Genesis Series 2016: This piece originally appeared in the He Reads Truth Genesis Series. Along with many of their reading plans you can find it here in full.
When my brothers and I were young, our father read to us all of the great Greek myths. It was a nightly ritual. Some families read Brothers Grimm, others preferred Harry Potter or Narnia; but for us, it was Ulysses and the Cyclops, Perseus and Pegasus, Jason and the Argonauts. Whatever the tale, one thing remained fairly clear to me: the gods were not to be trusted. No matter their realm of divine influence, they were frequently subject to fits of rage and envy, strife and jealousy. The gods were not gods because they were good. Far from it. They were the gods because they were powerful.
In that world, striking a deal with the gods was incredibly risky. It might have proved temporarily helpful, but it always came with strings attached or hidden catches. To petition a god was to lay your needs before a divine loan shark. Usually you could get short term help, but eventually someone was coming to collect (and they weren’t planning on asking nicely).
What a stark contrast this strikes with the sort of covenant God established with Abraham. In calling His people through the patriarch, God established a one-sided covenant. No strings attached. No hidden agenda. The entire deal was to benefit the people He loved so dearly. God had nothing to gain, and everything to give.
In the Ancient Near East, covenants between two equal parties were established by cutting several animals in two...
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