Rev. Miersma is pastor of Loveland Protestant Reformed Church in Loveland, Colorado.
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.
As members of the body of Christ we belong to the church that is characterized as being both militant and triumphant. We know the former to be true because we are well aware of the fact that we are still in the midst of sinners. We look at ourselves and must confess that we have many weaknesses and frailties, both in our physical and spiritual life. As we look about us we see that we are surrounded by enemies that, under Satan, seek to destroy us. In this situation the Lord calls us to fight the good fight of faith in opposition to all wickedness and every form of the lie.
There will come a time when we will no longer be on this earth, but in the new creation in heaven above. No more problems and struggles. No more sickness, sorrow, sin, or death. All shall be made new. Peace under the Prince of Peace shall be the rule. Love and righteousness shall fill this new creation. The knowledge and the wisdom of God shall be in our hearts and minds. This, however, belongs to the future. The reality is that we are still on this earth and must fight.
However, even though we are presently members of the church militant, we are at the same time already members of the church triumphant. Indeed, we do not taste the fullness of that triumph yet, but it is ours. The very fact that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God means exactly that. We are there with Him and in Him. We have that victory because we have faith, that gift of God, whereby we are united to Christ with a spiritual bond through which we draw all the benefits of the cross. That is the victory.
We have an expression of both the church militant and the church triumphant in our text. The Lord says, “I am thy shield.” That is the battlefield. The shield suggests that the church has a battle to wage in the midst of which Jehovah is our shield. The Lord also says, “I am thy exceeding great reward.” That is the victory. He does not say that He will become such. No, He says, “I AM.” We do not experience it perfectly yet, but in principle it is ours now.
In our text, God comes to Abram after Abram had performed a particular work. Abram had just gone out and rescued Lot from the four kings of the north. Returning home as the representative of the church militant of that day he is met by Melchizedec. What Abram had done had met with God’s approval. We find at least three evidences of that. In the first place, there is no word of rebuke for his having used the sword to deliver Lot. Secondly, Melchizedec blesses him in the name of the Lord. And finally, God says, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy exceeding great reward.”
We may ask the question, Why did God say this to Abram? The reason is that Abram was met by not only Melchizedec, but also by the king of Sodom, who wanted to reward Abram with all the spoil. Abram declines the offer lest the king of Sodom say that he had made Abram rich. He trusted in God, who had promised him the land, and he was not going to get it in any other way than by the hand of God. God comes to Abram and in essence says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Do not concern yourself with the reward of the king. I am thy reward.”
God was not obligated to give Abram anything. Whatever the Lord gives is a reward of grace. It is always a gift of God. The reward that God gives to His people is not remuneration. He is not paying them back for what they have done. No, it is always a gift. What we do and what we deserve to be paid for would bring us to hell. We deserve no less than the exceeding great reward of damnation. Even if we served Him perfectly all our lives we would not have earned a thing, for we are still nothing but unprofitable servants. Instead of God being obliged to give us something, we are obliged to thank Him for having given us the desire and ability to do that particular work.
The wonder of wonders is that God gives us a reward that consists of nothing less than Himself. Amazing! How can that possibly be? We must remember that this is Old Testament language. In the New Testament God would say, “In Jesus Christ I am thy exceeding great reward.” In Christ the Almighty God came close to us, in our flesh, tabernacled among us, and performed the work whereby He realized the tabernacle of God with men. To say that Jehovah is our exceeding great reward is to say that Jesus is. He is the salvation that Jehovah prepares.
This is what happened here typically with Abram. He was called out of the land of the Chaldees and brought to a land flowing with milk and honey, which God had promised to him and to his seed. In the unfolding of His promises, God prepared the tabernacle and the temple, where He dwelt typically with His people. Finally, He realized this promise in the day of Immanuel, who prepared the way for the perfect tabernacle.
This reward is exceeding great. It is great, first of all, because it never ends. Everything else has an end. Gold, silver, farms, houses, great honor—all end. Moth and rust corrupt these; thieves break through and steal these; and men who honor us die. But the everlasting covenant communion with God with His people knows no end. Secondly, it is rich in depth. As much as we may appreciate a birthday or Christmas gift, we soon tire of it. But the reward of our text is so rich that we never get sick of it. The more we receive, the richer it becomes.
There will be no doubt about our receiving this reward, for God is also our shield. The very fact that we receive this reward makes this shield necessary. The moment that we receive the reward, at that very moment we need the shield. This shield we receive at the time of our regeneration. Then God lives in us by the Spirit of Christ, thus making our bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Now things begin to happen. We have life, and life means activity. Having received faith we also love God, love the truth, have hope, and are sanctified in principle. One who has thus been born again with this new heavenly life will show it in all his life. This is when the shield becomes necessary because the world will see this godly life and oppose it.
This was the situation with Abram. He waits patiently for God to give him the land, the meanwhile refusing the offer of the king of Sodom. The king feels insulted and hates Abram for it. In fact, Abram was hated by the people of the land when he first came. Here was a man who believed in the Word of God and who would take their land from them. Furthermore, they did not like his cattle grazing on their land. In this situation Abram could well fear that the four kings would return later in revenge. The more Abram showed his faith, the more they hated him.
So it is in our life. As regenerated children of God we reveal our faith in our God. As the end draws nearer, the pressure of the antichrist becomes greater. Many things that we formerly enjoyed are being taken away unless we bear the sign of the beast. It becomes more and more plain that we need a shield. Since Jehovah is our shield, we know that we have perfect protection. There is no place where the devil can approach us for that fatal blow. There is no angle from which his fiery darts can reach us. Jehovah is our unchangeable covenant God, who will never change His mind and take the shield away.
This shield has a name. It is Christ. There on the cross Jehovah poured out His wrath on Christ, a wrath that we were supposed to receive. In grace God provided a shield in the person of Christ. Christ shielded us from that consuming wrath as a mother hen shields her chicks under her wings. This marvelous work of Christ continues as He now sits on the right hand of God as King over all. In all His work at the right hand of God He is our shield. God and His shield are in the church, the very church upon which the Spirit was poured out. No one can hurt the church of Christ.
That certainly has great significance and comfort for us. As Abram was told to fear not, so we need not be afraid. God does not promise that we will not lose our goods and our honor. Abram knew that also. He knew that he would not die, for God had not yet given him seed by which Christ could be born. That is why he said, “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless.” He knew that the reward came in the covenant line and presently in Christ. The point is that we do not need to be afraid that anyone can keep us from that exceeding great reward. God says, “I AM thy shield and I AM thy exceeding great reward.” Who can change that? God is changeless, and who is going to overpower Him?
Fear not, church militant, for you shall receive to the full the glory of the church triumphant. Therefore, do not compromise when tribulations increase and when you are tempted to give in for the earthly goods and fame that are so attractive. You have a reward. You have Jehovah, our covenant God, the God of our salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Walk in faith and know that only in that way can we enjoy the comfort that He, in Christ, is our exceeding great reward.