Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Wells of Living Water Commentary Wells of Living Water
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Genesis 13". "Living Water". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ lwc/ genesis-13.html.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Genesis 13". "Living Water". https://studylight.org/
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Abram and Lot
Let us bring before you the "as" and "so" of the Lord's Return. The days of Lot are likened unto the days of the Coming of the Son of Man.
Our Lord did not hesitate to reach back into the historical, distant past, and then look forward to the prophetical, distant future, and say, "as" and "so."
He knew the details of the days of Lot, for He was there. He knew the details of the day of His Coming, for He lives in one eternal "now," and He is there. That which is "misty" to man is "clear sky" to Him.
In the days of Lot the wickedness of man had come to the full, and the judgments of God, with miraculous power, fell upon man to his utter undoing.
In the days of the Coming of the Son of Man, the world will be ripe in its iniquity and sin; and the judgments of God will again fall in miraculous power.
The judgments of God in those days will be followed in close parallel in the day of Christ's Return to the Mount of Olives. The comparisons of those days of Lot, with the times of the ending of this age, are too many for the space of our study.
With bowed head, we marvel at the majesty of the Lord's vision, as He spoke this "as" and "so." His words went across the whole opinion of man. He dared to say what unregenerate man had never dared or cared to say. The world wants smooth words, and flattering words, words of optimism, and of the "upward trend." Christ spoke words to the contrary.
The world wants us to prophesy "success," Christ prophesied "failure." The Lord even brought the success of the ministrations of the Spirit, and of the Church, in this day of grace, into seeming disrepute. He was, however, in fact, not speaking of the Spirit's failure, nor of the Church's collapse, He was only showing that man, even under such benign privileges, would prove himself altogether corrupted.
The wonder of wonders is that the nineteen hundred years that have passed since our Lord reached back to the days of Lot, and said, "As," and then looked down to the days of His Coming again, and said "so," have proved that the Lord's words were true. The "so" of our day is even now fast running into the mold of the "as" of that early historic day. It is now as it was then. Our conclusion is that we are drawing very near to the days of the Coming of the Son of Man.
Just this one word more. Let no man become discouraged or shaken in his faith by means of the present apostasy, and the prevailing world-wickedness of men. The present day, with all of its sin and sorrow, should only settle, strengthen, and establish faith, for Christ's own prophecy has become history; His "as" has become "so," even as He said.
I. ABRAM WAS VERY RICH (Genesis 13:2 )
There are some who imagine that being rich is impossible for real saints. How then about Abram? It is the love of money which is the root of all evil. They who will be rich pierce themselves through with many sorrows.
1. The bane of wealth. The bane of wealth is to love money, and to set one's affection upon it. He who loves his money will make money for money's sake. He will hoard his riches, gloat upon his wealth, and, in every way prove himself miserly. No matter what the need of others may be, he will hoard all he has, and close his ears to every cry of the poor. He will lay his treasures up for himself.
2. The blessing of riches. In the first place, Abram did not obtain his riches through worldly means. It was God who increased his store. When the king of Sodom wanted to enrich Abram, the Patriarch said, "I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich."
Again, Abram never counted himself more than a mere tent dweller. He had much of this world's riches, yet he never set his heart on such things. He lived looking for a City whose Builder and Maker is God. At any moment Abram was ready to let go all that he possessed that he might enter into that richer inheritance above.
One other thing, we are sure that Abram used his goods to help others. His spirit of fairness to his nephew Lot is so plainly seen in today's study, as he gave Lot the first choice of the land, that we believe this same spirit marked his whole career.
II. LOT ALSO WAS RICH (Genesis 13:5 )
Why did Christ say, "As in the days of Lot," and not "as in the days of Abraham?" The Lord was giving a picture of world-end conditions. He said that those conditions would be like the days of Lot. Not like Lot, alone, but like the days of Lot.
1. Lot's day was a day of eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage. This, some one may say, is the case of all days. True; however, there was something in these very things that distinguishes them. All may eat and drink, all may buy and sell, all may marry and give in marriage, but the ideals that govern these necessary marks of daily living are distinct in different people. Some there are who do good and needed things in a wrong way. They abuse their rightful privileges.
It is all right to eat and drink, it is all wrong to be intemperate, and given to surfeiting. It is all right to marry and to give in marriage, but it is all wrong to be given over to licentiousness and lewdness, and to marry out of the will of the Lord.
It is all right to buy and sell, but it is all wrong to be given over to the love of money, and to heap up treasures for the satisfying of the lustings of the flesh.
Abram did all of these things but he did none of them as Lot did them. Abram sent Eliezar a long way, back to Haran to get a wife for Isaac. Abram was rich, he did not enrich himself on the king of Sodom or the Sodomites.
Lot married his daughters into the fast life of Sodom, and he sought to dwell in Sodom in order to enrich himself with Sodom's money.
The "days of Lot" were days of sinful shame and lusting. Into that method of living and thinking Lot soon became engulfed. His family also became engulfed with him, and so deeply so, that two of his daughters and their husbands were lost in the overthrow of Sodom, while his wife turned back and became a pillar of salt.
III. THEY COULD NOT DWELL TOGETHER (Genesis 13:6 )
Abram was rich in cattle. Lot also, who went with him, had flocks and herds and tents. The time came when there was strife between Abram's herdsmen and Lot's herdsmen. Then, they were forced to separate.
Abram said unto Lot, "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee * * for we be brethren," In all of this there is a tremendous lesson for us. If two groups cannot agree, and they yet be brethren, let them separate in peace. Striving among saints is very grievous to the Lord, and its fruit is contention, bitterness, and evil words.
In our day we have seen groups of saints who had no vital differences about them, separating from one another simply because they could not agree on some method of operation. If they had merely separated in peace it would not have been so bad, however, they who had been in sweet fellowship immediately after their separation began to malign one another. Why do saints not follow the beautiful spirit which marked Abram's separation from Lot? They separated to avoid strife and not to engender it. Together they could not walk in peace, apart, they could and did maintain a true fraternity.
IV. ABRAM'S CORDIALITY TOWARD LOT (Genesis 13:9 )
When the time of separation came, Abram said unto Lot, "Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."
Whatever else may be said this action on the part of Abram was magnanimous. Abram showed nothing at all by way of avarice or of self-seeking. He simply gave his nephew Lot a full sweep of everything, Abram was the senior and he was also the superior. It was Lot who had gone with Abram, not Abram with Lot. Abram could rightfully have taken the first choice; he could even have commanded Lot to have gone to the left, or to the right. He rather gave Lot the place of precedence, and of choice.
Abram was sincerely more concerned with the things of Lot than with his own things. Should not our greatest joy be to prove a blessing to others? Should we forever be thinking of self, living for self, and laying up treasures for self? God forbid.
Jesus Christ went about doing good. When He left Heaven, He left in behalf of others. When He lived, He lived for others. When He died, He died for others. Most remarkable of all, the "others" for whom He lived, to whom He came, and for whom He died, were "enemies." For a good man some would dare to die, but Christ commended His love, in that, while we were yet sinners, He died for us.
The Apostle Paul followed in the footsteps of his Lord. He, also, went about in the interest of others. He yielded up all that the world might have given him, that he might give his best to men.
V. LOT'S SELF-SEEKING (Genesis 13:10-11 )
With a free hand before him, Lot, in the spirit of self-consideration and self-advantage, lifted up his eyes. He did not say unto his uncle Abram, "Take thou the choicest of the land." He chose the best for himself. This was all in direct contrast to the spirit that dominated Abram.
The true character of Lot now began to exert itself. He beheld that the plain of the Jordan was well-watered everywhere, so he chose all the plain, and journeyed East. He journeyed into a land that seemed to him to be the garden of the Lord. As he parted that day from Abram, and took up his march he went as he believed into a land of fatness. He felt that prosperity and power were his. No doubt, Lot thought that with the wonderful pastures for his cattle and with Sodom and Gomorrah as the market for their sale, he would soon eclipse his uncle in. riches.
In all of this Lot went contrary to the spirit of his Heavenly Master. God has said, "Seekest thou great things for thyself, seek them not." Again, God has said, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
He who lives for self-glory or riches will surely come to poverty. He who seeketh his own will sooner or later succumb under the power of selfishness.
Lot did not seek Divine guidance. He was his own guide. He thought that he could see a long way off, but he was in fact shortsighted. Had Lot gone to God, God would no doubt have told him that while the land he chose seemed a goodly land, yet, it would lead him to poverty instead of plenty, and to sorrow instead of song.
It is not in a man to direct his own steps. The difficulty with us is that we are shortsighted and cannot see afar off. We know not what a day may bring forth. We know not what obstacles lie before us. Let us ask God to make our choices.
VI. PITCHING TOWARD SODOM (Genesis 13:12 )
How significant are the words, "Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom"! The goal of Lot's ambition was Sodom. The cities of the plain were only steppingstones toward his ideal.
As Lot moved his way toward Sodom, he was steadily pressing toward an ideal which to him seemed the greatest good in life.
He and his wife, no doubt, talked over the wonderful hour when they could reach Sodom, a city which stood for the climax of world dominion and power. Their dream was not only to dwell in Sodom, but to wield the power of plenty and position among its people. Lot sought human greatness and human authority.
It was not a matter of one day, but of weeks and months before Lot attained his ideal. We would ask every young person to ponder the path which they are now treading, and to lift their eyes toward the city of their dreams. Remember, they that will be rich pierce themselves through with many sorrows. Remember, that those who love the world and the things which are in it cannot truly love the Father.
How the words ring out, "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." Perhaps, as Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, he was thinking not so much of the villainy of the Sodomites as of his own wealth and attainments.
When wealth, however, is secured at the cost of spiritual life and contact, it will prove a curse instead of a blessing. When, becoming rich is dependent upon becoming mixed and mingled with the wicked and with sinners, riches had better be foregone.
There is something more valuable than money. There is something more profitable than success that something is the favor of the Lord with peace and joy of heart.
VII. ABRAM'S RICH REWARD (Genesis 13:14 )
It was just after Lot had separated himself from Abram and had started on his way toward Sodom; it was just after Abram had told Lot that the whole land lay before him, and that he, Lot, could take his choice it was then that the Lord appeared unto Abram.
To Abram the Lord said, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever."
Surely it is better to let God direct one's life. The Lord has said, "The liberal soul shall be made fat," and God certainly enriched Abram.
When the Lord said to Abram, "All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it," He included the very land which Abram had just given to Lot.
The sorrow in Lot's choice was that Lot was to attain to a height of glory and honor and power, with riches, only to fall. He got, only to lose. He builded for a fire. He laid up store where moth and rust corrupt.
"With Abram it was different. That which God gave to Abram was by Divine decree secured unto Abram's sons, yea, God gave the land unto Abram and his seed forever. The wily Turk and the roaming Arab are usurpers today in the land of Palestine. They may hold certain deeds to certain properties in and around Jerusalem, but in the archives of Heaven, the deeds are made out granting that land unto Abram and to his seed forever.
As we stand thirty-five hundred years down the stream of time, since God told Abram that the land was his forever, what do we see? We see the Children of Israel, Abram's seed, once more turning their faces toward the promised land. They are about to inherit every foot of ground that God ever gave to Abram.
How much better, therefore, was Abram's choice than Lot's! Lot chose soil and "land and lost it. Abram chose God and as a result he got soil as an everlasting possession.
Abram's riches in grace were made ripe in trials and testings.
Mr. Spurgeon said:
"' Fruit that hath but little sun can never be ripe.' We have had practical proof of this, for during the year 1879, there being a scant measure of sunshine, the fruit was never properly ripened, and was therefore destitute of flavor and sweetness. Whatever might be its outward appearance, the berry was insipid and altogether unlike what the sun would have made it had he smiled upon the swelling fruit.
Thus, without communion with God, no soul can develop its graces, neither can those graces become what they should be. No measure of care or effort can make up for the light of the Father's face; neither can attendance upon means of grace nor the use of religious exercises supply the lack. Fellowship with God we must have, or the essential honey of love will be deficient, the bloom of joy will be wanting, the aroma of zeal and earnestness will be missed. We may have the virtues by name, and we may exhibit some feeble, insipid imitation of them, but the secret savor and mystic richness of grace will not be in us unless we abide in the full light of Divine love.
Lord, evermore be as the sun unto our souls, that we may be as fruit fully ripe, attaining to all the perfection and maturity of which our nature is capable."
Where Lookest Thou
Genesis 13:8-11 ; Genesis 18:20-22 ; Genesis 19:25-28
Our Scripture today presents four looks toward Sodom. 1. There was the look of Lot, or the look of worldly advantage. 2. There was the look of the Lord, or the look of coming judgment. 3. There was the look of Lot's wife, or the look of folly and of pride. 4. There was the look of Abraham, or the look of compassionate submission. Let us examine these four looks, one at a time.
1. The look of Lot. There had been a strife betwixt Abraham's herdsmen, and the herdsmen of Lot. Abraham realized that the time for separation had come.
There are some who may feel that Lot had a keen business vision, and that he could see a dollar a long way off. We agree, but we add that Lot's vision was circumscribed by his own personal advantage, and that, in reality, he was blinded and could not see afar.
2. The look of the Lord. This was the look of judgment. The Lord saw everything that Lot saw, but he saw more than Lot saw. The Lord beheld in Sodom a city that reeked with sin. He beheld the wreckage that would come to Lot and his family by reason of Lot's foolish choice.
"The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him." Those same eyes, however, look in judgment upon all whose heart wanders from the Lord.
3. The look of Lot's wife. As they fled from Sodom, Lot's wife turned, and looked back. We can hardly wonder at her folly. Everything she loved was in Sodom. She had left the daughters, who had married Sodomites, and her sons-in-law behind her. She had left her friends of fashion and of pomp behind her. She had left her beautiful home and its luxuries behind her. She had left more than all of this she had left the affections of her own heart behind her.
When Lot's wife looked toward Sodom, she looked toward her treasures, and toward those things which were dearer to her than life. Let us fear lest we, too, become entangled again in a yoke of bondage, and begin to long after the "flesh pots of Egypt," and thus look back.
4. The look of Abraham. Abraham had prayed earnestly for Lot. The result of Abraham's prayer was that Lot and his two daughters were saved. God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out.
I. PRAYER, AND THE UPWARD LOOK (2 Chronicles 20:12 )
Moab and Ammon came against Jehoshaphat to battle. They were a great multitude, and Jehoshaphat was afraid. Then Jehoshaphat prayed unto the Lord and said, "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee."
In answer to Jehoshaphat's prayer, the enemy was overthrown. We need to place our eyes upon God. God has said, "Fret not thyself because of evil doers." To the contrary, we must learn to "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." When everything seems against us, it is only God's opportunity to show His strength. Sometimes, in earnest prayer, we need to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." Habakkuk came to the place where the fig tree did not blossom, neither was there fruit in the vine; the labour of the olive failed, and the fields yielded no meat; the flock was cut off from the fold, and no herd was found in the stall: yet, the Prophet said, "I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
It was the clinging prayer of Jacob that made him a victor. It is when we come to the end of ourselves, and lift up our face with beseeching unto God, that He comes to our help.
God has said, "My grace is sufficient for thee." It is sufficient everywhere. What we must do is to lift up our eyes unto the Lord, and get in touch with His power. We will. always find that there is a larger balance to the credit of faith when we draw upon Heavenly resources.
II. SERVICE, THE OUTWARD LOOK (John 4:35-36 )
The Lord told the disciples to lift up their eyes, and to look, for the fields were white unto the harvest. When our eyes were upon the fields for service, His eyes would be upon us for blessing. When the Children of Israel faced the land of Canaan, God told them to enter in, and to possess the land. Then, said God, "I will be with thee."
We fail to receive from God, because we refuse to undertake for God. He who sits still, and never ventures, in faith, will find God waiting for him to step out, instead of working for Him.
The eyes of the Lord are looking for men ready to leave father, mother, brother, sister, houses and lands, that they may go forth to reap.
Do you see the ripened fields? Do you hear the voice of God saying, "Who will go and reap?" God grant that you may say, "Here am I, Lord, send me."
When the Lord commanded Joshua, saying, "Arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people," there was no time for fear, no time to weigh the difficulties of the wilderness. What mattered if there were difficulties ahead; God had commanded, "Go!" They dared not hesitate.
The Lord told Philip to go in the road which was desert. Immediately Philip arose and went. Can we not even now hear the voice of God saying to us, even as He said to Israel of old, "Go forward"?
The Lord Himself has promised, "I will be with thee." We must not cease to go until we have preached the Gospel to every creature; until every stock of ripened grain has been harvested home.
If barriers lie across our way, they will disappear before our march of faith.
'Tis the voice of the Master, "Press forward today,
The fields are all ripened with grain";
'Tis the voice of the servant, 'I'll haste to obey,
Not counting the cost, but the gain."
III. CONFLICT, THE INWARD LOOK (Romans 7:18-24 )
When we look within and view our human heart, in its sinful estate, we are crushed, even to despair. Paul said, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Do you marvel that Paul then cried, "O wretched man that I am"? The vision of his own sinful self was enough to cause him to bemoan himself.
It is always true that when we look within and see the contumely of our old man, we are disturbed and disheartened. What then shall we do? Let us reckon the old man as dead. Let us refuse to listen to its voice, to walk in its ways, or to fulfil its desires.
On the contrary, let us look away to the Holy Spirit, remembering that He, likewise, dwells within. If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. If we walk in the Spirit, our moans of despair will be changed into paeans of victory. Instead of self-condemnation, we will have "no condemnation." Instead of the works of the flesh being made manifest, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
The believer must guard against being overwhelmed by introspection. He must remember that Jesus Christ is stronger than self, that the Holy Spirit will give deliverance from the dominion of the self-life.
It is unwise for the Christian to boast in the flesh, or to walk by the flesh, or to pamper the flesh. Paul said, "I die daily." There is only one place for the self-life and that is on the Cross, to be crucified with Christ. It we live the life of victory, we must not walk by the old man, but by the new man.
Christ has said, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself." In the Christian experience Christ must be All, and in all, and the old man nothing at all.
IV. RETROSPECTION, THE BACKWARD LOOK (2 Timothy 4:8 )
As Paul looked backward over a fruitful ministry, and a faithful life, he could say, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." Here is a retrospective that was worth the while.
We need to look backward now and then, not with the spirit of boastfulness, but with the spirit of honest contemplation.
At the end of every day it will profit us to study what has been done, and said, and thought. Thus we can profit by our mistakes, and increase our victories. The first will cause us to be more careful; and the second will bring us encouragement by the way.
In retrospection, however, we must never be overwhelmed or discouraged by reason of our failure; nor, must we be satisfied with our successes. We must watch against resting upon our past accomplishments. We should use what God has done through us in the past, as an incentive to renewed and enlarged undertakings in the future.
If we would make our final retrospective, at the close of life's day, a cause for thanksgiving and praise, we must be very careful to fill in each day, as it passes, with faithful service; with fidelity to the faith; and with holy living.
When the Lord Jesus approached the end of His earthly ministry, He said, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."
V. THE PERSPECTIVE, THE ONWARD LOOK (Habakkuk 2:3 )
We like the word spoken by Habakkuk: "For the vision is yet for an appointed time * * though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."
As we look at present world-conditions we are disheartened. We are walking through a valley of the shadow of death. Sin and sorrow are wreaking out misery everywhere. Satan is renewing every effort against the race.
The Word of God promises no relief. Unto the end wars are determined. Evil men are to wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. Iniquity will abound. God paints no roseate picture of the last days. He tells us, rather, that "perilous times shall come."
What Habakkuk saw, however, was a vision that looked on far beyond the present hour, far beyond the hour of Jacob's trouble. We know that Habakkuk saw the overthrow of Israel, and the cup of sorrow which she must drink; but he saw also the Lord coming, with His glory covering the Heavens, and he saw the earth full of His praise. He saw Christ coming in judgment against the nations that had despoiled Israel. He saw the sun and moon standing still as the Lord's arrows went forth. He saw the Lord marching through the land in indignation, threshing the heathen in His anger. Then, he saw the salvation of God's people, with the head of the house of the wicked cut down.
We need a similar vision. We would not be blind to the day of wrath that is about to fall upon the earth, but we would see also another day, a day of peace, a day when men shall beat the swords into plowshares, and the spears into pruninghooks; a day when Christ shall reign in righteousness.
If we see nothing but the present hour, heading up in the reign and rule of the antichrist, we will become discouraged; but, if we see beyond that hour, the day of "the Lord seated upon His throne," we will become encouraged and full of blessed anticipation.
VI. DISCOURAGEMENT, THE DOWNWARD LOOK (Genesis 4:5-6 )
Sin had entered into the Garden, and man had been expelled therefrom. Cain and Abel had been born with the ravages of sin upon them. Abel had placed his faith in the blood of a sacrifice, which anticipated the Cross of Christ. Cain had rejected the atonement, and had placed his faith in a bloodless sacrifice art ethical conception.
In jealousy Cain rose up and slew his brother. When Cain had seen that God accepted Abel and rejected himself, he was wroth, and his countenance fell. The result of sin is always a downcast look a fallen countenance.
God made man an "uplooker." He placed his head on the top of him. He gave him as his realm of his contemplation and vision, the things which were high and holy. Sin changed man's perspective; it turned his face from the skies, where God rules; to the earth, where man dwells.
The sinner looks at the things seen, not at the things unseen; he centers his affections upon the things of the earth, not upon the things of the sky.
Saints are "uplookers" and not "downlookers." We are looking for that Blessed Hope, and the Glorious Appearing of our Lord. We are building our treasures in Heaven, not upon the earth. We are strangers and pilgrims, journeying toward a City, whose Builder and Maker is God.
The man who, Cain-like, has his countenance downcast, and is living for this present world, is blind and cannot see afar off. The god of this world hath veiled his eyes lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of God should shine in upon him and convert him.
VII. ENCOURAGEMENT, THE GOD-WARD LOOK (2 Kings 6:17 )
Gehazi must have trembled with fear as he saw the enemy closing in upon Elisha, Then it was that the Prophet prayed, and said, "Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see." What Gehazi saw was the mountain full of God's horses and chariots, giving protection to His Prophet.
We need the vision which God gave to Gehazi. We need to see all Heaven working in our behalf. When this is before us, we will lift up the hands that hang down and find strength for our feeble knees.
Instead of looking at our emergencies, we should look beyond them, and above them to God's provision and power. When the Children of Israel saw the mountains on one side, the sea before them, and Pharaoh's hosts coming upon them and closing them in, they needed to look away to God.
The hosts of the Lord are an innumerable multitude, and they are all working in our behalf. The Lord, Himself, has placed at our disposal all of the power invested in Him, as He sits enthroned above.
Retreat should never be found in the Christian's vocabulary. We should not even try to go around our difficulties. We should press through them.
The ten spies came back, saying, "We saw giants." Joshua and Caleb said, "Let us go up at once" they saw God.
There are giants at every turn. They are in our family life; they are in our business careers; they are in our spiritual walk; they are everywhere. If we see the powers of God around us, we will say, "They be bread for us; we will eat them up." Without the opening of our eyes, and the faith which the vision of God instills, we will be eaten up by our enemies.
Our God is a God of infinite power. Our battle, therefore, is a battle with a sure conquest at its close. We will prove more than victors, through Him who loved us. We may experience a continuous fight, but we will have a glorious conclusion.
BIRDS ON THE WING
"Birds are seldom taken in their flight; the more we are upon the wing of Heavenly thoughts the more we escape snares." "O that we would remember this, and never tarry long on the ground lest the fowler ensnare us. We need to be much taken up with Divine things, rising in thought above these temporal matters, or else the world will entangle us, and we shall be like birds held with limed twigs, or encompassed in a net. Holy meditation can scarcely be overdone; in this age we fear it never is. We are too worldly, and think too much of the fleeting trifles of time, and so the enemy gets an advantage of us, and takes a shot at us. O for more wing and more use of the flight we have! Communion with Jesus is not only sweet in itself, but it has a preserving power by bearing us aloft, above gun-shot of the enemy. Thoughts of Heaven prevent discontent with our present lot, delight in God drives away love to the world, and joy in our Lord Jesus expels pride and carnal pleasure: thus we escape from many evils by rising above them.
Up, then, my heart. Up from the weedy ditches and briery hedges of the world into the clear atmosphere of Heaven. There where the dews of grace are born, and the sun of righteousness is Lord paramount, and the blessed wind of the Spirit blows from the everlasting hills, thou wilt find rest on the wing, and sing for joy where thine enemies cannot even see thee."
Faith as Exemplified in Abraham
Genesis 12:1-4 , Genesis 12:7-9 ; Genesis 13:14-18
1. Does God still speak to men as He spoke to Abraham? Our Scripture opens with the statement, "Now the Lord had said unto Abram * *." If the Lord said something to Abraham, may He not also say something to us? Does the Lord still guide men into His perfect will?
The Lord said unto Abraham, "Get thee * * unto a land that I will shew thee." The Lord, therefore, undertook to guide Abraham along the way; does He guide us? What we want to know is whether it is possible for a man in the 20th century A. D. to have a contact, personal and direct, with God, such as Abraham had centuries before Christ? Has God changed in His methods?
There is one thing we know; God's direct method of dealing with men is seen from the first verse of the Bible to the last verse of the Bible. We believe that He is now doing the same thing.
Are the ones reading these words guided of God?
2. Does God still make promises to men? God said unto Abraham, "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing."
Are the days past and gone when we can count on God's direct promises to us? We know that the Lord told the disciples, "I am with you"; and we know that He said that He would be with us to the end of the world. Is He, therefore, with us personally and individually?
If you feel that you are left out, is it because God left you out, or is it because you yourself have never yielded to Him? because you have never shown any willingness to follow when He spoke?
3. Did the promise God made to Abraham fail? God said:
(1) That He would show Abraham a land; and He did. He showed him the land of Canaan, and told him that He would give that land unto him, and unto his seed.
(2) He told Abraham that He would make of him a great nation. He has done this. What people is there like unto the people of Israel? This is a nation from the loins of Abraham.
(3) He told Abraham that He would make his name great. Is Abraham's name great? Even the rebellious rulers of Israel said, "We have Abraham to our father."
(4) God said, "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee." We believe that this is true to this day. God pity the individuals, or the nations, which set themselves against the Children of Israel, Abraham's seed; God's curse will rest upon them; the years have proved this. On the other hand, those who bless Abraham's seed are blessed.
4. Did Abraham prove himself a man of faith? Genesis 12:4 begins, "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him." In the Book of Hebrews it says that he went out not knowing whither he went. How many saints are there, today, who would pack up their goods, take their families, and start anywhere without knowing where they were going? Abraham did this. Genesis 12:4 tells us, "Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him." Genesis 12:5 says, "They went forth to go into the land of Canaan." Genesis 12:6 says "Abram passed through the land." Genesis 12:8 , "He removed from thence unto a mountain on the east." Genesis 12:9 , "And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south." Genesis 12:10 says, "Abram went down into Egypt."
I. FAITH WAVERING (Genesis 12:9-12 )
As Abraham moved along his way, he found difficulties. Tests always follow the walk of faith.
1. The promise restated. The 7th verse of Genesis 12:1-20 says, "And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land." He delights in holding before us what He has in view. It is this that we need to keep before our eyes.
David said, "I have set the Lord always before me." Of Moses it is written that he saw the invisible. True men of God look far beyond the present, into the future.
2. The famine. Genesis 12:10 tells us that there was a famine in the land. It did not seem at all as Abraham, perhaps, had imagined. When the famine came Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there. Abraham seemed to forget that wherever God sends us, He can keep us. God proved, in later years, that He could feed obedient servants with manna for bread; and with quails for meat. He proved that He could take water out of a flinty rock, where there was no water. Abraham, however, had not known this, and he went down to Egypt.
3. Sarah was taken. When they arrived in Egypt Abraham said unto his wife, "I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive." Whenever we get down into Egypt, our faith wavers. God had said, "Unto thee, and to thy seed," and Sarah was a party to the promise; yet, Abraham was afraid for Sarah's safety.
Did he not know that God could take care of Sarah? We know it, for God took care of two million people as they journeyed through a wilderness infested with all kinds of pests and diseases.
II. FAITH TRUSTING (Genesis 13:8-10 )
1. The conflict. In Genesis 13:7 of chapter 13, we learn that there was a strife which came up between the herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abraham. Even among saints, such conflicts are liable to arise.
2. A magnanimous spirit. When Abraham saw that it would be necessary to sever himself and his cattle from Lot and his cattle, Abraham said, "Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."
When we are walking with God, we do not need to worry about even the things which are our own.
3. Lot's choice. When Lot was given the opportunity of his choice, we read that he "Beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where." So Lot chose the way that led down to Sodom and Gomorrah.
4. God's word to Abraham. After Lot was gone, the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said unto him, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever."
God will always care for the one who is open-hearted and open-handed toward his fellow man. God will always provide the needs of the man who will trust Him, in faith. So it was that Abraham removed his tent, and dwelt in the plain of Mamre. The very word "Mamre" means "fatness." Is that where we are dwelling? Let us be very careful to get into the place where God can bless us.
III. FAITH INQUIRING (Genesis 15:1-2 )
1. God's words of comfort. Genesis 15:1 of chapter 15 opens with the statement, "After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram." Does the word of the Lord come to you? The word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision. Does God come to you in visions upon your bed, in your dreams, in His Word, in His providences, in the hour when you seek His face in prayer? To Abraham God said, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." We have come into a blessed place, in faith, when we learn that it is God, and not us, that gives the victory.
2. Abraham's inquiry. "And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?" Abraham was reminding God that His promise depended absolutely and entirely upon his having a seed; yet, he was childless. The months were fast slipping by; the years were multiplying; and Abraham said, "Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed," How often does God seem to hold back the fulfillment of His promise for the while i We must remember, however, that a promise deferred, is not a promise broken.
3. Where faith caught a vision. During the time of Abraham's inquiry the Lord brought him forth abroad, and said, "Look now toward Heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be." This time we read in Genesis 15:6 , "And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness."
Then the Lord said unto Abraham, "I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it." Thank God for the Abraham; thank God that he had a faith which could accept the promise!
We wonder how many of us have such a faith?
IV. FAITH WORSHIPING (Genesis 17:1-3 )
1. The glorious fellowship. Abraham had now become 90 years of age. His wife was about 80. The years were fast flying, and the seed had not yet been born. It was at this time that the Lord appeared to Abraham, and said, "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect."
Can a man be perfect before God perfect in his faith, and in his life? Certainly, he can; for God would not ask of us that which we, empowered by the Holy Ghost, cannot do.
2. An overwhelming promise. "I will make My Covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." How wonderful for God to make a tryst, a Covenant between Himself and men. This is just like our Lord. We sing, "Blest be the tie that binds"; and we think of saints bound together; but here is a tie more precious, a life bound to God. I "will multiply thee exceedingly." Has not God also said to us that He will bless us with all spiritual blessings? Has He not even said that He will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us?
3. The worshiping servant. Genesis 17:3 says, "And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him." The accomplishments of faith never make one proud or self-centered. The closer God draws to us; the larger His promise of blessing, the more do we feel like falling down upon our faces in hallowed adoration and worship.
V. FAITH SEEING THINGS DESTINED TO COME TO PASS (Genesis 18:17-18 )
1. The visit of three men from Heaven. The Lord and two angels came to Abraham, as he stood in his tent door in the heat of the day. The man of faith, who walked with God, arose immediately, and ran to meet them from the tent door, bowing himself toward the ground. He welcomed his Heavenly Visitors, hastened to wash their feet, and bade them sit under a tree while he brought them a morsel of bread.
It was a wonderful visitation. We read that Abraham said to Sarah, "Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth." Meanwhile, Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good. He gave it unto a young man, who hasted to dress it. Then Abraham took butter and milk, and the calf which he had dressed and set it before them.
Would you not love to do as much for your Lord? If He came to your house, would you not give Him the very best? Certainly you would. Then why not do it now?
2. A revelation. As they sat together, the Lord said unto Abraham, "Sarah thy wife shall have a son." Sarah heard it in the tent door, and she laughed. She laughed because she was old, and Abraham was older. The angel quickly reproved Sarah by saying, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" However, Sarah believed God, In the Book of Hebrews we read, "Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed." Her faith gave her the strength.
3. The second revelation. As they were together that day, the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord."
Here is something very remarkable. God is going to tell Abraham what He is about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the reason for the Divine confidence is because He knew of Abraham's future, and because He knew also of his family fidelity. If we expect God to show us things, we must live worthy of His Name.
4. Faith praying. Genesis 18:23 tells us that Abraham drew near to pray concerning the destruction of Sodom, for he knew that his nephew, Lot, and Lot's family were in Sodom.
Abraham's faith was not wavering so far as God was concerned, but his faith in his nephew's faithfulness wavered. "God remembered Abraham" and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow. The man of faith proved to be a man of prayer.
VI. FAITH'S GREATEST TEST AND TRIUMPH (Genesis 22:2 ; Genesis 22:5 ; Genesis 22:12 )
1. God's call to Abraham to sacrifice his son. In answer to faith Isaac had now been born; he was the well-beloved of his father. God, however, said unto Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest * * and offer him there for a burnt offering."
Here is perhaps the greatest mark of Abraham's faith. He had waited long for Isaac to be born, and when he came, Abraham knew that God's promise was in course of fulfillment; for the promise had been, "Unto thee, and to thy seed." In Isaac, Abraham saw centered, everything God had ever promised him. Everything therefore was in the balance. Even the birth of Christ, according to the flesh, was in the balance.
2. A faithful obedience. We read in the Book of Acts of the obedience of faith. Here is an example of it that is unparalleled. "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son."
3. Where faith triumphed even over death. As the two of them walked on together; Isaac, with the wood upon his shoulders; Abraham with the fire and the knife in his hand; Isaac said unto his father, "My father": and he said, "Here am I, my son." "And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb."
When they came to the place, Isaac was bound and laid upon the wood, and Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. Did Abraham expect to slay him?
Abraham meant simply this (it is expressed in the Book of Hebrews): "Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."
As Abraham heard the Voice commanding him to stay his hand, and he saw the ram caught in the thicket ready to be sacrificed instead of his son, Abraham saw the day of Christ and was glad.
VII. FAITH'S FINAL PROVIDENCE (Genesis 24:3-4 )
1. Abraham's command to his servant. Abraham was old, well stricken in years, and he knew that he must soon be going the way of all men. His heart dwelt upon his son Isaac. If Christ was to be born of the seed of Abraham, Isaac must have a wife. Therefore, Abraham told his servant that ruled over all he had, "Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of Heaven." What was the oath that Abraham demanded of his servant? Here it is, "Thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac."
2. Abraham's faith in the successful issue of his command. Immediately Abraham's servant said unto him, "Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land." Abraham replied with words which breathed the spirit of his faith: "The Lord God of Heaven, which took me from my father's, house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence." Abraham knew that God would not fail him in this.
3. What came to pass. When the servant of Abraham arrived in the far country, he had not finished praying, when, lifting up his eyes, he saw Rebekah coming, and the damsel, having filled her water pitcher, gave him to drink, and then drew water and filled the troughs for the camels.
The next morning Abraham's servant said, "Send me away unto my master," and the. mother of Rebekah said, "Wilt thou go with this man?" and she said, "I will go." As they left that day, Rebekah's brother and mother called out after her daughter, "Be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them." It was not long until the happy marriage was consummated in the tent of Sarah. God had vindicated the faith of the man who was His friend. As we close, we call upon every young man and young woman who reads these words to join Abraham in the life of faith. When you pray, "believe that ye receive them (the things that you ask for), and ye shall have them." Let faith do her perfect work.
I want to remind you of one picture. In Job 38:35 we read that the Lord said to Job, "Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?" No, Job could not do it But God can. He sends the lightnings on their mission, and they go to Him, and say, Here we are! But, as I read these words * * I was overwhelmed as I thought of the contrast between the lightnings, which instantly obey God's voice, and so many Christians, laggards who should be running, shirkers giving way to self-indulgence, men and women who put their hands to the plow and turn back, some who say "I go, sir," and go not! What might it mean if 3,000 people here this evening heard God's bidding and said, like the lightnings, "Here we are!"
You will have read how twice since September Mussolini has ordered a test mobilization of the whole Italian people. At his word they stood ready as a nation to follow their leader, and do his bidding. They said "Here we are." Is Christ the Son of God, who bought us with His own Blood, to find His followers less responsive, less unreservedly at His disposal? * * * May there be a collective response from Christ's warriors, "Here we are"? F. H.