Read v. 1a.What do the following expressions suggest to us about the way in which the Lord helps Abram: 1) “After this”; 2) “the word of the Lord came to Abram”; and 3) “in a vision”?
Memorize v. 1b. What do the following words tell us about the problems Abram had: 1) “Do not be afraid”; 2) “I am your shield”; and 3) “[I am] your very great reward”? In what respect is the Lord Abram’s “shield”? How about Abram’s “very great reward”?
Read vs. 2-4. Abram expected his “servant” to inherit all he had, but the Lord had a “son” in mind for him. How are the two different? Yet why did Abram come up with his own plan? In what respect can we sympathize with Abram (Gen 12:1-4; 14:5)? Nevertheless, what is wrong with Abram’s idea (Isaiah 46:10; Proverbs 19:21; James 1:17; Gal 5:1)?
Read vs. 5-6. How did the Lord help Abram overcome this problem? What can we learn from Abram who believed the Lord?
Read vs. 7-21. What does this passage tell us about the grander purpose(s) the Lord God had in mind in calling Abram? Why is it important for a child of God to “know ‘for certain’” the will of God?
Write a Bible testimony on one thing you learned as a child who has been called to walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham.
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
In the passage we can have a better understanding of the God of Abraham. Enhancing our understanding of the God of Abraham will certainly help us to live by faith in Him, and be a source of blessing even for all peoples on earth. Let us say to our neighbor: you will be a source of blessing. Then say to one another: you will be a source of blessing for all peoples on earth.
What does the passage tell us about the Lord God? This passage reveals a lot of things about the Lord God who is with us. But basically we would like to think about four things about Him.
First, I am your shield (1).
In order for us to live as a source of blessing for all peoples on earth, we must first believe that the Lord is our shield.
In Chapter 14, we see Abram making a great sacrifice for the name’s sake of the Lord. On many occasions people find it difficult to buy and pay for even one small big Mac for others. But, for his sheep Lot, Abram used a fortune. On his return from the victories of his own version of Gulf War, Abram made more sacrifices. First he tithed. Do you practice tithing? I know it is not easy. Each time I look at my salary to tithe, I see how small the salary is. You know Uncle Sam takes away a big chunk of the salary. And there are other items that make already a small amount of the pay-check smaller. Then there is the issue of whether to tithe on your gross income or net income. But I am certain that Abram tithed on the cross income. He gave the Lord a tenth of everything. Then he made another sacrifice: he rejected the offer made by the king of Sodom and Gomorrah.In a sense, the king’s offer was kind of bribe. But by faith in the Lord God the Creator of heavens and earth, Abram rejected the offer. Nowadays many political leaders got themselves embroiled with scandals for taking bribes. It is also a common practice for political leaders to ask for donations from rich people. But, Abram was not like that. After all he was called to be a source of blessing for all. One of the meanings of the life that lives as a source of blessing for others is living the life that gives something to others rather than begging others to give something to oneself.
Abram did not live a life of giving just for the sake of giving. He lived the life of giving for the sake of righteousness. To do right is never cheap: it is costly. After all in order to make us sinners to be righteous didn’t our Lord Jesus have to sacrifice even his life? Abram also had Jesus’ image. In order to save his sheep Lot from a pit, Abram risked his life. This cost him a lot. Plus he made a lot of enemies.
Naturally Abram became afraid of his safety. But v. 1 says that the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield...”
As we live in this world, we also are afraid of our safety. And there are all kinds of fears which tend to make us feel unsafe and insecure. I read an article that says that nowadays a lot of teenage girls are afraid of losing friends, if they keep themselves pure. Maybe it was not different with Abram as well: like everyone else he wanted to just “get along” with others. But in order for us to live as a source of blessing for one person or another, often times, there arises the need for us to take a “stand”. So we take a stand. We choose to do what is right. Then our enemies arise and launch on us attacks. Then we become afraid. Then we chicken out from the life of faith and obedience. We end up living like a bunch of sick chicken rather than bold eagles. See, in Genesis 14, Abram lived like an eagle. But now perhaps lying on a bed, he became like a chicken. He became a couch potato.
But we must remember one important promise of God that says, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield.” When we deeply accept this truth then we can continue to live as brave soldiers of Christ. We no longer live as a bunch of sick chickens.
When we think about Jesus, we learn what it is to live by faith God the Father who is Jesus’ shield. Because Jesus took a standing, he made a lot of enemies, particularly the religious leaders like the Pharisees or teachers of the law. But Jesus was not afraid of them. Why? Because Jesus believed that man’s life is in the hands of God. Until God says, “Your life is done”, he knew that his life was never going to be done. He knew that his enemies can do nothing to hurt him.
Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield. Let us put our own name in the place of Abram and read this passage again. “Do not be afraid, Isaac. I am your shield.”
Second, I am your very great reward (1).
In order for us to live as a source of blessing for all peoples on earth, we must believe that the Lord is our very great reward. As we saw earlier, in order to live as a source of blessing for one person Lot, Abram sacrificed a lot of time, energy, and materials. In addition after making one tenth offering of everything he earned, and particularly after rejecting the opportunity to become rich out of the plunders offered by the heathen king, a sense of loss might have crept into his heart. As we saw earlier, he did not make an offering or reject the material offer from the king of Sodom just for the sake of sacrificing. He did it to do what is right. Even in rejecting the bribe, he did it to teach the king of Sodom a lesson, that is, to let him know that there is a real king that is the Lord God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. [Let us all read Genesis 14:21]
But one problem is the sense of loss creeping into our heart. This is particularly true when we compare ourselves with people around. In case of Abram, he saw unbelieving people being blessed with a lot of blessings like many children. Perhaps even as he returned the people and materials he had recovered, he saw how the Lord God blessed these unbelieving people with so many blessings – donkeys, sheep, daughters, and sons! But when he thought about himself, he did not have even one son.
Last weekend, I went to Chicago and had a good fellowship with Mother Barry and other coworkers. But one thing kind of bothered me. That is as I was leading a group Bible study, right next to me was seated one shepherd. He remained kind of quiet. Others were talkative. But he was generally quiet. So I asked him to do one of the study questions, so he could talk. But after giving a quick answer, he kept his mouth shut. Then it dawned on me that although he was married for a long time, still he remains childless. To make the matter worse the study question talked about the Apostle Paul calling Timothy, ‘my true son’. But this man did not have a son. I learned that I made a huge mistake. So, quickly I said, “We are not sure whether or not Paul married or whether he had children if indeed he married. But this passage says that he has one spiritual son, Timothy.” Then I looked at him. But still his face was downcast.
Then as I meditated on this passage I could better understand that it might not have been easy for Abram to remain childless for a prolonged period of time. He was called to be a blessing - not just a blessing, but a blessing for all peoples on earth. But how come he remained childless? When you think about Abram’s generation it was a really serious problem, because childlessness was considered a sign of curse.
When this kind of hardship hits you a Christian, it is not easy for you to continue to live as a source of blessing for others. It is difficult for one to live by faith in the Lord continuously.You so easily say, “Look, others have this, or that, but I haven’t got anything from the Lord. Life is unfair.” Then you are tempted to drop everything and go back to the old life of unbelief.
At this moment however what did the Lord say to Abram? Look at v. 1 again. “I am your very great reward.” Here, the Lord used two emphatic words: very and great. The Lord could have said, “I am your reward.” But he added two more words: very and great. So let us all say to one another: “The Lord says to you: “I am your very great reward.””
What is reward? Reward is something we get in return for our sacrifices. Let us then take note of two more words: “I” and “am.” The content of reward is the Lord himself. The word “am” refers to the present moment. And the Lord himself is at the present moment a very great reward for Abram and for everyone who puts trust in Him. You may not have a mansion, 2003 year model BMW, or anything like that. But as long as you have the Lord, you have already received a very great reward!
Two days ago, when I met Dr. Paul Hong in Chicago, he gave me two books. One book was entitled, “Managing for the results” by Peter F. Drucker. Here by the results the author means rewards. In this book the author set forth all the rules on how to make profit out of cost. No one sacrifices anything for the sake of sacrificing. Everyone sacrifices something for the sake of getting something of greater value. Abram was a no exception. But the problem was that when he reduced his past life of faith in the Lord down to profit vs. cost, and expressed it on the profit and loss statement, he saw at the bottom only a loss. A huge loss. His ten years of devotion yielded nothing. Then the devil whispered into his ears: “You are a loser. You made a lousy investment” But what does the Lord say to him? “I am your very great reward.” Well, that sounds great. But the problem is that he remained childless. His tent remained empty! But the Lord says, “I am your very great reward!”
Yet Abram should have gotten a message out of it. And he should have been able to overcome his sense of loss. But as we shall see in the next following passage, the Lord’s word did not appeal to him. He did not get anything out of it. Why then did it not appeal to him? That is a good question. But at this moment I would like to say only three things. First the truly great reward must exist inside rather than outside of us. Second, it must be spiritual rather than physical. Third, it must be there for us to enjoy all the time – yesterday, today, and forever. Tons of books can be written about these points. But when we think about Jesus, we can better understand why the fellowship with the Lord God is very great reward for all who believe in the Lord. While walking on this planet earth Jesus enjoyed a perfect relationship with His Heavenly Father. His relationship with the Father was so close that he even said, “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30. It was out of this relationship that Jesus was able to live as a source of blessing for all people who were burdened and weary. Amazing thing is that he made this fellowship available for every Christian, for in John 14:20 we read, “On that day you will realize that I am in your Father and I am in you.” As I met Mother Barry, I could see that she does not own much. But, because she has the Lord Jesus inside of her, she lives as a source of blessing for all who come to her life. For example last weekend, we had a good fellowship with her at her apartment. Plus, Dr. Paul Hong and I slept in one of the rooms of her apartment. Her apartment has two small rooms and one little office space. She uses one little office space as her own bedroom. In another room lives Sister Anna Surh, Dr. James Surh’s youngest daughter. And the room back there is a guest room where Dr. Paul Hong and I slept. And throughout the weekend, she became a source of blessing for all of us.
Third, count the stars (5).
In order for us to live as a source of blessing for all peoples on earth, every once in a while together with the Lord we need to go outside our tent, look up at the heavens and count the stars.
Abram could have been satisfied with what the Lord had just said: “I am your very great reward.” But at that time Abram was yet to become spiritually mature. So he needed further help.
Let us read vs. 2-3. “But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."”
At this point, the Lord could have said to him, “Oh, you are right. I apologize for making you to wait for such a long time. Next year, I will give you a child, a twin son.” But the Lord did not do that. What did the Lord do?
Look at vs. 4-5. “Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He 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."”
How did Abram respond? Look at v. 6. “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” While millions of sermons can be given on the meanings of this passage, for our own purposes, it is sufficient to say that thanks to the Lord’s help, Abram regained faith in the Lord. His relationship with the Lord was restored. He came to live by faith in the Lord again. James 1:17 says that every good and perfect give comes into our lives from God the Father. This indicates that God is the source of all that are good and perfect. Faith allows us to have a full access to the Lord who is the source of all the blessings we need for life. So by regaining faith in the Lord, once again Abram put himself back to the position to continue to live as a source of blessing for all peoples on earth.
Again in the book entitled “Managing for the results”, the Professor Peter Drucker says, “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.” He then says in the same book, “Resources, to produce results, must be allocated to opportunities rather than to problems.” These lines help us to better understand how the Lord helped Abram to overcome his problem and bounce back to the life of faith in the Lord. Each time vague anxiety and the nagging sense of loss bother us, we must take a QT with the Lord. In this QT, we can go outside [of our narrow world], and take a good walk with the Lord. Then we must look up at the heavens, and count the stars. Just as in the day of Abram so also as we look up at the sky, we see as numerous stars as the number of stars of Abram’s day. Then as we read the Bible and pray more the Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will certainly broaden our vision. We can be convinced of the Lord’s glorious vision for each of us. Then we can bravely and manfully run with perseverance the spiritual race marked out for us.
Fourth, know for certain (7-21).
In order for us to continue to live as a source of blessing for all peoples on earth, we must be mindful of the wellbeing of not just for ourselves living in our own generation but also our future generations in the generations to come.
Thanks to the Lord’s help, Abram was assured of his own life security in the Lord. God was going to give him a son – yes, not just one son but tons of children, as numerous as the number of stars in the sky.
But when we think about it, God’s promise for Abram that says, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you”, is universal, which embraces not only one generation but in the generations to come. What does the word all mean? All mans all. Certainly “all” in the expression “All peoples” (Gen 12:3) refer to not just people of Abram’s own generation but also all peoples of all generations to come.
No wonder that in vs. 7-21, the Lord God revealed his plan to bless the future generations through Abram’s walk of faith in the Lord. Let us read this time only the dream part that is vs. 12-16. “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."
Then let us read vs. 18-21. “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."
In this dream the Lord revealed two things: First, how Abram will finish his life. Look at v. 15. “You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.” Here, the expression “You...will go to your fathers” is euphemism for his physical death. The Bible says that man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Heb 9:27). Here the word “destined” talks about a destination of a man here on earth – the place where one is going. While my father was physically alive, by the time he became 60 years old, he began to be worried about the moment of his death approaching. Then one day he took a consultation from a fortune teller who said, “8 is possible above 60.” What he meant that it is possible that you can live 8 more years after you passed the threshold of 60. Then he became more nervous. And he kept bothering us to make all the necessary arrangements for his funeral service. Because of these memories, each time I see anyone who is above 60 or even 50 I developed the habit of entertaining a thought: “Well, this guy is already in his late fifties or sixties. I don’t know when he will kick the bucket.” And guess what. When I went to Chicago I saw Mother Barry. She looked so young, that I developed the idea that she would live a long time. And I sensed that it is highly likely that she would outlive even many of us in this room.
Look at v. 15. “You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.” Let us note here that the Lord God did not specify when Abram will die. But that is totally immaterial. Why? Because we see the expression “in peace.” This already indicates that for those who live by faith in the Lord, there is no such a disaster as death. After all didn’t Jesus say in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life”?
Second, God’s plan to establish a kingdom of priests and a holy nation out of the generations that will come out of Abram’s life of faith. In the dream the Lord revealed the plan of redemption to occur in the next four generations. The period involved a time span ofmore than 400 years. When we step back for a moment and compare this dream with what actually transpired, we can see that all the events that are described in the first five books of Torah, (Genesis  to Deuteronomy) are summed up in this one single dream [which might have lasted even for a few minutes in running time]. This then reminds us of what Isaiah says in Isaiah 46:10. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
What then is God’s purpose? We can find an answer to this question in Exodus 19:5-6. Let us open the Bible to this place and read altogether: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." Thus far Abram set an example of the life of faith and obedience. Blessing his example the Lord God indeed established the Israelites as a kingdom of priests and holy nation, so that salvation could come out of his line of faith.Following Abram’s example then let us pray that God would bless the life of our faith and obedience that the Lord God would establish the emerging generations as powerful members of the kingdom of priests and a holy nation. One word: a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.