The Smoking Furnace
October 26th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-26-88 7:30 p.m.
Once again we welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are a part now of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Promises of God, or The Smoking Furnace. There is hardly any message I have ever prepared in all of my life that has meant more to me personally than the preparation of this sermon tonight. It is an exposition of the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis and I do not know how else to present it, except first we read it. So if you will turn in your Bible to the first book, Genesis, and to chapter 15, and these are the holy and sacred Scriptures:
After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
And Abram said, Lord God, what will Thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
And Abram said, Behold, to me Thou has given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
And God brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And Abram believed in the Lord; and God counted it to him for righteousness.
And God said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
And Abram said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
And God said unto him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
And he took unto Him all these, and divided them in the midst, cut them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him.
And God said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
And thou shalt go to thy father in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity the Amorites is not yet full.
And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp passed between those pieces.
In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the River Euphrates.
We first speak of the covenant of faith, Genesis 15:6, "Abraham believed the Lord; and God counted it to him for righteousness." And in Romans 4:1-5:
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, found?
If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
If you worked for me and I pay you for your work, you are just getting what is yours. You work for it. If I give it to you, it is something else. If we work for our salvation, then we did it. If God gives it to us, it is of grace, it is of love.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt
God owes it to you.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
The foundation of our hope, the foundation of our prayer that someday we will see God, that we will see heaven, that we will be with the Lord; that foundation humanity looks for in feelings and in works, something in us, that’s the world. But the Spirit and the Word of God testify that it is the Lord who saves us. It is our trust in His grace, not in ourselves. Nothing in us is worthy of the sublime holiness and presence of God. Nothing in us; it is all in Him.
God takes Abraham’s faith, his trust [Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3-5], in lieu of a perfect righteousness which Abraham lacked. For example, in Genesis 12:10-20, Abraham lies to Pharaoh, says Sarah is his sister not his wife [Genesis 12:18-19]. And in Genesis 20:1-17, the whole chapter describes the same circumvention, the same lie, the same deception. This time it was to Abimelech [Genesis 20:2].
Abraham was not perfect in his righteousness. God takes Abraham’s faith and his love in the trust of God’s grace [Genesis 15:6, Romans 3-5] in lieu of a perfect righteousness. And this acceptance of Abraham, in the heart and goodness and grace of God, occurred long before circumcision [Genesis 17:10], and it occurred hundreds and hundreds of years before the law of Moses [Exodus 20]. In fact, the whole legal system, our obedience under righteousness, the whole legal system is a parenthesis. We are accepted not on the basis of our works, but upon the basis of our commitment to Christ and our faith in his love and atoning grace. Faith unites us to God. Faith grafts us into the Living Vine. Faith builds us into the Rock. Faith clothes us with white garments. It is not our works, it is of faith [Ephesians 2:8-9]. "Abraham believed God, trusted in God, and his faith and his trust were counted for righteousness" [Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3-5].
We have depicted here the covenant of sacrifice in this chapter, Genesis 15:7-18. There is a furnace [Genesis 15:17]. That furnace is a type of Egypt. Egypt is so-called as "a furnace of iron" in Deuteronomy 4:20. And in 1 Kings 8:51 there is a furnace that is a type of Egypt. There is a lamp; that lamp is a type of God’s presence who is the light of the world [John 8:12]. There are the divided pieces exposed to fowls that Abraham drove away [Genesis 15:11]. That is a type of Israel, exposed to enemy nations who would have devoured her. And there is the horror of darkness [Genesis 15:12], of four hundred years of suffering and affliction in Egypt.
Now the procedure of a sacred covenant went like this: both parties walked between the divided sacrifices. You have that in Jeremiah 34:18-20. The sacrifices are divided one over against the other, and both parties walk between those sacrifices. It went something like this: they would join hands and say, "May God do so to us," the slaughter of those animals, "May God do so to us, if one of the other of us breaks this sacred covenant."
Both parties, Abraham and God, should have walked through those divided sacrifices. But here God walked through it alone [Genesis 15:17]. Abraham is helpless. He is asleep [Genesis 15:12]. He is out of the way. He has no part in it. It is God alone who walks through that sacrifice and enters into that sacred covenant [Genesis 15:17]. The substantiated covenant does not depend upon Abraham or his faithfulness or his goodness or his works, but the substantiation of the covenant lies in the person and faithfulness and grace of Almighty God.
If I could say a word about that in my salvation: my salvation does not depend upon me, it depends upon whether God will keep His promise or not. It is in His love. It is in His grace [Ephesians 2:8]. It is in His goodness, and I trust Him for it and believe Him for it. And my faith is counted for righteousness as though I had never sinned.
The smoking furnace is a picture of the judgment of Almighty God. In Genesis [19:28] it says of Sodom and Gomorrah, "lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace." It is a picture of God’s judgment upon Mount Sinai; in Exodus 19:18, "And Mount Sinai was altogether on smoke . . . and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace." Here again, John looked into the pit of hell and damnation in Revelation 14:11, and it says, "the smoke of their torment ascended for ever and ever."
God’s judgment demands the death of the sinner [Ezekiel 18;4, Romans 6:23]. And that sacrifice is a picture of the atoning grace of our Lord. Each animal mentioned in that sacrifice [Genesis 15:9] is detailed in the Book of Leviticus, a picture of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. There is the red heifer [Genesis 15:9]. You could do nothing more interesting than to read the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Numbers; the red heifer, the cleansing and the sanctifying of the people [Numbers 19:2-10, 17]. There is a ram [Genesis 15:9]. The ram is of God’s atoning grace. In Genesis 22:13, when Abraham raised his hand to plunge the knife into Isaac, the son of promise, God stays his hand. And he turns and he looks and there is the substitute, a picture of Christ, a ram caught in the thicket [Genesis 22:10-13].
There is a goat [Genesis 15:9], a picture of the scapegoat bearing our sins away into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement [Leviticus 16:20-22]. Pigeons and turtledoves [Genesis 15:9], the redemption for the poor. And there they are slain. And there they are arranged, the heifer, the ram, the goat, the pigeons, the turtledoves, arranged in opposite pieces. It is an aisle, a passageway between the bloody pieces [Genesis 15:10,17].
And in Hebrews 10:19-20 it says that through the rent veil of the flesh of our Lord, we have access to God. The tearing apart of the sacrificial flesh and body of our Lord, the passageway by which we come into the presence of the Lord, redeemed, washed, cleansed, saved; not by our righteousness, but in His love and atoning goodness. "By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should say, I did it" [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Boasting, "Here I am, cleansed; I did it. Here I am in heaven, saved to the glory of the presence of God; I did it. Here I am clothed in white garments, accepted before the very throne of grace; I did it." No man will ever boast in the presence of God, never, never.
Our works are as filthy rags in His sight [Isaiah 64:6]. We are sinful and fallen people, and even our best attempts at goodness and righteousness is always marred by imperfection and human frailty. Our finest thoughts are so many times blackened by carnal feelings, intrusions. We come before God pleading not our goodness, but His; not our righteousness, but His, His loving grace, God’s atoning mercy poured out in love abounding upon us. This is our hope and our salvation.
So when you get to heaven, you are going to sing "Worthy is the Lamb."
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor and majesty and glory and power and dominion.
For it is by His blood that He washed us, and cleansed us, and made us to be kings and priests.
To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[Revelation 5:12, 1:5-6]
Jesus did it. Jesus loved us. Jesus saved us [Galatians 2:20]. And our everlasting song will be to the praise of His glory. That is the sacrifice. Abraham believed God, and His faith was counted for righteousness [Genesis 15:6].
All the rest of our lives, they are given to the glory and the praise and the honor of His name. O, blessed be the name of the Lord! That’s why church, just singing His praises. That’s why prayer, thanking Him for ever. That’s our testimony. O blessed Jesus, thank You for saving me. It’s a beautiful way to live. It is glorious way to die. And it has in it the precious hope of heaven.
Now Brother Fred, let us sing us a song. And while we sing the hymn, a somebody you, to give himself to the Lord Jesus; a family you, to come into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you, to answer the call of God in your heart and life; as we shall sing the appeal and wait for that ultimate decision from your heart, we pray it will be toward God. "Lord, here I stand, loving Thee, trusting in Thee, giving my heart and soul and life to Thee, answering God’s call in my heart."
If you are in the balcony, there is time and to spare. And the people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s time for me, and I am giving my heart and love and trust and faith to the Lord Jesus, for I am coming in answer to His call to my heart and life." Welcome. Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SMOKING FURNACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Covenant of faith
1. Human nature looks for hope inside ourselves; works, something within us
2. It is God who saves us
3. God takes Abraham’s faith in lieu of perfect righteousness which Abraham lacks
4. Abraham’s faith accepted long before the law, circumcision
5. We are accepted not on the basis of our works but on the basis of our faith
II. Covenant of sacrifice
1. Furnace is a type of Egypt
2. Lamp is a type of God’s presence
3. Divide pieces are a type of Israel
4. Both parties in ancient times walked between the pieces to seal the covenant between them
5. Only God walks between the pieces because Abraham is unable to keep the covenant
6. Our salvation "covenant" depends only upon God
III. A type of Christ, His atoning grace
1. Levitical offerings are pictures of Christ
2. Arrangement of sacrifices make a passageway between the bloody pieces
IV. Falling away from the promises – Genesis 16 – hard for us to wait upon God