Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. It is FOUNDED in the word of the Divine covenant, the faith given by Divine grace to individuals, the separation unto newness of life.
II. The one man Abram gathers round him a small SOCIETY, kindred with him by the flesh, but bound to him doubtless by spiritual bonds as well. Tiros God has sanctified the family life by making it as the nidus of the spiritual genesis. When the new kingdom began its course in the Messiah, he drew to himself those who were previously associated by neighborhood, relationship, and familiar intercourse in Galilee. The Divine does not work apart from the human, but with it and by it.
III. The PROMISE was that of Abram should be made a great nation, that he should be blessed and a blessing, and his blessing should be spread through all families of the earth. The structure which Divine grace rears on the foundation which itself lays is a structure of blessed family and national life.
IV. The land of CANAAN may not have been indicated with positive certainty to the migrating children of God, but it was enough that he promised them a land which he would hereafter show them. "A land that I will show thee." There was the certainty that it was a better land: Get thee out of thy country, because I have another for thee. The day-by-day journey under Divine direction was itself a help to faith to make the promise definite. The stay at Haran, from whence the pilgrimage might be said to make a true start, was itself a gathering of "souls" and "substance" which predicted a large blessing in the future. When once we have followed the word of God's grace and set our face towards Canaan we soon begin to get pledges of the future blessings, laid-up riches of soul and substance, which assure us of the full glory of the life to come.
V. Even in that first beginning of the kingdom, that small Church out of Ur of the Chaldees, there is the evidence of that individual VARIETY OF CHARACTER AND ATTAINMENT and history which marks the whole way of the people of God. Lot was a very different man from Abram. As the story of this little company of travelers develops itself we soon begin to see that the grace of God does not obliterate the specialties of human character. Out of the varieties of men's lives, which to us may seem incapable of reconciliation, there may yet be brought the onward progress of a Divine order and a redeeming purpose. - R.
I. AT THE OPENING Or CREATION. "And God said, let there be Light."
II. AT THE OPENING OF REDEMPTION. "And God said, I will put enmity between thee and the woman," &c.
III. AT THE OPENING OF THE OLD DISPENSATION. "And God said to Abram, Get thee out of thy country."
IV. AT THE OPENING OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA. "And God said, This is my beloved SON?"
V. AT THE OPENING OF THE ETERNAL STATE God will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father." - W.
I. A SUMMONS WAS GIVEN TO ABRAHAM. It was from the Lord. We know not the form. It was explicit. He was to leave all. It was an unmistakable summons, and it was repeated. Such calls are generally opposed to carnal inclinations. Dangers beset the one who should respond to the call, for "the Canaanite was then in the land."
II. THE SUMMONS WAS SUSTAINED BY A PROMISE of guidance to the land. The first call was to a land, the second to a definite place. God did not at first tell Abraham that he would give him the land, but only "show" it. God does not reveal all the riches of his grace at once. The promise was sufficient. Abraham went forth from the plain of Chaldea to the land which God would make through him and his descendants the most renowned in the world. Ever listening to a voice unheard by others Abraham was led. Sublime faith of the patriarch; he looked for "a city that had foundations." - H.
I. OF THE FEE-INCARNATE JEHOVAH TO ABRAM.
1. A great inheritance.
2. A great posterity.
3. A great name.
4. A great blessing.
5. A great alliance.
6. A great defense.
7. A great influence.
II. OF THE INCARNATE WORD TO HIS DISCIPLES.
1. The kingdom of heaven.
2. Divine consolation.
3. Inheritance of the earth.
4. Divine satisfaction.
5. Divine mercy.
6. The vision of God.
7. A place in God's family (see Matthew 5:1-9).
III. OF THE GLORIFIED CHRIST TO HIS CHURCH.
1. The tree of life.
2. A crown of life.
3. Hidden manna, the white stone, and a new name.
4. Power over the nations, and the morning star.
5. White raiment.
6. The distinction of being made a pillar in God's temple.
7. A seat on Christ's throne (see Revelation 2., 3.). - W.
I. EVERY MAN OF FAITH IS A CENTER OF BLESSING. Men who yield to their carnal natures cannot bless others. The Christian should not incidentally, but intentionally, bless others. Where a man is corrupt his working will be injurious; purity is a benediction to mankind.
II. A DEVOUT AND FAITHFUL MAN IS A BLESSING CHIEFLY TO THOSE WHO CAN RECEIVE HIS INFLUENCE. The light of the sun causes one substance to decay, another to fructify. The life of a servant of God may only provoke a sneer and opposition in some souls; but in others joy, thankfulness, love, and effort at imitation. To some an apostle was "a savor of death unto death."
III. THE MEASURE OF OUR FAITH IS THE MEASURE OF THE BLESSING WE SHALL TRANSMIT TO OTHERS. We sometimes hinder the operation of God's promise by our self-righteous humility, which ignores the fact that God often uses the "weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty." There must be faith in God's continued working. He can make the future fruitful in proportion to our faith. Look at what he made of Paul, Luther, Wesley, and Whitfield because they were all men of strong faith.
IV. TO BE A BLESSING THROUGH THE POWER AND FAVOR OF GOD IS THE HIGHEST HONOR IN THE WORLD. It was God who "made" Abraham a blessing; he gave him the power, fostered his faith, and perpetuated his influence. What honor could Abraham have comparable with this? It is probable that Abraham thought little of the honor which would come to him; but God adapted his promise to that which he knew to be the desire of the secret soul of Abraham. Seeing a longing in the heart to lift men to a higher level, he gratifies it by making Abraham a blessing. All should cherish such desires. The help we can give to others morally is far greater than that we can bestow materially. To live an aimless life is a disgrace and sin, but to live to bless others is Divine. - H.
(1) "The Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong; no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day." "Take good heed, therefore, unto yourselves that ye love the Lord your God; lest ye in any wise go back and cleave unto the remnant of these nations that remain among you and make marriages with them (vers. 9-12). Israel is thoroughly to understand that it has not been put in possession of the land of Canaan, to lead the same unholy life as those whom it had expelled. There is a priesthood to be exercised. This priesthood implies separation from the ungodly and from idolaters. This separation, however, is to be for a time only, for all the nations of the earth are finally to be blessed in the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Israel is separated from the rest of mankind for the good of the whole. This separation is not merely external, it is moral, for it is only realised by a life of holiness. Such is still the high calling of the people of God. They are to be priests of the most High, separated from the world by the elevation of their life and experience, even more than by privilege of position. The elect are a priesthood. Their election does not terminate in their own advantage, but seeks through them the good of the whole race, for which they are to prepare the way of salvation. Under the new dispensation, the people of God are no longer divided by material boundaries from the world. There is, therefore, all the greater necessity that the line of spiritual separation be bright, strong, and distinct.
(2) The commandment is enforced by a solemn sanction. "If ye go in unto these nations and they to you, know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you" (vers. 12, 13). The punishment threatened has this notable characteristic - that it is to come by means of those very nations with whom Israel shall have entered into unholy alliance. These shall be made, in the hand of God, the scourge and the goad to His rebellious people, just as Israel had been, in the flint instance, the sword of Divine justice to visit the iniquity of the Canaanites. So is fulfilled the great moral law that sin brings its own punishment. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Every time that Israel entered into compact with the heathen nations it fell under the hand of the heathen. So whenever the Church allies itself with the world, the world entangles, corrupts, and destroys its life, though, it may be, stealthily and without violence. "Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not" (Hosea 7:9). The worldliness of the Church silently saps its spiritual power. - E. DE P.
i.e. in commemoration of the vision. Thus the long line of theophanies commences. The great lesson of this record is the worship of man proceeding from the gracious revelation of God. True religion is not a spontaneous product of man's nature, but rather a response to God's grace. He appears; the believer to whom the vision is vouchsafed raises an altar not "to the unknown God," but to the God who has appeared to him. Another point in the record is the connection of the promise with the revelation. The Lord appeared, and when he appeared he gave his word of promise: "Unto thy seed will I give this land." Are we not reminded thus early in the history of religion that for its maintenance there is required not only a revelation to the mind and heart by the Spirit, but also a seat of its institutions and community? Religion without a people of God dwelling in the land of privilege, and bound together by the sacred bonds of a Divine fellowship, is no true religion at all. Abram builds altars at the various stages of his pilgrimage, still going south. Although we are not told of a distinct vouchsafement of God in connection with every altar, we may well suppose, especially as the "mountain" is specified, that the altars marked out not mere resting-places, but the scenes of special communion with Jehovah. - R.
I. COMPARED. Each wandered -
1. From the place of his nativity - Cain from Eden, Abram from Ur.
2. Accompanied by his wife, who in each instance was his sister.
3. In obedience to the word of Jehovah. He who called Abram had previously banished Cain.
4. Beneath the protection of Heaven - Cain defended by his scarred brow, Abram shielded by the arm of God.
5. To the close of life; neither finding a permanent habitation on the earth.
II. CONTRASTED. While both wandered -
1. The one, Cain, traveled from God; the other, Abram, journeyed with God.
2. The one roamed across the face of earth; the other walked within the borders of the Promised Land.
3. The one fled beneath the curse of Heaven; the other was o'er canopied by Heaven's favor.
4. The one was an emblem of the Sinner seeking rest and finding none; the other was a picture of the saint, who must travel through the world to his home. Lessons: -
1. There are wanderings and wanderings among men upon the earth.
2. He who would not become a fugitive like Cain must, like Abram, become a pilgrim.
3. They who choose the lot of Abram need never fear the doom of Cain. - W.
I. A THREEFOLD SOURCE OF STRENGTH.
1. His enjoyment of gracious visits from God.
2. His exercise of faith in God.
3. His cultivation of communion with God.
II. A THREEFOLD SOURCE OF WEAKNESS.
1. An unwarrantable fear of man.
2. A heedless reliance on worldly policy and craft.
3. A sinful preference of self-interest to the happiness and welfare of others. - W.
I. IT WAS REARED ENTIRELY IN THE HONOR OF GOD. There was no self-glorifying in it. It was erected as a spontaneous act of gratitude. The men of Babel by the tower-building sought to get themselves a name; Abraham by his altar-building seeks to honor God's name. His act was a protest against the prevalent and surrounding idolatry. This was the first altar reared in Canaan to the great I AM.
II. IT WAS AN EXPRESSION OF ABRAHAM'S DESIRE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIVINE GUIDANCE IN HIS PAST LIFE. He found it a joy to be under the leadership of God. "Wherever Abraham had his tent God had his altar." In how many families is the altar in need of repair! In many it has not even been set up.
III. IT EXPRESSED ABRAHAM'S DEPENDENCE ON THE MERCY REVEALED THROUGH A PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE. He evidently believed in an atonement, lie offered an heifer, goat, ram, turtle-dove, and pigeon. After the rude manner of that day he offered sacrifices for his own sins and for those of his household. He found that God was brought nearer through the sacrifice, even as we discover that fact through the Christ of Calvary.
IV. IT EXPRESSED ALSO ABRAHAM'S READINESS TO CONSECRATE HIMSELF ENTIRELY TO GOD. An altar that failed to express this would have been a mockery. God is not flattered by an outward show of reverence. He must have inner and absolute consecration if we are to know the heights of spiritual power.
V. IT EXPRESSED THE PATRIARCH'S FAITH IN THE FULFILMENT OF THE DIVINE PROMISES. Abraham was already in the land of promise, and could leave the future to his God. He was, by rearing that altar, taking possession of the land for himself, and of the world for God, even as Columbus, with befitting pomp, planted in the newly-discovered continent a cross, and named the land San Salvador, thus consecrating it to the holy Savior. - H.
Matthew 10:32, 33). The distinction is not between Christians and heathen; it is within the visible Church. To confess Christ is more than professing Christianity. It must be in the life, not merely in religious services. No doubt these have their use; without them spiritual life would wither and die, like a light under a vessel. They are as food; but "the life is more than meat." The world acquiesces in such services as respectable and proper. But it is a poor Christianity that raises no opposition. A Christian life may constrain respect, but it must differ from worldly
(1) as to its object - first the kingdom of God;
(2) as to its means - God's promises and help trusted to as real. Mark Abraham's example: dwelt among Canaanites on sufferance; they idolaters. Prudence would suggest keeping his religion secret. Many try to keep their faith secret; afraid to confess it, but unwilling to give it up. In vain; faith ashamed of brings no comfort or strength. Abram did not hide his faith. Wherever he sojourned he built an altar; confessed whom he trusted. We are told -
1. He built an altar, i.e. made open confession of his faith.
2. "Called on the name," &c., i.e. spoke to God as a living person, a real helper.
I. WHAT IS IT TO CONFESS GOD?
1. In the heart; firmly to believe what he has revealed. His promises were given to be trusted. The fool puts away belief (Psalm 14:1). It may be from dislike of truth (cf. Romans 1:28); it may be despondingly (cf. Genesis 42:36), afraid to take God at his word. The voice of true wisdom, Psalm 62:1, 2.
2. In the life; acting upon "ye are not your own." We cannot go far without being tried: in business, in companionship, in bearing what we do not like, in resisting self-will and self-seeking, in standing firm against the world's scorn or well-meant persuasions. Passing events constantly put the question whom we serve (cf. Daniel 3:15; Acts 5:28, 29). And not merely in matters that seem great. Little things show whom we have first in our hearts.
II. CLOSELY CONNECTED WITH THIS IS CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD. We must look below the surface. Among professing Christians some prayer is a matter of course; but is it used as a real means to obtain? It is one thing to believe the doctrine of God's providence, and of the use of prayer, and another to pray as a practical power and to feel our Father's care. Yet St. Paul connects prayer and peace (Philippians 4:6, 7). When Hannah had prayed she was no more sad (1 Samuel 1:18). The Bible has many encouragements to pray, but not one warning against asking too much.
III. EFFECT OF THIS OR THE CHARACTER. Abraham's character as eminently faithful was built up by exercising faith. He walked with God not by any constraining power, nor by reason of special manifestations; then he would be no example for us. Each acknowledgment of God increased his communion. Each altar marked a step in his own life, and a work in the world. He who is faithful in little gains more power (cf. Matthew 13:12). - M.
I. THE PRESSURE OF EARTHLY NECESSITIES FORMS THE OCCASION OF THE SOJOURN IN EGYPT. We are not told that Abram was sent by Divine direction amongst the temptations of the South; still there is providential protection even where there is not entire Divine approval. The Lord suffers his people to mingle with the world for their trial, and out of the evil brings ultimate good. Abram went for corn, but obtained much more - the wealth and civilization of Egypt.
II. SOJOURN IN THE MIDST OF WORLDLY POWER GENERALLY INVOLVES SOME COMPROMISE OF SPIRITUAL LIBERTY, some lowering of spiritual principle. Jehovah's servant condescends to prevarication and dissembling not for protection only, but "that it may be well with him." The danger to Sarai and to Abram was great. All compromise is danger.
III. IN THE SUBORDINATE SPHERE OF SOCIAL MORALITY THERE HAVE BEEN MANY INSTANCES OF CONSCIENCE ACTING MORE POWERFULLY WHERE THE LIGHT OF TRUTH HAS SHONE LESS CLEARLY. Pharaoh was a heathen, but he compares to advantage with Abram. Notice that these early plagues of Egypt mentioned in ver. 17 were very different from the later, although they illustrate the same truth, that by means of judgments God preserves his people and carries forward his kingdom, which is the truth exhibited in every apocalypse.
IV. The dismission of the little company of believers from Egypt was AT THE SAME TIME JUDGMENT AND MERCY. The beginning of that sojourn was wrong, the end of it was disgraceful. A short stay among the world's temptations will leave its results among the people of God, as the subsequent history testifies. Abram became very rich, but his riches had been wrongly obtained. There was trouble in store for him. God's method is to perfect his people not apart from their own character and ways, but by the gracious ordering of their history, so that while good and evil are mingled together, good shall yet ultimately be triumphant. - R.
1. Not even the Holy Land is exempt from famine. Neither is the saint's condition free from suffering, nor the believer's portion on earth from defects.
2. Lands naturally fertile can be rendered barren by a word from God. So circumstances that might conduce to the Church's comfort can be made to disappear when God wills.
3. The drought was sent on Canaan just as Abram arrived. So God often sends his judgments on the world for the sake of his people, and can always time them to meet their spiritual necessities.
4. Famines never come in all lands together, for that were a violation of the covenant; and so neither do God's judgments fall on all men or all saints at once, for that too were to gainsay his promise. - W.
Genesis 11:20). Abraham had real ground for saying that Sarah was his sister, but he hid the fact that she was his wife. He asked her to consent to an equivocal statement and to repeat it.
I. CONTEMPLATE THE NATURE OF CARNAL POLICY. A truth which is part a lie is ever a dangerous lie. The temptation to this carnal policy came
(1) from his mingling with the worldly Egyptians on equal terms,
(2) from his very prosperous state, and
(3) from his having lately come from a religious observance in which he had had high spiritual revelations.
Possibly he presumed upon his visions and the Divine promises. David fell also shortly after he had attained the kingdom and been delivered from great dangers.
II. SEE HOW ALL CARNAL POLICY IS SURE IN THE LONG RUN TO FAIL. Abraham did not foresee all the consequences of his equivocations. He even made the path clear for Pharaoh to ask for Sarah. He had afterwards to know that his name was a byword among the Egyptians.
(1) He lost self-respect;
(2) he had to be rebuked by a Pharaoh, and
(3) to feel that God was dishonored by his act.
Abraham repeated his sin. That God delivered Abraham should teach us that we are not to reject others, who have committed a special sin, as past hope. God does not cast us off for one sinful action. Still Divine forbearance and love should never lead to presumption and to a tampering with carnal policy. - H.
1. Both were driven into Egypt by a famine.
2. To both the land of Egypt proved a house of bondage.
3. In each case the Pharaoh of the time was subjected to plagues.
4. Both were sent away by the alarmed monarchs who were made to suffer for their sakes.
5. Both went up from Egypt laden with the spoils of those among whom they had sojourned.
6. On leaving Egypt both directed their steps to Canaan. - W.