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.
I. God our shield. Man needs protection, for his life is a struggle. If he were an animal he might be left to Nature, for Nature is adequate to the needs of all within her category; but transcending, and therefore lacking full adjustment to nature, he needs care and help beyond what she can render. Nature offers him no shield to protect him, nor can she reward him when the battle is over. (1) We need protection against the forces of nature. We are constantly brought face to face with nature's overpowering and destroying forces, and we find them relentless. We may outwit or outmaster them up to a certain point; beyond that we are swept helpless along their fixed and fatal current. God becomes our shield by assuring us that we belong to Himself rather than to nature. When that assurance is received we put ourselves into His larger order; we join the stronger power and link ourselves to its fortunes. (2) We need a shield against the inevitable evils of existence. For fifty or more years there is a triumphant sense of strength and adequacy; after that the tables are turned upon us. Heretofore life, the world, the body, all have been for us; now they are against us—the shadow of our doom begins to creep upon us. God is our shield in the battle that seems won by death. Between ourselves longing for life and our devouring sense of finiteness stands God—a shield. He says, "Because I am the ever-living God you shall live also." (3) God is a shield against the calamities of life. (4) God is a shield against ourselves. One of the main uses of God, so to speak, is to give us another consciousness than that of self—a God-consciousness.
II. God our reward. (1) God's leading representations of true and righteous life are that it is not in vain, that it will be rewarded. That God will bless is the sum of our prayers. (2) God rewards in two ways; by the results of obedience, and, in a less clear but no less real way, by the direct gift or impartation of Himself. After we have entered the life of obedience we begin to find that we are acting in the sphere of two personalities—ourselves and God. And as we go on, all things at last resolve themselves into this complexion; we live and die with one all-satisfying word upon our lips: "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee."
T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, pp. 73, 93.
References: Genesis 15:1.—Parker, vol. i., p. 209. Genesis 15:2.—J. Kelly. Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 165.
Genesis 15:5-6These two verses lie close together on one page of the Bible. They are part of a brief story of a brief event in one human life. Yet, as we read them, they seem to separate from each other, and to stand very far apart. The fifth verse is altogether of the past. It shows us the tent of the patriarch gleaming white in the clear starlight of the Eastern night. We learn with Abraham to look up and believe and be at rest. The sixth verse suggests thoughts of the nearer present. From the hour when St. Paul first cited this fact of Abraham's faith and his justification by faith, this verse has been taken out of the older story and bedded in our modern controversies.
I. In these verses lies the union of two things that God has joined together and that man is ever trying to separate—life and light. God revealed Himself to us, not by words that told of a Father, but by a life that showed a Father; not by a treatise on Fatherhood, but by the manifestation of a Son. And so He ever joins the light of precept with the life of practice.
II. We read that Abraham believed God—not then for the first time, not then only. He had heard God's voice before, and at its bidding had gone out to be an exile and pilgrim all his days. His faith was no intellectual assent to a demonstrated preposition; it was the trust of the heart in the voice of God. It was the belief, not that solves difficulties, but that rises above them.
III. Why was Abraham's faith counted to him for righteousness? Because, as all sin lies folded in one thought of distrust, so in one thought of trust lies all possible righteousness—its patience, its hope, its heroism, its endurance, its saintliness; and therefore He who sees the end from the beginning reckons it as righteousness. In the faith of Abraham lay all the righteous endurance, all the active service, of his believing life. This simple trust of Abraham made the practical motive power of his life, as it should make that of ours.
Bishop Magee, Penny Pulpit, No. 501.
References: Genesis 15:6.—W. M. Taylor, The Limitations of Life, p. 189; E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 235; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 844; T. T. Munger, The Appeal to Life, p. 187. Genesis 15:7-21.—M. Nicholson, Communion with Heaven, p. 38. Genesis 15:8, Genesis 15:9.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 278. Genesis 15:11.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 420. Genesis 15:12, Genesis 15:17.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 22. Gen 15—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 230. Gen 15, 16.—Parker, vol. i., p. 213. 16.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 252. Genesis 16:1.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 428. Genesis 16:3, Genesis 16:4.—Homiletic Quarterly. vol. iii., p. 425. Genesis 16:7.—J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 340; Weekly Pulpit, vol. i. (1887), p. 121.
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?
And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
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.
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.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
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.
And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
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.
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.
And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
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;
And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
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.
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:
The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.