Summary: Abraham overcomes fear with the shield of God’s promises - so can we.
The more I study scripture, the more I discover that there are no great men and women of God in the Bible. There is only one hero and that is the Lord himself. Even the greatest man or woman fails in Scripture and any success they do have is not of themselves but is completely the work of God’s grace.
So as we return to Abraham’s story again we need to be reminded that he was a sinner like you and I but God’s grace turned him into a man of faith. He does the same with you and I.
We return to Abraham this morning and we begin by looking back. Our text says “After these things.” What things? His great step of faith. Remember what happened in chapter 14? Abraham had rescued his nephew Lot and all the people of Sodom from foreign invaders. Abraham then meets this amazing man – Melchizedek – priest and king who is representative of the Lord Abraham worships. Abraham gives to him 10% of everything he has. He worships the Lord and is blessed.
It’s one of the high points in Abraham’s life. Everything falls into place. God gave him victory over his enemies. He is encouraged in his faith by this “priest of the most high God.” He walks in faith by giving a tithe. And receives a blessing from the Lord.
But then we turn to the next chapter and suddenly things aren’t so wonderful. How do we know that? Notice what the Lord says to Abram in a vision: “Do not fear, Abram.”
Yes, things were wonderful and he was blessed and encouraged but no sooner had Melchizedek left the picture and already Abram is filled with fears. And the Lord knows it! Oh, how the Lord knows what fears lie beneath the surface. He knows that Abram still is filled with terror. Of what?
Listen to these words to God from Abram: vs. 2 “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And then in vs. 8 “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall posses it (the land)?”
It’s an amazing thing that Abram had a much easier time rescuing his nephew against the odds than trusting in God concerning his own personal life. He trusted in God in faith going out against an army with only 318 men. There was no question of fear or doubt at all. But it’s true to life.
So often it’s easier for us to help others and risk our neck to help a brother or sister in need. But when it comes down to following God trusting in God concerning my own personal family, my career, my home, my personal calling – it’s a whole other story. It’s terrifying to put your personal life and family into the hands of God. It’s a big risk!
You see Abraham knew the promises of God: “I will make of you a great nation.” And “To your offspring I will give this land.” Abram had received these promises when he was in his early 70’s. Now he’s in his 80’s and he has neither a son nor any land. He has spent around 10 years in the land of promise with no sign of any child and having to live on the southern border as a nomad because there were Canaanites possessing the land.
As some point you begin to ask questions and have doubts. Faith can last a few years and even five to eight years for someone really trusting. But who can wait for 10 years??? “What happened to the promise of God? What did I do wrong? Did God decide to find someone more worthy? Maybe I’m supposed to take some kind of action.”
What does Abram need? What do you need in moments of doubt and fear? A shield! The Lord says: “I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.”
Why is a shield needed? Because Abram is under attack. His fears. His worries. His doubts. They are all like a deadly sword that means to cut him in half. They are like the flaming arrow that will pierce his heart. Fear, doubts, worry are some of the most effective weapons against us. They can cut us down faster and make us ineffective as quickly as an arrow to the heart. And then we’re dead or wounded or paralyzed.
Our own mind tells us that we’re not going to make it – logic can be a destructive force. You’re going to get to the end of your life and will have accomplished nothing! You will be a failure! We are thin skinned and need protection.
What is the shield?