From Genesis to Revelation

Day 7: Half a Cow, Man!

Duncan Parlett

Each day of this devotional series, we will consider key moments in God’s glorious plan to redeem us. We will understand both the overarching story of God and the highlights of all He’s done for us in Christ.

“On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram.” – Genesis 15:18, New International Version


I cannot imagine any truly unconditional human relationship. Even the most committed partnerships have an unspoken “I will love you if ...” Yet, God loves and saves us unconditionally. A bizarre scene from Abraham’s life illustrates our Lord’s gracious acceptance of us.

Believing the Promises

Abraham is the father of faith, but how did he express that faith? He held onto the promises of God. God made three specific promises: 1) Abraham would have many descendants, 2) Abraham’s descendants would occupy the Promised Land, and 3) God would bless everyone through one of these descendants. 

Abraham believed these promises and acted on them. 

Cutting a Deal

In the days of Abraham, a strange ceremony sealed solemn agreements. The two parties would come to terms and then cut a bull in half and walk back and forth several times between the halves. This gruesome march reminded them, in a visceral way, that If they broke the terms of the agreement, they would suffer the same fate as the chopped bovine. 

In Genesis 15:9-21, God made such an agreement with Abraham concerning all His aforementioned promises, with one important twist. God alone passed between the animal parts in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch. This showed that the agreement was one-sided, unconditional and fully dependent on God.

The Person of Faith

Like Abraham, we place our faith in the unconditional promises of God. Christ fulfilled the promise that all nations would be blessed through Abraham (Galatians 3:8). We trust the “seed of Abraham” to pay for our sins and justify us before a holy and righteous God. Our secure relationship with God depends fully on Christ, not on us and, thankfully, no longer involves messy cow parts.

“Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith [in Christ], and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” – Galatians 3:8-9, New International Version


Next: After God made these promises, it seemed like God asked Abraham to undo all that had been accomplished. This tested Abraham’s faith and foreshadowed a sacrifice another Father would make.


  • Have you experienced something like “unconditional” love? How?
  • Why does God make faith the criteria for salvation rather than works?
  • Do you really believe that God’s love for you is unconditional? Why or why not? How does that affect how you live?
  • How does it make you feel that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation and nothing we can do to un-earn salvation?

Going Deeper:

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