"Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward."Genesis 15:1. "I am your exceeding great reward."
I The Circumstance Observe the circumstances under which these words were spoken to Abraham. Not very long before, Abram had parted from his nephew, Lot, and had given him his choice as to which way he would go with his flocks and his herds. Lot, regardless of the character of the people among whom he was going to dwell, chose the well-watered plain of Jericho and Jordan in which were the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot evidently thought only of the material advantages and now he had lost everything in the battle of the four kings against five. Abraham valued the Kingdom of God and His righteousness more and had not lost anything. In fact, he was able to restore to Lot all that he had lost. And then the Lord appeared to him and seemed to say to him, "Your nephew Lot trusted in what he could see. He followed the leading of his own judgment and chose something that seemed to be for his own immediate advantage, and now he has lost all. But, fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. You shall not lose. You have chosen the good part and it will not be taken from you. You have no share of the well-watered plain of Jordan to lose. You need not fret, for you will never lose your portion."
Abram might also have said to himself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him" (Lamentations 3:24). We may have seen others suffering the loss of all things and brought to deep despair as the result. But we have no reason to be alarmed at whatever happens to us. We have made God our refuge and we will find a most secure home in Him. You may have losses and afflictions—these are a part of our earthly lot—but they will not overwhelm us. You will be no real losers in the end, but you will be kept by the power of God and will be delivered out of every trial and affliction. He will also be to you your shield and your exceeding great reward.
Abraham had just at that time refused the gifts of the king of Sodom. They were his rightful spoil and he might legitimately have taken them, yet he would not do so, so that in later days the king of Sodom could not say, "It was not Abraham's God that enriched him. It is no use for him to talk about living by faith, for it was my gifts, or the spoils of war that enriched him." "No," says Abraham, "you will never be able to say that! Whatever I have will be God's gift to me, not the king of Sodom's gift. I will be independent of men. I will be dependent only upon the living God."
The Lord evidently admires this spirit, so He came to Abram and said, "Fear not, Abram. Whatever you may have given up for My sake, for My Glory's sake, for the sake of My honor, you will not be a loser in any respect, for I will be your shield, and your exceeding great reward."
Have we made any sacrifices for Christ? Have we lately been called to put our own interests at risk by pursuing a right course? Have we been steadfast even though we lost friendships? Have we been so firm in our adherence to principle that we have been judged by people to be obstinate? If so, you will be no loser through your faithfulness! As certainly as God is in Heaven, you will prove, in some way or other, that in keeping His commandments there is great reward. It is always sad when a child of God begins to think that he can be enriched by the king of Sodom, or try to find satisfaction, in any measure, among the ungodly sons of men. God's command to His people is, "Come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." And His promise to those who do is, "I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
We must also remember that at the time the Lord spoke this to Abraham, the Patriarch was not the possessor of a single foot of the land which had been promised to him. The whole of it was to belong to his posterity and, in God's promise, Abraham held the title-deeds to the land of promise. Those who possessed it were but leaseholders and their lease would soon run out, but, at that time, Abraham had not even a foot of ground that he could call his own. And when he needed a sepulcher, he had to buy the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, in the presence of the children of Heth. So, in our text, the Lord seems to say to him, "Abraham, you have no possession in this land. You are a stranger and a foreigner in it, but 'fear not,' I am your portion and your heritage, your exceeding great reward.'
Although others look upon you as a mere Bedouin wandering about with flocks and herds, and pitching your tents here, today, and there, tomorrow, with no settled resting place, don't be troubled because of that. It is the same with us for the Lord has been the dwelling place of His people in all generations, even as He was the dwelling place of Abraham! And He wanted Abraham to know it and feel that he was not penniless, or landless, for the Lord was his "exceeding great reward."
Abraham had just paid tithes to Melchizedek, so now was just the time for the Lord to give him a blessing. Have you ever heard a sermon from the text, "Prove Me now herewith, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it"? It says, "Bring you all the tithes into the store-house, that there may be meat in My house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of Hosts." It was their bringing of the tithes that was to be the test as to the time when the blessing should be given to them—and the proof of God's fidelity to His promise would be seen by the filling of their barns and houses by His bounty! Abraham had paid to Melchizedek, as the representative of the Most High, tithes of all—then came the blessing—"Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward." Solomon's word is still true, "There is that scatters, and yet increases; and there is that withholds more than is meet, but it tends to poverty." The most impoverishing money in the world is God's money locked up in His own steward's possession, left to either distract us or to rust among the gifts of His Providence. They are not our own possession at all, but stolen from our Master, embezzled, that we might accumulate more and more, to die a little richer and so be unfaithful to his stewardship! Some bring a curse upon themselves through neglect of this duty. You will find that in faithfully serving the Lord in tithes, He will give you such a blessing upon your material possessions that you will praise His name that He ever taught you the value of self-sacrifice and self-denial—and showed you how to consecrate your substance to Him!
This background demonstrating the quality and character of faithful, obedient, God-valuing, God-seeking, tithing Abram helps us understand the kind of person to whom God first said, "I am your exceedingly great reward." It was not to just anyone that God said this.
II. What is the Greatest Possible Reward? "I am your exceeding great reward." We have examined the personal circumstances under which these words were spoken to Abraham. Now let's ask, "What is this reward?" It is not the land of Canaan. That was yet to be given to Abraham, but that was not his great reward. It is not a posterity, though he wanted that. No, it is not anything that God will give him—it is God, Himself. I—I, Jehovah—the original Hebrew is peculiarly emphatic in setting apart the word, "I, Jehovah, am your exceeding great reward." The Lord Himself is the portion of His people! When Canaan was divided, there was a lot for Judah, for Simeon, for Reuben and so on, but as for the Levites, the Lord was their portion. We are like the Levites, as many of us who have believed in the Lord. The Lord is our portion and He is such a portion as excels everything else that we might have!
No human mind can ever completely grasp the fullness of meaning of these four words, "I am your reward." God Himself the reward of His faithful people! Although I can enjoy the richness of this sentence for myself, feeble human lips can never tell even the hundredth part of the valuable meaning of it! Therefore, let's not depend upon any preacher, but appropriate the text to ourselves. Don't become content for the preacher or teacher to cook and carve for you, but come and cut from the roast for yourselves—and cut large slices, too! Let each person take all that he or she needs out of this glorious text as he or she meditates upon it!
Think what a reward it is for us even to know God. Years ago we may have known there was a God. At least we heard so, but He was a perfect stranger to us. We never recognized Him. Possibly we asked His blessing upon our meals, but it was a mere formality. We did not see His hand in everything—in fact, we lived almost as if there were no God. If there had really been no God, probably we would have been all the happier. But now we know Him! We know that He made the heavens and the earth—that He is the Preserver of men and we see His hand in every gift of Providence. As we walk about the earth, we are accustomed to say, "These are His glorious works. My Father made them all. Here is God's brush, painting each flower. Here is God riding on the wings of the wind and there is God walking on the waves of the sea! To us, God is everywhere." It has made life so happy for us to feel, "My God is everywhere." In the smallest flower we can see Him. In the atom, the solar system, the galaxy, or the universe. Anywhere we can say, "Here is God at work even here," and feeling that, if God is there, we cannot ever be really lost. We are still safe enough, for our Father is close at hand! It is worthwhile living when we have come into a practical recognition of God, when we have made the acquaintance of that glorious Divine Being who fills all in all! If we never had any reward but this, this would still be the greatest one.
III Loving God and God loving Us But we can move on from knowing God to God allowing or appreciating our loving Him, which is much more. A good man said, "If God did not love me, yet if He would only allow me to love Him forever, I think that I could not be unhappy." Surely you must know that to love God is a most blessed emotion! To look up to Him in all His excellence and goodness. To admire Him with all your heart. To realize that your lips cannot sufficiently praise Him, or your mind think highly enough of Him—this is a most profitable exercise! The very thought of God, to a man who truly loves Him, is ecstasy! If my eternity would be spent in a dungeon with my heart full of love to God, it could not be an unhappy experience to live there like that!
But, behind this, there comes a far greater thing. We know that God loves each of us individually. Do we dare to try to speak about this great Truth of God? It is something to think over rather than to talk of. Do you enjoy getting away quietly in a corner and just try to roll this sweet morsel under your tongue, to suck on it till you draw the very essence out of it? God loves, not just us, but each. As the old hymn puts it— "I am so glad that Jesus loves me."
For God to think of me is something. For Him to pity me, is more. For Him to help me practically, is still more. But for Him to love me—this is the greatest wonder of all! You know how you, being evil, love your own children, but your Heavenly Father loves you far more! You husbands know how you love your wives, yet there is One who loves His Church far more, for He gave Himself for her! God loves you, my Brother. God loves you, my Sister, if, indeed, you have been brought to believe in Jesus. And to know this great Truth of God is to have an "exceeding great reward," because, if God loves us, everything must be right! What might He do for us if He loves us and knows it would be good for us? Here is a better question: "Since He loves us in the rich way He loves us, what is there that He will not do for us?
He has already done more for us than He ever can do in the future! He has already given to us His greatest Gift, for He has given His Son to us and, in doing so, He has given us all things. Your Father loves you, dear child of God and, therefore, He will continue to feed you, clothe, teach, support, preserve, and educate you till He has made you suitable to see His blessed face and then you will no longer be here at school, but at Home to dwell in His blessed Presence forever! Is not this an "exceeding great reward"—to know God, to love Him and to be loved by Him? What more can we desire than this? Yet we have even more than this, for, loving God we come to realize that we have possession of Him, so that we can say, "This God is our God forever." We say of Yeshua ha Mesheach, our Lord and Savior, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His." We have bowed before Him, as Thomas did, and cried, "My Lord and my God."
IV We Possess Him Just think what the possession of God means. God is yours in everything that He is. His Omnipotence is pledged to strengthen you. His Omniscience is engaged to direct you. All His attributes are employed on your behalf. He is everywhere present and, therefore, He will show Himself everywhere strong for your defense! He is Immutable so He changes not in His love to you. He is Eternal so His mercy endures forever. Even the sterner attributes of God smile upon the saint—His Justice, His Righteousness, His Glory are all on the side of every Believer! You say, "I am poor," but how can you be poor with such a rich Father? You say, "I am heavy of heart because of my low estate."What? With God as yours, with Father, Son and Spirit yours, with the everlasting God, the Creator of Heaven and earth as your Father and your Friend forever, how can you be troubled by the difficulty of your circumstances? Brother, Sister, correct your heart of this foolishness! End your sighing and begin to sing! When we have God as our possession, we have an "exceeding great reward!" And the reward seems to grow all the greater in the course of years, God's infinite mercy has transformed us, at least in part, into His likeness. God is so fully ours that we enter into fellowship with Him and receive His sacred influences until we are changed into His image, even by the Lord, the Spirit. As you read the story of Abraham, you can see many of the attributes of God reflected in the character of His noble servant. Now, child of God, yes, you should mourn that you are so little like God, but you should also rejoice that you are already made somewhat like Him and that when He shall appear, in whom your life is hid, you will be like He is, for you shall see Him as He is. It is worthwhile to have lived, even with all the cares of life, when this is to be the end of it all.
Though man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward, blessed be God for an existence that has for its end that we should be made partakers of the Divine likeness and should be lifted up to be the sons and daughters of the Most High and dwell with Him in perfection forever! Let's thank God for His great Truth of the immortality of the soul, even with all the dreadful risks of everlasting wrath that surround it! It is worth the risk to have the possibility of becoming like God and we who have believed in Yeshua have gone beyond the possibility, for we have the promise and the assurance, the pledge and the token of the good work begun in us, which, when it is perfected, shall make us like God Himself!
O my Soul, bow yourself before the Lord in reverent and adoring gratitude! You were almost like the devil by nature and even now what are you? You are dust and Deity combined, for the Holy Spirit dwells in you! That body of yours must crumble back to dust, but, eventually, it
will be refashioned in glory and in power, and then, creature that you are, you will be near and like your God! Is not this an "exceeding great reward?" . . . even now to be in process of preparation for so wonderful a climax as that? We possess Him. He is ours.
V He Has Given Himself to Us There is another sense in which He is our "exceeding great reward" namely, that He intends to visit us and speak with us. We have been moved by Divine influences. In this we are addressing only those who have been born from above and are Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon you God has already bestowed a great reward, for He has raised you from your death of sin and His Spirit abides in you, fashioning and forming you to perfection. And the Lord has often spoken with you. If not often, whose fault has it been? Some of us can testify that He has drawn very near to our spirits at times. It is indescribable bliss, a
heavenly joy for a soul to sense the love of Yeshua present in the heart by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us!
VI This Reward cannot be Removed It is an infinite reward—"I am your reward." Anything earthly that God pleases to give to us, we can take away, carry it off and house it somewhere. But when God says, "I am your reward," we pause and look with mingled wonder, love and praise! This reward is incomprehensible—who can carry it away? Who can even measure it? Who can fathom the depths of this ocean, or soar to this vast height? God gives to other men health, wealth, fame, pleasure. But to you, Beloved, He gives Himself! Their gifts are no more comparable to yours than the darkness is to the sun!
In giving you Himself, He has given you all that He is! Truly, that is an infinite portion. This is a spiritual reward. There are some people who will not value it because of this very excellence. And this may be a test between the regenerate and the unregenerate. The ungodly say, "If God will but give us our barns full of wheat and our winepress bursting with new wine. If He will only fill our purses with gold and our houses with all manner of earthly delights, that will be enough for us." But you, Believer, are of another mind, for you have seen through the emptiness and vanity of all material things. You say, "What is the mere pleasure of eating and drinking but that with which a beast is my associate? What if I have honor among my fellow mortals? What is it but so much breath from other men's nostrils, so much clapping of the hands of fools? That is all it really is." What is there beneath the sun, that, to a man who is born of God, is worth his stooping down to pick it up? But when he gets his God, the new-born spirit within him, which hungers with an infinite hunger for the highest good, he says, "Here I have all that I need! Father, Son and Spirit—blessed Trinity, You are mine! My awakened spirit feels that this is a sea in which I can swim forever. This is the element in which I can truly live." To possess God is a great spiritual blessing, so the declaration of the text is true—"I am your exceeding great reward."
VII He is our Everlasting (Eternal) Reward This is an eternal reward, for he who has God as his own shall never lose Him since God does not change. And he shall never exhaust Him, for who would even think that he can drain dry the infinite all-sufficiency of Jehovah? If God is yours, you have all for today, tomorrow, for time, for eternity, forever! All emergencies and circumstance of life—all for the tremendous terrors of the Day of Judgment, all for the ages of ages that shall never end! What more can you need? To have God is, also, most ennobling. I do not know that there is anything in a great deal of wealth to make a man noble. Many men seem to get more greedy, the more money they have. Their soul loves their dust. But he who gets God as his own, oh, what a privileged man is he! Talk of princes—here is a prince, indeed! You may put as many emperors and great ones of the earth as you please in a barrel, but, if they are not saved by the Grace of God, they are not worthy, in the sight of God, of being compared with the poorest, weakest, most despised of all His people, to whom He is an "exceeding great reward!" O you great ones of the earth, you might well be content to become beggars if you might but have God to be your everlasting portion! And what a soul-satisfying portion and reward this is! If you have God as yours, my Soul, sit down and see if you can think of anything better—you cannot!
VIII This Reward is Better Than Any Other Reward Try and allow your desires to ramble over other things. Untie them and give them liberty. But what can they ask for, seek for, wish for beyond God Himself? There are Christians who do not seem to realize the truth of this and they get dissatisfied with God. You have been serving the Master, my Brother or Sister, for some months. Perhaps it is in the home cell group that you have been working, but nobody has taken much notice of you. The superintendent has not praised you, so you are discouraged. But remember that when you serve God, He is your reward! "Oh, but, Sir! I have been trying to do good in many ways. I have labored hard, but people only misrepresent me." Did you look for your reward in that way? If you did, it is good that you are disappointed, because God says, "I am your reward." To know that you love God and that He loves you—that He is yours, and you are His—that is reward enough for you. "Oh, but," says a pastor, "you do not really know how badly I have been treated. I have had many years of service in my congregation, but they are most ungrateful and do not appreciate me. They even want to get rid of me!" But God does not want to get rid of you! And He appreciates you, for He loves you with an infinite love. Why did you look to men and women for your reward? A man may have other rewards if he is content with God as his reward, but he who has any secondary aim—praise from men—in what he does in the cause of God, spoils it all. This is the fly in the precious ointment! We must get rid of everything of this sort and be as satisfied to serve God in obscurity unappreciated by men as we are to serve Him amid the acclamations of the multitude! "It is not easy to do that," says one. No, Beloved, nothing is easy that is good, except to God—and you must go to Him to enable you. Never neglect a duty because it is difficult. Sit down with your Lord, alone, and He will speak to you and comfort you, and strengthen you. Remember how Elkanah comforted his wife, Hannah, when she sorrowed because she had no children? "Am not I better to you than ten sons?" And as he drew her close to him and she felt the warm glow of his loving heart, she realized that it was true, and that gave her rest. And the Lord seems to draw each weary, sad, disappointed laboring one to Himself and say, "Am I not better to you than all the praises of men? Am I not better to you than wealth? Am I not better to you than the health that you have lost? Am I not better to you than all the world?" And what is your answer? Surely it is this, "Whom have I in Heaven but You? And there is no one on earth that I desire besides You." Lord, bring us to that position and keep us there! Then we will have taken in the meaning of, "I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward."
IX The Results of Having The Greatest Possible Reward The Consequences? When God is our exceeding great reward, what then? First, it is clear that the rewards which are given to Believers are of Grace (freely given) and not of debt out of obligation. The Reward is too great for any of us to have earned it. If God is the reward of His people, it is not possible that any being could ever deserve to have God as his reward. It is very possible that a man should deserve the esteem of his fellow men; most people deserve what they really earn. It would be better if some could receive more than they receive—wages are often less than they should be. We may deserve more money than we get, but there is nobody who deserves God! To deserve Heaven has never been possible yet, but even if it had been, that would not be so much as deserving God! This is too big a portion to ever come to us on the basis of law, merit and good works. So, when the Lord says, "I am your reward," it must be all of Grace; there is no possibility of earning this reward. When the men went into the vineyard and agreed with the householder for a penny a day, they earned it. But when the reward is God, Himself, there is nobody who has ever earned that or could. The Reward you have received could come to you on no other terms than those of free, rich, almighty, covenant, everlasting Grace; God's unmerited favor! And therefore let God be glorified forever and ever.
X Our Value System is Changed so that we Appreciate the Greatest Possible Reward We possess our reward on a very sure basis because what a man holds as a reward, he knows to be his own. "Why," he says, "I won this and I may well hold it fast." You and I have never deserved God. We just discussed the impossibility of deserving or earning Him, but He is as surely ours as if we had earned Him, for He is our reward! A man may feel the utmost assurance that anything that comes to him as a reward is really his. Let us recognize the same assurance and brave confidence concerning God and even more than if we thought we merited it. "I am your reward," says the Lord. Then, "let no man rob you or deny you your reward." Hold it fast! Let not the devil, himself, take it from you, or rob you of your joy in it! It is yours so surely and so safely that you may at all times rejoice in it as being yours upon the most certain basis as God's Word which He cannot break and will not deny!
If God is our reward, let us take care that we really enjoy Him. Let us exult in Him and let us not be longing after any other joy. You may sometime have to go and live in a lonely place where you will have few encouragements. But you will still have your God, so how can you feel lonely? You may be lowered in earthly circumstances. Your income may decrease. But your God is not any less than He was, so you are not really a loser. One dear Friend after another is being taken away from you—there is a great probability that the dearest one you have will soon go to the grave. Yet the Lord lives, so blessed be your Rock! Rejoice in Him! Possibly you are soon going to the grave yourself. The years are taking their toll upon you and increasing weakness proves that, before long, you must put off this tabernacle. Well, even if this is true, He who is your All-in-All will not die! This world is not your rest or your portion! You are not, therefore, losing your portion, you are going Home to it, for the Lord, Himself, is "your exceeding great reward."
There is a conceptual difference between saying something is the greatest and saying that something is the greatest possible. God is not only the greatest Reward; He is also the greatest possible Reward.
Adapted from a Sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon