By Horatius Bonar
"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." -- Genesis 15:1
THE full meaning of this "word of the Lord," which "came unto Abram in a vision," can only be understood by reference to the events narrated in the preceding chapter. Never had such an unequal battle been waged as between Abraham and these mighty kings. With his 318 servants he had pursued, conquered, spoiled thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. Truly he put his life into his hand, and with marvellous courage encountered the peril. On the back of this, God comes to him with "I am thy SHIELD." He had moreover, given up the spoil to others, reserving nothing to himself; and God comes in with His "I am thy exceeding great REWARD." He had done both of these in simple faith; having no previous command, or promise, or assurance of success; and God having thus tested his faith, comes to him with a blessed word of assurance: speaking to him in a vision, and calling him by name. Let us mark,
I. The word of cheer. "Fear not, Abram." It is God who speaks. He calls Abram by name, as one on familiar terms with Him; and no doubt Abram recognised the comforting voice and cheering words. How frequent throughout Scripture are the divine "fear nots"; how ready God is to utter them, even as a father to his trembling child. To Isaac He said, "Fear not, for I am with thee" (Genesis 26:24). To Jacob He said, "I am God, the God of thy fathers: fear not to go down into Egypt" (Genesis 46:3). Frequently to Israel He said the same words, "Fear not, for I am with thee" (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10). And in many cases, as here, He names the name of him whom He is cheering; fear not Zacharias, fear not Mary, fear not Paul! God takes for granted that His servants may have cause for fear, that at times their hearts may fail them: fightings without and fears within; sorrows, storms, dangers, burdens, troubles, enemies. To meet and counteract the influence of these upon the soul He says, "Fear not." Yes, it is God, our God, who thus speaks. He knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust. He knows the world in which we live, and remembers that it is all adverse and hostile. He knows that Satan rages, and that his legions are all abroad. He knows that the spirit may be willing, yet the flesh is weak. And so He says to us, Fear not, be of good cheer. Thus Jesus spoke on earth, and thus He speaketh still from heaven.
II. The word of security. "I am thy shield." This is truly a divine form of expression, full of force and point. God does not say "I shield thee," but "I am thy shield." This latter is far stronger than the former; just as the expression, "He is our peace," is far stronger than "He gives us peace," or "He is our righteousness," is stronger than He justifies us, or "He is our treasure" is stronger than He makes us rich. Here God proclaims HIMSELF to be Abraham's shield. So is He the shield of all who are Abraham's seed.
The past, the present, and the future are all included in this.
(1.) I WAS, or have been, thy shield. He had been so in Abraham's case; memorably and marvellously so, in the recent conflict with these invaders from the east. Had God not been both sword and shield to him, how could he have ventured into, or come safely out of, such a conflict with such superior forces? So has He been to us, as every day of our past lives has testified, a perpetual and impenetrable shield.
(2.) I AM. thy shield. It is not the past alone that is witness to this protection. It is still continued. Each day we need the shield, each day we have it. Each day brings up a new battle- field and a new enemy; a new danger and a new assault. But God is our perpetual shield. Round and round us, above and beneath us, our complete panoply, our high tower. This is our daily security.
(3.) I WILL be thy shield. Abraham dwelt among enemies, dangers on every side; he was a stranger in a strange land; without a friend but God. He gets the assurance of perpetual protection. No evil shall assail, no weapon shall prosper, no enemy shall overcome or wound. God says to His church, "I will be thy shield." Her dwelling is among enemies, she is a lily among thorns, a sheep among wolves. The world is against her, hell is against her. If God were to permit it, she would be swept from earth in an hour. She has no might, no skill against such an array of deadly foes. Her sufficiency, her security is only of God. He is her shield. Not only does He defend her, but He is her shield. Yes; each of us may say, God is my shield, I am safe, I can defy the world, I can shake my hand at hell. I shall be more than conqueror through Him that loved me. Safe now, safe in days to come, safe in conflict, safe in evil days, safe in sorrow or in joy, safe on a sick-bed or a death-bed, safe forevermore. God the Lord is my sun and shield. Who shall make me afraid? This is more than even the "shield of faith" and the "breastplate of righteousness"; it is a divine shield and breastplate, behind which I am absolutely and entirely secure. Jehovah Himself stands between me and danger. His omnipotence compasses me about. Am I not safe forever?
III. The word of recompense. Abraham had given up all and left Chaldea, he had refused to lay his hand on the spoil of the invaders whom he had defeated, he had parted with everything of earth, and now God comes in and promises to make up for all by giving HIMSELF. He does not say, I will recompense thee, but I am thy recompense. How forcible are the words? (1.) I am thy reward; (2.) I am thy great reward; (3.) I am thy exceeding great reward. How full and rich are these words of promise! Here is present, and there is ETERNAL reward. God does for us exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. Not pardon, we have that already, it is far beyond that; not salvation, it is far beyond that; not heaven, nor glory, it is far beyond these. It is God Himself, He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain! He is our reward--He--HIMSELF!
In all this we find,
(1.) Strength for work and duty. What encouragement, comfort, invigoration is here! How can we weary in well doing, or shrink from peril? Jehovah is our shield and recompense.
(2.) Motive for self-denial and self-sacrifice. We are called to these. But God gives more than a command or call, He presents us with a motive,--protection and everlasting recompense. Shall we grudge the surrender, seeing the recompense is so great?
(3.) A reason for calmness and stedfastness. God is with us. We are on His side, He is on ours. It is His work that we are doing, His battle that we are fighting, not our own. Let us not be ruffled nor moved. Let no opposition, provocation, vexation, defeat, triumph of evil annoy us. Our shield is Omnipotence. Our reward is the fullness of God Himself.