Abraham’s Great Reward
“ Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.”
You have probably heard a great many sermons on the first part of the text, “I am your shield,” so, on this occasion, I am going 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 not very long before, he had parted from his nephew, Lot, and had given him his choice as to which way he would go with his flocks and his herds. And Lot, regardless of the character of the people among whom he was going to dwell, chose the well-watered plain of Jericho or Jordan in which were the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He thought only of temporal advantages and now he had lost everything in the battle of the four kings against five. Abraham had an eye to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, so he had not lost anything. In fact, he was able to restore to Lot all that he had lost. And now the Lord appears to him and seems to say to him, “Your nephew Lot trusted in what he could see. He followed the leading of his own judgment 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 taken from you. You have no share of the well-watered plain of Jordan to lose. You need not fret, for you shall never lose your portion.” The Patriarch might also have said, on his own account, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I trust in Him.”
You, Beloved, have probably seen others suffering the loss of all things and brought to deep despair as the result. But do not 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 losers in the end, but you shall be kept by the power of God and shall be delivered out of every trial and affliction. He shall also be 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 very properly have taken them, yet he would not do so, lest, in later days the king of Sodom should say, “It was not Abraham’s God that enriched him. It is no use for him to talk about living by faith, for it was my gifts, or the spoilsof war that enriched him.” “No,” says Abraham, “you shall never be able to say that! Whatever I have shall be God’s gift to me, not the king 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, for the 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 pursuing a right course? Have you been steadfast even though you lost friendships? Have you been so firm in your adherence to principle that you have been judged to be obstinate? Well, if so, you shall be no loser through your faithfulness! As certainly as God is in Heaven, you shall prove, in some way or other, that in keeping His commandments there is great reward. It is always a 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 their portion, 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 those who 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 foot of the land which had been promised to him. The whole of it was to belong to his posterity and, in God’s promise, Abraham held 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 had to buy the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, in the presence of the children of Heth. So, in our text, the Lord seems to say to him, “Abraham, you have no possession in this land. You are a stranger and a foreigner in it, but ‘fear not,’ I am your portion and your heritage, your exceeding great reward.‘ Although others look upon you as a mere Bedouin wandering about 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 people in all generations, even as He was the dwelling place of Abraham! And He would have Abraham know that it was so and feel that he 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 time for the Lord to give him a blessing. Have you ever heard a sermon from the text, “Prove Me now herewith, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it”? I have read discourses upon that passage, but the singularity of the sermons has consisted in the fact that they were not fairly preached from the text, because it runs thus, “Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of Hosts.” It was their bringing ofthe tithes that was to be the test as to the time when the blessing should be given to them–and the proof of God’s fidelity to His promise would be seen by the filling of their barns and houses by His bounty! Abraham had paid to Melchizedek, as the representative of the Most 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, but it 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 Brothers and Sisters, this may seem to some of you a thing about which we ought not to speak, but we will hold our tongue about nothing that is a part of the duty of Christians and the will of the Lord! And since we do believe that many professors bring a curse upon themselves through neglect of this duty, we must speak of it. You will find that in faithfully serving the Lord in this matter, He will give you such a blessing upon your substance that you shall praise His name that He ever taught you the value of 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 your exceeding great reward.” And let us ask, first, What is this reward? What are the excellences of thisexceeding great reward? What then?
- 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, though he pined for it. No, it is not anything that God will give him–it is God, Himself. I–I, Jehovah–the Hebrew is peculiarly emphatic in setting apart the word, “I, Jehovah, am your exceeding great reward.” The Lord Himself is the portion of His people! When Canaan was divided, there was a lot for Judah, for Simeon, for Reuben and so on–but as for the Levites, the Lord was their portion–and we are like the Levites–as many of us as who have believed inthe Lord. The Lord is our portion and He is such a 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 Himself the reward of His faithful people! This I feel sure of–that although I can enjoy the sweetness of this text for myself, my feeble 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,but come and cut from the roast for yourselves–and cut large slices, too! Let each man take to himself all that he needs out of this 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 was a 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, probably we 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 Preserver of men and we see His hand in every gift of Providence. As we walk about the earth, we are accustomed to say, “These are His glorious works. My Father made them all. Here is God’s pencil, painting each flower. Here is God riding on the wings of the wind 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 speak for 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 even here,” 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 that glorious 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 notlove me, yet if He would but allow me to love Him forever, I think that I could not be unhappy.” Surely you must know that to love God is a most blessed emotion! To look up to Him in all His excellence and goodness. To admire Him with all your heart. To realize that 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 heart full 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 neverdare to try 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 quietly in 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–God loves me–or, as the hymn puts it–
I am so glad that Jesus loves me.“For God to think me practically, is still more. But forHim to love me–this is the greatest wonder of all! You know how you, being evil, love your own children, but yourHeavenly Father loves you far more! You husbands know how you love your wives, yet there is One who loves His Church far more, for He gave Himself for her! God loves you, my Brother. God loves you, my Sister, if, indeed, you have been brought to 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, asHe loves 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, and support you, and preserve you, and educate you till He has made you meet to see His blessed face and then you shall no longer be here at school, but go Home to dwell in His blessed Presence forever and forever! Is not this an “exceeding great reward”–to know 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 cansay, “This God is our God forever and ever.” We say of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” We have bowed before Him, as Thomas did, and cried, “My Lord and my God.” Just think, for a minute, dear Friends, what the possession of God means. God is yours in everything that He is. His Omnipotence is pledged to strengthen you. His Omniscience is engaged to direct you. All His attributes are employed on your behalf. He is everywhere present and, therefore, He will show Himself everywhere strong for your defense! He is Immutable so He changes not in His love to you. He is Eternal so His mercy endures forever. Even the sterner attributes of God smile upon the saint–His Justice, His Righteousness, His Glory are all on the side 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 and forever–how can you be troubled by reason of the difficulty of your circumstances? Brother, Sister, chide your heart for its foolishness! 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, Gods infinite mercy has transformed us, at leastin part, into His likeness. God is so fully ours that we enter into fellowship with Him and receive of His sacred influences till we are changed into His image, even by the Lord, the Spirit. As you read the story of Abraham, you can see many of the attributes of 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 is hid, you shall be like He is, for you shall see Him as He is. Oh, it is worthwhile to have lived, is it not, notwithstanding all 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, blessed be God for an existence that has for its end that we should be made partakers of the Divine likeness and should be lifted up to be the sons and daughters of the Most High and dwell with Him in perfection forever! I thank God for His great Truth of the immortality of the soul, even with all the dreadful risks of everlasting wrath that surround it! It is worth the risk to have the possibility of becoming like God and we who have believed in Jesus have gone beyond the possibility, for we have the 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!
O my Soul, bow yourself before the Lord in reverent and adoring gratitude! You were almost like the devil by nature and what are you even now? You are dust and Deity combined, for the Hoy Spirit dwells in you! That body of yours must crumble back to dust, but, by-and-by, it shall be refashioned in glory and in power, and then, creature as you are, you shall be near and like your God! Is not this an “exceeding great reward” to even now be in process of preparation for so wonderful a climax as that?
I must also mention that God is our “exceeding great reward” in another sense, namely, that He deigns to visit usand speak with us. We have been moved by Divine influences. I am, of course, addressing myself only to those who have been born from above and are Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon you, Beloved, God has already bestowed a great reward, for He has raised you 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 spirits at times. Do you not remember some happy seasons when you felt that you could not have borne any more delight? I mean, when you were so happy that to have been happier might have made you run the risk of death from excess of joy! Oh, the indescribable bliss, the heavenly joys of a soul when it feels the love of Christ shed abroad in the heart by the Hoy Spirit who is given unto 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 EXCELLENCES OF 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, wecan take away, carry it off and house it somewhere. But when God says, “I am your reward,” we pause and look with mingled wonder, love and praise! This reward is incomprehensible–who can carry it away? Who can even measure it? Who can fathom the depths of this ocean, 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 that He 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. Andthis may be a test between the regenerate and the unregenerate. The ungodly say, “If God will but give us our barns full of wheat and our winepress bursting with new wine. If He will only fill our purses with gold and our houses with all manner of earthly delights, that will be enough for us.” But you, Believer, are of another mind, for you have seen through the emptiness and vanity of all material things. You say, “What is the mere pleasure of eating and drinking but that with which a beast is my associate? What if I have honor among my fellow mortals? What is it but so much breath from other men’s nostrils, so much clapping 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. This is the element in which I can truly live.” To possess God is a great spiritual blessing, so the declaration of the text is true–“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 changesnot. And he shall never exhaust Him, for who would even think that he can drain dry the infinite all-sufficiency of Jehovah? If God is yours, you have all for today, tomorrow, for time, for eternity, forever! All emergencies and circumstance of life–all for 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 mannoble. 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 of the 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 of God, 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 everlasting portion!
And what a soul-satisfying portion and reward this is! If you have God as yours, my Soul, sit down and see if you canthink of anything else–you cannot do it! Try and let your desires ramble over other fields. Untie them and give them liberty. But what can they ask for, seek for, wish for beyond God Himself? There are, alas, some Christians who do not seem to realize the 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 superintendent has not praised you, so you are discouraged. But remember that when you serve God, He isyour 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 look for your reward in that way? If you did, I am glad that you are disappointed, because God says, “I am your reward.” To know that 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 a minister, “you do not really know how badly I have been treated. I have had many years of service in my congregation, but they are most ungrateful and do not appreciate me. They even want to get rid of me!” But, my Brother, God does not want to get rid of you. And He will appreciate you, for He loves you with an infinitelove. Why did you look to men and women for your reward? A man may have other rewards if he is content with God as his reward, but he who has any sinister or even secondary aim 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 everything of this sort and be just as satisfied to serve God in obloquy and reproach as we are to serve Him amid the acclamations of the 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 enable you to act so. But never shun a duty because you think it is difficult. Sit down with your Lord, alone, and He will speak to you and comfort you, and strengthen you. Remember how Elkanah comforted his wife, Hannah, when she sorrowed because she had 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 his loving heart, she realized that it was even so, and that gave her rest. And the Lord seems to draw each weary, sad, disappointed laboring 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 I not 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 us to that blessed position and keep us there! Then shall we have drunk in the meaning of our text, “I am your shield, and your exceeding 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 thatin the 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 any being could ever deserve to have God as his reward. It is very possible that a man should deserve the esteem of his fellow men and I think that most people deserve what they really earn. It would be well if some could have more than they receive–wages are often less than they should be. We may deserve more money than we get, but there is nobody who ever deserved God! To deserve Heaven has never been possible yet, but even if it had been, that would not be so much as deserving God! This is 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 agreed with the householder for a penny a day, they earned it. But when the reward is God, Himself, there is nobody who has ever earned that, or who can ever do so. So, my Soul, sing of Free and Sovereign Grace! Letyour 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 becausewhat a 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 and Sisters, you and I have never deserved God. I have told you that is impossible, but He is as surely ours as if we
had earned Him, for He is our reward! A man, I say again, feels the utmost assurance that anything that comes to him as a reward is really his. Let us feel the same assurance and brave confidence concerning God and even more than if we stood upon the footing of merits. “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 rejoice in 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 exult in 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–but you 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 away from you–there is a great probability that the dearest one you have will soon go to the grave. Yet the Lord lives, so blessed be your Rock! Rejoice in Him! Possibly you are soon going to the grave yourself. The years are taking their toll upon you and increasing weakness proves that, before long, you must put off this tabernacle. Well, even if it is so, He who is your All-in-All will not die! This world is not your rest or your portion! You are not, therefore, losing your portion, you are going Home to it, for the Lord, Himself, is “your shield, and your exceeding great reward.”