Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (NRSV)
Chapter 15After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great."
Verse 2But Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Verse 3And Abram said, "You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir." Verse 4But the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir." Verse 5He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Verse 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Verse 7Then he said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess." Verse 8But he said, "O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?" Verse 9He said to him, "Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon." Verse 10He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. Verse 11And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Verse 12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
Verse 17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. Verse 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
All of our religious devotions are exercises in futility if God is not reliable. No part of this passage—Abram and Sarai's future, Abram's righteousness, or even God's reassurances—would be ground for any kind of confidence apart from one sure thing: "The LORD made a covenant." God puts God's entire character and reputation on the line, pledging God's own self to the fulfillment of the promises. The legacy of Abraham, Sarah, and their offspring does not depend on those people's own plans or cleverness; only God can make the promised future turn out right. Lent, with its focus on repentance and human finitude, asks us to examine the foundations of our spirituality. Without a faithful, promise-keeping God providing the bedrock of our faith, everything is flimsy.
Faithful God, deliver us from thinking that sturdy spirituality depends on our insights and doctrinal purity. Build in us a faith that moves us to surrender ourselves to your reliability as our trustworthy friend, deliverer, and sustainer. Amen.