As we’ve seen, God chose Abraham for a reason. His plan for history required very specific foundation materials. As a man, he had to have certain convictions, a certain value system. Abraham carried an emotional and spiritual gene which God found desirable to pass on to future generations. In fact, it was Abraham’s willingness to invest in future generations that God found so desirable. The first few verses in Genesis 15 help us understand this more. I’m going to look at them one at a time, a couple of verses each week.
“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.’” — Gen. 15:1
One must start by asking, why is Abram afraid? Remember, God does not speak into a vacuum. He isn’t spouting random, semi-poetic phrases. If he says something, there is cause for it. Abram, apparently, is fearful. Why does he need the reassurance that God will be a shield to him? After all, he has just battled five kings and prevailed (see ch. 14). Abram should be doing a victory dance. What’s happening here?
In the immediate aftermath of battle, perhaps Abram has grown reflective. It’s not hard to imagine that his life might have been threatened more than once by an errant spear during the fight. Now he’s taking a deep breath and feeling the emotion of it all. The adrenaline is gone, the OMG remains. Yet I suspect, given Abram’s age, death itself is probably not the existential dread for him that it might be for a younger man. On the other hand, an unfulfilled life might be. God has promised to make him a great nation (Gen. 12:2), which clearly hasn’t happened yet. So I can imagine the conversation in his head going something like this…
Boy, that one guy with the sword nearly did me in! Two more inches and I would be done for. Good grief, I nearly died. How can I get God’s promise if I’m dead?
Thus, God’s word to Abram in verse 1 is reassurance of a definite kind. Don’t fear, you’ll make it. I’ll defend you, you’ll live to see your reward. Oh, and by the way, it is really big and really good. In fact, it’s going to blow your mind. God not only reinforces what he previously promised, he also adds to the scope of it. “Very great,” he says, as if he wants to assure Abraham that it’s okay to imagine on a truly grand scale.
I think of the scene with Luke and Han Solo in the original Star Wars:
Luke (speaking of Princess Leia): “She’s rich, powerful. Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be…”
Han Solo: “What?”
Luke: “Well, more wealth than you can imagine!”
Han Solo: “I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.”
So here’s the question: if God spoke to you and promised a great reward, where would your mind first drift? Like Han Solo, I can imagine quite a bit. But am I imagining the right things? Abraham’s reply humbles me, and also reveals a great deal about why God loved and chose this wandering vagabond of faith to be the guy who changed the world. What did Abe consider to be his greatest reward? Children. Look for yourself in the next verse. That’ll be my next blog.