The First "Fear Not"

Bible Book: Genesis  15 : 1
Subject: Fear; Faith; Promises of God; God, Presence of

I have heard it suggested that there are 365 occurrences of the phrase “fear not” in the Bible, one (they say) for every day of the year. Even using some alternative wording, I have not been able to find the 365 occurrences that so many people cite. Because the expression is stated differently, the exact phrase “fear not” is only found once in the New International Version. The exact phrase “fear not” is used 63 times in the King James Version of the Bible. But the very first time it is used is in the first verse of Genesis 15. The Bible says…

(Genesis 15:1) After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

I don’t remember the very first time I experienced fear. But I do remember a situation early in my life when I felt very afraid. It was my first day of kindergarten at the First Baptist Church in Brevard. I remember that mom dropped me off. And though I don’t have a clear recollection of a lot of the specific details, I do remember how fearful I felt being in a whole new environment among people that I had never seen before. I was stepping into a whole new world for me.

Perhaps Abraham felt some of that as he moved from place to place, as “by faith” the Bible says “he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

The Bible tells us that Abraham had stepped out into a whole new world for him and his family…

(Hebrews 11:8) By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Abraham probably had a lot of things that weighed heavily upon his mind. He was probably about eighty years old when we come to Genesis 15:1. Obviously, the things that he might worry about would have varied greatly from the concerns that our modern society brings to the restless mind; but he had many burdens nonetheless.

I read a little story that said…

A distraught senior citizen phoned her doctor’s office. “Is it true,” she wanted to know, “that the medication you prescribed has to be taken for the rest of my life?” “Yes, I’m afraid so,” the doctor told her. There was a moment of silence before the senior lady replied, “I’m wondering, then, just how serious is my condition because this prescription is marked ‘NO REFILLS’.”

Again, Abraham’s concerns in life were rather different from what ours might be, but there were times when the cares of life were prominent in his thinking.

In his Biblical Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe shares some very insightful thoughts about where Abram was and what he is going through here in Genesis chapter 15…

The previous chapter focused on Abraham’s actions, but this chapter deals with his emotions, including the “horror of great darkness” (15:12). People with faith are also people with feelings, and feelings must not be discredited or ignored. Many orthodox Christians are prone to emphasize the mind and will and minimize the emotions, but this is a grave error that can lead to an unbalanced life.

We are made in the image of God, and this includes our emotions. While it is unwise to trust your emotions and bypass your mind, or let your emotions get out of control, it is also unwise to deny and suppress your emotions and become a religious robot. In the Psalms, David and the other writers told God honestly how they felt about Him, themselves, and their circumstances; and this is a good example for us to follow. Jesus was a real man, and He expressed openly His emotions of joy, sorrow, holy anger, and love.

But now that the battle was won, why would Abraham be afraid? For one thing, he was human; and our emotions can “fall apart” after a time of great danger and difficulty. This helps explain why Elijah was so discouraged after the victory over Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19). After the mountaintop comes the valley.

Another factor was the possibility that the four kings might return with reinforcements and attack Abraham’s camp. Abraham knew that Eastern kings did not take defeat lightly or let enmity die down quickly. And suppose Abraham were killed? What would happen to God’s covenant and promise?

As we look tonight at Genesis 15:1, we see that…

I. There Is The Mention Of A Chronological Component In This Verse

(Genesis 15:1) After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

After what things?

A. We See Abram Struggling With Some Conflict In His Life

1. Notice His Challengers In This Battle

(Genesis 14:9) With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.

Chedorlaomer – means servant of [the Canaanite God] Lagamar (From Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

Tidal – means fearfulness.

Amraphel – means one that speaks of secrets (From Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary)

Arioch – means lion-like, venerable (From Easton’s Bible Dictionary)

The odds seem to be against him. The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary says…

The males of his own household were but 318, hastily prepared and armed, and with this insignificant force he ventures to pursue an army flushed with victory and commanded by four powerful monarchs! Surely Gideon’s exploit in the war with the Midianites was scarcely more desperate. It is easier to believe that in each case the success was miraculous.

Surely, Abram went into this conflict trusting in God for victory.

2. Notice His Cause In This Battle

(Genesis 14:12) And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Wiersbe said…

It would have been easy for Abram to let Lot suffer the sad consequences of his own foolish decision. But a man of faith is called “to be a blessing,” so Abram went to the rescue. Lot was not a very dedicated believer, but he was still a brother and needed help. (Chapter By Chapter Commentary)

(Romans 12:21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Andrew Jukes wrote…

Abram’s effort to save Lot figures the conflict into which true men of faith come in their attempts to deliver those of their brethren, who, like Lot, though righteous, yet cling to outward things. … The man who has been alone with God is the man who can break the chains of Babylon for his unfaithful brethren. (Types In Genesis)

B. We See Abram Standing For Some Convictions In His Life

1. His Commitment Involved Intent (There Seems To Have Been Premeditation Involved)

(Genesis 14:22-23) And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, {23} That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

2. His Commitment Involved Integrity (There Seems To Have Been Piety Involved)

(Genesis 14:23) That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

He was careful not to align himself and associate himself with the King of Sodom. Wiersbe said…

When Abraham returned from battle, he was met by two kings: Bera, King of Sodom (“burning”), and Melchizedek, King of Salem (“peace”). Bera offered Abraham all the spoils in return for the people, while Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine. Abraham rejected Bera’s offer but accepted the bread and wine from Melchizedek and gave him tithes of the spoils. All of this is symbolic and presents some important spiritual truths that you should understand and apply today.

Abraham had to choose between two kings who represented two opposite ways of life. Sodom was a wicked city (Genesis 13:13; Ezekiel 16:49-50), and Bera represented the dominion of this world system with its appeal to the flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3). Bera means, “gift,” suggesting that the world bargains for your allegiance. But Sodom means “burning,” so be careful how you choose! If you bow down to Bera, everything you live for will burn up one day. That’s what happened to Lot!

So, when Abraham rejected Bera and accepted Melchizedek, he was making a statement of faith, saying, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” Lot should have made the same decision, but he chose to return to his life of compromise.

Perhaps Abram is at a vulnerable place in his life. Maybe he fears reprisal from the nations that he fought with; or maybe he is second-guessing his decision to refuse the spoil from the battle. Maybe that’s why he asked what God would give him. Maybe that’s why the Lord told him that He was Abram’s reward.

II. There Is The Mention Of Company Coming In This Verse

(Genesis 15:1) After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

A. Notice The Identity Of The Visitor

“The word of the LORD” is a Hebrew expression, Dabar Jehovah.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

The word of the Lord – Debar Jehovah; the first occurrence of this remarkable phrase, afterwards so common in the Hebrew Scriptures (Exodus 9:20; Numbers 3:16; Deuteronomy 34:5; 1 Samuel 3:1; Psalms 33:6). That this was a personal designation of the pre-incarnate Logos [seems likely from the context] (cf. verses. 5, 7, 9, 13, 14, etc.). (That He came to Abram means “literally” that He “was”).

Adam Clarke wrote…

[The word of the Lord came unto Abram] This is the first place where God is represented as revealing himself by his word. Some learned men suppose that the ‎d­bar ‎‎Yahweh‎, translated here “word of the Lord,” means the same with the ‎logos ‎‎tou ‎‎Theou ‎(word was God) of John 1:1.

At a vulnerable time in his life, the Lord Jesus Himself comes by to visit with Abram!

I know that this verse encompasses a lot more than this visit in Genesis 15:1, but it must have garnered the same response. Jesus told the Jews…

(John 8:56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

B. Notice The Instrumentality Of The Vision

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament states…

With the formula “after these things” there is introduced a new revelation of the Lord to Abram, which differs from the previous ones in form and substance, and constitutes a new turning point in his life. The “word of Jehovah” came to him “in a vision;” i.e., neither by a direct internal address, nor by such a manifestation of Himself as fell upon the outward senses, nor in a dream of the night, but in a state of ecstasy by an inward spiritual intuition, and that not in a nocturnal vision, as in Genesis 46:2, but in the day-time. … A vision wrought by God was not a mere fancy, or a subjective play of the thoughts, but a spiritual fact, which was not only in all respects as real as things discernible by the senses, but which surpassed in its lasting significance the acts and events that strike the eye.

The idea of this word “vision” (OT:4236 – machazeh) is that of a revelatory experience granted by God (in most cases to a prophet) for the purpose of allowing the recipient of the vision to see something or understand something more clearly. Through the vision, God gave special knowledge of divine things, divine purposes, divine messages. So when it says that the Lord came to Abram “in a vision,” it suggests that He was coming in order to reveal something to Abram in a special way; to show him something.

III. There Is The Mention Of A Comforting Confirmation In This Verse

(Genesis 15:1) After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

I have pointed out what Wiersbe says; that…

This is … the first time you find the assuring words “fear not” in the Bible. God repeated them to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and Jacob (46:3) and often to the people of Israel (Exodus 14:13; 20:20; Numbers 14:9; Deuteronomy 1:21). The “fear not” promises in Isaiah are good to read and ponder when you find yourself dealing with fear (Isaiah 41:10,13-14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8). God’s remedy for Abraham’s fear was to remind him who He was: “I am thy shield, and thy exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1).

Adam Clarke wrote of the phrase “fear not”…

The late Dr. Dodd has a good thought on this passage; “I would read,” says he, “the second verse in a parenthesis, thus: For Abram HAD said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, etc. Abram had said this in the fear of his heart, upon which the Lord vouchsafed to him this prophetical view, and this strong renovation of the covenant. In this light all follows very properly. Abram had said so and so in Genesis 15:2, upon which God appears and says, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. The patriarch then, Genesis 15:3, freely opens the anxious apprehension of his heart, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed, etc., upon which God proceeds to assure him of posterity.”

In other words, perhaps verse 1 is the Lord’s response to what Abram thought or said in verse 2.

A. The Lord Said That He Was Abram’s Protector

I mentioned this recently in dealing with a statement from Psalm 84. But notice that the Lord told Abram here in Genesis 15:1 that He was his “shield.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says of the word “shield” (OT:4042 – magen)…

‎The noun ‎refers to an object which provides covering and protection to the body during warfare. Of the six Hebrew words rendered in KJV as “shield” or “buckler” only ‎magen‎, sinna‎, and possibly shelet refer to what may properly be called shields. It is obvious that ‎magen ‎and ‎sinna ‎refer to different types of shields, but English versions have not consistently maintained the distinction, rendering both words indiscriminately as “shield” or “buckler.” ‎Magen ‎refers to the smaller and more common type of round shield carried by light infantry and officers. ‎Sinna ‎is the rectangular shield which covered the whole front of the body. In view of the fact that God is always the one who protects his people, it is no surprise that he is so often called the shield (‎magen‎) of Israel.

The larger, “full-body” shield might be used on occasion. But the smaller shield would always be with the soldier as a constant companion. Sometimes, God becomes that large shield in a time of crisis. But we know that He is always with us the day to day battles and skirmishes that we face in our spiritual experience.

B. The Lord Said That He Was Abram’s Prize

Even though he had refused the treasure of Sodom, God would give him reward.

(Genesis 15:1) After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

exceeding great – indicates completely abundant

reward – Hebrew 7939. sakar, saw-kawr'; from H7936; payment of contract; concr. salary, fare, maintenance; by implication it means compensation, benefit:--hire, price, reward [-ed], wages, worth.

The Pulpit Commentary notes that…

The patriarch’s reward was to be the all-sufficient Jehovah Himself.

As Matthew Henry said, the Lord promised to be…

Not only thy rewarder, but thy reward.

Abram would learn what one songwriter highlighted; that…

Jesus Christ is made to me, All I need, all I need, He alone is all my plea, He is all I need.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says…

When the Lord added, “and thy very great reward,” Abram could only reply, as he thought of his childless condition: “Lord Jehovah, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?” Of what avail are all my possessions, wealth, and power, since I have no child.

But in verse 5, the Lord assures Abram that He would take care of that need as well.


Are you fearful tonight of turning the corner into a new chapter in your life? Are you fearful because of the changes that are taking place in your life, or perhaps the adversity that is taking place in your life?

Maybe Lot has departed. Maybe the battles have been hard fought. Maybe taking a stand for your convictions has left you weak and weary. But child of God, may I remind you, the Lord is our shield and our exceeding great reward. And when He passes by and speaks to your heart, it will help you and encourage you.

Bill Gaither wrote these words…

Since Jesus passed by

Since Jesus passed by

Oh what a difference

Since Jesus passed by

Well I can't explain it

And I cannot tell you why

But oh what a difference

Since Jesus passed by

And it will make a difference when He passes by!