For I have chosen him, so that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has promised."
(1) understanding of God's acts;
(2) that he should become a mighty nation;
(3) that he should be ancestor of the promised Seed;
(4) that he himself should be a blessing to others.
Of these points two at least are not confined to him personally, but belong to all who will. To know what God doeth a man must be taught of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14; cf. Isaiah 7:12). There is a wide difference between seeing an event, or even foreseeing it, and understanding God's lessons therein. To be able in everything to mark the love, and care, and wisdom of God; to walk with him as a child, accepting what he sends not merely as inevitable, but as loving; to learn lessons from all that happens, and through the works of his hands to see our Father's face - this is peace, and this is what the wisdom of this world cannot teach (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 21). Again, Abraham was to be not merely the ancestor of a nation, but the father of a spiritual family by influence and example (Matthew 3:9; Galatians 3:7). In this his calling is that of every Christian (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 5:13, 14). Text connects the godly rule of a family with both these blessings. Christianity is not to be a selfish, but a diffusive thing (Matthew 5:15; Matthew 13:83); and the influence must needs begin at home (cf. Numbers 10:29; Acts 1:8), among those whom God has placed with us.
I. THINGS NEEDFUL FOR THIS WORK.
1. Care for his own soul. If that is not cared for a man cannot desire the spiritual good of others. He may desire and try to train his children and household in honesty and prudence; to make them good members of society, successful, respected; and may cultivate all kindly feelings; but not till he realizes eternity will he really aim at training others for eternity. Might say that only one who has found peace can fully perform this work. A man aroused with desire that his family should be saved. But he cannot press the full truth as it is in Jesus.
2. Love for the souls of others. Christians are sometimes so wrapped up in care for their own souls as to have few thoughts for the state of others. Perhaps from a lengthened conflict the mind has been too much turned upon its own state. But this is not the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:24). It is not a close following of him. It tells of a halting in the "work of faith" (2 Corinthians 5:13, 14; cf. Romans 10:1).
3. Desire to advance the kingdom of Christ. When a man has this he sees in every one a soul for which Christ died (cf. John 4:35), and those with whom he is closely connected must chiefly call forth this feeling.
II. THE MANNER OF THE WORK. Family worship; acknowledgment of God as ruling in the household; his will a regulating principle and bond of union. Let this be a reality, not a form. Let the sacrificial work of Christ be ever put forward in instruction and in prayer. Personal example - constantly aiming at a holy life. To pray in the family and yet to be evidently making no effort to live in the spirit of the prayer is to do positive evil; encouraging the belief that God may be worshipped with words, without deeds; and tending to separate religion from daily life. Prayer in private for each member - children, servants, &c.; and watchfulness to deal with each as God shall give opportunity (Proverbs 15:23). Let prayer always accompany such efforts. - M.
1. God's knowledge of souls giveth them capacity of receiving his revelations. The knowledge of His election and approbation.
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him.I. THE LIGHT IN WHICH ABRAHAM APPEARS IN THIS PASSAGE; AND HOW HE WAS QUALIFIED FOR THE DUTY HERE ASCRIBED TO HIM.
1. A man of knowledge.
2. A man of piety.
3. A man of virtue.
4. A man of authority.
5. A man of fidelity.
6. A man of diligence.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS DUTY; OR HIS ENDEAVOURS FOR THE GOOD OF HIS FAMILY.
1. He not only prayed with and before his family, but interceded for them as a priest.
2. He was a prophet in his family.
3. He was a king in his house, and used authority.
III. HOW PLEASING IT WAS TO GOD, AND THE BLESSED CONSEQUENCES THEREOF TO ABRAHAM AND HIS FAMILY. Observe — The reason why God would hide nothing from Abraham. "For I know him," &c. Abraham was communicative of his knowledge, and improved it to the good of those under his care, and therefore God resolved to make communications to him. The way to the accomplishment of God's promises: "That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him." Family-blessings arise from family religion; — temperance, frugality, industry, discretion — peace, quietness, love, harmony — the favour, protection, and care of God; His direction and aid — all necessaries (Psalm 37:25; Matthew 6:33) — prosperity, as far as will be good for us, and our families.
(J. Benson, D. D.)
Homilist.The text implies —
I. THAT A PARENT IS INVESTED WITH REGAL AUTHORITY.
II. THAT A PARENT'S AUTHORITY IS TO BE WIELDED IN SUBORDINATION TO THE DIVINE.
III. THAT A PARENT WHO THUS WIELDS HIS AUTHORITY ENSURES THE FULFILMENT OF THE DIVINE PROMISE IN HIS EXPERIENCE.
2. God's knowledge determines souls unto duty and doth commend them for it, so it did to Abraham.
3. God's known ones will command for God all within their power.
4. Children and servants are to be commanded by God's approved rulers to keep close to His way.
5. Saints known of God will take care for their seed to serve God after their departure. Succeeding generations are their care.
6. The commands of godly fathers and governors are answered fruitfully where God knoweth souls.
7. Keeping the way of Jehovah and doing justice are inseparably enjoined and performed.
8. Such souls are fittest to receive discoveries of God's purposed judgments, who make the best use of them.
9. The full accomplishment of all promises in Christ are the consequents of duty, caused by them.
10. God will bring home all the good promised in Christ unto His covenant ones.
11. God will not hide any thing that is good from the people of His promise; He showeth evil to avoid it.
12. What God hath vouchsafed and spoken to Abram hath always been with respect unto His Church's good. So in this case to the Church in his family (ver. 19).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN PARENTAL AUTHORITY, OR WHAT IT GIVES PARENTS A RIGHT TO DO IN RESPECT TO THEIR CHILDREN AND HOUSEHOLDS. And here it may be observed —
1. That it gives them the right of dedicating them to God.
2. Parental authority gives parents the right of instructing their children, as well as the right of devoting them to God.
3. Parental authority gives parents a right to restrain, as well as to instruct their children and households. Children and youth are naturally inclined to vanity and vice, from which they need to be guarded and restrained, not only by instruction, admonition and advice, but by proper authority.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISING PARENTAL AUTHORITY. This will appear, if we consider the great and happy consequences which family government tends to promote.
1. Family government directly tends to promote family religion.
2. The proper exercise of parental authority is highly important, as it tends to propagate religion from generation to generation, throughout the world.
3. The proper exercise of parental authority directly tends to promote both temporal and spiritual prosperity.Improvement —
1. If it be so important, as has been said, that parents should properly exercise parental authority over their children and households, then it is highly important that they themselves should be pious.
2. If it be so important that parents should duly exercise their parental authority over their children and households, as has been said, then they are entirely inexcusable and guilty, if they neglect to do it.
3. If the proper exercise of parental authority be so important as has been said, in order to promote and perpetuate religion, then we may discover the primary cause of the declension of religion in any place where it has prevailed and flourished. It must be primarily and principally owing to the neglect of parents in exercising their parental authority over their children and households.
4. If the proper exercise of parental authority be so important, as has been said, to promote and perpetuate religion, then we may discover the primary cause of the prevalence of religious errors at this day in this land.
5. We learn from this subject, to whom it primarily and principally belongs to bring about a reformation in piety and virtue. It certainly belongs to parents in particular. And is there a pious or sober parent, who will not acknowledge that a reformation is necessary?
(N. Emmons, D. D.)I. WE SEE THE HIGH VALUE GOD PLACES ON EARLY SPIRITUAL TRAINING. Children and servants are both to be brought under religious influence.
II. WE SEE THAT GOD NOTICES HOW SPIRITUAL TRAINING IS CARRIED ON. God could trust Abraham. He would "command," not in dictatorial tones of tyrant, but by power of consistent life. Devout advice. Gentle firmness.
III. WE SEE THAT GOD MADE THE BESTOWMENT OF INTENDED BLESSINGS DEPENDENT ON THE FAITHFUL DISCHARGE OF DUTY.
The Homiletic Review.I. The first duty of the head towards his household, relates to the DAILY WORSHIP of God.
II. RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION.
III. FAMILY GOVERNMENT.
(The Homiletic Review.)
1. Every parent or guardian of a family is in duty hound to maintain proper domestic government.
2. The religious education of the family properly devolves upon the parent.
3. God must be worshipped in the family.
4. Religion in the family will be discovered in the exemplification of the Christian temper.
II. We come to consider THE BLESSED RESULTS THAT ATTEND RELIGION IN THE FAMILY. The personal benefits, we apprehend, will be considerable; but we purpose to consider the relative advantages of religion in the family.
1. The conduct we have described will have an important bearing on the domestics, as to their future character and final destiny.
2. Your piety as parents will have an important bearing on the peace and happiness of the family. "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
3. You may further consider that your religion in the family has an important bearing on society. Society is becoming increasingly corrupt — the rising race threaten to outdo their parents in crime; iniquity abounds. The want of religion in the heads of households has contributed in no small degree to this growing deterioration.
(John Williams.)I. Now, you should observe THE PECULIARITY OF THE EXPRESSION, "I KNOW HIM THAT HE WILL COMMAND HIS CHILDREN AND HIS HOUSEHOLD AFTER HIM." Such an expression seems to imply that there is no tendency in children to walk in the right way. They have to be dealt with in the way of command — as though, if left to themselves, the almost certainty is that they will walk in the wrong. And this is a great though melancholy truth never to be lost sight of, in our reasonings upon man and religion. And the moment it is proved that children are given into our keeping with a tendency to evil, we are bound to consider that it rests with ourselves to counteract evil tendencies, just as though it were wholly dependent on us whether they should grow up into the righteous or the unrighteous. Let us learn from every instance of stubbornness in children, from every outbreak of passion, from every spiteful action, from every petty quarrel, that we are in boyhood the very miniatures of what we should all be in manhood, if it were not for the grace of God, and that therefore, in dealing with a child, we have not to deal with unoccupied soil, but with soil already impregnated with the seeds of moral evil; and, oh! let this knowledge persuade us of the importance of the duty, and also of the difficulty of thoroughly following the example of Abraham, of whom God could say — "I know him that he will command his children and his household after him. But here we come to a most important question, as to the manner in which the example may most efficiently be copied. We have a thorough belief that the great secret of training lies in the always regarding the child as immortal. The moment that this is kept out of sight we scheme and arrange as though the child had to live only upon earth, and then our plans not being commensurate with the vastness of their object will necessarily be inadequate to the securing its good. Educate on the principle that you educate for eternity, otherwise it is impossible to produce a beneficial result. If it be a sound maxim, and sound it must be, for Christ Himself delivered it, that the direct way of obtaining such things as are good for us upon earth is to " seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," what is it but the carrying this maxim into the business of education to count that the best mode of improving the mind, of forming the manners, and of fitting for a profession, is never to suffer the present world to keep the next out of sight, to draw every motive from eternity, and to make every pursuit terminate in God? Only remember, that in carrying out any theory of religious education, far more will depend on example than on precept.
II. But we come now to consider THE PROMISE WHICH IS CONTAINED IN OUR TEXT, AND WHICH MAY SERVE TO ENCOURAGE US IN OUR ENDEAVOURS TO COPY THE PATRIARCH'S EXAMPLE. "They shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." But do children who have been rightly trained always turn out well? When you come to think on what right training is, a system of example as well as of precept, you must assuredly see how likely it is that the best training has been defective — that even parents who have taken most pains have failed in thoroughly educating their children for God; and of course it is vain to urge that the Divine promise has not been accomplished, so long as there could be doubt as to whether the condition on which it is made has been rigidly complied with. But having delivered this caution, we may proceed to state our thorough conviction, that when parents have done their best to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord, the almost invariable result is, that, sooner or later, these children become what they have wished them to be. It is not that children will walk from the first without any deviation in the course which the parent anxiously prescribes; there is no promise to this effect in Scripture; Solomon only says of the child trained in the right way, that "when he is old he will not depart from it"; and the word rendered "old" does not mark youth or manhood, as distinguished from infancy or child-hood — it belongs strictly to the decline of life, to the season of decrepitude and grey hairs. It is the word used, for example, of Isaac, when it is said — "And it came to pass, when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim." Our text, as we have already said, by the using the words "after him" seems equally to be looking on to some distant day, as if God would throw parents altogether on their faith, and emphatically warn them against thinking labour lost, because as yet they can discern none of its fruits. In place of despairing, ought not the stubbornness of the soil to be but an argument for increased diligence in all the arts of moral husbandry — seeing that it is on "patient continuance in well-doing" that a recompense is promised by the word of our God? We find, then, the greatest material for consolation in such a passage as our text. We would not ask a stronger encouragement. The emphatic remonstrance of a parent with a dissolute child is not necessarily thrown away because the child persists in his dissoluteness; it may come up with all the touching tones of the remembered voice when the parent has long lain in the grave, and work remorse and contrition in the prodigal.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. Let us first consider the duties of parents to their children in the years of INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD. The first anxiety of the parents will be about the infant's reception into the Church. And it is a question of no light or ill-considered moment with the pious parents to determine who shall undertake for the child in that holy sacrament; who, in the event of their own early removal, would be most likely to enter into the responsibilities and sanctity of sponsorship, and so give a practical reality to that orphan's promise, "When my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up." I shall presume to offer suggestions to mothers bearing on the treatment of children in their very earliest years.
1. Thus I exhort you to begin cultivating, even in infancy, the principle of prompt and unquestioning obedience.
2. Passing, however, from the infant stage to that commonly designated as childhood, I proceed to offer some suggestions on the best mode of cultivating the religious affections at this period.
3. But, in connection with the formation of the religious character in childhood, we must consider how far it is expedient to impress upon the mind at this tender age anything of stated and compulsory attention to the practical duties and exercises of the Christian life.
II. But let us proceed to consider the duties devolving on parents towards their children at the second stage, or the PERIOD USUALLY ASSIGNED TO THEIR SCHOOL LIFE. But, in relation to the treatment of children at this period of life, the point which of all others will be found to task parental judgment and discrimination most is how to order the discipline of correction or reproof. The discipline itself must, of course, begin from the very earliest period. Let us see what forms of correction seem to be here forbidden.
1. Thus the language may be taken to forbid all angry and intemperate correction,
2. Again, these prohibitions of the apostles extend to that cold, distant, and forbidding demeanour which some fathers think essential to the maintenance of parental authority; but which, in effect, turns the reverence of children into slavish fear.
3. But these are negative directions. What suggestions are to be offered towards a plan of temperate, judicious, and yet firm and effectual correction? Of these some are obvious and general; as, for instance, that all correction be administered upon principles of the most righteous fairness. Again, it should always be apparent to children that you are driven to the use of correction by a loving necessity — by the affection you bear to their souls.
4. But a more important direction for the administering of reproof is to be given, founded on the law for dealing with offenders, laid down by our Lord Himself. "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee thou hast gained thy brother." Here is an excellent model for parental reproofs. First, let a little time elapse after the wrong is done to give opportunity for reflection.
III. The third class of suggestions to be offered on the duties which parents owe to their children has respect to the interval between the CLOSE OF THE EDUCATION PERIOD and the time when the parental roof is quitted, and entrance has to be made on the active duties of life.
1. And here the first subject of anxious thought to the parent will be a devout and earnest preparation for the rite of Confirmation.
2. A second counsel for this period goes to recommend a careful avoidance of all needless and irritating restrictions upon children; all tightly held reins upon their reasonable choice and liberty; all those offending reminders of an unmitigated and unlightened yoke which might tempt them to leave the parental roof before the time.
3. We may conclude with one other suggestion having reference to the choice of a calling for our children, or their ultimate settlement in life.
(D. Moore, M. A.)I. THE DUTY OF FAMILY RELIGION IS CLEARLY DERIVED FROM SCRIPTURE BY THE CASE OF ABRAHAM. When it is said that God knew, that is, approved him in his conduct, in that he commanded his children and household after him, we must consider such approbation extended to all who tread in the steps of Abraham in this particular. It is clearly the duty of every Christian to do all the good which he can during the time of his sojourn here upon earth, whether as relates to the bodies or the souls of men. The more nearly persons are allied to us, the more binding is the duty. The master of a family then must improve his talent. His influence and authority is a sacred trust to be accounted for at the great day. I infer, therefore, upon these grounds the duty of family prayer. In addition to this, all the members of a household have many wants and share many blessings in common, and therefore all should join together in a common service of prayer and praise.
II. Having thus pointed out the duty of family prayer, WE MAY CONSIDER THE ADVANTAGES RESULTING FROM IT. It is an acknowledgment day by day of God's right over us, of our dependence on Him for everything which we enjoy, either as relates to time or eternity. It is a solemn memento to all the members of a household that God is greatly to be feared. It is a positive channel by which our heavenly Father conveys multiplied blessings to those who wait upon Him. Moreover it tends to unite together the members of a family, and to lessen those jars and dissensions which often interrupt the peace of households.
III. But THERE ARE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF FAMILY PRAYER TO BE CONSIDERED. First, as to the time and manner of conducting it. Only determine to begin the practice, and the fit time will easily be found. But again, a difficulty may be urged that persons are not always in a becoming state of mind to pray, and that therefore it is not desirable or advantageous to appoint a set time for prayer. This would be a valid argument against all appointed seasons of prayer whatever, and I believe that we enter upon most dangerous ground in admitting any force in such an objection. We must stir up the gift of God within us, and this most especially by calling upon Him to enable us to pray, and by setting ourselves to pray in dependence on the Holy Spirit who helpeth our infirmities.
IV. We have now to consider How FAMILY PRAYER OUGHT TO BE CONDUCTED. Let it be done with gravity, reverence, and seriousness, as becomes the Almighty Being whom we are going to address, and in whose special presence we are about to appear. Let this be done, where it is possible, both morning and evening; in the morning before the members of the family disperse to their several employments, and in the evening at a convenient hour before they retire to rest.
(H. J. Hastings, M. A.)I. The OBLIGATION we are under to maintain the worship of God in our families.
1. And here we will first of all observe that family worship is reasonable in itself. Shall the father of a human family be respected in his person, acknowledged in his authority, and loved for his paternal kindness; and shall the one common Father of all, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of mankind, and the God of all our mercies, remain unrespected, unacknowledged, unloved?
2. Moreover, family worship comes recommended to us by many scriptural examples. Joshua's well-known determination was: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." When David had brought the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obed-edom, and set it in the midst of the tent which he had pitched for it, he "returned to bless his house." Job, fearing lest his sons in the unchecked gaiety of their hearts should blaspheme the Lord, "rose up early in the morning and offered sacrifices for them all," and "thus did Job continually." Cornelius was "a devout man — one that feared God with all his house, and prayed to God alway." We read of the Saviour praying with His disciples as well as for them, and often did He privately instruct them.
II. The ADVANTAGES derivable from family worship.
1. The continuance and prevalence of piety in our families is, in a good measure, assured by family worship.
2. Family worship, too, when prudently conducted, is attended with this advantage — it tends to promote unity and peace in households.
3. Another great advantage resulting almost necessarily from the practice of family worship is the preservation of a sense of Divine anal spiritual things in the mind.
4. A further advantage derivable from family worship is the efficiency it gives to ministerial labour.
5. And whatever advantage the worship and service of God in our families failed to produce, our performance of a plain and acknowledged duty would bring with it its own rich reward. As in Psalm 19:11, we read, "In keeping God's commandments there is a great reward."
III. The EXCUSES made for neglecting family worship.
1. An excuse made by many for neglecting family worship is want of ability to pray in the presence of others, or to lead a family's devotions. Now, it so happens that this is almost the only case in which people pretend to have a very mean opinion of their own abilities. But, admitting you have no ability to do so, you may seek and ask it.
2. Others, again, will say, We fear being ridiculed; we fear we shall be thought too strict and precise in our domestic habits. Here, however, I would observe: The irreligion of the multitude should be a powerful incentive with us to cherish religious habits and the fear of God in our houses.
3. Another excuse urged by some is, We have no time. Bring this excuse to the Bible. Abraham had flocks and herds exceeding many, and very much cattle. Job, too, had the same. Joshua was the leader and commander of all the armies of Israel. David occupied a throne, and had all the cares of government on his mind. But have you really no leisure? — none for amusement?
4. A final excuse we shall notice is this, Fear of personal restraint. This excuse, if we mistake not, lies at the root of almost every other. Let the heart be examined, and many a one will find there, "I am fearful of a restraint upon myself; I am afraid if I have daily family worship in my house I shall not be able to indulge myself and enjoy the world as I am disposed to do; more will be expected from me then than is expected now; I must be consistent; if I say, 'Hallowed be Thy name,' I must not take the name of God in vain.
(W. Mudge, B. A.)
Moral and Religious Anecdotes.Some females, says The St. Louis Observer, met at the house of a friend, in this city, for an evening visit, when the following scene and conversation occurred: — The child of one of the females, about five years old, was guilty of rude, noisy conduct, very improper on all occasions, and particularly so at a stranger's house. The mother kindly reproved her. "Sarah, you must not do so." The child soon forgot the reproof, and became as noisy as ever. The mother firmly said, "Sarah, if you do so again I will punish you." But not long after Sarah " did so again." When the company were about to separate, the mother stepped into a neighbour's house, intending to return for the child. During her absence the thought of going home recalled to the mind of Sarah the punishment which her mother told her she might expect. The recollection turned her rudeness and thoughtlessness to sorrow. A young lady present observing it, and learning the cause, in order to pacify her, said, "Never mind, I will ask your mother not to whip you." "Oh," said Sarah, "that will do no good; my mother never tells lies." Said my informant, who is also a parent, "I learned a lesson from the reply of that child which I shall never forget. It is worth everything in the training of a child to make it feel that its mother never tells lies."
(Moral and Religious Anecdotes.)
(H. W. Beecher from his last public letter.)A child who had been trained in the ways of religion by a parent who was kind, but judiciously firm, as she sunk to rest in peaceful reliance on her Saviour's love, affectionately thanked her beloved mother for all her tender care and kindness, but added, "I thank you most of all for having subdued my self-will." And why so much gratitude for the mother's faithful discipline? Doubtless because the child regarded it as preparatory to the submission of her will to God, and thus instrumental of her salvation.parias, which, because it cannot reach to the nest, maketh to the windward, and breathes out its poison, so that the air being infected, the eagle's young may be destroyed; but by way of prevention, the eagle, by a natural instinct, keepeth a kind of agate stone in her nest, which, being placed against the wind, preserveth her young. Satan, the crooked serpent, is ever busy to poison the air in thine house, and thereby to destroy thyself, servants, and whole household. The only stone for prevention is to set up religion.
(J. Hamilton, D. D.)
(H. G. Salter.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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