Summary: Abraham chose to believe God rather than his own doubts and fears.
THE LORD OUR SHIELD
After the battle of the kings, Abram no doubt would have had a rush of emotion. First of all, perhaps, elation: look what God has enabled me to do with a small household army (Genesis 14:14-16). Secondly, a sudden realisation: I’ve just picked a fight with powerful kings, kings who invaded several other kingdoms simply because they refused to pay taxes (Genesis 14:4). Thirdly - perhaps not dissimilar to the reaction of the victorious Elijah who had single-handedly beaten 400 Baal prophets, then ran in sheer terror when the woman Jezebel said, “Baa” (1 Kings 19:1-3) - the last reaction is fear.
Abram was no doubt in a state of fear when the word of the LORD came to him (Genesis 15:1). That is how it is sometimes with spiritual battles: we return from the field exhausted, and our joy soon turns to discouragement. Yet it is just at this point that the Lord steps in with a word of encouragement.
The phrase “the word of the LORD came to Abram” actually marks him out as a prophet (cf. Genesis 20:7). Repeated in Genesis 15:4, this is the only time that this particular formula is used in the books of Moses. Yet Moses’ desire that all God’s people should become prophets (Numbers 11:29) was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18), and Christian people are also able to hear the word of the Lord.
We are not only told to vanquish fear, but we are also given a word of comfort and reassurance (Genesis 15:1). First, the LORD sets Himself as our shield: we cannot see Him as such, but the Word tells us that He is there. This was the experience of Moses and the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:29), and is also the portion of the righteous in all ages (Psalm 5:12).
Second, our great reward for stepping out in faith - as Abram had done when he selflessly risked his own life to save those who were in bondage - is further manifestations of the LORD Himself. Of course, Abram looked for the reward in the earlier promise of being made into a nation (Genesis 12:2) - yet to the old man that promise seemed remote and impossible: as things appeared at this time, a slave born into his household was his heir (Genesis 15:2-3). It is good to give reverent voice to our concerns, because faith requires exercise in order for it to grow.
Again the Word of the LORD came to Abram, and the LORD reassured his servant that he would have a son of his own to be his heir (Genesis 15:4), and that his seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). Even with the best of telescopes located outside of the earth’s atmosphere, we are still unable to see all the stars in all the systems of God’s creation. Yet in time, the promise was fulfilled (Hebrews 11:11-12).
Abram chose to believe God rather than his own doubts and fears (Genesis 15:6). He took no account of the “deadness” of his own body, nor the unproductiveness of Sarai’s (Romans 4:19-21). The LORD accounted Abram’s faith as righteousness, and he became “the father of the faithful” (cf. Galatians 3:29).
God’s apparent delays are not denials. When we step out into the unknown (Genesis 15:7) we may face new challenges. Yet we know that God will not fail to fulfil that which He has begun (Philippians 1:6).