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How Do We Know?




How Do We Know?

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Luke 13:31-35


We do lots of different things to demonstrate how much we love others... to try and express how committed we are, right?


Sometimes we offer simple gestures: We give hugs and kisses on the forehead.


Other times, we reach out: We check on friends when we know they may need some help. We send them cards or notes or give them phone calls/text messages... things like that. We may even say things like, "I here for you... I’m only a phone call away.”


Of course, when we really want others to believe us, to trust our word, our commitment: we may say something like, “I swear on my mothers grave!” In other words we’re saying, “I really mean it... I promise... you can trust me.”


Sometimes we even try and stress how important our commitment is by swearing an oath! “Raise your right hand, place your left hand on the Bible...”


Other times the vows we make represent serious, lifetime commitment: “I do... until death do us part.”


Of course, on a much less serious level, even children will say, "Cross my heart" - when making a promise.


They’re all attempts to prove our love, or our trustworthiness, our commitment... when we’re trying to help others believe we will keep our promise.


It’s basically what was going on in our first Scripture reading between Abraham and God! Abraham was asking of God: “What can you give me ... what evidence can be offered? How am I to know that your promise is true?”


The fact is, Abraham was aware that his days were numbered. He was nearly 100-years old, and Sarah wasn’t far behind. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations, he’d have children more numerous than the stars in the night sky!


Of course, it seemed impossible! How could Abraham practically, and realistically be a “father” to anyone when he was elderly, and had no children? How could he become a nation with no land, no boundaries, no boarders? It truly looked as if his servant would inherit all of his possessions. Which meant that Abraham’s line would end.


But God said, “Do not fear. Don’t worry. Trust me. Have faith. I’m as good as my word. I will take care of you. I promise... you will have children and land and it will all happen, just like I’ve said.”


Then God took the initiative: and made a vow, or in Biblical language, He made a covenant with Abraham. He sealed his promise with a demonstration of how serious he was. The problem is, the symbolism that was used 4,000 years ago is basically lost on most 21st Century people.


Abraham brings animals from his flocks/herds... heifers and goats and rams and birds and cuts them in two... and lays the pieces out as a sacrifice before God...


And then he waits on the Lord: which reminds me of our call to worship, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.”


Of course, as Abraham waited... it happened: God appeared - as fire and smoke - and began to pass between the animals of sacrifice.


Remember: this all took place well before lawyers got involved and made contracts easy. Today we’d simply say that God made a promise, and signed a contract to show how serious he was about keeping his promise.


But in Abraham’s day, “cutting a covenant” literally meant sealing that covenant (agreeing to the covenant; establishing the covenant) with the blood of sacrifice. And by passing between the sacrificed animals, God was in effect saying to Abraham, “If I break my promise, if I fail to keep my word, may what happened to these animals happen to me.”


Or in a language we are more familiar with, I think we can hear God saying... “I cross my heart.”


And so God sealed the deal with Abraham. God reassured Abraham that he would keep his Word, His covenant. And even-though Abraham and Sarah were well beyond the age of having children... and even-though they’d basically wandered in the wilderness as vagabonds... God would deliver on his promise. Abraham and Sarah would become parents; and their children would inherit the Promised Land.


All because God said so... all because God promised. And God never breaks his promises.


That’s basically the message of Salvation. God promised a Deliverer, a Redeemer... a Savior.


Yet we ask: How do we know? How can be certain? What evidence is God willing to give... what proof can he offer?


So God said, “I’ll how you how serious I am!”


Gather on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, called Golgotha... only this time... the sacrifice will be provided.


Jesus lamented, he grieved, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing... {and} I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

“I must press on {Jesus said} today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”


Of course, this time there would be no calves, and lambs, no animal sacrifice. This time, Jesus would be “cutting the covenant”, sealing the promise, signing the contract... Himself... as He was laid out for all to see, on a cross... between two other crosses...


And God said, "This is how much I love you. This is how serious I am about my promises. I would rather die than not keep my promise to gather you unto myself. I am giving my life so that you can be heirs of the promise, citizens of the Kingdom of God... the children of God, himself.


How do you and I know that God loves us; that He is committed to us; that he keeps his Word? We know, because He sent Jesus to show us, that’s how. Jesus died on the cross, the atoning sacrifice, for our sins.


And because of Christ, you and I have the assurance that God will keeps his promises to forgive us, and to give us, eternal life.


And the cross is our sign, our constant reminder, of that promise!


That's how we know!

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