"The Morning" and "Eventide"

"And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and ISAAC …" (Genesis 22:3).

"And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide, and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and behold, the camels were coming, and REBEKAH …" (Genesis 24:63-64).

It would be wrong to obscure the faith of Abraham that shines with such lustre in this twenty-second chapter of Genesis by any typical interpretation of it, for these are days in which God is not greatly trusted and we need the example that this man has set us to encourage us to believe and prove for ourselves that GOD IS, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Abraham gained by his faith in God the title of "faithful Abraham," and God was not ashamed to be called his God, and he was called "the friend of God." God spoke and he believed and obeyed, and God did not fail him when the great test came. He is dead, but his witness to the faithfulness of God lives, and we learn as we read the story the blessedness of the man who follows God without a question and who leaves the consequences in His wise and almighty hand. No figure in those Old Testament days bore himself with such dignity as Abraham. No man rivalled him in his superiority to circumstances, none acted with such vigour and purpose and without hesitation or panic, but it was because he had the word of God and believed it. God was his God, his shield and exceeding great reward, therefore he staggered not in the great crises of his life, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. All this lies on the surface of the story, and it is not God's intention that we should miss it, for not less than four times in the New Testament is Abraham's faith pressed upon us. Having guarded that let us proceed to consider the typical meaning of it, for it is an Old Testament picture of great New Testament truths.

The first time that LOVE is mentioned in the Bible is here: "Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest." It is the love of the father to the son, and it typifies for us the first and the greatest of all loves, and the source from which all true love has flowed, the love of God the Father for His Son. This is a most wonderful theme, and great blessing must come to us as we consider it. I believe that we may justly say that all the grace that has come to us and all the glory that we hope for finds its spring in this, for "the Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand" (John 3:35). This love is shown to us very clearly in John's Gospel where Jesus is called "the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father," and where, when speaking to His Father, He said, "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (chap. 1). He was worthy to be loved by the Father, and this was surely what the Father meant when twice He declared from the excellent glory, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Out of this love of the Father to the Son has sprung up a great purpose for the joy and glory of the loved One, and for the fulfilment of this purpose God had to awaken into activity, if we may be permitted with the greatest reverence to use such an expression in regard to Him. This is set before us in figure when Abraham rose up early in the morning to lead his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, to the place of sacrifice.

The early morning is the beginning of the day's work and the eventide sees its completion or failure. The day of God's work for the fulfilment of His great purpose began when His beloved Son, the Word, "became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth," and how bright was the dawning of that day! The true light then shone in its gracious fullness for every man. How the hearts of men ought to have thrilled to it! What expectations ought to have awakened within them! Alas, the darkness did not comprehend the light, and the world did not know its Maker, but that did not turn the Father from His purpose. The day of His great work had begun, and He could do no other than work while it was day. It was the early morning of that day when the Father and the Son rose up and started forth on the journey that led to the place of sacrifice — Golgotha, for judgment and death and Satan's power lay between the morning and the eventide. We learn as we read John's Gospel how the Father and the Son "went both of them together," in an absolute and indivisible oneness of purpose. This oneness is seen in the Lord's words, "My Father works hitherto and I work … What things soever the Father does, these also does the Son likewise, for the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does" (John 5).

The time came in the journey of Abraham and Isaac to the land of Moriah when the young men were left behind and the wood for the burnt offering was laid upon Isaac; and as we read the story we are reminded of the words of Jesus to His disciples, "Behold the hour comes, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the FATHER IS WITH ME" (John 16:32); and then, "He bearing His cross went forth to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha" (chap. 19:1). We who are parents may have some conception of what Abraham's feelings must have been as he walked with Isaac to the place of sacrifice, and as they communed together on the way, but what heart of man can conceive what it cost the Father, when in obedience to His will, His well-beloved went forth unflinchingly to death; and when in their communings together on the way the Son said to the Father, "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour? but for this cause came I to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name." There was an instant answer to that cry, not that the Lord Himself needed it, for His confidence in His Father's love was absolute, but for the people's sake, that they might know that that lonely Man whom they hated was heard and beloved by the Father in heaven.

Isaac was delivered from the uplifted knife and there suffered in his stead the ram caught by its horns in the thicket, but no substitute was found for God's beloved Son; it was impossible that He could be delivered from the stroke of death. God's purpose must be realized and there was only one way by which it could be, the Lamb of God must die, and the Son of God was the Lamb of God.

We believe that we are right in saying that it was not far from the place to which Abraham led Isaac that Jesus suffered, and Abraham called that place Jehovah-Jireh — the mount of the Lord who sees and provides. The place was well and truly named, for we see at Golgotha how God, who saw the end from the beginning, provided a Lamb for Himself and by the death of His Lamb laid an immovable foundation for eternal peace and joy and glory, and the fulfilment of all His will.

Now wonderfully the purpose of God unfolds in this story. Abraham had said to the young men, "I and the lad will go yonder … and come again to you." He knew that He would not come back alone; his faith laid hold upon God and he knew that He was able to raise up his son even from the dead, "from whence also he received him in a figure." How blessed it is for us to know that the fact infinitely exceeds the figure, and the fact is, that "Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Rom. 6:4), and as the risen Son of God He could send His disciples that triumphant message, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." Beyond the suffering of death and the darkness of the grave we see the Father and the Son moving on together to the great end that the Father has in view.

This brings us to Genesis 24, where Abraham declares what was in his heart for Isaac's joy; it was that he should have a bride worthy of his love to share all his wealth. She had to be brought from a far country, and a servant who could be trusted had to be sent to fetch her. In Abraham's own household there was a servant, who, without any thought of himself, would carry out all Abraham's desire. I am not saying anything that has not been said before, nor am I stretching the Scripture unduly when I say, that this devoted, unselfish servant is a figure of the Holy Ghost. The story teaches us the Father's purpose for the joy and glory of His beloved Son, the Risen Man, Christ Jesus, which will be brought to full realization by the work and power of the Holy Ghost. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost all have their part in this great matter.

It is an enthralling story. How well Abraham's servant carried out his mission, how well and wisely he spoke of his master's son, how charming was the grace of Rebekah, and how ready was her response to the servant's appeal. All these features in the figure are found in the great antitype of it. The Holy Ghost has come from the Father to bear witness to the blessedness and unsearchable riches of Christ, to take of His things, and show them to us and to glorify Him, as John 14:15-16 shows us. He works within us to produce a response in our hearts to the attractiveness of God's beloved Son, that just as Rebekah was willing to leave her father's house and her own land and to go to Isaac whom she had not seen, so we may be made willing to turn from the world and choose Christ instead of it, and say in response to the demand, "Wilt thou go with this man?" "I will go." And thus it comes to pass that, to use Paul's figure, we are espoused to one husband that we might be presented as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). Happy indeed it is for us if this is true, and if it can be said of us in regard to the Lord, "whom having not seen, ye love, in whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

The Holy Ghost is gathering souls out of the world for Christ. This is His great work. He uses the gospel to this end, and becomes the Comforter to all who believe it. The Scriptures tell us that believing the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the Earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit who seals us, indwells us, and our bodies become His temple (1 Cor. 6:19). We all who are indwelt by Him are formed by that very indwelling into one body, the church, and the church is to be the bride of the Lamb. The Lord Himself was the first to speak of it in the Bible, and then He called it "MY CHURCH," and of it we read, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it … that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). Rebekah in our story is a type of the church, and just as Abraham's faithful servant sought her and conducted her from her own land to Isaac, so the Holy Spirit is conducting the church to the great day of presentation — the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19). The day of these divine activities is drawing to its close, we are surely very near the eventide when the Lamb will meet His bride. And that hour fills His thoughts. The place that it has in the closing words of Scripture is significant. Three times over in the last chapter our Lord says, "I come quickly." It is true that two of these times have to do with the rewards that He will give to His faithful servants, and He will find a peculiar joy in this, but when that side of things has been dealt with in every phase of it, and He is free to allow the feelings of His heart to break out without any question of gain or judgment, He says — "I JESUS … AM THE BRIGHT, AND MORNING STAR." This is the last presentation of Himself before He comes. It does not show Him in His majesty and power, with eyes as a flame of fire and feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and a sharp two-edged sword going out of His mouth. It is Himself, the Saviour, who in His measureless love went down into death for His bride; it is Himself so meek and gentle, so full of grace and truth; it is Himself the altogether lovely One, and the great Lover of His church. By this Name we have come to know and admire and love Him. He presents Himself in this personal way to stir the affections of His bride and to make her cry in unison with the Spirit, "Come" (Rev. 22:16-17). Then He gives one final word. The very last that He has addressed to His church, it is His final love-word to His espoused and longed-for bride. "He which testifies these things says, "SURELY, I COME QUICKLY." There can be but one right response to that word, and may it break forth from everyone of our hearts, "Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus."

"And Isaac went out … at eventide … and behold the camels were … coming, and Rebekah." What joy awaits us when the fact that our story prefigures actually comes to pass, but what will the joy of our Lord be? Let us see how the Scripture puts it. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout."* It will be a shout of triumph and of joy, for then the time of waiting will be past, the day's work will be finished, the church completed, and Father, Son and Holy Ghost will rejoice together as the Lamb sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied.

{*Note:—At the coming of the Lord not the church only will be caught up, but "all that are Christ's," and that will surely include all who have died in faith from Abel onward.}

Thus shall this acceptable time, his great day of grace reach its climax. And all heaven shall share in the joy and the glory of it, for then shall be fulfilled the prophetic word, "I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:6-7). Then shall we enter into that new day, in which they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light, and there shall be no night there.

Has grace chosen us for this great destiny? Is it for this that we have been bought with a price and sealed by the Holy Ghost? Yes, for nothing less than this. Then knowing this, may we keep ourselves for Christ, and if the world would detain us and occupy us with its trifles instead of Him, may we hear the Spirit say to us, as Abraham's servant said when her old friends would have retained Rebekah amongst them — "HINDER ME NOT."