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 you, 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. On that day theLord 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 15:12-21, ESV)
It’s notable that for this covenant that the Lord made with Abram, He did it as Abram slept. We even see a fire pot and a flaming torch passing between the pieces of the animals, seemingly on their own. What this illustrates for us is that the covenant that God made with Abram was not bilateral. In other words, it wasn’t an agreement made between God and Abram. It was unilateral. God promised this to Abram, regardless of what Abram would do and fail to do, and the exclamation point is that He sealed this covenant while Abram was totally incapacitated.
In the same way, the covenant that the Lord has made with His church is not bilateral. It’s not as if God promises grace to His people as long as they obey New Covenant law. Instead, we see an unconditional grace poured out on His people. He made the covenant with us while we slept. No, He made the covenant with us while we were dead. God’s grace is unilateral. He pours it out on His chosen people freely.
Far be it from us to think that God shows us grace because of what we do. The thought defies the very idea of grace, the bestowing of favor onto someone who does not deserve it. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” And 2 Corinthians 10:17 says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.“