unpredictable
You invite us to sit close to it
To know your promises and not your judgment.