Painting by Gwen Meharg: The Exchange
This step of making an ancient covenant could be very disturbing to our modern sensibilities; yet this particular step highlights the solemn nature of what a covenant truly is...and in grasping the depth and seriousness of covenant, we can embrace anew the incredible, indescribable gift that has been given to us through Jesus coming to earth in "the form of man" (Philippians 2:7).
Now, on to the graphic details...
The covenant is “cut” by taking an animal and splitting it right down the middle. Each half is laid to the side and the covenant partners stand between the two bloody halves of flesh, with their backs to one another. Then they walk right through the bloody halves, making a figure eight, and come back to stop, facing each other.
Their walk through the sacrificed animal is saying two things:
First, that they are dying to themselves, giving up the rights to their own life and beginning a new walk with the covenant partner unto death. (Each half of the dead animal represents the covenant partners).
Second, as the covenant partners walk, they point to each half of the animal, in effect saying “God do so to me and more if I ever try to break this covenant.”
As we think about this step of covenant, fear and anxiety might overcome us as the overwhelming truth strikes to the center of our being; the truth that we each are a covenant breaker! We are under the penalty of death for having broken the covenant! This gives an even deeper understanding to my heart of why Romans 6:23 declares "the wages of sin is death"! BUT, the verse goes on to remind us that the covenant is restored through Jesus. In fact, Jesus is both covenant partners...He is God, making the Berith journey, and He is man, making the Berith journey. Being man, and a sinless man - was always His plan in restoring our covenant standing before God! Are you grasping this? It is so powerful! So full of incredible truth! And when we really comprehend this reality, we never need to be ashamed of our failures in our Christian walk again...He knew we would fail, but He had a plan to cover this terrible paradox of being a spirit being that still can cave in to the flesh nature! A foreshadowing of Christ fulfilling both sides of this covenant is found in Genesis 15, where God makes a covenant with Abram and his descendents, and takes two separate forms to walk through the sacrificed animals.
As a sinless man, Jesus walked the covenant journey in our place and as a covenant partner with God, He paid the penalty of death of our covenant breaking in His own body. Now, when we receive Him as Lord and Savior, we are entering into covenant with both parties of a covenant already cut...we are joining with Christ in proclaiming that we are entering into a death and are journeying into a new life. He and we are declaring that we each are dying to living for our self-interests alone and passing through death to a new relationship of union with the other each other!
May this truth deeply penetrate your hearts and spirit this Passover and First Fruits season!