Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE PATRIARCH’S GOD”

Genesis 15.1

 

In First Corinthians 10.13 we read, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” As well, we are told by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 3.6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Even in James 5.17, we are told that “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are.” I mention those three passages to show proof that all men are the same. There is no man who is inherently different from any other man. We are all flesh, we face common temptations, and we are subject to like passions. Our urges, appetites, feelings, and weaknesses are similar in essence while differing in strength and degree.

I bring this up to emphasize what the prophet Ezekiel made mention of in Ezekiel 3.14-15, where we read, “So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat.” He came to realize once he had sat where they sat that he and they were the same, differing only slightly in some of the experiences of life. Once you realize that you and every person mentioned in the Bible have more in common with each other than that which you do not have in common with each other you will make better use of God’s Word, it will be perceived as more applicable to you, and you will better understand the lessons that are taught on its pages, such as the lesson taught in that portion of scripture which comprises today’s text.

I would like you to make your way to Genesis 15.1. Stand with me and read along silently while I read aloud: “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.” Abram, of course, is the man whose name God later changed to Abraham. His name first appears in Genesis 11.26. However, it is in Genesis 12.1 that we are told of Abram’s initial encounter with God: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”

Have you ever wondered what it was like for Abram, at the time married to the beautiful Sarai, to be told by God, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”? It had to be terrifying to him and no less frightening for his wife. After all, what comprised life for men of his day (as well as ours) but country, kin, and family? Yet God commanded him to leave them all. I do not know how many times I had read Genesis 12.1 before noticing the inspired comment of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, in Acts 7.2, when he said to the mob that would burst into a frenzy and stone him to death, “Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.” Had you noticed that before? I knew for years that God had spoken to Abram before I noticed what Stephen said, that “The God of glory appeared unto” him and then spoke to him. God not only spoke to Abram, but also appeared to him in His glory.

This reminds me of Revelation 1.1, where we read, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” God does not expect His servants to hop to when they hear some impressive voice out of the blue. Anyone can be fooled by a voice such as that. Satan could easily produce such a voice as that. What Jesus did for the Apostle John when He signified it by His angel when communicating to John is what God did for Abram when He appeared to him in His glory. He provided credible attestation of the reality of the communiqué. He provided authentication so His servant could qualify as a credible witness of the event. For the Apostle John in Revelation 1.1, it was needful to certify that he was being communicated with by the same Jesus Who walked the earth with John and the other disciples decades earlier, Who he had seen risen from the dead before His glorious ascension to the Father’s right hand on high. And it was done. For Abram, it was needful to convince him that he was being spoken to by none other than God Himself. To do that convincingly, God appeared to Abram in the brightness of His glory as well as speaking to him. Whatever the precise details of the event, Abram was convinced and left home, kin, country, and the paganism he had practiced behind, never to return.

Was Abram a perfect man? Are you kidding? He was not even a converted man. Though Hebrews 11.8 clearly reveals that Abram acted upon genuine faith, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went,” he could not possibly have been a converted man at that time. Why not? Hebrews 11.8 describes Abram’s actions from Genesis 12.1 through the end of Genesis 14, a span of perhaps ten years. However, it is not until we get to Genesis 15.6, according to the Apostle Paul’s explanations in Romans 4.1-3 and Galatians 3.6, that Abram was justified by faith.

Read Genesis 15.1-6 with me so we can see what Paul refers to:

 

1      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.

2      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?

3      And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

4      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.

5      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.

6      And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

 

It is evident that God both appeared to Abram and spoke to him in Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 12.1 and Acts 7.2. He then appeared to him and spoke to him again in Genesis 12.7: “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” He spoke to Abram once more in Genesis 13.14. It seems, then, that Abram had experienced three astonishing encounters with God before the event referred to by our text. At the end of Genesis chapter 14, Abram’s nephew Lot had been captured and taken from the city of Sodom, whereupon Abram led the first nighttime raid recorded in military history, when he and armed and trained servants attacked a superior force, rescued Lot, and took plunder. Perhaps fearing that the much larger force he had successfully attacked using the element of surprise would decide to hunt him down and exact revenge against him, Abram now greatly fears.

It is “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.” There is much to explore in this text, but I want to focus your attention to investigate only one thing. Rather than address the matter of Abram’s conversion in Genesis 15.6, or explore why so little attention is paid by preachers today to living by faith as Abram did while still being lost, I want your attention to be focused on God.

Ever notice how people make assumptions? The Word of God very clearly declares that unsaved people do not comprehend spiritual truths, yet unsaved people are convinced they have a handle on what God is like, are convinced that they can serve God in their lost condition, and somehow persuade themselves they are a benefit to the cause of Christ by their good deeds even while they are still enemies of God. There are boatloads of assumptions that accompany that kind of thinking, are there not? That being the case, may I suggest that we keep things profoundly simple this morning, using Genesis 15.1 as the basis for coming to understanding some things about the patriarch Abraham’s God. Forget what you think you know about God, my unsaved friend, and learn a few very simple things about Him today.

 

First, There Is GOD’S PERSONALITY

 

We have already taken note that God has appeared to Abram and communicated to him on three previous occasions, with our text recording the fourth time. May I point out that we see God revealing Himself to Abram as a personal being? It is well established that a personal being exhibits three characteristics, whether he does or does not inhabit a physical body. Those three characteristics are intellect, sensibility, and will. Do we not see evidence of these characteristics in our text? Sure we do. That God was aware of Abram’s situation and the fear associated with his possible danger shows that God has intellect. He knows things. That He was concerned enough about Abram to comfort him and make promises to him shows that God is sensible, that He is a moral and feeling being. That He acted by appearing to Abram and by speaking to Abram shows God possesses a will to make decisions. Unlike Buddhism, Hinduism, and all the other eastern religions that deny the existence of a personal god, the God of the Bible shows Himself in our text to be a personal being.

The question to ask next, of course, is what kind of personal being is God? From our observation of His dealings with Abram, we can tell that God is good, that God loves, that God is compassionate, and that God is deeply concerned about the welfare of Abram. At the time of Abram’s crisis, He said to him in a vision, “Fear not, Abram.” Think of it. God called him by name and comforted him. No wonder Abram prayed to God from time to time. No wonder Abram worshipped God from time to time. No wonder Abram offered up gifts to God from time to time. Abram observed no mechanical rites or external rituals with God. I suspect that, as was the case with Noah in Hebrews 11.7, Abram also moved with fear to obey the instructions of this personal God who spoke to him and revealed Himself to him.

 

Next, There Is GOD’S PROTECTION

 

Why should Abram not fear? God said, “I am thy shield.”

The Hebrew word translated shield in this verse is found sixty times in the Old Testament, where the word buckler instead of shield sometimes translates it. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated shield is found only once, in Ephesians 6.16, in the phrase “the shield of faith.” Where there are wars and conflicts the importance of a shield cannot be underestimated. Allow me to create a visual image for you of God identifying Himself to Abram as his shield. Let me suggest not so much an impersonal object that is used by an individual to protect him from darts and arrows aimed at him by an enemy. I do not think that is how God is describing Himself to Abram, nor is it how Abram would have been inclined to understand what was said to him.

Knowing that God is so very personal a being, it would not be His intention to portray Himself to Abram as an object used for protection by a combatant. Rather, see God as portraying Himself as someone who stands between one who is protected and those who would endanger him. Thus, when God tells the fearful Abram, “I am thy shield,” He is not offering Himself to the frightened man as a passive aid in his defense against those he had launched a surprise attack against a few days earlier. No longer having the element of surprise, Abram knows that he is defenseless should those he rescued his nephew Lot from decide to seek revenge. Thus, he is in no position to defend himself, no matter what tool or device is made available to him. He stands in need of Someone to stand between him and his enemies to defend him. That is precisely what God has declared Himself to be. He will stand between Abram and anyone who seeks his harm. He will defend the defenseless Abram. The responsibility for Abram’s safety is now taken over by God, Himself.

Listen to how David refers to God as his shield, in Second Samuel 22.2-4:

 

2      And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

3      The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

4      I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

 

Surely, then, we see that as with the case of David, there is no way Abram understood his personal God to be describing Himself as an inanimate or passive object that he should wield to protect himself, but rather as One Who is mighty to save and to defend against all foes, against all enemies, and against all danger. That is God’s protection that is promised in Genesis 15.1.

 

God Is Personal, God Is Protective, And Finally We See GOD’S PROVISION

 

Notice how God’s declaration to Abram ends: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

Allow me to reverently provoke your thinking with some considerations: Would a thoughtful and wise person find it more beneficial to possess a golden egg, or to possess the goose that lays golden eggs? Would a thoughtful and wise person find it more beneficial to possess a basket full of fruit, or to possess the tree that produces far more than a basket of fruit each year? Finally, would a thoughtful and wise person find it more beneficial to possess a deliverance or to possess the Deliverer who is guarantor of the deliverance?

Does it not follow from what we have considered that God here promises Abram far more than mere deliverance, vastly more than safety and security? He is promising to Abram nothing less than Himself. “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” We know from revelation that progressively unfolds throughout the rest of God’s Word that God accomplishes the offering of Himself through the person of His beloved and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. That said, God’s offer to Abram is a real one. It is genuine. God’s provision to this man is nothing less than Himself!

 

So, how does Abram respond to God’s personality, to God’s protection, and to God’s provision? We find that Abram is wonderfully thoughtful, so much that he essentially asks God to give him some earnest money, some proof of what He promises. In Genesis 15.2-3 we read, “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.”

Understanding that God’s protection and provision extends far beyond the immediate threat he is concerned about, Abram wants God to further persuade him. Genesis 15.4-5 describes God’s further response to Abram:

 

4      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.

5      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.

 

Abram’s response to God’s proffer, which the Apostle Paul clearly shows to be the prototype of every sinner’s response to the gospel, is found in Genesis 15.6: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

I close this message by making application to you. Like Abram, you face an uncertain future that is filled with potential hazards. If you are not at least concerned about your unknown future, you are foolish. You do not know what is around the next bend in the road, and neither do I. What loomed in Abram’s thinking was that, since the rescue of his nephew, he had angered some people who could have done him a great deal of harm. That rightly concerned him. What might loom in your thinking are unknown factors, such as automobile accidents, such as drive by shootings, such as economic catastrophe, such as marital discord, or who knows what else?

The dangers we face are not exactly the same as those faced by Abram, though our lives are not without risks. What is the same, however, is the patriarch’s God. He is today what He was in Abram’s day, the Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and One who is personal, protective, and who provides for those who are His own. May I ask what is wrong with that? May I ask what is wrong with God? The answer, of course, is there is nothing wrong with God, which is why the sinner’s refusal to respond to the gospel is so wrong.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org