The Lord came to Abram in a vision. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1
I’ve read over this verse in Genesis dozens of times taking for granted the fact that God said it years ago to an old man in another country at another time with different things at stake. I didn’t think this verse had much to say to me.
Lately, the word reward caught my attention. God says to Abram that not only is he Abram’s reward, but a very great reward.
When I think of rewards, I picture a compensation for work. Something like a bonus for performing a service or a satisfying end to perhaps a long or even tiring endeavor. Like the Olympic runner who, at the end of a sprint completed after months of grueling training, stands on the podium with the medal.
A reward is the recognition of the successful completion of a challenge. It’s the prize as well as the honor to go with it. The reason we attempt to win the reward in the first place is because of the promise of enjoyment that follows. Rewards are earned to be enjoyed.
I’ve thought of God as Father, as Savior, as Shepherd, and on those occasions with I feel guilty about something, as Judge. But not so much as someone to enjoy.
And yet that is exactly who God wants to be to Abram. God doesn’t want Abram afraid of him and thus hesitant to go near him. God declares himself as Abram’s shield–as someone on Abram’s side, defending him in battle and covering him in danger.
Because Abram rested in God and trusted his protection, he receives as the reward God himself. This same invitation is made to us. “Don’t be afraid,” God says, “I want to be your shield and in the end your inexhaustible reward.”
How do we run the race, as the Apostle Paul says, in such a way as to get the prize? As I pondered this passage of Scripture, three thing things stood out to me.
The first way we can experience God as a satisfying reward is through worship of him. The regular rhythm of sitting in his presence, confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, singing his praises, and reading his Word opens us up. We become more surrendered to his work in our lives. Our hearts change until we give God all our devotion, all honor, and all glory.
Another way we experience God as a reward is in receiving his good gifts. God waits to be gracious to us. The Bible is filled with God’s longing to bless, to provide, to lead, and to show compassion. As we receive from God, gratitude takes root in our hearts. The more we receive from God, the more thankful we become. When we see God’s care for us, we can’t help but enjoy his goodness.
The third way we receive God as our reward is after death when we arrive in heaven. Our heavenly home will be the ultimate reward. God prepares a place for us to enjoy him for eternity. When the battles of this life have been fought, faith carries us on to the place of honor and perfect satisfaction that will never run out.
In telling Abram he is a very great reward, God expresses his enjoyment of Abram. The feeling is mutual. When we live a life of faith pleasing to the Lord, we become his enjoyment, too. Our lives made available to him as places to accomplish his work advances the kingdom. We are God’s workmanship. We are his vessels for bringing the message of hope to the world. When we partner with him in this mission, we become God’s reward.
Reward. Enjoyment. Honor. Eternal life. Each one is part of God’s perfect plan for us.