Listening To Himself
The previous chapter focused on Abraham’s actions, but this chapter deals with his emotions, including the “horror of great darkness” (Genesis 15:12). People with faith are also people with feelings, and feelings must not be discredited or ignored. Many orthodox Christians are prone to emphasize the mind and will and minimize the emotions, but this is a grave error that can lead to an unbalanced life.
We are made in the image of God, and this includes our emotions. While it is unwise to trust your emotions and bypass your mind, or let your emotions get out of control, it is also unwise to deny and suppress your emotions and become a religious robot. In the Psalms, David and the other writers told God honestly how they felt about Him, themselves, and their circumstances; and this is a good example for us to follow. Jesus was a real man, and He expressed openly His emotions of joy, sorrow, holy anger, and love.
But now that the battle was won, why would Abraham be afraid?
For one thing, he was human; and our emotions can “fall apart” after a time of great danger and difficulty. This helps explain why Elijah was so discouraged after the victory over Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19). After the mountaintop comes the valley.
Another factor was the possibility that the four kings might return with reinforcements and attack Abraham’s camp. Abraham knew that Eastern kings did not take defeat lightly or let enmity die down quickly.
And suppose Abraham were killed? What would happen to God’s covenant and promise?
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
Genesis 15:1 (NKJV)
Listening To God
You certainly ought to “listen to your feelings” and be honest about them. “When a person assumes responsibility for his feelings,” writes psychiatrist David Viscott, “he assumes responsibility for his world.” But don’t stop there: Take time to listen to God, and receive His words of encouragement. This is the first time in the Bible you find the phrase “the word of the Lord came”; it is used more than 100 times in the Old Testament. The faith that conquers fear is faith in the Word, not faith in feelings.
This is also the first time you find the assuring words “do not be afraid” in the Bible. For the Lord to tell Abram not to fear implies that he was in fear. It’s possible that after he had just given away a vast sum of money, which he could have kept, he was thinking, “What have I done?” The Lord came to assure him that He was his source and that His promises were true and would come to pass.
Sometimes when we make great steps of faith, our minds begin to think, “What have I done?” The Lord is always there to reassure us if we will but listen.
God’s remedy for Abraham’s fear was to remind him who He was: “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” God promised to be Abram’s shield. He didn’t promise to provide a shield, but He Himself would be Abram’s shield. That’s awesome. Anyone or anything that tried to get to Abram had to go through God first.
God’s I AM is perfectly adequate for man’s “I am not.” “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Your life is only as big as your faith, and your faith is only as big as your God. If you spend all your time looking at yourself, you will get discouraged; but if you look to God by faith, you will be encouraged.
God is our shield and our reward, our protection and our provision. Notice that God didn’t just promise to reward Abram, but He promised to be his reward. If you get God, then you get all He has to offer. The Lord was promising to be Abram’s friend (James 2:23) who would stick to him closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Abraham didn’t have to worry about another battle because the Lord would protect him. And he didn’t need to regret losing the wealth offered him by the King of Sodom because God would reward him in far greater ways. This is the Old Testament equivalent of Matthew 6:33 and Philippians 4:19.
Remember that Christ redeemed us from the curse so that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Galatians 3:13-14). So, this is true of us also.
Protection and provision are blessings that the world is seeking and the politicians are promising whenever they run for office. Candidates offer voters protection from war and danger on the streets as well as provision for jobs, health care, education, and old age. Some of the promises are kept, but many of them are forgotten. Almighty God is the only One who can offer you protection and provision and keep His promises.
For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
Psalm 84:11 (NLT)