Sermon 2814. Abraham's Great Reward
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S DAY, JANUARY 18, 1903.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, JUNE 14, 1877.
"Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward." Genesis 15:1.
You have probably heard a great many sermons on the first part of the text, "I am your shield," so, on this occasion, I amgoing to leave that portion in order to more fully consider the second part-"I am your exceeding great reward."
Notice, first, the circumstances under which these words were spoken to Abraham. It must have been in his memory that notvery long before, he had parted from his nephew, Lot, and had given him his choice as to which way he would go with his flocksand his herds. And Lot, regardless of the character of the people among whom he was going to dwell, chose the well-wateredplain of Jericho or Jordan in which were the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He thought only of temporal advantages andnow he had lost everything in the battle of the four kings against five. Abraham had an eye to the Kingdom of God and Hisrighteousness, so he had not lost anything. In fact, he was able to restore to Lot all that he had lost. And now the Lordappears to him and seems to say to him, "Your nephew Lot trusted in what he could see. He followed the leading of his ownjudgment and chose that which 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 which shall not be takenfrom you. You have no share of the well-watered plain of Jordan to lose. You need not fret, for you shall never lose yourportion." The Patriarch might also have said, on his own account, "The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will Itrust in Him."
You, Beloved, have probably seen others suffering the loss of all things and brought to deep despair as the result. But donot be alarmed at whatever happens to you. You have made God to be your refuge and you shall find a most secure abode in Him.You may have losses and afflictions-these are a part of your lot-but they shall not overwhelm you. You shall be no real losersin the end, but you shall be kept by the power of God and shall be delivered out of every trial and affliction. He shall alsobe to you your shield and your exceeding great reward.
Again, Abraham had just at that time refused the gifts of the king of Sodom. They were his rightful spoil and he might veryproperly have taken them, yet he would not do so, lest, in later days the king of Sodom should say, "It was not Abraham'sGod 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 thatenriched him." "No," says Abraham, "you shall never be able to say that! Whatever I have shall be God's gift to me, not theking of Sodom's gift. I will be independent of men. I will be dependent only upon the living God." The Lord admires this spirit,so He comes and says to His servant, "Fear not, Abram. Whatever you may have given up for My sake, for My Glory's sake, forthe sake of My honor, you shall not be a loser in any respect, for I will be your shield, and your exceeding great reward."
Have you, dear Friend, made any sacrifices for Christ? Have you lately been called to imperil your own interests by pursuinga right course? Have you been steadfast even though you lost friendships? Have you been so firm in your adherence to principlethat you have been judged to be obstinate? Well, if so, you shall be no loser through your faithfulness! As certainly as Godis in Heaven, you shall prove, in some way or other, that in keeping His commandments there is great reward. It is alwaysa pity when any of the children of God begin to think that they can be enriched by the king of Sodom, or try to find theirportion, 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 thosewho do is, "I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
We must also remember that at the time the Lord spoke thus to Abraham, the Patriarch was not the possessor of a single footof the land which had been promised to him. The whole of it was to belong to his posterity and, in God's promise, Abrahamheld the title-deeds to the freehold. Those who were in possession 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 hadto buy the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, in the presence of the children of Heth. So, in our text, the Lord seemsto say to him, "Abraham, you have no possession in this land. You are a stranger and a foreigner in it, but 'fear not,' Iam your portion and your heritage, your exceeding great reward.' Although others look upon you as a mere Bedouin wanderingabout with your flocks and herds, and pitching your tents here, today, and there, tomorrow, with no settled resting place,be not troubled because of that." It is the same with us, Beloved, for the Lord has been the dwelling place of His peoplein all generations, even as He was the dwelling place of Abraham! And He would have Abraham know that it was so and feel thathe was not penniless, or landless, for the Lord was his "exceeding great reward."
One other circumstance is worth remembering. Abraham had just been paying tithes to Melchizedek, so now was just the timefor the Lord to give him a blessing. Have you ever heard a sermon from the text, "Prove Me now herewith, says the Lord ofHosts, if I will not open to you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough toreceive it"? I have read discourses upon that passage, but the singularity of the sermons has consisted in the fact that theywere not fairly preached from the text, because it runs thus, "Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there maybe meat in My house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of Hosts." It was their bringing of the tithes that was to bethe test as to the time when the blessing should be given to them-and the proof of God's fidelity to His promise would beseen by the filling of their barns and houses by His bounty! Abraham had paid to Melchize-dek, as the representative of theMost 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, butit tends to poverty." The most impoverishing money in the world is God's money locked up in His own steward's possession,left to canker and to rust among the gifts of His Providence-not the man's own possession at all, but stolen from his Master,embezzled-that he might accumulate more and more, to die a little richer and so be unfaithful to his stewardship! O my Brothersand Sisters, this may seem to some of you a thing about which we ought not to speak, but we will hold our tongue about nothingthat is a part of the duty of Christians and the will of the Lord! And since we do believe that many professors bring a curseupon themselves through neglect of this duty, we must speak of it. You will find that in faithfully serving the Lord in thismatter, He will give you such a blessing upon your substance that you shall praise His name that He ever taught you the valueof self-sacrifice and self-denial-and showed you how to consecrate your substance to Him!
These are the circumstances under which these words were spoken to Abraham. Now let us consider the text itself- "I am yourexceeding great reward." And let us ask, first, What is this reward?Secondly, What are the excellences of this exceeding greatreward?'And, thirdly, What then?
I. First, then, let us enquire, WHAT IS THIS REWARD? "I am your exceeding great reward."
It is not the land of Canaan. That was to be given to Abraham, but that was not his great reward. It is not a posterity, thoughhe pined for it. No, it is not anything that God will give him-it is God, Himself. I-I, Jehovah-the Hebrew is peculiarly emphaticin setting apart the word, "I, Jehovah, am your exceeding great reward." The Lord Himself is the portion of His people! WhenCanaan was divided, there was a lot for Judah, for Simeon, for Reuben and so on- but as for the Levites, the Lord was theirportion-and we are like the Levites-as many of us as who have believed in the Lord. The Lord is our portion and He is sucha portion as excels everything else that we might have!
I do not think that any human mind can ever grasp the fullness of meaning of these four words, "I am your reward." God Himselfthe reward of His faithful people! This I feel sure of-that although I can enjoy the sweetness of this text for myself, myfeeble lips can never tell even the hundredth part of the precious meaning of it! Therefore, my Brothers and
Sisters, do not depend upon me, but appropriate the text to yourselves. Be not content for me to cook and carve for you, butcome and cut from the roast for yourselves-and cut large slices, too! Let each man take to himself all that he needs out ofthis glorious text as he meditates upon it!
Think what a reward it is for us even to know God. Years ago we knew that there was a God. At least we heard so, but He wasa 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 was no God. If there had really been no God, probablywe 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 Preserverof men and we see His hand in every gift of Providence. As we walk about the earth, we are accustomed to say, "These are Hisglorious works. My Father made them all. Here is God's pencil, painting each flower. Here is God riding on the wings of thewind and there is God walking on the waves of the sea! To us, God is everywhere." It has made life so happy, at least, I speakfor myself, to feel, "My God is everywhere." Perhaps you remember that simple story of Mungo Park when he was lost in Africa,recovering his spirits by looking at a little piece of moss and admiring its beauty, and saying, "Here is God at work evenhere," and feeling that, if God was there, He was not really lost, He was still safe enough, for His Father was close at hand!It is worthwhile living when we have come into a practical recognition of God, when we have made the acquaintance of thatglorious Divine Being who fills all in all! If we never had any reward but this, this would be a great one.
But we have gone on from knowing God to loving Him, which is much more. A good man once said, "If God did not love me, yetif He would but allow me to love Him forever, I think that I could not be unhappy." Surely you must know that to love Godis a most blessed emotion! To look up to Him in all His excellence and goodness. To admire Him with all your heart. To realizethat your lips cannot sufficiently extol 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 could be spent in a dungeon with my heartfull of love to God, it could not be an unhappy experience to live so!
But, at the back of this, there comes a far greater thing. Brothers and Sisters, we know that God loves us. I never dare totry to speak about this great Truth of God-it is a thing to think over rather than to talk of. I like to get away quietlyin a corner and just try to roll this sweet morsel under my tongue, to suck on it till I draw the very essence out of it-Godloves me-or, as the hymn puts it-
"I am so glad that Jesus loves me." For God to thinkof me is something. For Him to pityme, is more. For Him to helpme 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 Churchfar more, for He gave Himself for her! God loves you, my Brother. God loves you, my Sister, if, indeed, you have been broughtto 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!
I was going on to say what He would do for us, but it seems to be almost too selfish to go into those details, for, as Heloves us, what is there that He will not do for us? Why, 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 so doing, He has given us all things.Your Father loves you, dear child of God and, therefore, He will continue to feed you, and clothe you, and teach you, andsupport you, and preserve you, and educate you till He has made you meet to see His blessed face and then you shall no longerbe here at school, but go Home to dwell in His blessed Presence forever and forever! Is not this an "exceeding great reward"-toknow 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, "ThisGod is our God forever and ever." We say of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His." We havebowed before Him, as Thomas did, and cried, "My Lord and my God." Just think, for a minute, dear Friends, what the possessionof God means. God is yours in everything that He is. His Omnipotence is pledged to strengthen you. His Omniscience is engagedto direct you. All His attributes are employed on your behalf. He is everywhere present and, therefore, He will show Himselfeverywhere strong for your defense! He is Immutable so He changes not in His love to you. He is Eternal so His mercy enduresforever. Even the sterner attributes of God smile upon the saint-His Justice, His Righteousness, His Glory are all on theside 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 andforever-how can you be troubled by reason of the difficulty of your circumstances? Brother, Sister, chide your heart for itsfoolishness! 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 inpart,into His likeness. God is so fully ours that we enter into fellowship with Him and receive of His sacred influences till weare changed into His image, even by the Lord, the Spirit. As you read the story of Abraham, you can see many of the attributesof God reflected in the character of His noble servant. Now, child of God, 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 ishid, you shall be like He is, for you shall see Him as He is. Oh, it is worthwhile to have lived, is it not, notwithstandingall 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, blessedbe God for an existence that has for its end that we should be made partakers of the Divine likeness and should be liftedup to be the sons and daughters of the Most High and dwell with Him in perfection forever! I thank God for His great Truthof the immortality of the soul, even with all the dreadful risks of everlasting wrath that surround it! It is worth the riskto have the possibility of becoming like God and we who have believed in Jesus have gone beyond the possibility, for we havethe earnest and the assurance, the pledge and the token of the good work commenced within us, which, when it is perfected,shall make us like God Himself!
my Soul, bow yourself before the Lord in reverent and adoring gratitude! You were almost like the devil by nature and whatare you even now? You are dust and Deity combined, for the Hoy Spirit dwells in you! That body of yours must crumble backto dust, but, by-and-by, it shall be refashioned in glory and in power, and then, creature as you are, you shall be near andlike your God! Is not this an "exceeding great reward" to even now be in process of preparation for so wonderful a climaxas that?
1 must also mention that God is our "exceeding great reward" in another sense, namely, that He deigns to visit us and speakwith us. We have been moved by Divine influences. I am, of course, addressing myself only to those who have been born fromabove and are Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon you, Beloved, God has already bestowed a great reward, for He has raisedyou from your death of sin and His Spirit abides in you, fashioning and forming you unto perfection. And the Lord has, I trust,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 spiritsat times. Do you not remember some happy seasons when you felt that you could not have borne any more delight? I mean, whenyou were so happy that to have been happier might have made you run the risk of death from excess of joy! Oh, the indescribablebliss, the heavenly joys of a soul when it feels the love of Christ shed abroad in the heart by the Hoy Spirit who is givenunto it!
II. The time will not allow me to say more on that point, so now I come to enquire, in the second place, WHAT ARE THE EXCELLENCESOF THE GREAT REWARD WHICH IS PROMISED IN THE TEXT?
Notice, first, that it is an infinite reward-'I am your reward." Anything earthly that God pleases to give to us, we can takeaway, carry it off and house it somewhere. But when God says, "I am your reward," we pause and look with mingled wonder, loveand praise! This reward is incomprehensible-who can carry it away? Who can even measure it? Who can fathom the depths of thisocean, 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 thatHe is! Truly, that is an infinite portion.
Then, next, this is a spiritual reward. There are some people who will not value it because of this very excellence. And thismay be a test between the regenerate and the unregenerate. The ungodly say, "If God will but give us our barns full of wheatand our winepress bursting with new wine. If He will only fill our purses with gold and our houses with all manner of earthlydelights, that will be enough for us." But you, Believer, are of another mind, for you have seen through the emptiness andvanity of all material things. You say, What is the mere pleasure of eating and drinking but that with which a beast is myassociate? What if I have honor among my fellow mortals? What is it but so much breath from other men's nostrils, so muchclapping 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. Thisis the element in which I can truly live." To possess God is a great spiritual blessing, so the declaration of the text istrue- I am your exceeding great reward."
Notice, next, that this is an eternal reward, for he who has God as his own shall never lose Him since God changes not. Andhe shall never exhaust Him, for who would even think that he can drain dry the infinite all-sufficiency of Jehovah? If Godis yours, you have all for today, tomorrow, for time, for eternity, forever! All emergencies and circumstance of life-allfor 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 cleaves to 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 ofthe 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 ofGod, 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 everlastingportion!
And what a soul-satisfying portion and reward fhis is! If you have God as yours, my Soul, sit down and see if you can thinkof anything else-you cannot do it! Try and let your desires ramble over other fields. Untie them and give them liberty. Butwhat can they ask for, seek for, wish for beyond God Himself? There are, alas, some Christians who do not seem to realizethe 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 Sunday school that you have been working, but nobody has taken much notice of you. The superintendenthas 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 lookfor your reward in that way? If you did, I am glad that you are disappointed, because God says, "I am your reward." To knowthat 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 aminister, you do not really know how badly I have been treated. I have had many years of service in my congregation, but theyare most ungrateful and do not appreciate me. They even want to get rid of me!" But, my Brother, God does not want to getrid of you. And He will appreciate you, for He loves you with an infinite love. Why did you look to men and women for yourreward? A man may have other rewards if he is content with God as his reward, but he who has any sinister or even secondaryaim 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 everythingof this sort and be just as satisfied to serve God in obloquy and reproach as we are to serve Him amid the acclamations ofthe 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 enableyou to act so. But never shun a duty because you think it is difficult. Sit down with your Lord, alone, and He will speakto you and comfort you, and strengthen you. Remember how Elkanah comforted his wife, Hannah, when she sorrowed because shehad 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 hisloving heart, she realized that it was even so, and that gave her rest. And the Lord seems to draw each weary, sad, disappointedlaboring one to Him and say, Am I not better to you than all the praises of men? Am I not better to you than wealth? Am Inot 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 none upon earth that I desire besides You." O God, bring usto that blessed position and keep us there! Then shall we have drunk in the meaning of our text, "I am your shield, and yourexceeding great reward."
III. My third question is, WHAT THEN? As God is our exceeding great reward, what then?
First, it is quite clear that the rewards which are given to Believers are of Grace and not of debt Do you not see that inthe text? Look at it again and you will perceive it at once. If God is the reward of His people, it is not possible that anybeing could ever deserve to have God as his reward. It is very possible that a man should deserve the esteem of his fellowmen and I think that most people deserve what they really earn. It would be well if some could have more than they re-
ceive-wages are often less than they should be. We may deserve more money than we get, but there is nobody who ever deservedGod! To deserve Heaven has never been possible yet, but even if it had been, that would not be so much as deserving God! Thisis too big a portion to ever come to us on the ground of law, merit and good works, so, when the Lord says, I am your reward,"it must be all of Grace-and there is no possibility of earning this reward. When the men went into the vineyard and agreedwith the householder for a penny a day, they earned it. But when the reward is God, Himself, there is nobody who has everearned that, or who can ever do so. So, my Soul, sing of Free and Sovereign Grace! Let your life-song be-
"Free Grace and dying love,"
because the portion you have received is such as could have come to you on no other terms than those of free, rich, almighty,covenant, everlasting Grace! And therefore let God be glorified forever and ever.
I want to call your attention, next, to the fact that according to our text, we hold God on a very sure tenure because whata man holds as a reward, he knows to be his own. "Why," he says, "I won this and I may well hold it fast." Now, Brothers andSisters, you and I have never deserved God. I have told you that is impossible, but He is as surely ours as if we hadearnedHim, for He is our reward! A man, I say again, feels the utmost assurance that anything that comes to him as a reward is reallyhis. Let us feel the same assurance and brave confidence concerning God and even more than if we stood upon the footing ofmerits. "I am your reward," says the Lord. Then, "let no man beguile you of 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 rejoicein it as being yours upon the most certain tenure!
Another practical thought may come in here. If God is our reward, let us take care that we really enjoy Him. Let us exultin Him and let us not be pining after any other joy. You have to go and live in a lonely place where you will have few encouragements-butyou will still have your God-so how can you feel lonely? You are coming down in earthly circumstances. Your income is decreasing.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 awayfrom you-there is a great probability that the dearest one you have will soon go to the grave. Yet the Lord lives, so blessedbe your Rock! Rejoice in Him! Possibly you are soon going to the grave yourself. The years are taking their toll upon youand increasing weakness proves that, before long, you must put off this tabernacle. Well, even if it is so, He who is yourAll-in-All will not die! This world is not your rest or your portion! You are not, therefore, losing your portion, you aregoing Home to it, for the Lord, Himself, is your shield, and your exceeding great reward."
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: GENESIS 14:17-24; 15.
Genesis 14:17, 18. And the King of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlao-mer, and of the kings that werewith him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought forth bread and wine:and he was the priest of the Most High God. One who exercised both the kingship and the priesthood-the only person that weknow of who did this, and who, therefore, is a wonderful type of that marvelous King-Priest of whom we read in the 110th Psalmand in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
19, 20. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of Heaven and earth: and blessed bethe most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hands. And he gave him tithes of all. It must have been peculiarlyrefreshing to Abraham to be met by a man of kindred spirit and one whom he recognized as his superior. No doubt he was weary,though triumphant and so, just then, the Lord sent him special refreshment. And, Beloved, how sweet it is to us when the greaterMelchizedek meets us! Jesus Christ, our great King-Priest, still meets us and brings us bread and wine. Often, the very symbolson His Table have been refreshing to us, but their inner meaning has been far more sustaining and comforting to our spirit.There is no food like the bread and wine that our blessed Melchi-zedek brings forth to us, even His own flesh and blood! Wellmay we give Him tithes of all that we have! No, more-we may say to Him, Take not tithes, O Lord, but take all!"
21. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to yourself As the spoils of war, theywere all Abraham' s by right.
22, 23. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hands unto the LORD, the Most High God, the possessor ofHeaven and earth, that I will not take from you a thread even to a shoelace, and that I will not take any thing that is your,lest you should say, I have made Abram rich Sometimes a child of God will find himself cast, through force of circumstances,into very curious companionship. For the sake of Lot, Abraham had to go and fight the enemies of the king of Sodom. And sometimes,in fighting for religious liberty, we have had to be associated with persons from whom we differ as much as Abraham differedfrom the king of Sodom-but right must be fought for under all circumstances. Yet, sooner or later, there comes a crucial testin which our true character will be discovered. Shall we personally gain anything by this association? We loathe it even whilewe recognize that it is necessary for the time being, but we have not entered it for the sake of personal gain.
24. Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre;let them take their portion. They had a right to it. What we do ourselves, we do not always expect others to do. There isa higher code of morals for the servant of God than for other men. And we may often think of what they do and not condemnthem, although we could not do the same, ourselves, for we are lifted into a higher position as the servant of the Lord.
Genesis 15:1-3. After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and yourexceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my houseis this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me You have given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is my heir.Perhaps he did not doubt the promise, but he needed to have it explained to him. He may have wondered if it meant that oneborn in his house, though not his son, was to be his heir, and that through him, the blessing would come. He takes the opportunityof making an enquiry, that he may know how to act. At the same time, there does seem to be a clashing between Abraham's question,"What will You give me?" and the declaration of God, "I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward." There is a greatdescent from the language of the Lord to that of the most stable Believer-and when you and I are even at our best, I haveno doubt that if all could be recorded that we think and say, some of our fellow Believers would feel that the best of menare but men at the best-and that God's language is after a nobler fashion than ours will ever be, till we have seen His facein Glory.
4, 5. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be your heir; but he that shall come out ofyourown body shall be your heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward Heaven, and count the stars, if youare able to number them: andHe said unto him, So shall your seed be. Now was Abraham's faith tried, indeed! He had no child.He was old and his wife was also old, yet the Lord's promise was, "So shall your seed be" as the stars of Heaven! Could hebelieve it? He did.
6. And he believed in the LORD; andHe counted it to him for righteousness. Oh, what a blessing to learn the way of simplefaith in God! This is the saving quality in many a life. Look through Paul's list of the heroes of faith-some of them areexceedingly imperfect characters! Some we would hardly have thought of mentioning. But they had faith and, although men, intheir faulty judgment, think faith to be an inferior virtue and often scarcely look upon it as a virtue at all, yet, in thejudgment of God, faith is the supreme virtue! "This," said Christ, "is the work of God," the greatest of all works, that youbelieve on Him whom He has sent." To trust, to believe-this shall be counted to us for righteousness even as it was to Abraham!
7, 8. AndHe said unto him, I am the LORD that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it,and he said, Lord God, how shall I know that I shall inherit it?What? Abraham, is not God's promise sufficient for you? Ofather of the faithful, though you believe and are counted as righteous through believing, do you still ask, "How shall Iknow?" Ah, Beloved, faith is often marred by a measure of unbelief-or, if not quite unbelief-yet there is a desire to havesome token, some sign beyond the bare promise of God!
9-11. And He said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three yearsold, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto Him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each pieceone against another: but the birds divided he not And when the foul came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. Hereis a lesson for us. Perhaps you have some of these unclean birds coming down upon your sacrifice just now. That raven thatyou did not lock up well at home, has come here after you. Eagles and vultures and all
kinds of kites in the form of carking cares, sad memories, fears and doubts, come hovering over the sacred feast. Drive themaway! God give you Grace to drive them away by the power of His gracious Spirit!
12. And when thee sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an hiorror of great darkness fell upon him. Hehad asked for a manifestation, a sign, a token, and lo, it comes in the "horror of great darkness." Do not be afraid, Beloved,if your soul sometimes knows what horror is. Remember how the favored three, on the Mount of Transfiguration, "feared as theyentered into the cloud." Yet it was there that they were to see their Master in His glory! Remember what the Lord said toJeremiah concerning Jerusalem and His people, They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperitythat I procure unto it." That is the right spirit in which to receive prosperity, but as for adversity, rejoice in it, forGod often sends the richest treasures to His children in wagons drawn by black horses! You may except that some great blessingis coming near to you when a "horror of great darkness" falls upon you.
13. And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that your seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall servethem; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. It was to be a long while before the nation should enter upon its inheritance.Here is a promise that was to take four hundred years to ripen! Some of you cannot believe the promise if its fulfillmentis delayed for four days-you can hardly keep on praying if it takes four years-what would you think of a four hundred yearspromise? Yet it was to be so long in coming to maturity because it was so vast. If Abraham's seed was to be like the starsof Heaven for multitude, there must be time for the increase to come!
14-17. Andalso that nation, whom they shall serve, willljudge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. Andyoushall go to your fathers inpeace; you shall be buried in a good oldage. But in the fourth generation they shall come hereagain: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark,behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. True emblems of the Church of God with hersmoke and her light, her trying affliction, yet the Grace by which she still keeps burning and shining in the world.
18-21. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto your seed have I given this land, from the riverof Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites and the Hittites,and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebu-sites. He mentionsthe adversaries to show how great would be the victories of the race that should come and dispossess them. Let us always lookupon the list of our difficulties as only a catalog of our triumphs. The greater our troubles, the louder our song at thelast.