medal January 18 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 11:27–15:21 (Note: we are finished with the book of Job and are returning to Genesis, during the time of Abraham)

God, Our Shield and Reward

Are you facing a difficult confrontation at home, school, or work? Are you moving to a new area or taking on a new job? In these situations and others you want God to be your guide, to shield you from troubles, and to reward you for your faithfulness.

From today's Bible reading we see that Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham, the patriarch) needs God to be his shield and reward.

Abram was from a country with an evil culture. God told Abram to “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1, NIV). His father Terah first began the journey from Ur to Canaan, but he stopped in Haran, settled with his family, and died there (Genesis 11:31-32; 15:7). Ancient ruins of Haran are located in present day Turkey.

God's directive to Abram was probably a difficult thing for him to do. Ur was the city of his birth. It was where he was reared, went to school, worked, and married. Now he is settled in Haran and is prospering. Move again? We might have questioned God's call, but with faith in the LORD, Abram leaves with his family for a place which God will show him (he is not given a specific location).

This particular call was for Abram, not us; but like Abram, the LORD may want some of us to leave an evil culture or even a prosperous life to raise up a godly heritage. Whether he is calling any of us to do that or not, we know he calls those who are his children to be in the world and not of it (John 17:14-18). How do we act in faith so God will be our shield and reward?

First, we must be willing to follow God's leadership. Some Christians may say they are too old to go on a missions trip or to otherwise serve the LORD. Abram starts his journey at the age of seventy–five. Perhaps the effects of aging have not yet reached him, because God does not ask us to do what we are physically incapable of doing. He does, however, call each of us to some aspect of Christian service and gives us the spiritual gifts or abilities to complete it. What is it that the LORD wants you to do? Pray about this earnestly, write it down, and then tell him you are willing to do it.

Second, we must believe in God's promises. “My word is my bond”—have you ever heard that saying? It is another way to say you can count on me to keep my promises. The LORD makes promises to Abram, and Abram believes him. God promises land to Abram's descendants, a large family, which will be evermore increasing, and he promises to bless his family and the entire world through him (Genesis 12:2-6). His word is his bond. We can believe him even if circumstances don't look favorable.

Like most of us, Abram is no super hero; sometimes he fails in his faith. When there is a famine in the land, he forgets God and seeks his own salvation by going down to Egypt. There he lies about his beautiful wife, Sarai, calling her his sister, so he will be protected and treated with favor. When Pharaoh discovers the lie, he is angered and sends Abram out of the country. What does Abram do? If we trace his journey back to Canaan, we discover that he goes back to Bethel where he previously met with God. If we have strayed from him, this is exactly what we need to do—get back to God (more...).

After this, Abram's faith is tested in difficult circumstances. At that time there was a war of many kings fighting against each other, and among the captives were Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions. Abram takes courage and believes God will help him rescue his relatives. With only 318 trained men of his own household (he is prepared for trouble), Abram rescues Lot and his possessions, and then he routes the four kings and their armies who attacked them.

Abram's faith is rewarded. After the battle he is met by Melchizedek, the king of Salem (the future location of Jerusalem) and a priest of the Most High God. He is a person of otherwise unknown origins and suddenly appears to bless Abram. Many theologians think he is a theophany, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Melchizedek is like Jesus Christ in an eternal sense. He is “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever” (Hebrews 7:3, NIV; see also Hebrews 5:5-10; Hebrews 7:1-3).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything (Genesis 14:18-20, NIV).

Immediately following Abram's test of faith and the blessing of Melchizedek, “the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward’” (Genesis 15:1, NIV). God is the source of all lasting benefits. When we have him we have the ultimate reward of spiritual life, peace, and blessings (more...).

The battle was won, but how is Abram to receive the blessings of the LORD, since he and his wife Sarah are old and still childless? This is what Abram asks God. His faithful LORD tells him he will indeed have a son, not by Eliezer his household servant, but through his own body. Then

He [God] took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars-- if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:2-8, NIV)

Then God makes an oath to Abram by using an ancient tradition called “Passing Between the Pieces.” According to the custom of the times, when two parties made a covenant, they sacrificed animals and birds and laid the pieces in two parallel lines. Then, beginning at opposite points, they would walk between the pieces and meet each other in the middle of the path, thereby pledging to fulfill the obligations of the contract. Because the covenant involved cutting apart animals and birds, the ceremony was referred to as cutting a covenant. (From Eden to Egypt, Leader's Guide, Regular Baptist Press, ©2004, p.53)

So, at the Lord's bidding Abram prepares the sacrifices and lays the pieces “one against another” (Genesis 15:10). That night a great and dreadful darkness comes upon Abram, and he sleeps. In a dream God tells him about the dreadful treatment of his descendants when they will be enslaved in a foreign country for 400 years. Afterwards, the LORD promises he will deliver them from their bondage and bring them to Canaan to possess it as their own. Then Abram sees a smoking firepot and flaming torch which passes between the pieces of the sacrifices, symbolizing God's presence. Instead of both Abram and the Lord passing between them, however, only the LORD passes through the pieces. The promises in this covenant, issued from the Lord of Glory, symbolize his unconditional promise which he alone makes to Abram and his descendants.

Do we have an unconditional covenant today? Yes, we do. Most of us are not Israelites, but like Israel we, too, need to be delivered from slavery. We, too, without God, are in a dreadful and great darkness of sin. We are in bondage and the devil is our master. Later in history, we see Jesus laid out and sacrificed on a cross of crucifixion for us; and in the horror of that night, God's witnesses the sacrifice of his only Son. He accepts his perfect sacrifice for us, and an unconditional covenant is begun. He that believes God accepted Christ's sacrifice for us, in our place, has everlasting life (John 3:16). This is a glorious unconditional covenant for the believer. Have we believed in God's promise which gives us eternal life? Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to save us from our sins. (more...).

Do we want God to be our shield and reward? Then we must believe God and act in faith.

Lessons to Live By

God is our shield and reward if we

• have a personal relationship with him (more...).  

• are willing to follow his leadership.

• believe God will keep his promises.

• act on our faith in him.

Focus Verse

Genesis 15:1 (NIV) “The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’”

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A Look Ahead: Abraham and Sarah have been promised a son but have to wait many years for him. Perhaps you are waiting on God. Learn What to do While Waiting in our Next Lesson.

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