After these events the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. He said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2Abram said, “Lord God what can you give me, since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Abram also said, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a servant born in my house will be my heir.” 4Just then, the word of the Lord came to him. God said, “This man will not be your heir, but instead one who will come out of your own body will be your heir.” 5The Lord then brought him outside and said, “Now look toward the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “This is what your descendants will be like.” 6Abram believed in the Lord, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness. (EHV)
It’s been said that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Well, we won’t argue that those two things are certain. But they’re not the only ones. Fear is another one of those certainties. It started with Adam. He’d never heard of fear, until the fall into sin. Then, suddenly he was filled with terror! He ran to hide himself and when God asked him why, his answer was “I heard you walking in the garden, and I was afraid.” It was certainly not God’s intent that man should ever be afraid. In fact, God immediately responded to Adam with a message of hope and comfort to drive his fear away. He promised him a Savior from sin, forgiveness through Him and paradise restored.
That’s still the only permanent cure for fear. How many times in the Scripture, when God sent an angel to speak His promise, didn’t their begin with the words, “Fear not.” It’s no accident that God’s reassuring message to Abraham also begins with the words “Fear not,” “Do not be afraid.”
We have plenty of fears ourselves, so as we consider this text together, let’s personally take to heart God’s comforting plea: Do Not Be Afraid, for I am Your Shield and Your Very Great Reward.
I am Your Shield
Fear is an ugly thing. It has the ability to drive us to sin. It can tempt to despair and lose hope. Fear and faith don’t coexist well. Fear comes when we fail to trust God’s promise that no harm will befall those who trust in Him. Fear comes when we fail to fully believe that God can and will truly work all things together for our good. We’re all guilty of it. And it only has one cure and antidote: God’s reassurance.
Sometimes, when things are going well, we get a nervous, because we know it can’t always go along that way. We often ride the waves in life from highs to lows. The higher we feel, the harder we hit the dirt when something negative happens.
That’s what happened to Abraham. If you flip back a chapter from our text, you find that Abram had just heard that his nephew Lot, along with the whole city of Sodom where he lived, had been captured. Four kings had banded together and attacked, and Lot’s family were now hostages. With the Lord’s help, Abram went out to fight these four kings with all his shepherds that worked for him. God granted them remarkable success. Abram defeated the four armies and rescued Lot, along with all the people and plunder that had been kidnapped and taken. As he was on his way home from the victory, he passed the city that would later be known as Jerusalem. There he met a priest of the one true God. Melchizedek came out to meet Abram and pronounced on him the Lord’s special blessing.
It was pretty obvious that the Lord was with Abram. In fact, God had so greatly blessed Abram materially, that when the rescued king of Sodom offered him all the plunder as a reward for rescuing him, Abram refused saying: “I have lifted up my hand to swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, so that you cannot say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ (Genesis 14:22–23).
Abram was already rich, and he wanted everyone to know it was the Lord who made him rich, and who had granted him success in battle.
Have you ever had a day like that? A day when absolutely everything went your way and you can scarcely take it all in? Abram sat back that evening and began to ponder all the wonderful things God had done for him. God had brought him to this special land, multiplied his flocks, granted victory on the battlefield, given him a special blessing through Melchizedek, promised him that this land would one day belong to his descendants, and that his descendants would one day be a great nation….
…And just like that, Abram’s smile melted into a frown. His peace turned into anxiety. ‘Yes, God has blessed me,’ Abram thought. ‘Yes, He has made me rich. He has granted me success. But what about His promise to make me into a great nation? What about all the nations of the world being blessed through me? I don’t have any children yet, and I’m so old and so is my wife.’
That’s the way our minds work, isn’t it? Just when we’re pondering God’s blessings, Satan injects worries into our minds. Even though God has brought us so far, we start thinking that the future is in our own hands. Abram called out, “Lord God what can you give me, since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Abram also said, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a servant born in my house will be my heir.”
In fairness, Abram had very realistic concerns. Without God doing a miracle, how could His promises come true? After all, he and Sarah were geriatric. And even when she was young, Sarah had never been able to have children. These facts certainly seemed to fly in the face of God’s promise to make Abram into a great nation. And that understandably caused him to be afraid for the future. More than that, if Abram would remain childless, what was the point of moving 1000 miles to Canaan? And what was the point in believing in a future Savior?
Realistic worries? Yes! But God didn’t want Abram to be realistic. God wanted Abram to have faith. God creates reality! And so God came to Abram, in his fearful state, with His reassuring words: “Do not be afraid. This man—Eliezer, your servant—will not be your heir, but instead one who will come out of your own body will be your heir.”
God had promised Abram: “I am your shield” and that He was! He was going to protect Abram from fear, and from all the causes of fear as well. He would protect Abram from childlessness, just as he had promised. He would protect Abram from dying without an heir. He would protect the promise that this land would belong to Abram’s blood descendants. And most important of all, He would protect Abram for all eternity by sending the Seed of Abraham to be the Savior of the whole world. Abram had no need to worry.
We all worry too much. Jesus says, “Do not worry!” The Lord God says, “I am your shield.” Real problems? Yes, of course. Real protection? Even more so. God doesn’t say, “Be realistic.” God says “Have faith, don’t be afraid.”
I am Your Very Great Reward
God doesn’t only promise to protect us as our shield from bad things. God also promises good things. In our text he says, “Do not be afraid, …for I am your very great reward.” And then God puts it in very concrete terms: 5The Lord then brought him outside and said, “Now look toward the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “This is what your descendants will be like.”
People make promises all the time. When we hear promises, we consider the source. Is it a politician? We don’t put any stock in it. Is it someone who lies a lot. We don’t believe a word of it. But who was it that made this promise to Abram? It was Immanuel, the God who is with us, the God who had never before let Abram down, the God who had led him out of Ur, and then out of the city of Haran, to bring him to this special land, just as he had promised. It was the God who had blessed him and prospered him so richly, just as He had promised him He would!
God reiterated a promise He’d already made—to give him that land, and a nation of descendants to fill it up, “as numerous and countless as the stars.”
“All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you,” God had said (12:3b). What would make Abram’s seed so great that He would be a blessing to all people? Paul explains in Galatians 3:16, The promises God spoke referred to Abraham and to his seed. It doesn’t say, “And to seeds,” as if it were referring to many, but, as referring to one, “And to your seed,” who is Christ.
That’s what this was all about—the whole story of Abraham; the whole Bible. The main theme, the golden thread that runs all through Scripture is God’s promise after the fall to send the seed of the woman, Eve’s and Abraham’s descendant, Jesus who would save people from sin and damnation and restore them to a perfect, permanent relationship with God. Our Lord was giving Abram one more promise of the Savior. Yes, He would give Abram countless descendants, and that would be a great blessing. But far more importantly, One of Abram’s descendants would be the Son of God, and destroy sin and death forever. Abram’s great, great, great, great grandson would open the gate to our eternal promised land.
Abram understood. 2000 years later, Jesus said to His fellow Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; He saw it and was glad.” No, Abram didn’t have all the details of the Savior’s work spread before him as we do. But he knew one thing for sure. He knew that this was the same promise God had been repeating since He first made it to Adam in the Garden of Eden. He knew that God was talking about the Seed, who would crush the serpent’s head, restore perfect harmony between man and God, and give us eternal life.
And Abram believed. Our text says: 6Abram believed in the Lord, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness. God was indeed his great reward, and he knew it and put all his trust in Him. And God put His own righteousness in Abraham’s plus column. That’s what “credited” means. Jesus has earned righteousness and forgiveness for everyone. Now, if we don’t believe that, then we go on unforgiven and our account remains empty. But when we believe in the Lord like Abraham, then all our sins are gone forever. Christ’s righteousness is ‘credited’ to our account as though we earned it ourselves. Abram trusted in God’s promise, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.
God wants us to be right with him too. The same plan of salvation that rescued Abram and gave him God’s very great reward, still holds true today. The Apostle Paul says, “Now the statement “it was credited to him” was not written for him alone, 24 but also for us to whom it would be credited, namely, to us who believe in the one who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead” (Romans 4:23,24).
We all get scared, and nothing ought to scare us more than our guilt before God and the consequences we deserve for our sin. But God sent the seed of Abram to saves us, and through faith in Him, God calls us righteous, just like Abraham and says, “Do not be afraid.” “I am your shield, and your very great reward.” Amen.