Prepare to be bombarded with consumer commercials from now till the new year. Even if you don’t watch television, you can’t avoid it. Our materialistic-driven society finds endless and wildly creative ways to remind us of what we don’t have and to persuade us of what we need.
I’m not one of those “we shouldn’t give gifts” kind of people. Actually, I believe that gift-giving is an expression of love (one of the five love languages we looked at last year).
What’s needed is a shift of focus from the gift to the giver.
I think this perspective becomes easier as we get older. We value gifts less because of what they are, and more because of what they represent.
However, in our relationship with God, this is not always the case.
If you’re like me, we fall into the trap of viewing our relationship with God in terms of His blessings on our lives. To be painfully blunt, we desire His gifts more than we desire Him.
I routinely need to remember that in God’s case, the Giver is the Gift. Any other “blessings” He lavishes on me are just icing on the cake.
I know I’m not alone in the struggle to keep this point of view. Abram in the Old Testament suffered from the same short-sightedness.
In Genesis 15, God comes to Abram (not yet called Abraham) in a vision to encourage him with these words:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1b, NKJV).
Wow, that’s a great promise! So why isn’t Abram smiling?
To understand Abram’s response in the next verse, let’s understand the context. In Genesis 12, God promised to make Abram “a great nation (verse 2),” and in Genesis 13, God said that his seed would be “as the dust of the earth” (verse 16).
There’s only one problem. Abram has no child, because his wife Sarai is barren.
So when God promised to be his “exceedingly great reward,” Abram was skeptical, because he hadn’t seen any hint of God’s promised blessing being fulfilled.
But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2, NKJV)
However, Abram’s focus was on the wrong gift. He was looking for an object of God’s blessing (the gift of a son) when the real blessing was the Giver Himself. The Lord Himself was Abram’s “exceedingly great reward.”
Let’s not be quick to judge Abram. He simply didn’t understand what God was doing. (How many of us ever feel that way?) By this time, he and Sarai were old. I mean, old. In Genesis 12:4, Abram was 75; in Genesis 17:1, he was 99, and Sarai was ten years younger (Genesis 17:17).
Ultimately, twenty-five years passed between God’s initial promise to Abram in Genesis 12 and the birth of Isaac recorded in Genesis 21. By that time, Abram (now called Abraham) was 100 years old (verse 5).
Does God keep His promises? Absolutely. His timing is usually different than ours, but He always, always keeps His Word.
But what I really want us to grab hold of is the idea that God Himself is the best Gift we could possibly want or need. He is Enough. He is Sufficient. He is our Exceedingly Great Reward.
And nothing demonstrates this truth so beautifully as the Gift of His Son Jesus Christ whom He sent to earth to live, die and rise again for us. Once we accept that His sacrifice was enough – more than sufficient to pay for our sin – and confess Him as our Lord, we can enjoy a personal relationship with Him that satisfies as nothing else can.
Father, remind me today that You are my exceedingly great reward. Help me not confuse the presence or absence of your blessings with the presence or absence of your love. You give and take away, but You remain constant. Thank you that your love for me never changes, regardless of my circumstances.