GOD’S REVELATION OF HIMSELF AS SHIELD AND REWARD
We come to one of the high points of the Bible here in chapter 15. Genesis 15 consists entirely of an extended encounter between the Lord and Abram, the man who will later be renamed Abraham.
This concludes with the formal establishment of God’s covenant promise to Abram: to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan.
The chapter begins with the “word of the Lord” coming to Abram in a vision. This arrives with reassurance to Abram about God’s continued commitment to him: Don’t be afraid. I am your shield.
Your reward will be great. Abram, though, takes the opportunity of this visitation from the Lord to ask some hard questions. He is curious about God’s repeated promises to him.
First, addressing the promise that God will make of him a great nation, Abram respectfully points out that his current heir is a servant, not a son. He has no children.
And, at this point, Abram is well over seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4). God’s response is to show Abram the stars.
Using this as an analogy, God repeats His promise that Abram’s descendants will be so numerous as to be uncountable.
Genesis 15:1-5 KJV
 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.
 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.
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.
God’s first words fear not imply that Abram is afraid of something—perhaps the jealous neighbors noted in the Lesson Background.
God can respond to Abram’s insecurity in a variety of ways. He can reprimand Abram for bringing Lot along in the first place. He can give Abram the silent treatment and allow him to stew in his own juices of insecurity.
He can congratulate Abram for his great military potential and encourage him to accomplish whatever he puts his mind to. But God does none of these things.
Instead, He calms Abram’s fears with a reminder that God alone is the source of Abram’s protection (shield) and prosperity (great reward).
In identifying himself as Abram’s shield, God informs Abram that his security is not rooted in military prowess or in strategic alliances with neighboring peoples. This is an important lesson that the Israelites of the future will forget.
In identifying himself as Abram’s reward, God is affirming Abram’s decision in Genesis 14:21–24 not to keep the spoils of war that were rightfully his according to ancient custom. In that act, Abram showed his trust in God as his source of prosperity.
Sometime after the dramatic events of the previous chapter, the Lord came and spoke to Abram again. Specifically, we’re told that the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.
This language is sometimes used in the Bible to describe God’s relationship with a prophet. As with other prophetic visions, this encounter will involve dramatic imagery.
God’s first words to Abram are reassurance: Don’t be afraid. I am your shield. Your reward will be great. The following verses make it clear that Abram did indeed have questions about how God would keep the enormous promises He had made to Abram.
God addresses Abram’s emotions: It is safe to set aside your fear. I will serve as your shield, your protection against harm. The reward will be worth the wait.
Given that Abram had been called by God at the age of seventy-five (Genesis 12:4), and had not yet had any children, his concern is understandable.
Abram is not necessarily questioning God’s ability, but he is asking God for more details on how God plans to accomplish His purposes.
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?
Protection and possessions are not Abram’s only concerns.
He takes advantage of this unique opportunity to converse with God by raising a larger issue: it appears that the heir to his possessions and the promise will be a household steward, a certain Eliezer of Damascus.
Up to this point in Abram’s relationship with God, we have seen him silently receive the promise that his descendants would become a great nation. Now, after receiving another assurance, Abram speaks back to God.
His current heir is a servant, not a son. He boldly—but respectfully—says to the Lord, “What will you give me?” Though it sounds like a complaint, Abram’s question is built on his faith in God’s power and promises.
Abram believes God, but he cannot yet see a path to the things God has promised. Instead of ceasing to believe, Abram takes the opportunity to ask his hard question to the source of his hope.
Sometimes asking a hard question in prayer is the most faithful step a believer can take. Acknowledging our own limitations to God, while asking for His wisdom, is a much better approach than suffering in silence or ignorance.
At times, admitting that we cannot understand God’s plan is part of submitting ourselves to it. As we’ll see through Abram’s example, God is always fully faithful to keep His Word.
And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
What Abram is saying to God is this:
“I don’t want more riches; I don’t need that. The thing that’s on my heart is that I’m childless and I want a son. You have promised to make me a father of nations and that my offspring will be as numberless as the sand on the seashore. But I don’t even have one child!”
According to the law of the day, the Code of Hammurabi, Eliezer, his steward, his head servant, who had an offspring, would in time inherit if Abram did not have a child.
The word of the Lord has come to Abram in a vision, offering reassurance that He would continue to protect Abram and reward Him.
Beginning in the previous verse and continuing here, Abram responds with his heartfelt concern: God has given him no children. If Abram died at that very moment, all that he owned would be passed on to one of his servants.
Being well over seventy-five years old, this is not an unreasonable fear on Abram’s part (Genesis 12:4). So far, Abram has responded in faith to the promises of God.
All the same, he cannot help but wonder what they could mean to a man who is aging and childless.
Even in this, Abram manages to express faith in God. Those who ask hard questions of God are, in fact, acting in faith. Abram had not ceased to believe. If so, why speak to God, at all? He is not accusing God or rejecting God.
Instead, Abram is taking his questions to the source of his hope and waiting, in faith, for God’s answer. That response will come in the following verses.
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.
God makes it clear that Eliezer will not be Abram’s successor. On the contrary, Abram’s own child-to-be will be the heir. Notice, however, what God does not say: He does not say who will be the mother.
In ancient society, it is common practice that if a man’s wife cannot have children, then a man may have children through one or more of his wife’s servants (as in Genesis 30:1–6).
This possibility will indeed be tried by Abram and Sarai before God later reveals that Sarai will be the mother (17:15, 16).
In the previous verses, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Abram took the opportunity to ask God—who had promised to make of him a great nation—some hard questions.
As things stand now, Abram’s questions point out, his heir will be a servant, not a son. If God is not going to give him children, how is God going to fulfill these promises?
First, in this verse, God begins to reassure Abram that He still intends to keep His promises: Abram’s heir will be his actual, literal son, his own flesh and blood.
The Hebrew phrase used here is aser’ yē’sē mi mē’e kā hu yi’ra’se kā. This literally means “one who will come from your own body will be your heir.” God is doubling down on iHs promise to provide Abram with a natural-born child.
This reply is important for all who trust God to remember. The fact that God has not yet given what He promised does not mean He will not. Time does not empty God’s promises of their power, even if waiting challenges our patience and, sometimes, our faith.
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.
God uses a visual aid to remind Abram of the massive scope of the future that God has planned for him. Earlier, God used the illustration of the dust of the earth to show how many descendants will come from Abram (Genesis 13:16).
Now God shows him the stars of the sky. Abram has no telescope, of course. In that respect, we can see many more stars than he could. But Abram has the advantage of not having artificial lighting to block his view.
It is difficult for modern city-dwellers to see just how many stars Abram can see in his day!
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, reassuring Abram of God’s protection and reward. Abram responded with heartfelt concerns, pointing out that the Promise-maker still had not given to him any children.
God assured Abram once more that his heir would be his own flesh and blood, not a servant. The Hebrew phrasing used in the prior verse explicitly referred to a biological child—a literal, natural “son” for Abram.
Now God somehow shows Abram the stars. Given that this encounter is described as a vision, it’s hard to know if this look at the stars was an illusion, or an actual trip outside.
Later verses suggest that this part of the story happens prior to sunset (Genesis 15:12). In any case, God directs Abram to look up and count the stars above, if he was able.
Of course, Abram could not count the stars. Neither could he count the dust on the earth, which God had pointed to in making a similar promise in Genesis 13:16.
God assures Abram once more that his offspring would be so numerous as to be uncountable.
This is one of the greatest statements in the Scriptures: “And he believed in the LORD.” Abram believes God. This statement, from Genesis 15:6, is one of the key verses in all of the Bible.
Abram’s belief in God is credited to him as righteousness. In the New Testament, both Paul and James quote this verse (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23), making it a cornerstone of the Christian teaching that God’s acceptance of us comes by His grace and through our faith.
What this means is that Abram said amen to God.
God has said, “I will do this for you,”
and Abram says to God, “I believe You. Amen. I believe it.”
And that was counted to him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:6 KJV
 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Since God originally made His promise to Abram, that man has relocated to a distant country, avoided a drought by laying over in Egypt, and secured an improbable military victory. Yet Abram still seems no closer to having an heir.
Even so, Abram believes God! The God who has taken him thus far will finish what He began. This kind of faith is an example for God’s people in all generations (Romans 4:3, 9, 22; Galatians 3:6).
Abram’s righteousness is not based on the number of sacrifices he offers, prayers he prays, victories he wins, or deeds he performs. His right standing before God is rooted in his unswerving faith that God keeps His promises.
This does not mean, of course, that Abram’s deeds are irrelevant.
If Abram had never put one foot in front of the other in response to his beliefs, had he not packed up and headed for Canaan to begin with, then his belief in God’s faithfulness would have proven hollow (James 2:20–24).
For Christians, this is one of the key verses in all the Old Testament. Abram responded to God’s latest promises with doubts, asking how God’s promises could be true if he still did not have a son.
And yet, Abram also willingly received the reassurance of God’s Word. After God showed him the stars and promised once more that Abram’s descendants would be uncountable, Abram chose to continue to believe God.
It’s important to note here that this is not the beginning of Abram’s faith. It is a statement about his continuing belief in God.
This is more than assumption: the Hebrew word used in this verse, from the root word ‘aman is in a form which implies something that occurred before this encounter.
This moment of trust, during the vision of chapter 15, is not the instant where Abram “finally” came to faith in God. He has expressed faith in God—and that faith is the reason he is choosing to trust God now.
More importantly, this is a statement about how any sinful human could possibly be counted as righteous in any way by a perfectly holy God. Abram’s heroic rescue of Lot, from chapter 14, was not credited to him as righteousness.
His believing the Lord was what was counted as righteousness. It is faith in God that makes people acceptable to God.
This idea is key to Christianity, and this verse is referenced by the New Testament writers in Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23.
God kept His word. Abram will be renamed Abraham, and his descendants will become Israel, the uncountable people of God.
However, as Paul will write in Galatians 3:6, millennia after Abram, all those who trust God are the sons of Father Abraham, who believed.
I hope that you have really enjoyed this post,
Please Leave All Comments in the Comment Box Below ↓