From there Abram moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built an altar to the LORD, and he called on the name of the LORD.
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.
He removed from thence.1. Faith moves a man from place to place in the world, upon God's word or intimation.
2. The bad entertainment of believers in the world maketh them remove their stages.
3. In the wanderings of believers, God sends abroad the discoveries of His will to several places.
4. Faith maketh souls dwell in tents here below, and be still movable for heaven.
5. Faith causeth souls to adhere unto and make profession of the true religion of God in all places; faith is never ashamed of God, truth, worship, or way.
6. Believing souls cannot be without communion with God in offering to Him and hearing from Him.
7. Supplication to God and speaking in His name are special ways of worship suiting believers (ver. 8).
8. Faith maketh saints true sojourners below, to be still taking up their stakes at God's beck.
9. To all points, east and west and south, God orders the motions of the saints to leave some savour of His truth everywhere (ver. 9).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
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