In our sermon series on “The Gospel According to Abraham,” we’ve been introduced to the Covenant of Grace. We saw how God furthered His Covenant of Grace with Abraham in Genesis 15, cutting the animals in half and passing through that valley of death to ratify His promise to Abraham and his offspring. But did you notice the seemingly insignificant detail in Genesis 15:11? “And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.” Now why would God include this little tidbit of Abram trying to scare off some buzzards? Is it just to fill in some of the details of the story? Or, is God’s Word so rich and intricate, that even this easily overlooked verse can teach us more of God’s ways?
In fact, carrion birds play an important role whenever God’s covenants are in view. Consider what the prophet Jeremiah warned to those who disobeyed God and didn’t trust His covenant promises:
And the men who transgressed My covenant … I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts … And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. (Jeremiah 34:18 – 20)
We see the same ideas: a covenant made by cutting animals in half and “passing between its parts.” But in this prophecy, those who disobey will themselves be destroyed like the calf, and the buzzards will feast on their flesh.
But what is Jeremiah’s prophecy referring to? Scripture tells us there will come a time when the birds of the air will indeed devour the wicked. The Apostle John foretells in Revelation 19:17 – 21 that an angel of God will summon the carrion birds to eat the flesh of kings and peasants, strong and weak; all who have disobeyed the Lord Almighty. The Final Judgment will be universal in scope, and all those who disobey the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be destroyed just like the oxen and calves of Genesis 15 and Jeremiah 34. At that time, there will be no Abram to drive away the vultures and buzzards. Instead, God Himself will invite the birds to become “gorged” on those who reject Christ.
Holy Scripture presents us with a grisly and gruesome picture. What can we learn from it for ordering our lives in the here and now? Here are a few suggestions:
Make sure you are trusting in Christ’s blood to forgive us for breaking God’s covenant. The God who “walked the line” in Genesis 15 offers full and free forgiveness at the Cross to all the covenant-breakers of the world. Christ assumes the curse of the covenant, having His body broken for all who would believe. Is Jesus your only hope of being accepted by God?
Like Abram, drive away the buzzards until God sends judgment. The carrion birds of Scripture are a picture on impending judgment, but until God Himself summons the vultures as in Revelation 19, like Abram we are called to prolong and preserve. Isn’t this what Jesus meant when He tells us, “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13 – 16)? Just as salt preserves, and just as light shines, so believers are to have a preserving and enlightening effect on the world.
When Christians show how different they are from the world, we can have a preserving and enlightening effect. Instead of “working for the weekend” to spend money on ourselves, believers start their week by giving the first day and the first tenth of their money to God. Instead of living by personal standards of right and wrong, believers are careful to follow God’s Word as their only standard. As people look at you, where would they say your treasure is: in Jesus, or something else? Are you the salt and light of the world, or do you just blend in with the rest of the bland grays?
Praying to preserve the world and drive off the buzzards like Abram,