“By faith Abraham, when He was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; for he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
To the eyes of sense how foolish all this appears. If any one had accosted Abraham when he was starting upon that journey, saying, Whither goest thou, Abraham? He would have answered, I know not the land to which I am going, I have not seen it, but God hath said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” Whether it were north or south, east or west he knew not, but be obeyed the voice of the Lord, that voice so graciously wrought in him. Moved by faith in God he took his first step, and all the steps from day to day to the promised land were “steps of that faith of our father Abraham” – Rom. 4:12. He walked by faith and not by sight. He knew not where the country was situated, or the way to this promised land, but his feet were guided by the Almighty. “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” But did he not know why he went, and with whom he was going unto the place that he should after receive for an inheritance? What impelling power constrained him to forsake the land of his nativity, and all his father’s house to go whither he knew not? God himself tells us, “I called him alone, and blessed him,” Isaiah 51:2, and Abraham told the king of Gerar, “God caused me to wander from my father’s house.” – Gen. 20:13. This is what the Lord said unto Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Gen. 12:1-3. The voice of the Lord took hold of him, and moved him to believe in, to hope in, to be obedient to him who spake. “So Abraham departed, as the Lord had spoken onto him.” Abraham believed God. What mercy it is to be a believer in God. What a wonderful thing it is that Jehovah should be mindful of a poor sinner, incline him unto himself, and that that sinner should be so wrought of God’s grace that he should become the friend of God (James 2:23). Yes, it is all of his gracious workmanship in us that we are drawn and persuaded to confide in him, and find repose and strength in our trust in him, We believe according to the working of his mighty power. “I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” This was the eternal purpose in Christ Jesus, according to Jehovah’s sovereign, eternal, electing love. When that wonderful, gracious voice entered Abraham’s heart it apprehended him, ravished his spirit, and he was transformed from being an idolater to worship the Almighty. He was drawn and held fast to God, who from eternity was his friend, and now henceforth Abraham is the friend of God. Oh what a Friend Abraham had!
“There is a Friend that sticketh fast,
And keeps his love from first to last,
And Jesus is his name;
An earthly brother drops his held,
Is sometimes hot, and sometimes cold,
But Jesus is the same.
He loves his people great and small,
And grasping hard embraceth all,
Nor with a soul will part;
No tribulations which they feel,
No foes on earth, or fiends of hell,
Shall tear them from his heart.
Is the Savior Jesus Christ my friend? God loved Abraham from everlasting, and came revealing himself so rich, so kind, so bountiful. He came in his call of Abraham unbosoming to him his eternal thoughts, not only with respect to the things of time, but also relating to eternity. Thus the eternal counsel of Jehovah was unfolded, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” – Gen. 12:2-3. Who was Abraham that he should be thus called of God and blessed? Was there anything in him that could merit esteem or give the Creator delight? Oh no. Abraham was alienated from the living God, a sinner, an idolater. It seemed good in God’s sight to call Abraham. Jehovah’s love for him (in Christ Jesus) from eternity was set upon him, and in due time he thus began to make it known to him. So “I called him alone, and blessed him.” This is sovereign grace indeed. No others were called at that time out of Ur of the Chaldees. No other one that we know of was separated from his idols to serve the living and true God. When that wonderful quickening voice of the Lord came speaking so to Abraham there was power and grace, all-conquering and captivating in it. It was a voice beyond all human voices, surpassing all the imagined, fictitious voices of demons and idols. Indeed, by the voice of the Lord all fabled gods were scattered, cast aside to the moles and to the bats. Abraham was turned to God from idols, a heart was created in him to hear and to know God, Abraham listened to the Lord. How humbled that frail sinful man must have been. Such a poor consumed nothing he felt himself to be. He called himself, “Dust and ashes.” What a name, what a self-humbling designation. Humbled, lowly, contrite in heart, but alternated with delighted and adoring amazement he was taught and drawn to worship God, his almighty, gracious, eternal friend. The Lord was with him in his heart by faith as he journeyed to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan he came (Gen. 12:5), and in due time the Lord said unto him, “Arise, walk through the land, in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” – Gen. 13:17.
Abraham confessed it was God who caused him to wander from his father’s house; so in all his pilgrimage days it was the Lord’s graciousness that moved, upheld and defended him. Yea, he reproved kings for his sake. Abraham walked through the land, in the length and the breadth of it. But though this land was a country flowing with milk and honey, yet it was not all that Abraham desired; it was unsatisfying. What! A land so fair, so rich, that drinketh the water of the rain of heaven, a land which the Lord thy God careth for, the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year unto the end of the year, the glory of all lands (Deut. 11:11-12; Ezek. 20:15) and yet Abraham not satisfied with it? He did not care to live in it forever, it was not his permanent rest, it was not his home, for thus it is written of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar oft, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned: but now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city” – Heb. 11:13-16. The land of Canaan was only an imperfect type of the better country, and God gave Abraham some glimpses of the better heavenly land and the eyes of his faith were looking to this better country. So they died in faith after their pilgrimage of faith, filled with fond desire for the heavenly land, and the city, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10.) Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. So do all in due time whom God hath ordained unto eternal life (Acts 13:48). We believe according to the working of his mighty power, we then live unto God our Savior. He succors us by the way. He will not leave us a prey to sin, the world and Satan, but we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us.
FREDERICK W. KEENE
RALEIGH, North Carolina
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Vol. 96, No. 4.