The position in which Abraham is presented in this chapter gives a very descriptive display of the ground of intimacy with Himself on which the Lord has set His people. In many respects it is a positive blessing to be brought into association with the Lord, as we find in the case of Abraham; but he is here presented, not as the depositary of promises, or the object of covenanted blessings, but as enjoying the intimacy which his position brought him into with the Lord.
The condition of the revelation which separated him from natural associations and earthly ties, and made him a stranger and pilgrim in the world, put him into this place of intimacy, as God had said to him, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."
But the testimony to us is, that in virtue of God's dealings with us in Christ we also are brought into this place of confidence and intimacy, though in a much higher sense. Abraham stood on the earth, the place of judgment; but God's call in grace puts us in direct association with the blessing, and as risen with Christ, altogether apart from the place of judgment. Ephesians 1:9 presents this intimacy as resulting from the place in which we are set in Christ: "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself," etc., This revelation to us of the thoughts of God does not relate to our own direct blessing, but is the token of confidence toward us whom He has set in such intimacy of relationship with Himself. As Christ said to His disciples, "I call you not servants: for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you."
Abraham's position with the Lord was one of perfect peace and unquestioning confidence. He has no question to settle with the Lord, but is on that ground where he can enjoy without any hindrance communion with Him. Neither the scene that was passing before him, nor the thoughts of the judgment that the Lord tells him he is about to execute, have any power to disturb the quiet with which he maintains his intercourse with the Lord. In the sixteenth verse it is said, "The men rose up from thence, and looked towards Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way." The Lord directed them in judgment, and Abraham went with them to show them the way. He is here the companion of the Lord and confidant of His thoughts. And to us the Lord is not only the eternal spring of blessing to our souls, but He makes His saints His companions; not invariably, it is true, but still He does so. And it is in the communications which the Lord makes to us that He thus makes us His companions; for certainly there is not a more happy or certain way in which any one can show his love to another, than by communicating to him his thoughts and feelings. "Who hath known the mind of the Lord?" "But we have the mind of Christ."
"Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." So we are called to walk with Christ until He comes and takes us up to Himself. The exercise and the path of faith are all in this world, but the issues of the trial and the bright "hope of righteousness by faith" are above. "Abraham went with the men to bring them on their way." That was all. He was entirely apart from the judgment that was about to be executed upon Sodom, as the Church is also above the world's judgment, though not above the Lord's discipline for its good. Lot, in his desires after the good of this world, had looked towards Sodom and found himself ensnared by it; but Abraham was so entirely out of it, as to be talking to the Lord about its fate when Lot had to be roused by the startling words of the angels, "Hast thou here any besides? Sons-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: for we will destroy this place." But the Lord said to Abraham, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For I know him," etc.
The Lord God put Abraham into the place of covenant blessing, and on this ground He communicates to him His thoughts. He had, in a sense, bound Himself to be Abraham's companion by the very terms of the revelation He had made to him; for He had said, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." And the result is this introduction into confidence and intimacy of intercourse with the Lord, who speaks to him "of his house for a great while to come." And the ground of the Lord's communication of His thoughts to us is, that having centred His love in us, He lets us into His confidence. He has united the Church to Christ, and associated it with Christ, and hence He makes known to us "the mystery of His will." It is the consequence and result of the place in which He has set us. The Lord says of Abraham, "I know him," etc. There is the greatest blessing in this; it is so entirely the language of friendship, and so opposite to the way in which He speaks about judgment. He does not talk about "knowing" those He is going to judge, but says, "I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me: and if not, I will know." Until He has fully investigated He will not strike even in judgment. But it is not thus with the saints; He has no need to go down to see about them; for He fully knows and owns them, as He said to Abraham, "I know him." "The men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the Lord." It is a blessed thing to so know our place and blessing with the Lord as to be able to do this; for if the Lord thus "knows Abraham," so as to secure to him the blessings he had promised, it is answered by Abraham's staying with the Lord Himself.
He is going to bring judgment on the world, but He will not smite until He cannot help it, as He said, "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." But no judgment that was coming on the cities of the plain could separate Abraham from the Lord. The Lord's eye so rests on him that he is able to rest quietly in the Lord. And so it is with us; whatever trial, or sorrow, or judgment, is coming upon the world, our place is to abide with the Lord Himself, and then, like Abraham, the effect of having drunk into His grace will be that we shall be calm, quiet, and happy. There will, alas! be many Lots in the well-watered gardens of the plain; but let us be in the mountain with the Lord, abiding in perfect peace, not alone in security from the judgment, but in that which is far higher, with the Lord Himself.
Abraham being thus with the Lord in perfect peace, has nothing, as we see, to ask for himself, but becomes the earnest intercessor for others. And even subsequently, in the case of Elimelech, the Lord says, "Restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live." The force of this is, "If he be a prophet, if he has this intimacy with the mind of the Lord, let him pray for thee, and I will hear him." So it is with us: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." The possession of the Lord's mind gives us the power of intercession for others. This is not like wrestling Jacob, who had to get the blessing for himself, though it is possible we may have to wrestle for ourselves in order to get individual blessing; for we must not be untrue to our actual state; but Abraham's prayer for Sodom is communion, and the knowledge of this communion produces peace and joy. It is not that reverence will be absent from the soul; for Abraham says, "I am but dust and ashes," in the profoundest sense of his own nothingness in the presence of God. Still there is the most perfect intimacy, as we witness in his advancing from point to point in his pleadings with the Lord for the sparing of Sodom; while this whole wondrous scene closes with the simple words, "And the Lord went His way as soon as He had done communing with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place." * * *