The incident that we read of in the passage from the Book of Genesis today is called "cutting a covenant." Implied in the action of slicing the animals into two pieces and then walking between them is the assertion that the same thing should happen to the party who fails to keep his or her end of the bargain. While the notion is barbaric, to say the least, it does emphasize the serious nature of the covenant. Wouldn't you think twice before breaking such an agreement?
This isn't the first covenant God made with the human family. The first was made with Noah, the story of whom immediately precedes the chapters which introduce us to Abram of Ur of the Chaldees. That covenant was universal in nature, extending to the entire created universe. God made a promise never to threaten the universe with complete destruction again. Not only does that covenant cover the human family, it reaches out and includes all of creation.
The covenant the God made with Abram is far more personal. It involves providing Abraham with an heir. Nothing was more important to the men and women of that culture and that time of history. An heir guaranteed that Abram, or Abraham as he came to be known, would never be forgotten. God kept faith with the covenant. Today Jews, Christians, and Muslims all remember Abraham and regard him as the father of their respective faiths.
Of course, the question that sits unanswered is our end of the bargain. Have we kept the agreement? The question is rhetorical and requires no answer. Everyone knows and admits that we have failed God time and time again. The children of Abraham, be they Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, are all children of God. We are all equal in God's eyes. We are all the beneficiaries of God's boundless and unconditional love. Obviously, we have failed to live up to the concept of being created in that image and in that likeness. Yet God continues to renew the covenant that was made with Abraham each and every day and will continue to do so until Jesus returns.