Devotional: ‘God’s Unmerited Favor’

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Many of us have a hard time putting our lives in God’s hands and trusting Him. Most of us think, “Surely there is something I must do in order to help God solve my problems.” Yet, God doesn’t need our help. God’s grace is not a 50/50 proposition. God’s grace is His unmerited favor.

Then the Lord told Abram, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.” But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?” The Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” So, Abram presented all these to him and killed them.  Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side. As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end, they will come away with great wealth. (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.)  After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. So, the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River.  (Genesis 15:7-18)

What was it about this unusual event that gave Abram hope?

During Abram’s day, it was common for those who made a covenant to slay an animal and then walk together between the pieces. As the two parties walked together between the slaughtered animals, they recited the terms of their agreement, indicating both the seriousness of the agreement as well as the penalty for breaking it. Many have suggested that if either party failed to keep their end of the bargain, something as dreadful as what happened to the slain animals should happen to them and all they possessed.

However, when God established His covenant with Abram, something very different happened. The Bible says that God passed alone through the sacrifices, while Abram slept. Why did God do this? God was declaring that the responsibility for fulfilling the covenant laid squarely upon His shoulders and not Abram’s. God did not promise to do certain things if Abram kept his part of the bargain. God simply said – I will.

As I consider this story, I am once again reminded that my relationship with God is not based upon my goodness, but His grace. There is nothing about me that deserves to become God’s friend. I am as helpless as Abram as he laid there fast asleep. The Bible says –

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:6-11)

If you are having a hard time trusting God over some matter, consider once again your salvation. The Bible says that even while we were sinners and in our worst condition, Christ died for us. If God would be willing to be so gracious to us when we were still His enemies, surely, He will be willing to do even more now that we striving to be His friend.

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