The smoke billowed out and rose to the ceiling. We coughed and sputtered and laughed as the foolishness of the turkey juice burning down to a black gooey mess. The turkey was too juicy and the pan too shallow. Open doors letting in the cold and a box fan held up to drive the smoke away provided more ridiculousness. Yes, we were laughing and the kids were assuring me it was fine and we were not going to go hungry. Alas, they spoke before they tasted the worst pumpkin pie I have even made. But that comedy of errors is another story. This was a memorable Thanksgiving. As a hostess with a reputation to preserve (tongue in cheek), I was glad it was only us and that we were laughing and loving being together.
At the dinner table the smoking oven was definitely part of the conversation. My mind jumped to a treasured passage I have longed loved. The sealing of the covenant. (Genesis 15) I have never had a satisfactory explanation of why He passed through as a smoking oven. It seemed to surreal even for such a momentous event as this.
I am leaping here not from any biblical or ancient cultural studies evidence nor out of commentaries but from observation of my very own smoking oven.
The smoke was pungent. Even as the girls hid under a blanket, the smell filtered through, driving them to the other side of the kitchen door. The boys stayed through the coughs, holding up the box fan to drive the smoke down through the opened doors. It lingered; it invaded our space. It demanded our attention.
This smoking oven was not a nice incense burner with smoke gently wafting through leaving a sweet trail of scent. No, this smoking oven was an eternal declaration of an eternal covenant that would not be broken or stifled! This smoking oven passed through the bloody path between the slaughtered animals as Abram, who was in a deep sleep like Adam when Eve was created, slept.
The smoke must have laid claim to its territory leaving an oder, a strong oder that left not doubt this really happened. Abram did not dream it! Evidence of His passing through.
How many times have I been left to wonder if God’s hand was really there? Did I demand evidence? Sometimes. And yet despite my doubts, always, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has declared His hand, His Presence. My own heart and mind knew it.
Abram did not have God’s written Word. He did have His personal promise. He did not know the end of his story, just the promise. And he most definitely made wrong choices in his doubts, thinking he would help God.
When he sat around the fire, did the smell of the pungent smoke remind him of the covenant, of the promises. Did it stir his heart to repentance, to faithfulness, to remembrance, to renewed belief?
Today, Meg and Jim have a fire going outside. The strong breeze draws the smoke away. The faint smell of autumn lingers. And now with sweet memories of turkey in a stinky kitchen and father and daughter by the flaming fire pit, my heart is stirred to remember His covenant with me.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.