medal January 18 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: 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

Perhaps we are facing a difficult confrontation at home, school, or work. Perhaps we are moving to a new area and/or taking on a new job. In all these situations we want God to be our guide, to shield us from troubles, and to reward us for our faithfulness. From today's reading we can see that Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham, the patriarch) needed God to be his shield and reward.

Abram was from a country whose culture was evil. According to Genesis 12:1, God told Abram to “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you,” (NIV). That was probably a difficult thing for Abram to do. After all, Ur, in the country of Sumer (modern day Iraq), was the city of his birth. It was where he was reared, went to school, worked, and was married. It was his home. But, in faith Abram followed the call of God and left with his family out of that wicked city. That specific call was to Abram, not us; but like Abram, God may want some of us to leave an evil culture to raise up a godly heritage. Whether he is calling any of us to do that or not, we know God 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 that God will be our shield and reward?

First, we must be willing to follow God's leadership. Did you ever think you were too old to go on a missions trip or to otherwise serve God? Abram started his journey at seventy-five. Perhaps the effects of aging had not yet reached him, because God does not ask us to do what we are physically incapable of doing. God 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 God would have you do? Pray about this earnestly, write it down, and then tell God 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. God made promises to Abram, and Abram needed to believe him. God promised land to Abram's descendants, he promised him a large family, which would be evermore increasing, and he promised to bless his family and the entire world through him (Genesis 12:2-6). God's Word is his bond. We can believe him even if circumstances don't look favorable.

Unfortunately, like most of us, Abram failed in his faith. When there was a famine in the land, he forgot God and sought his own salvation by going down to Egypt. There he lied about his beautiful wife, Sarai, calling her his sister so that he would be well treated in the land. When Pharaoh discovered the lie, he got mad and sent Abram out of the country. What did Abram do? If we trace his journey back to Canaan, we discover that he went back to Bethel where he had met with God. If we have strayed from God, this is exactly what we need to do - get back to God (more...).

Genesis 14 records a test of Abram's faith 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 took courage and believed God would help him rescue his relatives. With only 318 trained men of his own household (Abram apparently was prepared for trouble), Abram rescued Lot and his possessions and routed the four kings and their armies who had attacked them. Abram's faith was rewarded. After the battle he was met by Melchizedek, the king of Salem (the future location of Jerusalem) and a priest of God Most High. He was a person of otherwise unknown origins and suddenly appeared to bless Abram. Many theologians think he was a theophany, a preincarnate appearance of Christ. The writer of the book of Hebrews implies that Melchizedek was like Jesus Christ in these ways, (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 blessings. When we have him we have the ultimate reward of life, peace, and blessings (more...).

The battle was won, but how was Abram to receive the blessing of the LORD, since he and his wife Sarah were old and still childless? This is what Abram asked God. God told him he would 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 made 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 prepared the sacrifices and laid the pieces “one against another” (Genesis 15:10). That night a great and dreadful darkness came upon Abram, and he slept. In a dream God told him about the dreadful treatment of his descendants when they would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. Afterwards, God promised he would deliver them from their bondage and bring them to Canaan to possess it as their own. Then Abram saw a smoking firepot and flaming torch that passed between the pieces of the sacrifices, symbolizing God's presence. Instead of both Abram and the Lord passing between the pieces to cut a covenant, however, only the LORD passed through the parallel lines of slain animals. The promises in this covenant, issued from the Lord of Glory, symbolized his unconditional promise that he alone made to Abram and his descendants.

Do we have an unconditional covenant because of our belief in God? Yes, we do. Most of us are not Israelites, but like Israel we, too, needed to be delivered from slavery. We, too, were in a dreadful and great darkness of sin. We were in bondage and the devil was our master. Jesus was laid out and sacrificed on a cross of crucifixion for us; and in the horror of that night, God's presence witnessed the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus Christ. He accepted his perfect sacrifice for us, and an unconditional covenant was begun. He that believes God accepted Christ's sacrifice for him, in his place, has everlasting life. This is a glorious unconditional covenant for the believer. Have you believed in God's promise that gives you eternal life? Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to save you from your 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

Today's Bible Memory Verse:

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

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