The Lord said,
Fear not, Abram
I am your shield,
Your exceeding great reward.
Genesis 15:1 (NKJV)
After thirty four years of medical practice, I was asked by the hospital where I worked to help support a new program designed to improve the level of care in the intensive care units. I agreed to do so, but this required closing my practice and turning over my patients to a new partner. Three years later, I received a letter in the mail stating that my services were no longer needed. My employment was terminated three weeks after receiving the letter. This notice came without apology, without explanation and without recommendations for the future. I was offended, and in my mind I composed several letters to the CEO of the Hospital. None were written or sent, however, and the tone of the imagined replies gradually softened. As I gradually stopped planning my response and began to listen for the Lord’s response, I took out the letter, and began writing His scriptural answers on the top of the letter itself. Eight verses came to mind and I started the list just above the part that said: CERTIFIED MAIL RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED. They are as follows: Matthew 4:4, Psalm 16:5, Proverbs 3:5-6, Lamentations 3:37, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, and I Thessalonians 5:18. I will reference these only as my purpose is to concentrate on the eighth verse, Genesis 15:1: “The Lord said: Fear not, Abram. I am your shield, your exceeding great reward.”
I have been told that the two basic needs of humanity are security and significance. In Genesis 15:1, I find that the Lord Himself is my security (shield) and that He alone is my significance (reward). In the situation as described above, I was at least partially dependent upon employment as a shield or security. Being terminated helped expose this shield as being a “false shield.” There are in fact many false shields we may depend upon in our lives. The Lord has helped me understand that any wealth given by Him is not our shield (For example, there was a twenty percent decrease in our retirement account two years ago). Likewise, my health is not my security either. I am now seven years post surgery for cancer of the prostate. Although I am fairly certain that I am cured, it is a reminder that each breath and each heart beat come as a gift from His hand. I also am in the process of realizing in a small way that the security of simply being in control of anything is a false shield. Our car has refused to start on five occasions in the last seven months, requiring us to use six different rental cars at unexpected moments and places!
In each instance where a false shield is exposed, I am given an opportunity to respond by faith in Him as my shield. (Hebrews 11:6) In Genesis 14:22-23, Abram rejected the shield of the possessions he had accumulated in battle and refused any reward from the King of Sodom. He placed his faith in God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth. This act of faith was followed by God’s declaration that He, Himself would be Abram’s shield and reward. This shield was once described to me by a friend, Larry Beck, as being one of infinite love, perfect knowledge, and absolute control. Larry stated that this was his paraphrase from Jerry Bridges book, entitled “Trusting God even when Life Hurts” In his book Jerry makes three statements about God: God is completely sovereign: God is infinite in wisdom: God is perfect in love. The shield, then, in which the Lord asks me to put my faith is one which expresses His perfect love, His infinite wisdom and His complete control.
When we think of rewards in the Bible we usually think of God giving something to us. Here, however, God is not referring to “things.” What He says is that He will give us Himself! (See also Psalm 16:5 (KJV) and Lamentations 3:24) This, importantly, is not something that occurs in the future. He says “I am your reward.’ It is not future, but present. It is today, this moment. He further describes this as an “exceeding great” reward. Its degree and significance are not only immense, but it exceeds our capacity to receive. This capacity is increased when we find ourselves in situations where we need to look to Him, and to Him only as our shield. Whenever I, by faith, look to Him as my shield, He increasingly becomes my reward.
How is this reward manifested in our lives? In I John we read that God is Love (I John 4:8) and that God is Light. (I John 1:5) In Hebrews 12:29, we see that “God is a consuming fire.”
The Lord’s expression of Himself as Love in our lives may be seen in Galatians 5:22-23. As a prism disperses light into its various colors even so God is manifested in our lives as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He rewards us with the realization that joy is not the absence of sorrow, nor is peace the absence of problems, but that both joy and peace are the presence of Christ. We are aware of His presence when in the midst of difficult situations we see His patience expressed in our lives. When His kindness is exhibited in our lives at times that do not call forth kindness of our own; we know that He is present. To depend on His goodness as our standing before Him, rather than look to merit within ourselves is a work of His Love in our lives. Remaining faithful to a variety of commitments when it would be easier to neglect them reminds us that He resides within. A gentle spirit that is not our own manifests His presence. God’s gift of Himself as Love conquers self, resulting in self-control, convincing us that He is our reward.
God is Light. Light dispels darkness. His presence causes darkness of motive and thought to disappear. In His light, the words and the works of Jesus Christ are made manifest in our lives. As we see His Life manifested in us we can rejoice in Him as our reward.
Our God is a consuming fire. He lives in us that He may consume by fire all that is not of Him, and purify all that is of Him. As we see His reflection (II Corinthians 3:18) in greater clarity as the dross is removed by the fire of His presence, we can have confidence that He indeed, is our reward.
The Lord’s first words to Abram were “Fear not.” Neither need we fear, as we face situations in life that threaten our security. These come that we may realize that only in Him do we find security and significance. May He encourage our hearts as we look to the manifestation of Him in our lives.
In Christ, Richard Spann