I imagine PETA members would object to this text as in “I’d rather go childless than cut an animal in two” and I might be inclined to join them. The Bible contains a lot of material that I find odd and even offensive and when I read stories like this I can’t imagine God needs to be so dramatic just to make a promise. So if we were to demythologize this story, or take out the bits that don’t fit our view of what is real and what is not, what would be the harm? Maybe it is in making the mysterious less so. We need the mystery for the part of this story that is real to us when like Abraham we find ourselves between what is and what we hope and pray will be. If we have worked out all the details, made God fit our way of thinking, determined what is and what isn’t what do we do when we don’t fit God’s way of being? Abraham’s faith reckoned to him as righteousness, or right relationship with God, depends on believing the promise when the promise is not yet. It means trusting God is present when all evidence would indicate God is not. Faith lives between what is and the hoped for, between the revealed Word, the Bright Morning Star, and the mystery of God invisible yet present. So Abraham believed what he knew could not be and we are the offspring he was promised, counted among the stars he could not number.