There are so many places in the Old Testament where we find hints about the Person and work of Christ; it would be impossible to exhaust all of them. After all, the Apostle Paul tells us that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Him to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). However, sometimes we stumble across one of those promises and see it with new eyes in the light of Christ in a way that we had never seen it before. Such was the case for me a number of years ago as I read Genesis 15:1. There, Abraham having returned from the slaughter of the Kings and having chosen for himself the better portion of the blessing of God’s grace, is again met by God and strengthened with the promise of God. This time, the totality of the spiritual blessings promised to Abraham (and all the elect with Him) are thrown under the two categories of safety and satisfaction. The Lord promised Abraham, “I will be your shield (i.e. safety), your exceeding great reward (i.e. satisfaction).” Considering the historical and biblical-theological significance of these words are utterly important for us if we are to gain the spiritual strengthening and comfort that we–together with Abraham–are meant to derive from this promise by faith.
In His entry on Genesis 15:1 in The Blank Bible, Jonathan Edwards captured the setting of God’s promise to Abraham so well when he wrote:
In what God says to Abraham, he has respect to what is related in the foregoing chapter. There it is related how wonderfully God had protected him from his enemies, and given him the victory over them. And therefore God on this occasion bids Abraham not to fear, and tells him that he is his “shield.” In the preceding chapter, it is also related how that Abraham had refused the reward that the king of Sodom had offered him [v. 23]. And therefore God here tells him that he is his “exceeding great reward,” which he was sufficient for, being “the possessor of heaven and earth,” as Abraham on that occasion observed (vv. 19 and 22 of the foregoing chapter).
The same that God promises here, or Jesus Christ, that is called here “the word of the Lord,” was typified in the foregoing chapter by Melchizedek’s bringing forth bread and wine to Abraham [v. 18], for Melchizedek is a type of Christ. And the bread and wine typifies the blessings Christ bestows on his people, both their defense and happiness, which are both by his body and blood. And ’tis also agreeable to the blessing that Melchizedek gave him in the name of the Lord, in the nineteenth verse.1
The promise that God would be Abraham’s “shield” (safety) and “exceeding great reward” (satisfaction) is fulfilled in Christ–the shield and reward of His people. Reflecting on this passage, Isaac Ambrose noted:
Now who is our shield but Christ? And who is our reward but Christ? Abraham believed the promise of the seed; and who is the head of the seed but Christ?—Yes, he believed in that promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed; and who was that but Christ ?—Your Father Abraham (says Christ) rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad. He saw it? How could he see it? (‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ said the Jews ‘and haft thou seen Abraham?’) Or could Abraham see You, or Your day?—Yes, even then he saw it when he believed in Christ. He could see it no other way but by faith; and therefore no question he believed in Christ, and that was counted to him for righteousness.2
Developing the biblical-theological understanding of Christ as shield and reward of His people, Theophilus Herter, explained that this is the underlying idea in all that is taught by and about Jesus in the Gospel records. He wrote:
Part of God’s covenant working in blessing Abraham and in making him a blessing (Gen. 12:2-3) was in protecting him from potential dangers…All of this foreshadows, in principle, the spiritual protection which is included in the new covenant in Christ. As Abraham was surrounded by dangers, so the elect are ever in danger of Satan’s assaults (1 Chron. 21:1; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:3; 1 Thess. 3:5; 1 Peter 5:8). It is from this power that we are taught to pray to be delivered (Matt. 6:13b, τοῦ πονηροῦ should be understood personally), and Jesus’ teaching on spiritual protection identifies the devil as the enemy.3
After fleshing this principle out by pointing to Jesus’ interaction with Peter concerning the way in which He would pray to sustain Peter’s faith after foretelling him that Satan would sift the disciples, Herter went on to explain how Christ is also the believer’s “reward” (satisfaction). He wrote:
Abraham received the promise that God would be his exceeding great reward. In His teaching Jesus has, as it were, brought the promise to Abraham up to date. He demands that men cut themselves off from worldly sources and worldly types of gain. He looks upon the gaining of satisfying compensation in terms of Abraham’s experience and of God’s promise. Jesus is the One who will give reward and He Himself will be that reward promised to the redeemed.4
1. Edwards, J. (2006). The “Blank Bible”: Part 1 & Part 2. (S. J. Stein & H. S. Stout, Eds.) (Vol. 24, p. 157). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
2. Isaac Ambrose Looking Unto Jesus (Manchester: T. Allen, 1799) p. 304
3. Theophilus Herter The Abrahamic Covenant in the Gospels (Houston: Classic Anglican Press, 1999) p. 104
4. Ibid., p. 112