I muddled through French 20 and 30 in high school, just passing the final exam. About ten years ago, I took 12 weeks of Russian. Not too long before, I studied basic Greek in Bible college. Since the alphabets are similar, and since my mind cannot easily wrap itself around new languages, I cannot remember much of either. Now I want to study Spanish? Yikes!
When it comes to the ancient biblical languages, I do know enough about Hebrew and Greek that I can use dictionaries and lexicons. Both languages are more expressive than English, at least in some ways. Greek is far more accurate with more verb tenses and less ambiguity in word meanings. Hebrew is one of those languages that takes a paragraph to explain some words. In both, Bible translators sometimes do not know exactly what was intended in the original. The options are usually given.
Genesis 15:1 is one of those verses. It says (in the New King James Version), “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” In the margin, it says that the last part of the verse could be, “your reward shall be very great.”
In context, this could be about the promise God made to Abram concerning an heir who was not yet born. Abram was concerned that without a son he would have to give everything to his servant. God wanted him to not fear that, that He would take care of him.
Certainly Abram was going to be rewarded, but since I don’t read or know Hebrew, I’ve no clue why this verse has two possible endings. Only when I compare what these two versions say with what I know in the rest of Scripture, I conclude that they could both be correct.
God promises rewards for His people. The Hebrew and Greek words for reward are about wages, but God never hires His servants or workers in that sense. We serve Him because we love Him and His rewards are more to do with His grace than our merit, and with being faithful rather than based on how much or how long we work.
In Abram’s case, his reward for trusting God could be the promised son, but I don’t think so. God said He would give this man a son, and just asked him to believe Him. The son was a promise to be believed, not a reward for doing so.
In the rest of the Bible, rewards from God are spelled out. They include being with Christ, seeing the face of God, judging with and reigning with Christ forever, various “crowns” which are likely not literal, eternal inheritance of all things, an immovable kingdom, everlasting light and life, an eternal city and dwelling place, rest, eternal glory, fulness of joy, and the prize of the high calling of God.
I’ve no doubt about the greatness of these rewards, and am sure that Abram (Abraham) has full access to them. In both Old and New Testament he is held up as an example of faith. Both say of him that he “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, etc.). Rewards are clearly for those who have faith, not a reward for faith, but part of the package for those who believe what God says.
However, as I look at all those verses about rewards, I notice how prominently the Lord figures in each one. When the NKJV says God is Abram’s reward, I have to ask if there is any difference between the reward of being with Christ and Christ Himself? Isn’t He the reward?
The same question gives the same answer for each ‘reward’ in the list. All of them involve Him, being with Him, doing things with Him, experiencing the fulness of Him.
Here on earth during my experiences with God and with faith, I’m concluding that Jesus is enough. I used to ‘need’ answers to all my questions, thinking His explanation for my perplexities would be a ‘reward’ for trusting Him, but not so much anymore. Instead of wondering why or when or what is going on, I’m realizing that He knows, He is in control, and His timing is perfect. I don’t need what I thought was a ‘reward’ when I have Him.
Besides the blessing of His presence, I’ve less worries and concerns to the point that it seems I’m being rewarded already. He hasn’t yet given me all the ‘things’ on the reward list, but I am more certain that He is with me, more certain that He is my shield as He was Abram’s shield. That in itself means that He is my great reward.