I have spent this month teaching about biblical “nuggets” at my friend’s church while he is in Israel. Each week has included a sermon about things that we have read in the Bible but, for whatever reason, pass right over. Many of these things can be educational if we look deeper into them.
For example, the Abrahamic Covenant seems to the the one that our modern wedding ceremonies is based on. In Genesis, Abraham wonders how he can be sure that his people will inherit the land that God says he will give to the Israelites. With this question, God gave instructions to Abraham.
God instructs Abraham to get a goat, a ram and a heifer. Abraham is then told the cut the animals in half, and to sacrifice several birds as well. He is to arrange the pieces on the ground and wait… that evening, God passed between the pieces and entered into a covenant with Abraham.
If we were to draw this out on a whiteboard, it would be pretty evident that Abraham waited at the end of the path, where a groom waits for his bride to pass between the guests at the wedding ceremony. By the way, the “pieces” are the same as the bride’s side and the groom’s side at the ceremony.
Biblically, the woman is the one who changes families when she gets married and that is why she is escorted to the front of the church by her father – the protector of the family – passing between the pieces.
There are several other things that we are taught in that passage in Genesis. We are told that birds of prey were trying to disturb the animals that Abraham has placed so carefully on the ground. To me, this is symbolic of the efforts of Satan to undermine our marriages and our families. In fact, that became one of the points in my dissertation for my doctoral work.
Other noteworthy things in our marriage ceremonies include the way that the bride and groom hold hands during their vows. The groom extends his hand in the offer of marriage and the bride accepts his had. It’s like a handshake – an agreement. Then the groom’s left hand “covers” the bride’s right hand and the bride then “supports” the groom’s hand. This is symbolic of the roles each person plays in the marriage. The groom is to protect his family and the wife is to provide the moral support for the family. I always remind couples that when they lose their way, and they will, that they will remember this moment when the marriage began.
Rings are the sign of the covenant – a reminder of the gift that God has given you – the gift of your spouse. And to be truthful, the ring is for you – it doesn’t make any difference if anyone else ever sees it. But too many people don’t realize that important part about the sign of the covenant.
Another fact is that in covenants, each party gives and receives. So, the vows in my weddings begin with, “I receive you to be my wedded wife/husband…” never, I “take”… And I encourage the bride and groom to add, “I receive you as a gift from God…” Give and receive – never take.
Likewise, the families of the bride and groom each give a child and receive a child in the process of the ceremony… same thing, each family gives and then receives. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom, just united in marriage, pass between the “pieces” and unite into a new family. Most couples think that they don’t have a family until there are children but that is incorrect. A husband and wife constitute a family…
Tonight’s verse is the passage that recounts the way the Abrahamic covenant happened. Moses tells us, in Genesis 15:9-17, “So 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.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…”
My encouragement this evening is that the Bible is full of great “nuggets” if we will take the time to look for them. What a blessing… My prayer is that God, through the Holy Spirit, will continue to help us understand God’s word in ways that we can’t even imagine. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…