Your Reward

Tonight, I'm back in Genesis. I've been back for weeks, but I haven't got back in Genesis yet. Tonight we are going to look at one of my favorite passages in this chapter. Let's read chapter 15 together:

"1 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. 2 And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house [is] this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 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. 5 And he 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. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. 7 And he said unto him, I [am] the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 8 And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 9 And he said unto him, Take me an 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. 10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. 12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he 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; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites [is] not yet full. 17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. 18 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: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."

This is an interesting chapter. It's a very important chapter. It's the basis for much of what we see in the Paul's writings about faith.

It's a chapter with a lot of firsts:

  • It's the first time in the bible you see the phrase "The word of the Lord came." Now, you are going to see it a lot later - but this is the first reference to the word of the Lord.
  • It's the first time in the Bible you see God referred to as a shield. Again, you see that a lot in the scripture - about 20 times. We sing about how God is a mighty fortress. That idea starts in this chapter.
  • It's the first time that a person is commanded to "fear not" in the Bible. That command appears 63 times in the Bible, more than any other command and it is found first here.

But probably the most important thing we see first in this passage is the word "believe".

Abraham is called "the father of faith" for a reason. In the New Testament, when Paul was making his case for salvation by faith he said

"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."

Believed. That's an important part of it. So this is a special chapter. We are just going to focus tonight on the first couple verses of it. We'll probably look at the rest of it next week.

So let's pray and I'll give you three points about it.

This chapter starts with God coming to Abraham and saying Abram, fear not.

So, point number 1 -

1. The Problem:

And the problem was fear. Fear.

Apparently, Abram was afraid.

Now, humanly speaking, he had good reason to be scared. Let me give you two of them:

A. Fear of powerful enemies

Remember what happened in the last chapter? He took on Chadalaemer - the warrior king. He, one guy with his small band of soldiers, took on his era's equivalent of Alexander the Great or Napaleon and won. Chadalaemer must have been steamed and Abraham probably feared that this super powerful guy would come back with a vengeance - wouldn't you?

But I think there was a second thing that Abram was fearing at this point in his life and it was:

B. Fear of empty promises.

Hold your finger here and turn back to chapter 12. God tells Abram to get out of Ur and follow Him and Abram does. He doesn't do it right away. But he does.

Then, in verse 2 look what God says to Abram:

"And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:" (2)

So, God had promised Abram that He would make his name great and that He would bless him and make him into a great nation.

Then look down at verse 7:

"And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him." (7)

Here God reiterates this promise but adds that God would give his seed the land.

Alright, fast forward back to chapter 15. It's been something like 15-25 years. Abraham is an old man, Sarah is an old woman and they still have no child.

So God had promised land to Abram's seed - but at this point Abram is too old and he still doesn't have any seed. Every promise of God at this point seems like a sham.

And Abram is alone in the desert on a starry night mulling all of this over. Of course he was afraid. He probably was doubting.

So that's the problem. Let's look at point 2 -

2. The answer:

Look at verse 1 again:

"After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, "

Do you know what I love about this? God came to Abram. God looked down from heaven and saw that His child was in a time of need, God looked into the head of Abram and saw what was there and God said "This man needs some help" and God came to Him.

God does that sometimes. We ought to rush to Him, but sometimes He beats us there.

Notice what God says - these words are powerful:

"Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."

He says Fear not!

Why Abram? Why fear not? What possible reason do you have to not fear?

Fear not, Abram, I.

Here is the amazing thing. Fear is the problem in this passage. Do you know what the answer is? It's God. Just God. The person and character of God.

Why shouldn't you fear? Why is fear not repeated 63 times in the scripture? God. It's because of WHO He is we can get through trials. It's Him.

Specifically, though, God wanted Abram to know two things about Himself. First,

A. God was Abram's Shield.

Do you know what God was saying there? You could sum it up in three simple words "I'm protecting you." I'm watching out for you. I'm your bodyguard. I've got your back.

When you walk with God you are walking around with the greatest insurance plan you could ever have. You may be in good hands with All-state but that's nothing like the protection of being in God's hands. You can walk into war zones in God's will and be totally untouchable. You can get thrown into a fiery furnace so hot the people who throw you in die of heat and come out unscathed if you are under God's protection. You can have the armies of this world descend upon you and be totally calm because the armies of God are descending on them and it's no contest.

We can say like Paul in Romans 8:

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Because you are in God's hands. He is your shield.

The second thing God wanted Abram to know about Himself was...

B. God was Abram's Exceeding Great Reward.

Now, Abram was thinking about the promise of God - the land, the children, the nation. All of that. But God said to Abram - no "I am your reward."

I love how a preacher named F.B. Meyer from the 1800s put it:

"Come now, my child, and think; even if thou wert never to have one foot of soil, and thy tent were to stand silent, amid the merry laughter of childish voices all around -- yet thou wouldest not have left thy land in vain, for thou hast Me. Am not I enough? I fill heaven and earth; cannot I fill one lonely soul? Am not I 'thy exceeding great reward'; - F.B. Meyer

In other words - listen - even if God gives you nothing else but Himself - He's given you more than anything you could ever even ask for.

Most of the time, God blesses His followers. Proverbs says "I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread." The book of Luke says "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." Jesus promised his disciples "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."

Sometimes God's will is for us to go through times of poverty and hardship, but most of the time God blesses those who follow Him. But listen, if you get nothing. No financial blessing, nor family blessing. Nothing besides a walk with God - you've still got the deal of a lifetime.

So God was reminding Abram of this. Abram had God. He had a relationship with God. God was looking out for Him and taking care of Him. Don't fear, I'm here.

3. The promise:

So Abram listens, and while He's talking to God, He addresses the elephant in the room. He asks "What about the promise of a child? You promised me that, and I have no son, all I have is a steward, is He supposed to be my heir?"

Look at God's answer (in verse 4-6):

"[Gen 15:4-6 KJV] 4 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. 5 And he 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. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."

God said "No, no, no Abram. You are getting ahead of yourself. I'm going to give you more natural offspring than you could possibly count. Look at all of those stars - you'll have more offspring than that."

We know the rest of the story. God did. Abram was old - way too old. But God worked a miracle.

The lesson from that is this:

We often mistake God's delays as denials.

Sometimes we think God is saying "No" when God is just saying "not yet." "Wait a little while." Trust me, I know what I'm doing.

As a parent, sometimes my kids want to know every detail. When are we leaving, what way are we going, what stops are we making, who are we going to see. Amanda has a saying, she says "Ride the bus." That means "Just trust me, I've got a plan, just go along."

Sometimes God says to us "Just ride the bus, the ride might take a little longer than you think it should, but I know exactly what I'm doing."

And church - never forget this - God knows exactly what He's doing. His plan for you is perfect. You might not like every stop on the itinerary. You might have to deal with the cancer stop - didn't plan on that. Maybe you stop at a place called divorce - didn't want to go there. Maybe you have to go through poverty - or lonliness - or whatever and you say "God, are you shure you know where you are going?" It might not be what you expected. But ride the bus. Trust God. He wants what is best for you and He has a plan for you.

The last point this evening is:

4. The response:

Look at verse 6:

"And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." (6)