Genesis 15:1-2 “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ 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?’”
What did Abram have to fear? What sort of problems did he have? God had made him a wealthy man. He had a beautiful wife. He and his little band of servants had just returned from single-handedly defeating five kings and their armies in a battle.
But Abram’s life was not worry free: ‘O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless…” Perhaps we don’t fully appreciate Abram’s agony over being childless. The word Abram used for childless literally means “stripped” or “bare.” The same word can be used to describe nakedness. That was the kind of shame Abram and Sarah felt at not having children. Some problems you can hide, but not this one. You can’t pretend you have children any more than you can pretend you have clothes on. Abram had no one to carry on the family name. His wealth would pass to one of his servants.
An even bigger problem with childlessness was God’s promise of a Savior. Abram was in the Messianic line. If Abram had no children, where would the Savior come from? God had even bigger promises to keep, and Abram was having his doubts.
Each of us comes with our own fears and doubts. I don’t know what we could learn about each other’s fears if we could crawl inside each other’s heads. You know what yours are, and I know what mine are. Just like Abraham we are tempted to ask the question: “What can you give me, Lord? What can you do for me?” Does he really care? Is he really going to help?
Something in Abram’s questions shows he still knew where his help comes from: “You have given me no children” (verse 3). We may think we know where children come from. Abram knew where they really come from: God gives them. More than children, God gave him promises, promises to settle his fears. “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.’”
God had a simple solution for Abram. He gave him his word. He promised that Abram would have a son. In effect, he was saying, “Abram, the reality is exactly the opposite of what you think you see and feel. Having a son seems impossible to you now. You are desperate for some way to remedy things, perhaps tempted reinterpret my promises to fit what you see. But I have promised you will have a son. No matter how impossible that seems, no matter how long it takes the promise to be fulfilled, I made it and I will keep it. That is the reality.” The Lord had promised to be Abram’s shield, to keep evil away from him, even the evil of seeing the promise of children go unfulfilled.
The fulfillment of God’s promises to us can be similarly difficult for us to see. He tells us, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Jesus promise the Lord will give us everything we need: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So often life and experience seem to contradict these words. That makes them no less true. It took 25 years, a quarter century, from the time the Lord promised Abram a son to his son Isaac’s birth. His past record of perfect faithfulness allows us to settle every fear or doubt with the certainty of his word. The Lord is our shield, too. He won’t let today’s problems hurt us in the end.