When you draw up a contract to buy a house, you put down “earnest money” as proof to the seller that you’re serious. The money goes into an escrow account, and if you back out of the deal without good reason, you lose it.
In the ancient world, you had to do a bit more to prove that you were serious.
In one of the foundational stories of the Bible, God promised Abram, later called Abraham, he would build a great nation out of Abram’s descendants. But after many years, Abram was still childless. Abram wanted proof that God was still serious.
God told Abram to bring a heifer, a goat, and a ram, as well as a dove and a pigeon.
Abram obeyed. And then, without being asked, he cut the animals in two and arranged the halves opposite each other.
As strange as all that sounds to us, it made sense to Abram. Everyone knew that Abram was preparing a contract ratification ceremony. When a great king made a contract with a lesser king, the lesser king would sacrifice animals and then pass between the pieces. He was saying that if I fail to keep the contract, you can tear me to pieces like these animals.
But God didn’t command Abram to pass between the pieces. A smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
God, the greatest king of all, had passed through. Why?
Why God and not Abraham? It took centuries before we learned the answer.
God indeed made Israel into a great nation, but Abraham’s descendants disobeyed God. They failed to live up to their end of the contract. But instead of tearing them to pieces as they deserved, God sent his Son.
We backed out of the deal, but he paid the price.
He was torn to pieces so we could remain whole.