Practical Reflections from the Life of Abraham.

Genesis 12
Genesis 13
Genesis 14
Genesis 15
Genesis 16
Genesis 17
Genesis 18
Genesis 19
Genesis 20
Genesis 21
Genesis 22
Genesis 23
Genesis 24
Genesis 25


The extremely colourful life of Abraham — the pattern man of faith — provides the Spirit of God with material eminently suitable for the enrichment of every child of God as they pass through the scene of their pilgrimage and strangership. The outstanding characteristic of this remarkable man, who is spoken of as the friend of God, is faith. Paul speaks of him as one who "found strength in faith" (Rom. 4:20); and how the Spirit delights to draw our attention to the infinite variety of ways in which faith was exemplified in all its diversity of action and energy in him who heard and responded to the call of God. This call signified a new departure in God's ways with men, and was entirely sovereign in its choice and activity.

When the call of God reached Abraham he was found among the worshippers of other gods on the other side of the Euphrates (Joshua 24:2). It is very remarkable that in Peleg's days (Gen. 10:25) men were possessing themselves more than ever of the earth, but in the call of God Abraham is called to a life of strangership on the earth, for the essential characteristic of the life of faith is strangership, but this founded upon citizenship elsewhere (Heb. 11:13-16). Faith dwells in the unseen with the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). The terms of this divine call is "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." The new course proposed calls man to rise above all visible influences and simply to rest upon God and His all-sufficient Word. Man had fallen into flagrant independence of God; the call is now to depend entirely on Him. Observe the character of the call of Abraham: it was not stated that he should separate from moral pollution and idolatry, though doubtless there were debasing and revolting practices connected with the idolatry; he was to separate from the associations of nature and of the earth. The call of God is a matter of great import: God's voice from heaven reached the heart, and it awakes to the consciousness that it has to do with Him.

What powerful, mighty voice, so near,
Calls me from earth apart.
Reaches with tones so still, so clear,
From the unseen world my heart?

'Tis His. Yes, yes; no other sound
Could move my heart like this;
The voice of Him that earlier bound
Through grace that heart to His.

That wondrous voice has reached us from the other side of "death's dark raging flood," for it is evident to the youngest believer that Christ is not here; and as Christ becomes endeared to the heart we become more deeply conscious of this that He is not where we are. It is this that turns us to Him where He is; the Spirit bringing the glories of that blessed One before us, and leading us to the blessed place where His glories are displayed. As another has said, "The secret of power — power to enable us to be here in moral conformity to that heavenly call — is occupation with Him where He is, that we might be for Him where He was." The first truth given to a soul at peace with God is that Christ, the One to whom we owe every blessing and all our joy, has been rejected from the earth; that we are in the place where He is not, and as we turn to Him, we find that the Spirit of God leads us to Him in heaven. Then we learn, as in the parable of the prodigal son, that the place of our reception is the Father's house; and we are associated with Him, who rejected upon earth, has been acclaimed in heaven as the worthy One.

How heartily did the beloved apostle Paul accept the place of Christ's rejection, exclaiming in tones of exultation, "Be it far from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world." When our acceptance with God is known, our home and joys are in the Father's house. Hence in writing to the Colossians the apostle prays first "on account of the hope laid up for you in the heavens" (Col. 1:5). I am emphasising these things, beloved brethren, to make it plain that every one in the peace of God and resting in His favour, rises in spirit to Christ where He is.

Set free from the man under the judgment of God, and belonging to the glorified Man in heaven, we can behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled face (2 Cor. 3:18). The divine call is to the full enjoyment of the proper portion of faith, entirely outside the seen and temporal things: apart from that which the senses can take account of, that which is visible and material, for "the things that are seen are but for a time, but those that are not seen, eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

Only those instructed in the word of God can enjoy these things according to the mind of God. It is quite possible to be so zealously affected in a good matter that there might be the getting rid of worldly things while as yet the heavenly were but little known. Our one commanding thought should be that we do not belong to earth, but to heaven, and that all our joys and hopes are centred there. There is a difference between unearthliness and what is heavenly. Those who live an ascetic monastic life may claim to be unearthly; but are they because of this heavenly? One, writing of the revival of truth in the last century records, "Professions, prospects, position and even lawful callings were freely surrendered in order that there should be a heavenly calling." This heavenly position can never be attained practically by the rigorous application of legal restrictions, nor by scrupulous observance of forms of austerity far in excess of the commandments of the Mosaic law. Heavenly features are formed by the Spirit's gracious work in our souls, and by that alone! Apropos of this the following is a very apt illustration. "Drops of water sailing on the top of the ocean longed to join the white fleecy clouds that floated in the blue sky above them, and they called to the strong North Wind to help them. So it blew in all its raging fury, dashing them against the rocks in fine spray, and it looked for a time as though they would have their wish fulfilled, but time and time again they fell back into the sea. Then the sun came out in all its strength, and these little drops of water found themselves, without effort on their part, lifted up by the strong rays of the sun, until they joined the clouds above them." Let us hear again what the beloved writer of 2 Cor. 3:18 says, "But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit." It was the "God of glory" that appeared to Abraham, and it was this that threw the Babel world into the shade for him. The Lord of glory has appeared before the vision of faith: has the glory of that light blinded us to all that is around?

In the pursuance of this profoundly instructive study of Abraham, the father of all those who believe, it is a matter of prime importance that we should have firmly established in our minds the heart-searching fact that divine principles are unalterable, and unaffected by dispensational changes. Throughout the Scriptures of truth, the observant reader may discern the progressive development of these principles in all dispensations, in all the varied manifestations of the ways of God with men. There is a very clear distinction between the ways of God before and after the flood, and it is a matter of great encouragement to see that God has never left Himself without witness. Since the fall there has always been the people of God and the world of the ungodly, but there was no sovereign call of person, people or nation, by which they might have been regarded as a divinely constituted witness to the character and ways of God until the call of Abraham.

The inhabitants of the earth were a fallen race, and the fallen nature of man displayed itself as being incurably opposed to the witness of God, so that we read, "God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth … and God repented that He had made man on the earth." In righteous judgment God overwhelmed men with the flood, so that none escaped save the little band that had taken refuge in the ark. The world that now exists is a new world, reserved for fire in the day of judgment. In this new world two great principles were established; rule put into man's hands in Noah, the setting up of government for the repression of evil; and separation from the world by the sovereign call of God as seen in Abraham. The first has been irretrievably corrupted — the cause is not far to seek; man has failed to acknowledge the source of all rule, the necessary condition, if rule is to have any real value or significance in the reckoning of the one who governs or those who are governed.

But the one so greatly favoured of God in being set up as the head of this new world, failed in self-government, and as a result lost the respect of his own son. Then in Nimrod we see the usurpation of rule, man basely pretending to be the source of its power; for under Nimrod, Satan caused the principle of rule to flow from the will and violence of man, with its resultant condition of strife and violence. The authority entrusted of God and exercised in righteousness would have brought to men prosperity, peace and happiness. In writing these things, one is reminded of the scene in Exodus 4, where Moses is told to cast his rod on the ground, where, out of his hand it changes its character, becoming a serpent. The rod in the hand of Moses typifies divine authority in the hand of God's man, and shall we say, marked by the tenderness and care of Him Who holds the Shepherd's rod? The hand that wields the sceptre of the universe is guided by the heart of Him Who said, "I am the Good Shepherd." But at the moment the rod is not publicly in the hands of the true Moses: it is cast to the ground; so that as we look around us today we see that lawlessness is pronounced, and but for the restraint of God would prevail. Many are perplexed in contemplating the apparent triumph of evil, saying with one of old, "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They see Satan as Prince of this world boasting of universal empire, and hear him say, All that is given unto me and to whomsoever I will I give it. While all authority and power are in the hand of the Lord Jesus upon the throne of God, publicly before men the rod of authority is not in His hand, but is on the ground and diabolical. But observe the beautiful accuracy of the type, and the comfort prepared for us in it. The rod was cast out of Moses' hand; it did not slip out. God has not lost control; of His own will, and for His own wise purposes He has subjected man to the sway of Him whom the world has chosen for its prince. How sad and how solemn that the foundation on which the empire of Satan has been built is the rejection of the Deliverer. Yet "judgment shall return unto righteousness;" for in the coming day, the Lord Jesus shall take the serpent by the tail, and the authority that has been used to chastise men through Satan, will be in the hands of the Son of Man publicly for the blessing and prosperity of men. (See Rev. 12:10).

We see therefore Noah's abject failure when set up in government; His snare is the abundance of the new-blessed earth. In Babel we see the rebellion of man in full flower, only to come under the withering blast and measureless wrath of Him whose sovereign authority they had impiously and defiantly called in question. In the building of this city and tower, man sought to perpetuate his name, but God has decreed that only one Name shall live for ever, "His Name shall endure for ever; His Name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall bless them-selves in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed Psalm 72:17. And just as the cherubim with the flaming sword guarded the way to the tree of life lest sinful man should eat and live for ever in sin, so God rained His unsparing judgment on that structure in which perpetuation of man's name was implicit.

The foregoing remarks are an endeavour to delineate, as simply as possible, the moral characteristics of the world out of which Abraham was called. It is still the same world, dear reader, and if you are a true child of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, the words John writes in his epistle cannot fail to have deep significance for you, We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one." In the preceding verse, the apostle declares very searchingly, "We know that every one begotten of God, does not sin, but he that has been begotten of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him." You will observe that it does not say that God keeps him, but that he "keeps himself." It is similar to Peter's epistle, "Beloved, I exhort you as strangers and sojourners, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." We have not yet entered into our rest, we are still in a scene which calls forth the fullest exercise of faith, and in Abraham we see this beautifully exemplified — called to Canaan, his possession in hope alone. He dwells there, but in tabernacles, the bringing together of two things typically — the heavenly inheritance and its earthily consequence, "By faith he sojourned as a stranger in the land of promise as a foreign country (that is, not his own) having dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." Canaan is the new land beyond the flood, and as we all know speaks of heaven to us; but the earthly aspect is, all through the book of Genesis, the prominent one. We must wait for Joshua before we get a distinct type of the heavenly inheritance. Here, however, the tent and the altar are as yet the only possessions. I trust that as we track the footsteps of this remarkable man of faith, that we may learn valuable lessons deeply and effectively, from all the trials, difficulties and vicissitudes through which he passed as he sought a better country, even an heavenly.

Though thy way be long and dreary,
Eagle strength He'll still renew:
Garments fresh and foot unweary
Tell how God hath brought thee through.

Let us now seek with purpose of heart to glean from this immense field of divine admonition and instruction, provided for us in the life of Abraham. Here the life of faith is strikingly exemplified, and like Ruth of old we can glean in the field of our true Boaz, the One in Whom there is strength; even as it was written "And ye shall also sometimes draw out for her some ears out of the handfuls, and leave them that she may glean… We can gather these handfuls let fall on purpose for us, so that our spiritual vitality might be maintained, and that practical conformity in our walk and conduct with the place we occupy in the counsels of God, and in divine love, might be abundantly realised. We need spiritual energy; we must be "strong in faith" to lay hold of the things that are really life (1 Tim. 6:19). This life of faith is in the power of resurrection, and in order that we may grasp what is involved and implied in it, we quote from the words of another, "In this life of faith we do not merely look for the principle of dependence on God, or of confidence in Him, though that may be the thought immediately suggested by such words. It signifies much more. It is a life of large and various energies: for according to God, or Scripture, faith is the principle in the soul which not only trusts and believes Him; it is also that which apprehends His way, acts in consort with His principles and purposes, receives His promises, enjoys His favours, does His bidding, looks for His kingdom, in His strength gains victories, and by His light walks in light; and thus it is ever, though variously, exhibiting a life according to Him, or formed in communion with Him." Do we not find in the life of Abraham these attractive features of faith strongly marked for our observation

We must not assume however that this life was one of unbroken triumph; nor one in which Abraham, who was the friend of God, walked without deviation or deflection. God had said to him. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect;" but while there is much for us to admire and learn in our Patriarch, his life was not ever displaying with unfailing constancy that unequivocable and uncompromising refusal of the world's favours and patronage. No, dear reader, perfection in every feature of the life of faith in all its rich variety of positive expression was found alone in Him Who is "The Author and Completer of faith." He was the repository and the expression of faith in all its diversified activities. Abraham's life, so changeful, like that of the Psalmist, gave the Spirit the largest occasion to exercise his soul; and so in the life of the father of the faithful, where light and shadow alternate, we shall find much to cheer us, and much to admonish us.

The movement in Abraham's family seems to originate with Terah, for we read, "Terah took Abram his son, and Lot, the son of Haran … and they went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan, and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there." Terah (meaning "delay") perfectly justifies his name by his actions, ends his days in Haran, which place was called after the name of his dead son. Natural things hold him fast, though death be written on him, and memory but intensities his loss. But his death also closes the sojourn of Abraham at Haran. The natural influence that was holding him back having now gone, Abraham rises in the power of the divine call, which had come to him, and to him alone in the first place; and by which he was separated from country, kindred, and fathers house, to be blessed and made a blessing in the land to which God directed him as his inheritance in faith alone. Natural things no longer clog or hinder; so in the language of Scripture, "They went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came." Which of us does not know something of these compromises in any given relationship of life, which seem to promise much more than God can offer, and appear to exact so much less; but in which obedience to God is relegated to the background, and Haran ("parched place") is the dwelling place, and not Canaan, the land enriched with the munificence of God. How often does God use providential circumstances to lead us in the right direction: yet they may eventually become a hindrance to us. Providential circumstances and natural things can never bring us into the enjoyment of faith's proper portion, which lies outside the sphere of seen and tangible things. The call of God is from the visible and material things, so that the new creation scene, where all things are of God, may fill the vision of our faith: for the things that are seen are for a time, but those that are not seen, eternal."

It is very precious to note how Paul speaks of the Father of glory: suggesting that He is the One Who has given being to a whole system of glory, and in sovereign mercy is calling men not only to view it, but to dwell in it, to possess it, to exult in it; to rejoice in its immensity as the eye of faith scans its brightly coloured horizons, and marks the limitless bounds of this land of far distances, stretching far and away beyond the ken of mortal mind.

How beautiful, and instructive, it is for us to see the spirit with which Abraham entered upon this life of faith. What simplicity and earnestness marked him: "He went out, not knowing whither he went." He took God for his security and portion: as another has said, "It is in this that the Spirit of God rests, as characteristic of his approved faith; for by separation from the world, on the ground of implicit confidence in God, he lost everything, and got nothing but the word of God." But the human heart neither understands nor appreciates such conditions; it desires more clearly defined and specifically detailed conditions. This race, beloved, "is not to the swift, nor its battle to the strong." In order to understand and enjoy faith's portion in the land, we must be shorn of every vestige of self-sufficiency, and rest implicitly on the word of God, and on that alone. As already remarked, the heart resents these conditions, but the renewed mind willingly approves them and justifies God in them. With reference to this unquestioning of the word of God, Elijah provides us with a very searching illustration. Under God's direction he had just delivered that momentous message to Ahab — a message of unsparing judgment — then he was again directed of God not now to a place of public testimony, but to one of retirement and solitude. "The word of the Lord came unto him saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith …" and in that lonely retreat he had to sojourn many days; not however without a precious promise from the Lord God of Israel in reference to his needed provision — "I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." Even when the brook dried up, that word, "I have commanded," was all that this mighty prophet required to keep him in perfect repose of spirit in the place of separation.

Sweet indeed is this simplicity of obedience: the necessary requisite surely of a true walk with God. This matter, so important in itself, will be brought before us very vividly, when we come to compare the walk of Lot with that of Abraham. There we shall find lessons of great importance, and which have a very vital bearing upon our comportment as we pass through a world in which we have no part or lot. With the light of that fair scene shining with imperishable splendour upon every step of the pilgrim pathway, we reach forward with ever-hastening steps to the inheritance that is before us; while, as having the Spirit, the divine Earnest, we taste its joys, its peace and its rest even now.

The manna and the springing well
Suffice for every need;
And Eshcol's grapes the story tell
Of where Thy path doth lead.

We have already remarked that it was only after the ties of nature were snapped by death that Abraham moved with unimpeded step on to the inheritance to which God had called him. How strong these natural ties can be, and their influences are invariably hostile to our attaining the full measure of what God desires for us. The activities and energies of nature ever tend to militate against the full realisation and practical power of the "calling of God." How tempted we are to take an easier path than that which alone is compatible with the "hope of His calling." What is required of us, in order to rise to the full height of God's thoughts for us is, singleness of eye, simplicity of obedience, and integrity of faith (see Eph. 1:15-22). The beloved Apostle, ever sensitive to the difficulties with which the assembly would have to contend, in seeking to know the hope of God's calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, prays that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full-knowledge of Him, being enlightened in the eyes of their heart. With failure to apprehend the calling there would evidently be a lack of consistency in the practical life corresponding to the heavenly calling. Had Abraham more fully realised that the call of God was to Canaan, and that there lay his inheritance, the power of the truth regarding all involved in that call, would have been more than sufficient for him to meet and overcome the subtle influences and obstructions of nature. And is it not so with us? If we are led by the Spirit of God into the understanding of this wonderful truth regarding His calling, could we be guilty of such treachery as would seek a place, a standing, a portion in the world that refused our blessed Lord? He gave Himself for our sins, to deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal. 1:4).

In Revelation 2:12. John is told to write to the Angel of the assembly in Pergamos, "These things says He that has the sharp two-edged sword: and then comes these significant words, descriptive of a moral class, "I know where thou dwellest, where the throne of Satan is… Antipas my faithful witness who was slain among you, where Satan dwells." It is significant that the word Pergamos speaks of "marriage;" and despite the ferocious, bestial persecution of the church during the Smyrnian period, we find the church joined in unholy alliance with the world in the Pergamos period. How strange indeed to view the church at her ease in the presence of the "throne" and "dwelling" of Satan, the god of this world, and its prince. For the church to settle down, where Satan has both a throne and a dwelling, is to falsify her character as a witness for holiness and truth. As another has said of that day, "Christianity walked in golden slippers." How very different from the badgers skins, the essential repellent of every unwholesome influence. What is true of the church is, of course, applicable to us as individuals. But it is blessed to see that there were those of whom it could he said, "Thou holdest fast My Name, and hast not denied My faith." Wonderful commendation!

In Abraham's history, death came in and severed the bond which bound him so strongly in Haran; so in our case, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ proves an impassable barrier to those who realise that they have died with Christ. Our place in nature, and our standing in the world has been terminated before God. The cross is to us what the Red Sea was to the children of Israel — that which separates us forever from the land of death and judgment.

But let us now return to find Abraham in the land to which God had called him. In verse 6 of chapter 12 we read, "And Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land." These names are very significant, and pregnant with divine instruction. Shechem means "shoulder," and Moreh, "Instructor;" and is it not when we bow the shoulder to bear that we find instruction? "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls; for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." And is it not true that he that wills to do God's will shall know of the doctrine? This indeed is the "virtue" in which is knowledge (2 Peter 1:5). Yes, dear friend, the oak of Moreh still grows at Shechem; and here too we find a dark shadow in the path of the man of faith — "The Canaanite was then in the land." A hostile people occupied the territory of promise, contesting the right of the true heirs to possess their heavenly inheritance. How forcibly does this speak to us of the influences of evil, the powers of darkness mentioned in Ephesians 6:12! The adversary seeks to hinder the saints of God from entering into spiritual possession of that which God has purposed for them in His love and grace.

How blessed it is for us to see how God met this new difficulty for Abraham: Jehovah appeared to him and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." Abram had moved in response to the first manifestation, and now he gets another to encourage him in the face of the enemy's power. And it is surely in the land that this divine confirmation regarding the possession of the inheritance is fully realised; and where power to possess ourselves of the inheritance is acquired. It is as Canaan-dwellers that the secrets of God's heart are opened to us, and where those blessed manifestations of the Lord Jesus Christ are assured to us. "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).

Then we read of Abram building his altar to Jehovah, Who had appeared unto him. He worshipped God according to his apprehension of Him Who had appeared to him, and in consonance with the character of the communications made. How beautiful is the declaration of the Psalmist, "According to Thy Name, so is Thy praise in all the earth, O Lord." This not only states a most blessed truth, but also annunciates a principle; for in this dispensation of grace, the Father seeks worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Today, there is on earth, a company indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who are partakers of the divine nature, to whom the Son has revealed the Father, revealing to them His Name. Such are able by the Spirit to enter into these wonderful divine revelations, and to gratify, by their response, the Father's heart. Such indeed is the character of our altar. But to walk in practical conformity with this altar, we must pitch our tent, figurative of strangership here, between Bethel and Hai. The former means "God's House:" the latter a "Heap of ruins." Thus, between a judged world and the dwelling of God we pitch our tent; in view of both.

And now Abraham is again tested; once again succumbing to the influences of nature. He finds a famine in the land, and goes down to Egypt, leaving the land of which
God had said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." The life of faith implies, and necessitates trial: and had Abram been walking in the power and energy of faith, he would have been equal to this fresh test. Elijah proved equal to such a test as he sat by the brook Cherith, and was fed by the fowls of the air. Paul showed his superiority to circumstances when called into Macedonia by the Lord, where a prison awaited him, but where, with his companion, he sang praises to God. Abraham seeks refuge in another land, of which God made no mention in His call. But we must take account of this solemn fact: the secret failure had begun before the famine. Abraham, at the beginning, dwelt between Bethel and Hai; but it would seem that, when the famine came, he was moving towards the south
— "And Abram moved onward going toward the south country." This is the name given to the region of Canaan bordering on the desert. How significant and timely is the warning for us, never to leave the neighbourhood of Bethel. In leaving Bethel, Abraham departed from the place of blessing. There is no famine in God's house: there is "bread enough and to spare." If you find a shortage of spiritual food, look to it; you are moving in the wrong direction. It is sad to have to say of a saint of God, Why art thou, being the King's son, so lean from day to day." If we are nourished by spiritual food we shall not desire the world's food. This border land, in the south, is ever a dry land, and famine soon overtakes us if we are found there: and who, that has known what God's path is, but has not known the trial of a famine in this border land? And when we have known such, how Egypt tempts! How the seduction of the world causes the giving up of the path of separation! Are there not many of us who have made this temporary incursion into Egypt in time of testing? But we all know the price to be paid for Egypt's succour. Abrams fall has been too often repeated, and it is the repetition of this on a large scale that has been a contributory factor in the sad failure of the whole dispensation.

Following upon our remarks regarding Abraham's capitulation to the seductions of Egypt, let us now consider some of the sad and inescapable consequences of such a retrograde step. One of the effects of going down to Egypt is that we become afraid to own our spiritual relationships: the very shadow of Egypt, before his arrival there, made Abraham afraid to own the relationship in which he and Sarai stood to each other; and this by a carefully prepared arrangement. In all this, as so faithfully depicted for us by the Spirit in Genesis 12, we can surely discern how low the torch of faith was burning, and how the waves of a strong and exultant faith (which would have carried him in triumph over every obstacle) were now receding into the dark vortex of unbelief.

Abraham, outstanding man of faith that he was, like us all, was affected by natural things. Perfection, in all its lofty elevation and refinement of expression, is found in One, and in Him alone; in Him Who is "the originator and completer of faith." Let us not forget however that if nature rules us, it will also expose us. We see in all this that Abraham is thinking only of himself; he is not endeavouring to protect Sarai, but rather is prepared to sacrifice her to save himself. Where was the jealous care that Sarai should remain true to her relationship, and to the faithful confession of it? Here is a saint of God seeking his own things because he has come under the shadow of Egypt. You will find that if you descend to the level of the world; if you get on terms with the men of the world; your lips will become soiled with the language of the world, and you will be ashamed to confess your true relationship to Christ. One sad result of this denial of relationship was that Sarai got into the house of Pharaoh. What a difference from being in the house of God! The way to get the world's admiration is to deny your relationship to Christ. How different the desires of the beloved Apostle who, jealous over the Corinthians with a godly jealousy, declared "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you a chaste virgin to Christ."

It is said of Pharaoh that "he treated Abram well." This is just what happened to the church when she was unfaithful to Christ! Deny your relationship to Christ, and you shall have the patronage of the world. But the lie practised by Abraham reaps a bitter harvest. His deception is great; his exposure is greater still, and Pharaoh's rebuke puts him to shame. As another has said, "He has to 'do his first works', to retrace his steps, and regain his standing — sorrowful works at all times. He has to leave 'by-path meadow' for the King's highway again, betaking himself back from Egypt to the place between Ai and Bethel, where he had raised up his altar at the first." With what deep joy of heart do we read the words, "And there Abram called on the Name of Jehovah."

And now the history of Lot is made to yield admonition and instruction of a most salutory character to those desirous of living in practical conformity to their heavenly calling. We do well to give earnest heed to the story of Lot as it unfolds for us in all its sad features in this precious book, where every word is used with divine precision and intent. The moral import of these happenings, which men regard as mere historical events, is exceedingly valuable and important in these days, when the truth of our heavenly calling having been revealed to us, manifests that there are many Lots. The word Lot means "covering," and under a covering he is always found. Though with Abram outwardly, he is not at heart what Abram is, a pilgrim and stranger; nor with the men of Sodom is he a Sodomite. Though in Sodom, he is a saint of God, even as the Epistle of Peter states, that God "saved righteous Lot, distressed with the abandoned conversation of the godless (for the righteous man through seeing and hearing, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul day after day with their lawless works)." But he is a saint untrue to his saintship; his is indeed a downward path; his history is one of persistent decline, no cheering ray of recovery or restoration to relieve the ever darkening path of one whose life ends as it began — under a covering. Falling under deep personal reproach, his name and memory are forever stained with shame and infamy

Dear reader, listen for a moment to what the word of God has to say: "For as many things as have been written before have been written for our instruction, that through endurance, and through encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope." How emphatic the warning and admonition to remember Lot; how near two roads may be at the beginning, yet at the end how far apart. May all who read these words be preserved from treading this by-path, and being thus warned of the dangers which beset the feet of the unwary, seek to walk in "the path of the just, which is as the dawning light that shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." But it may be well to enquire if the causes of Lot's downfall are not traceable to earlier circumstances. Can it not be seen in nature presuming to walk in a path which alone can be trodden in the power and energy of a living faith. In Genesis 11 we read, "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son … to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there." Here we find nature taking in hand to follow a divine call, which it had never understood, nor heard for itself. The heart of Lot had not been touched by the greatness of the One Who had called Abram, nor yet by the greatness and power of the call of the God of glory. The highways to that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, were not in the hearts of Terah and Lot, as were the highways to the dwelling-place of God in the hearts of those of whom the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 84, "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be constantly praising Thee. Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee — in whose hearts are the highways." With Terah there is a settling down, short altogether of the point for which they started; content to dwell in a scene upon which death has laid its blighting and disfiguring hand. Are these not the moral elements amid which many a Lot is nurtured? Does not Terah's character shine out in him, when, having undertaken to walk with Abraham, he beholds "the well-watered plain of Jordan," and when "he lingered" in the doomed city from which, in mercy, the angels delivered him.

But there is another beginning after this, for "Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came." Not nature now, but the man of faith leads, and they no longer stop short of the object before them — "into the land of Canaan they came." But Lot merely follows Abram as he had followed Terah. Abram walks with God: Lot only walks with Abram. Another has said, "How easy even for a believer to walk where another's bolder faith leads and makes the way practicable, without exercise of conscience or reality of faith as to the way itself! How many such there are, practically but followers of the Lord's host, adherents of a cause for which they have no thought of being martyrs, nearly balanced between what they know as truth and a world which has never been seen by them in the light of it. For such, as with Lot, a time of sifting comes, and like dead leaves they drop off from the stem that holds them." Egypt had acted thus for Lot. The fact that the coveted plain of Jordan seems to him as "the land of Egypt," shows how powerfully that land attracted him. It also seems that Abram's failure, in going down to Egypt, had loosened the moral hold he had hitherto retained upon his nephew.

Still true to the weakness of his character, it is not Lot, but Abram who proposes separation, after it was made perfectly plain that they could no longer walk happily together. In this connection, it is solemn to note that Scripture records "the Canaanite and the Perizzite were then dwelling in the land," as though to draw attention to the seriousness of strife in the presence of such unfriendly eves and ears. There are enemies looking on, and noting with ill-concealed satisfaction the strife and contention which is all too prevalent among the saints of God. Contention is generally connected with something that pertains to us in this world, something upon which the heart is set, but the possession of which will not contribute to spiritual advancement, but rather the reverse. "A bondman of the Lord ought not to contend, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach: forbearing; in meekness setting right those who oppose" (2 Tim. 2:24). How beautifully do we see this exemplified in the case of Abram now before us; he was entirely apart from the spirit of strife: "Let there be no strife … for we are brethren." He meets the spirit of strife with the spirit of surrender: there was no insistence on his part to any rights of his. How he endears himself to our hearts as he rises in moral greatness by this act of renunciation and surrender! "Let your yieldingness be known of all men, the Lord is near" (Phil. 4:5).

In all this Abram manifests his restoration of soul: but this is tinged with sorrow as we reflect that many a believer, who has gone down to Egypt, and has been recovered himself, has been the means of leading another there; and who has never known the joy of recovery.

Lot, regarding the plain of Jordan with the natural eye, fails to discern the true character of the inhabitants of the cities of the plain. There he dwells in his tent at first; soon to find a more permanent dwelling-place in Sodom itself, toward which from the first he gravitates. At a later date, the children of Israel were similarly affected when they said, "We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic, and now our soul is dried up; there is nothing at all but the manna before our eyes." They however forgot a matter of profound importance — the cruel bondage, the bitter servitude with which they were made to serve under the cruel lash of their task-masters.

Now Abram dwells in the land of Canaan, and God bids him walk through it as his own; and so we find him dwelling in Mamre (vigour), which is in Hebron (companionship communion). And is it not as we are in the full enjoyment of our heavenly portion that we are maintained in spiritual vigour, and in the full spiritual gain of communion with each other? May we only know and live in the portion of Abram here, without interruption or distraction.

Rise my soul! Thy God directs thee;
Stranger hands no more impede:
Pass thou on; His hand protects thee —
Strength that has the captive freed.
Art thou wean'd from Egypt's pleasures?
God in secret thee shall keep:
There unfold His hidden treasures,
There His love's exhaustless deep.

In Genesis 14, which is now before us for our prayerful and attentive consideration, we find the man of faith as the one who can overcome the world: a feature in which Abraham stands out in marked contrast to Lot. Following the movements of Abraham in this chapter, we are impressed with the complete restoration which had been effected in the experience of the man of faith; he was not only delivered out of Egypt, but brought back "unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning … unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first" (13:3-4). Complete restoration can only be reached on the principle that "the point of departure is the place of recovery." Nothing can satisfy the heart of God, with regard to restoration of a true child of God, who has declined in his spiritual condition and lost the sense of communion, but his being entirely restored, through grace, to his former character and measure of communion. Listen to what God says, through His inspired penman, the prophet Isaiah: "If thou wilt return, O Israel, return unto Me." It is very significant that when God is recounting to His earthly people the wonderful way in which He had led them forth from the land of bondage, He says, "I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself;" and it was to Himself they were to return, if they desired full restoration to the enjoyment of their earthly blessings.

When the leper was brought back, it was to "the door of the tabernacle of the congregation;" when the prodigal returned, he was given a place at the table with his Father; and consequent upon Peter's restoration, he can press home upon Israel their terrible guilt, saying, "Ye denied the Holy One, and the Just." Who is this that so speaks? Is this the one to whom his Lord had said, "Before the cock crow twice, thou shall deny Me thrice?" Yes, none other! but in the full liberty of a restoration, indicated in the words of Him Who was denied, "when once thou art restored, confirm thy brethren." It can surely be deduced from the instances cited, that all God's gracious dealings with us in seasons of spiritual decline and lack of moral stability is in view of complete restoration to full and unbroken communion, and in the light of this, are we not reminded of that exhortation in the epistle to the Galatians, "Brethren, if even a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." May we ever seek to act in the spirit of grace, on the line of true restoration.

We now turn to this most instructive and exercising chapter to see in Abraham one who not only overcomes the world in its hostile character, but also in its patronising character. How sharp and decisive is the contrast between Abraham, the overcomer, and Lot, who is always being overcome by one influence after another. I am not aware of one incident in his tragic history in which he appears as an overcomer. Egypt had a large and prominent place in his heart; and then the "well-watered plain" because it was like Egypt; then Sodom, and then Zoar; he had always some influence in his heart which was not of God. Lot, ever true to his name, never showed his true colours as a saint; and the consequence of this is to drift into association with the world, and thereby lose the joy of the Lord's approval, and the power to be an overcomer. In view of overcoming, much depends on where we live. We know where Abraham dwelt, and in verse 12 the Spirit very significantly says of Lot, "For he dwelt in Sodom." Equally significant is the word concerning Abraham the Hebrew, "And he dwelt by the Oaks of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eschol, and the brother of Aner; and these were Abraham's allies." The portion of the man of faith was outside the whole field of conflict. Lot, on the other hand, is already in Sodom, which results in his being carried captive in the captivity of Sodom.

Hebron means "company," suggesting fellowship: Mature is "vigour;" Eschol is "cluster of grapes," and Aner means "waterfall." Do these names not speak to us of that spiritual vigour, and of that joy and freshness resulting from being in the presence of the Spirit, and of fellowship with saints. Surely the fact that the Spirit has mentioned these names specifically is sufficient warrant for the child of God to interpret them, not according to human expediency, but in perfect suitability with the whole tenor of Scripture. Abraham had no sympathy with the king of Sodom; his whole reason for engaging in battle was the deliverance of one who had fallen under the power of the world. So Abraham brings back Lot; the deliverance of the other captives being incidental. How good it is, beloved brethren, to have power to rescue one for whom Christ died; but this power is only with those who are on the line of Abraham. Do we not see this spirit greatly developed in the beloved Apostle Paul, not only in regard to individuals, but also in relation to whole assemblies? He speaks to those in Colosse of the great conflict he had for them; he saw them in danger of coming under the rudiments of the world, and he marshals all his divinely given powers for their deliverance. There were many assemblies in the province of Galatia, and the Apostle saw them in grave danger of coming under the influence of another gospel. It was a deliberate attempt on the part of troublers among them to pervert the glad tidings of the Christ, and to bring them into bondage to the law, and thus to prevent them standing in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. As has been noted, this mighty man of God with irresistible divine energy brings all his accoutrements of war to bear upon the assailants of the truth to their discomfiture, and the eventual deliverance of the saints.

But the moment of victory is a moment of specific danger to the saint, as Abraham is made to realise. Having returned victorious from the smiting of the kings, he is met by the king of Sodom with honours and gifts; but the one who had overcome the world in its hostile power is proof against all the seductive blandishments of a patronizing world. We have all to beware of the seductive proposals of an alien world. The ministrations of Melchisedec, king of Salem, in the valley of Shaveh — the King's valley — had fortified Abraham, so that he was able to meet and over-come the alluring favours of the king of Sodom. And it is only as we remain in the King's valley, the low place, that we experience the priestly support of our true Melchisedec, the One Who says. "I am meek and lowly in heart." The spirit of meekness, lowliness and gentleness; the consciousness that all has been done by divine support; that is the spirit of the King's valley; and there it is we meet the King of peace, the King of righteousness, Whose refreshment and blessing make us superior to all that this world would confer upon us.

This Melchisedec, who meets Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, is a truly remarkable personage; spoken of as the priest of the Most High God — an unmistakable reference to that glorious day of Christ's manifested supremacy when, as true Melchisedec, He shall sit as Priest and King upon His throne. How wonderfully apposite in this connection, when Christ shall be manifested as King of righteousness and King of peace, are the words of Isaiah, "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever: and my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places."

This stringently typical scene, in which we have the first presentation of the royalty and priesthood of Christ, is explained to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The words are remarkable for the way in which they bring out and insist on the perfection and accuracy of Scripture, in what it omits as well as in what it inserts. "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." are words which have been thought to show that this mysterious person was none other than Christ Himself; but the words immediately following disproves this, "made like unto the Son of God." Another has said, "Melchisedec was in his characteristics assimilated to the Son of God:" He is our High Priest, not reckoned among the transient generations of an earthly priesthood, but subsisting in the power of an endless life.

If we really taste the blessedness of these heavenly thing, the world has nothing by which it can attract us: no, not even to a shoe-latchet. For us,
This world is a wilderness wide,
We have nothing to seek or to choose.

May we crave to have hearts satisfied with Christ, to such an extent, that we may have "nothing to seek or to choose" save that which would deepen in our souls the sense of abiding satisfaction that is to be found in Him, and Him alone.

How very remarkable is the opening of the 15th chapter of Genesis, consequent upon Abram's victory over the kings, and his refusal of the "goods" and patronage of the King of Sodom. So many Christians speak of their loss of present things in the path of faith, not being occupied with the spiritual enrichment and measureless eternal benefits that any little sacrifice for Christ brings. The beloved Apostle Paul puts these things in true perspective in the 3rd of Philippians when he says, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be filth that I may have Christ for my gain." All was relinquished that he might have Christ for his gain. And were all these things surrendered in a spirit of passive resignation, or in a spirit of irresponsible abandonment as though he were a victim of some deep, uncontrollable emotion? No! this was the calculated decision of one whose innermost soul had been deeply moved by that heavenly light which shone upon him on that memorable journey to Damascus, and by hearing the heavenly voice of that glorified Man. The thoughts of his heart are found in the words:
"I have seen the face of Jesus,
Tell me naught of aught beside,
I have heard the voice of Jesus,
And my soul is satisfied!"

So in the case of our Patriarch; we find that his gain is beyond all human reckoning, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." The Lord will not suffer His servant to be a loser by rejecting the offer of the world. Surely it was unspeakably greater, and infinitely better to find himself protected by Jehovah as his shield, than to hide behind the patronage of the world in order to enjoy a more congenial path; and better far to find enjoyment and satisfaction in the knowledge of Jehovah as his exceeding great reward than to have the transient, ephemeral pleasures which the goods" of Sodom would minister to the heart. How forcibly do these precious realities come home to us, who stand in the noon-tide light of the revelation of the Father in the Person of the Son, in Whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, the worthy object to fill and satisfy every heart.

In this chapter we have a new beginning; the inner life and experiences of Abram rather than the external view of his path and circumstances are brought out by the Spirit of God. Abram is presented to us now as righteous by faith, a condition fundamental to all spiritual relationships, and all right experiences. This was surely not the first time that Abram believed God; yet it is here, when God says, "So shall thy seed be," that God is pleased to declare publicly his righteousness. In the 3rd chapter of Romans we have an extremely soul-stirring presentation of the doctrine of the righteousness of God. In the 1st chapter Paul declares "For I am not ashamed of the glad tidings; for it is God's power to salvation … for righteousness of God is revealed therein on the principle of faith to faith." Beloved Mr Darby has said regarding "Righteousness of God;"

"The absence of the article ('the') may arrest the mind here, and in some other places in this part of the epistle. It is likely to do so, because the righteousness of God is now a known doctrine, not so when the Apostle taught. The righteousness of God was a wholly new thought. The gospel, or glad tidings, was the power of God to salvation, because righteousness of God (that kind of righteousness) was revealed, not righteousness required of man." In the light of this profound doctrine how wonderful it is to read in Romans 4. "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Referring to the word "as" Mr Darby remarks, "I am not quite satisfied with 'as,' but it is the nearest approach to the sense in English. 'For,' I object to; because then faith is made of positive worth, having the value of righteousness, whereas the sense is that he was holden for righteous in virtue of faith. 'For' does not go far enough as righteousness; too far as a positive value of faith. Faith might be reckoned for righteousness, and yet the righteousness come short of what was required; whereas if it be reckoned as righteousness, then the full value of righteousness as such is seen; the man was held to have righteousness."

I have dwelt at length on this extremely instructive and emancipating portion of the Word of God because it is of the first importance that we should have an intelligent apprehension of this great truth; but after this lengthy digression let us now return to the consideration of the two assurances God gave to Abram, and to the two questions these assurances inspired in the heart of the man of faith. These assurances are, "Fear not Abram, I am thy shield and exceeding great reward," and "I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it;" words which, in their application to us may surely read, "God the Father is our portion," and "Heaven is the place where we enjoy our portion." To the first assurance Abram replies, "Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?" and to the second, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" Does not this questioning, on the part of Abram, strike strangely on the ear in the presence of those absolute assurances which the Lord had given him? Supposing Abram's faith to be at the ebb on this occasion, how blessed it is to see that if we cannot rise to God's thoughts, God can come down and carry out His sovereign will. Here, God assures Abram that his own son would be his heir, then He brings him forth and says, "Look now toward the heavens, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said to him, So shall thy seed be!" The many seeds and the One are here; and the many to be reached by means of the One.

Abram's "One seed" is familiar to us all. Through and in Isaac we read Christ. "He does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed; which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). In the symbol of the starry heavens we have in type the seed innumerable as the stars — the heavenly seed of faith; and here we see Abram as "great father," head of the family of faith. How greatly indebted we are to the beloved Apostle for telling us that all who are on the principle of faith are "blessed with believing Abraham." The innumerable seed who have been secured in and for Christ will inherit the promises.

Let us now consider Abram's second question. God had said to him, "I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it;" and Abram says, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall possess it." How beautifully God brings Christ before us in His answer, "Take me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon." The first two females are types of fruitfulness; the heifer of the patient Workman; the she-goat, the victim for our sins. The ram is descriptive of energy; and afterwards it becomes the animal of consecration. The birds speak of One from heaven, Whom love made a Man of sorrows (the turtle-dove), and a Man of faith on earth (the rock-pigeon). These, the five-fold type, expressed in One perfect Man, Abram divided in the midst, and laid each piece one against the other, but the birds he did not divide; and Abram drove the fowls of the air away when they came down upon the carcases. Faith's vigilance in guarding the sacrifice from profanation by Satanic agency is manifested in Abram until "the sun was going down, and deep sleep passed upon Abram, and he slept." The vigilance of faith is over, and darkness succeeds the light, but this only tends to bring out the supreme value of the sacrifice which sustains faith.

Under the symbol of the smoking furnace and the burning lamp, God is seen as the Refiner of His people, passing them through the crucible of affliction, and pledging Himself to fulfil His promise of the inheritance (see Jer. 34:18). God pledges Himself to give the discipline needed in faith's failure, and the light for His own while passing through the darkness of this world towards their inheritance.

In conclusion I quote the words of another: "How complete and beautiful is this then as the answer to Abram's second question, if with his eye upon himself, he asks, "How shall I know that I shall inherit it?" He is answered by the revelation of the infinite value of all that puts a holy God and a righteous One in both characters upon his side; underpinning faith in all its frailty and securing holiness as fully as it secures the inheritance itself. … Ours is indeed a wider and a wondrous inheritance. But so ours is a sacrifice of infinite value, and which alone gave value to these symbols themselves. How precious to see God's eye resting in delight upon that which for Him had such significance, ages before its import could be revealed! How responsible we are whom grace has favoured with so great a revelation!"

On further consideration Genesis 16 acquires a distinct measure of importance which is not readily discernible to the superficial reader. This is due in no small degree to those gleams of divine light projected in typical language into the sphere of doctrine relating to law and grace as set forth in Galatians. Furthermore, the truth annunciated in this chapter can only become intelligible to us as we view it in the greater and fuller light of the New Testament doctrine, and in this instance, as already mentioned, particularly in the Epistle to the Galatians, where the truth of law and grace is authentically defined and authoritatively established, and where the Spirit of God refutes the false doctrine of those whom it repudiates in no uncertain terms. It is in this spirit we must interpret Sarai's attitude to Hagar, where it is said, "And Sarai oppressed her: and she fled from her face."

Hagar, as the bondwoman, is typical of the legal system, which is "Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which is now, for she is in bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:25). What is of the world, what is legal and genders to bondage, all partakes of one character, and as such cannot be tolerated in the presence of Sarai, the freewoman, who is typical of the heavenly Jerusalem: "But the Jerusalem above is free, which is our mother." To continue the language, Paul, in writing to the Galatians, declares with a deep sense of urgency, "Cast out the maid servant and her son; for the son of the maid servant shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not maid servant's children, but children of the freewoman" (Gal. 4:30-31). Paul will have none of Hagar, the bondwoman.

The foregoing remarks, while anticipating much that has to be mentioned, are explanatory of the apostle's attitude regarding that which is a grievous perversion of the glorious truths of Christianity, and in this, as in all other things, we would do well to be his imitators. Does it not appear at the beginning of chapter 16 that Abram had failed to benefit from the great lessons of the previous chapters? Otherwise it would be right to conclude that he would have been preserved from the course he takes here to secure what was bound up in God's infallible promise to him. Apart from the fulfilment of the promise regarding the coming of Isaac, the true seed in whom the promise reposed, nothing of all that lay in the heart of God, relative to these wonderful purposes, could have their fulfilment: "In Isaac, shall a seed be called to thee" (Gen. 21:12). Another consideration, very solemnizing to the saint who is truly exercised concerning the path of separation from the world presents itself to us in this chapter. What takes place here is but the fruit of Abram's brief sojourn in Egypt, for the Egyptian maid servant becomes a snare to him.

In the previous chapter, God had shown to Abram that the true seed would be a heavenly seed, and that He would secure the inheritance and bring the seed into it on the ground of the death of Christ, which involved the complete setting aside of man; and in this way God had shown that all had been secured to Abram by indefeasible promise, on the ground of sacrifice. Abram fails in the test as to how far the light of these things had been made good in his soul.

How solemn is Abram's defection here, as in the energy of nature he seeks to bring in the seed which had been unalterably secured by the immutable promise of a God that cannot lie; yet this was the one who, at the moment the promise was given, "hesitated not at the promise of God, but found strength in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He is able also to do; wherefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:20-22). But the true seed cannot be brought in on the principle of law. Hagar, whose name means "flight" suggests an order of things which must disappear as not ministering in any way to the pleasure of God: "He takes away the first, that He may establish the second:" For if that annulled (was introduced) with glory, much rather that which abides subsists in glory." It is rather remarkable that the turning aside of the Galatians is what we have presented to us in divine figure in Genesis 16. It is an attempt to secure heirs for the favour and pleasure of God in an entirely fleshly way; in a worldly and legal way. The principle can be seen all around us today. It is the line of Hagar; a way in which the grace of God is ignored, and faith is not in exercise. How all this is contrary to the mind and will and purposes of God, Whose will is to have heirs in the liberty of heavenly grace as those who are the true children of the Jerusalem above, children of the Freewoman.

The principle of which Hagar is a type supposes that the flesh can bring pleasure to God. It is significant that Abram should move in this line; and how striking the resemblance seen figuratively in Abram and what marked the Galatians morally. They were true believers; they had the Spirit; yet they were taking up law and circumcision to make a fair show in the flesh, which caused the beloved Apostle to speak to them in language and terms which betray his great concern for them: "Have ye received the Spirit on the principle of works of law, or of the report of faith? Are ye so senseless? having begun in the Spirit, are ye going to be made perfect in flesh" (Gal. 3:2-3). The history of the children of Israel is extremely illustrative of the innate propensity of the human heart to gravitate towards legality with its resultant state of bondage. All God's ways with them in Egypt and the early days of the wilderness were intended to teach them that the grace of God was the one and only means of blessing. At the Red Sea, and in the early experiences of the wilderness, the manifestation of divine power on their behalf was the expression of His grace towards them: all their murmurings were met in purest grace, and were not accompanied by governmental chastening in any way. One would have thought that all they experienced at the hands of their covenant-keeping God would have bound their hearts for-ever to His grace, but no; how readily they turn from this to take up responsibility in the flesh, fatally pledging themselves to keep the law — that which was God's righteous requirement of man — only to find that all God had borne with in grace now invoked the penal sanctions of a broken law.

This chapter under consideration shows us in figure the coming in of the law, the bringing in of what is of the flesh, that which gives man in the flesh status before men, but which ends in bondage. The pride of man despises grace, and this is seen in Hagar's attitude to Sarai. When we come under the influence of Jerusalem above, we make everything of God and Christ, we magnify the grace of God, rejoicing in the complete displacement of self and in the new place given to us in grace with Christ on the risen side of death. The whole system of heavenly grace is filled with Christ, the true Isaac, the Son of God.

Hagar can only bring forth what the angel describes as a "wild ass of a man:" the adoption of the legal line leads to biting and devouring one another, as the Apostle charges against the Galatians. The spirit of grace was lacking, the works of the flesh were greatly in evidence, and all this was the result of the will and pride of man being allowed. Hagar despised Sarai: the pride of the flesh despises the influence of grace; "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these things are opposed one to the other" (Gal. 5:17). It is only as we come under the power of the teaching of grace, applied by the Spirit of God, that the formative influences of the heavenly Jerusalem are made good in our souls. Walking in the Spirit we shall in no way fulfil the flesh's lust, but shall display the fruits of the Spirit, against which there is no law. The influences of grace are brought to bear upon us by new covenant ministry, that which is the outcome of the love of God, supremely displayed in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How necessary is it therefore that the bondwoman and her son should be cast out; the spirit of grace cannot tolerate what is legal, and what gives man a standing in the flesh. But though Hagar is cast out, she and her son become the objects of divine care in the grace of God. It is like the elder brother who would not come in to the feast: he had the same proud spirit as Ishmael; yet the father went out and entreated him. What a striking picture of the nation of Israel: all the testings of the wilderness only provided the complete justification of God's pronouncements as to their moral condition — a disobedient and opposing people — "a wild ass of a man," unsubdued. Like Ishmael, whose hand was against every man, and every man's hand against him, the Apostle says of Israel, "They please not God, and are contrary to all men." Yet, as having come from Abram, they are beloved for the fathers' sake. In this connection, how blessed to learn that God heard Hagar's cry, and provided for her refreshment the well Beer-lahai-roi, "Well of the living who was seen." God not only sees me, but has revealed Himself in grace that I may see Him.

God has ever been the God of all grace, and what God is, is always the line of blessing for man. This is so now, when the heavenly seed are being gathered together, and it will be so in the day when He will gather the earthly seed to inherit their wonderful inheritance. Israel shall then come under the sweet subduing power of heavenly grace; the unsubdued heart of stone, that made them like Ishmael, will become a heart of flesh. They will then acknowledge Christ, Whom they despised, as the true Seed — the true Isaac.
When our hearts this place accord Him,
When as Isaac He has come,
Cast the bondslave out and ruleth
As the Lord upon His throne;
Then our hearts bow down before Him,
This world's glory waxeth dim,
Every hindrance then must vanish,
All be subject unto Him.

Genesis 17 appears as the rising of the sun after the darkness. God declares Himself to be the Almighty God, Who works all in His own almighty power. The incidents mentioned in the previous chapter tell their own sad tale of how greatly the man of faith was at variance with the mind of God respecting the manner in which all that God had promised was to be accomplished. Abram's movements were unmistakable indications of how grievous was his departure from the line on which God would bring in the seed of promise. He had to learn that all connected with the flesh must be set aside.

God now declares Himself as "El Shaddai," the God of power, the all-sufficient One, and the effect of this fresh revelation is immediate and significant — Abram fell on his face. He did not fall on his face when God appeared to him in Genesis 15; he stood, conscious of being in the light with Jehovah, without a shade of reserve. But now, prostrate at His feet, in silence and amazement, he finds that the God with Whom he has to do is the unchanging One; His love is the same, whether in rebuke or comfort. In this lowly place we see the lofty pretensions of man brought low, the resources of nature exposed in all their impotency, the energies of the flesh subdued and the will of man broken. Truly the light is good and pleasant to our eyes as faith apprehends the far-reaching implications of this divine title, which assures that all counseled by God for His pleasure will be carried through triumphantly.

Hitherto Abram had known God as a mighty God, but now he was to walk in dependence before Him as the Almighty. How greatly does the idea of power in ourselves limit the apprehension of the fact that "all power belongeth unto God." The great lesson of this chapter is that God can and must do everything if there is to be a true seed to inherit His promises. "The gracious work must all be Thine, begun and ended in Thy power." It is this vain expectation of something from nature, the flesh or law, which has resulted in great enfeeblement amongst the saints of God. What a wonderful day has dawned upon our souls when we can truly say, "All that we are we owe to Thee, Thou God of grace alone."

In Genesis 24. Abraham says "The God before Whom I have walked;" but Jacob can only say "The God before Whom my fathers walked," and "The God Who fed me." Abraham and Isaac walked before God, but Jacob could only speak of God's care for him being too busy scheming to accomplish the divine end in his own way. He had to learn, after God's disciplinary ways with him, because of his tortuous ways, that the whole work must be of God.

We might paraphrase this sublime declaration: — Just walk before Me in the sense that My eye is constantly upon you for blessing, and in the sense of what My power can and will do, and all will be well. There can be little doubt that if we walked in the practical enjoyment of these things, the conditions of perfection would be present, and we would be content that the flesh, and all expectation from it, should be cut off. "For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and do not trust in flesh."

You will have noticed that at least ten times God says, in this chapter, "I will;" strangely contrasting with the "thou shalt" repeated in the law. It is extremely beautiful to note how God engages Himself to work out all He has set His heart upon. He says, "I will set my covenant between Me and thee;" thus establishing a definite bond between Himself and Abram in view of accomplishing His purpose. Consequent upon the establishment of this covenant, God gives him a new name, exercising His divine prerogative in this ennoblement of Abram. The name Abram signifies "great, or high, father;" setting forth what he was personally as head of the family of faith: but Abraham directs our attention to the greatness of the family of which he is the head, for it means "father of a multitude;" not only of individuals, but of nations. In giving this name God is indicating the vast results of the principle of faith and of promise. There is nothing so fruitful as the faith principle, it is "exceedingly fruitful," being the only principle that brings forth anything for God, because it counts on His power alone.

We now come to a most interesting part of this chapter: Abraham and all the males of his house are to be circumcised, which is a figure of the setting aside of the flesh. If God pledges Himself to bless His people and to be everything to them, He will not tolerate any confidence in the flesh on their part. In Romans 2:28 we are told "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither that circumcision which is outward in flesh." This Scripture conveys to our minds beyond any doubt that true circumcision is an inward thing, a divine work "of the heart" and "in spirit." In Romans 4:11 we learn that Abraham "received the sign of circumcision as seal of the righteousness of faith which he had being in uncircumcision." The Spirit of God affirms in a most convincing way that the principle of Abraham's justification is faith, not works. How consistent and effective is the testimony of Scripture that no flesh shall glory in God's presence. It is very remarkable to find this very principle in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 9:23-24): "Let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might; let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am Jehovah, who exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight." See also 1 Corinthians 1:27-31.

It is blessed to see therefore that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. But when was it reckoned to him? In circumcision or uncircumcision? The answer sweeps aside every vestige of fleshly presumption by which the religious Jew sought to make his position unassailable. But his own father Abraham was uncircumcised when he possessed the faith by which he was justified. Abraham therefore appears as the father of circumcision (the one in whom began that separation to God implied in it) to those who walked in the steps of that faith which he had while yet uncircumcised.

To the child of God in this dispensation of grace, the Spirit as the seal of the righteousness of faith comes in as divine power, which alone is effectual for the practical setting aside of the flesh, and keeping it in the place of death. God intends that we should realise that adequate power has been made available by the presence of the Spirit, so that we may refuse the flesh and all its workings, and thus be manifested as His people. As another has said. "As having the Spirit, our capability is equal to our responsibility."

Let us turn now to Col. 2:9. Circumcision stands here in relation to Christ. When we see that the fulness of the Godhead is in Christ, and that we are filled full in Him, surely we would gladly relinquish anything that would contribute in any way to the distinction of the flesh, and like the beloved Apostle "count all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord." In the presence of such a wealth of divine realities is it conceivable that we should require or desire anything outside of Christ? When we enter into the practical enjoyment of these surpassingly excellent things, we are prepared to accept what was done when He died — circumcision, the cutting off of the flesh absolutely in His death.

Then in Philippians 3, to which we have already referred, we find the true meaning of circumcision. If any man could have trusted in flesh, Paul could; but he gladly refused all in which man could glory: for, forgetting the things that were behind, he pressed on towards the mark for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. It is very helpful to see both in Gen. 17 and Phil. 3 how circumcision comes in in connection with the inheritance. Paul had his eye on the inheritance in a risen and glorified Christ, which enabled him to accept the cutting off of every hope and glory belonging to man in the flesh. In the end of this chapter we see the solemn end of those who refused the truth of circumcision in relation to the cross (vers. 18, 19).

Sarai's name too is changed to Sarah, meaning "Princess." She is a figure of Israel as the vessel of promise; dead, according to the flesh, by God's power she becomes the princess to give birth to the seed of promise. Abraham intercedes for Ishmael, but it is God's will to give Isaac the first place. Isaac means laughter: how faith rejoices in discerning the wondrous results of God acting entirely from Himself and for His glory, in bringing in the true Isaac in resurrection power, the One in Whom the covenant would be established, and the inheritance secured. But Ishmael, type of stubborn and rebellious Israel is remembered in goodness by their covenant keeping God. Yet how sad to see that, while they claimed the privilege of the covenant, they never realised what was involved in the sign of the covenant: they always had confidence in the flesh. God had to tell them that they were uncircumcised in heart and ears.

As we consider the amazing character of the scene depicted in the opening verses of Genesis 18, we are confronted with the inescapable conviction that the truth of circumcision, presented in the previous chapter, must be learned and accepted before the elevating privilege here delineated can be enjoyed. It is truly an amazing scene which is opened up before us here, in which God not only appears to Abraham, but openly associates Himself with him in circumstances designed to convey the impression of how great is His pleasure in doing so. When God, the Almighty God, is known as the One who effects everything for His pleasure, and faith has learned to rejoice in the bringing in of the true Isaac as the Seed of promise, with the consequent displacement of all that is on the line of nature and the flesh, when circumcision is accepted and its truth experienced in a practical way, conditions are present in which the inestimable privilege of communion with heavenly Visitants can be enjoyed. John 14:18 gives us to expect this, "I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you." Should not the desire to know this experimentally provoke in us a jealous care for moral suitability for communion with the Father and the Son? "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).

In further considering the chapter before us, there is a suggestive contrast with the next chapter in which Lot is brought before us for the last time. The foundation of the contrast is seen in the respective positions occupied by Abraham and Lot; one sits at the door of his tent at Mamre, the other is found in the gate of Sodom; one is still the persistent pilgrim, cherishing the promises and looking for the city of which God is the Builder; the other, untrue to the pilgrim character, coveting a prominent place in a world ripening for judgment. It is remarkable that elsewhere in Scripture Lot is referred to as a "righteous man" (2 Peter 2:8), while in Genesis he is regarded as having settled down amidst the pollutions of a sinful world. The contrast is a beautiful instance of the style of Scripture. Although he was righteous before God, his unfaithful walk required that God should deal with him in government. God had called Himself the God of Abraham, but could not call Himself the God of Lot. How searching and solemn for each one of us is this! How is it with us? Is God confessing or denying us? We cannot dispose of this question by saying, I am a Christian. It is on this ground that the question assumes its serious aspect.

In the narrative then, God makes Himself strange to Lot, and it is a matter of note that when God saved Lot from the holocaust of judgment that swept in all its devouring fury over the doomed cities, we are told, "And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the midst of which Lot dwelt." God's dealings with Lot at this time were in keeping with the discipline his soul required, but the need for these disciplinary dealings being past, He can look back on that history, and select the elements of good which His eye only could discern; that which He noted all through, and which He placed to Lot's account, He makes mention of in His own good time. Such is our God! such is His holiness, such is His grace.

How blessed to see on the other hand the pilgrim ways of Abraham ministering to God's pleasure, and to read of the unstinted commendation written for our instruction, "By faith he sojourned as a stranger in the land of promise as a foreign country, having dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob … wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for He has prepared for them a city" (Hebrews 11). In the light of these things therefore it would be right to say that the tent at Mamre and the gate of Sodom are characteristic and contrasted things. As another has said, "Faith looking for a city which hath foundations, is content to scratch the earth with a tent pole merely." Such is the consistent life of Abraham, with few deviations, the pattern man of faith. As he sits in his tent door, under the cool, refreshing and spreading shade of the great oak at Mamre, three illustrious visitants from heaven come to him for the specific purpose of announcing the coming of the true seed — Isaac. Once again the heart is refreshed in beholding how the man of faith is equal to this great occasion. Though appearing as men, the practical eye and heart of Abraham discerned the true character of One of the three visitors, so that he says, "Lord if now I have found favour in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant."

How disarming is the approach of the three strangers there is no distance there is intimacy; three men come, two of them angels, the other, Him before Whom the angels veil their faces; but they come as men, and keep this place. This is all the more striking because these same "men" appear in Sodom explicitly as angels. While the scene before us is capable of various interpretations, the one which endears itself to the heart is that which fore-shadows the coining of Immanuel, God with us, not as a mere Visitant, but as tabernacling in flesh.
"See within the manger
God, on earth a Stranger!
As a Babe in swaddling bands the world's Creator lies.
By the great neglected,
Unto scorn subjected,
Though the angels haste to feast on Him their holy eyes." (J. Boyd)

The faith displayed by Abraham in the reception of his visitors manifests itself in an engaging manner by the way he prepares to entertain them. There is no attempt to dismiss them as conscious of his own unworthiness, such as we find in the case of Job and Peter. In beautiful confidence of faith he meets the One who has come as man, and to whom he extends as man a human welcome. Can we not see in all this a faint analogy with the home at Bethany? It is blessed to see the readiness with which Abraham's hospitality was received on the part of his distinguished visitors: all is met with unhesitating acceptance: "He stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." How much there is in all this for the blessing and enrichment of our souls. We too can enjoy in the simplicity of faith communion with the blessed Lord in what speaks of Himself. These "three measures of meal" and the "calf tender and good" speak of none other than Christ Himself. Occupation with Christ is still the essential prerequisite for communion with Him.

There is an engaging simplicity and intimacy attaching to all this, introducing us into a sphere of divine truth where we enjoy communion with Divine Persons in all the intimacy of spiritual affection, as is suggested in John's Epistle, for, having spoken of that eternal life which was with the Father, he says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us:" then he adds, "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." If then our souls lack fellowship — if we are not in the full enjoyment of communion — would it not be of the first importance to ask ourselves if lack of occupation with Christ is not the prime cause of this unhappy state of things. The lack of this creates a void into which crowd those spiritually enervating influences of the world — the cares of this life, the pleasures of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, all combine to deprive the child of God of the desire to feed on this heavenly food, which is Christ, Himself.

All this finds its reflex in the children of Israel, who despised the manna, God's gracious, all-sufficient provision for the wilderness. With obduracy of heart they said, "Who will give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; and now our soul is dried up: there is nothing at all but the manna before our eves." But what does the Psalmist say of this manna that fell upon the dew by night? "Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and had opened the doors of the heavens. And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them the corn of the heavens: Man did eat the bread of the mighty." Let us beware, beloved reader, lest we too should be guilty in the minutest degree of despising Christ, the true Manna, as the food of our souls, for, let us not forget, this was the first point of departure with the children of Israel: they turned from the manna.

How blessed to perceive that Abraham's tent is provided with that by which he can suitably entertain a heavenly guest. The "three measures of meal" is actually the "fine flour" of the meat offering spoken of in Leviticus, which speaks of the perfect Manhood of Christ, who is the Bread of God, and the food for His people. The calf, young and fresh, reminds us of Him who was the true and perfect Workman for God, who, in resistless energy, gave His shoulders to the yoke to carry out the will of God.

Now we have the wonderful announcement of the promise concerning the birth of Isaac, the son that was to gladden the heart of Abraham. We know of whom Isaac speaks, even Him of whom the prophet writes, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given;" One who came to dwell. Is not this the thought that lays hold of Paul's heart so powerfully in Ephesians 3:14-19?

We come now to the solemn disclosure of the doom of Sodom; and it is to the "Friend of God" that this communication is given. And 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 household and his children after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord." How sweet the encouragement in maintaining in one's household the authority, rapidly being given up in these days, from God and for God.

And how beautiful is the intimacy with which Abraham intercedes with God for the doomed city, over which the dark clouds of divine wrath were already lowering; and how patiently God answers the man of faith when he says "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" How sure and stable is faith's resting place, as the blighting winds of infidelity and agnosticism blow with increasing fury, in knowing that peace which passeth all understanding, a peace that has been righteously established on an enduring foundation. Yes! the Judge of all the earth will do right, though, for the present, man's proud will may appear to be in the ascendancy.

There can be little doubt that, in comparing the 18th chapter of Genesis with the 19th chapter, the Spirit of God has chosen words to emphasise the contrastive features of the circumstances and environment in which Abraham and Lot are found: every circumstance which would accentuate the contrast is designedly noted. For instance, we are told in Genesis 18 that Jehovah appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the tent door in the heat of the day. Some one might remark that to dwell in a tent in a hot, eastern country was commonplace, and therefore a circumstance too trivial to be regarded in any spiritual sense. But to so regard this circumstance is to over-simplify it, and to ignore the rich spiritual instruction and admonition the Spirit intends it should yield to us; for when we turn to the 11th of Hebrews, where we have a record of the diversity of faith's expression in the great cloud of witnesses, we are expressly told in the 9th verse, "By faith he (Abraham) sojourned as a stranger in the land of promise as a foreign country, having dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Heb. 11:9.

Is this not a wonderful connection in which to find the simple statement, "Having dwelt in tents?" How timeously does it speak to us of the thought of pilgrimage and strangership in this world, in view of citizenship in heaven. And what is the full measure and character of this pilgrimage and strangership! Nothing less than that is encompassed in that touching declaration of the beloved Son to the Father, "They are not of the world, as I am not of the world." How solemn the consideration dear saint of God that, it is possible, despite this precious pronouncement from the lips of the Divine Son, we may be morally like those of Pergamos, to whom, it is said, "I know where thou dwellest, where the throne of Satan is;" like Lot, "Sitting in the gate of Sodom," the place of authority in the world — not merely settling down in the world, but administering its affairs. In human assessment, he had "got on in the world." At first, he had "pitched his tent toward Sodom;" but when we come to Genesis 19 his tent is no longer mentioned, it is his house: he had given up his pilgrim character, and had settled down in the world.

These are solemn considerations for the child of God! Are we to walk in uncompromising fidelity and devotion in the footsteps of that "Ever homeless stranger," in this world, enjoying as our present portion the sweet foretaste of that moment of surpassing excellence when, "With Thee in garments white, Lord Jesus we shall walk?" or are we to covet and solicit the favour of a world where the blessed Son of Man had not where to lay His head?

Let us consider some more of these distinctly contrastive features. Two angels come to Sodom — not men as was the case with Abraham here is distance, not an atmosphere in which communion can be known and enjoyed. Evening too has fallen: how different from the heat of the day, the sun "shining in its strength." But here the purple and golden banners of the evening sky are furled away, and gloom settles down upon the whole scene; a gloom soon to be intensified by the dark menacing clouds of divine wrath, which will only be relieved by the light of that awful conflagration of divine judgment that will consume the cities of the plain and their inhabitants.

The angels come at night as though not to be seen; and while Lot's hospitality was ready and spontaneous, there was not the readiness of acceptance on the part of the two angels as there was in the three men who willingly accepted of Abraham's hospitality. In the 18th chapter we are told that when Abraham lifted up his eyes he saw three men standing near him. The true rendering of this word is "stationed themselves," and conveys the meaning of a desire to remain there in circumstances wholly congenial to them. Is not this in marked contrast to the behaviour of the two angels who, to the urgent pleadings of Lot replied, "Nay; but we will abide in the street all night?" Are we exercised, according to the Spirit of God, to be found morally suitable for the present enjoyment of communion with God? The choice is ours: are we to be found in the way of Abraham, or in the way of Lot?
"Be not to me my God, as One that turned aside
To tarry for a night, and trod His onward path. Abide
With me as light divine, that brings into my breast
Those gladdening scenes e'en now as mine, soon my eternal rest."

Lot's importunate entreaties, however, prevail with the angelic messengers who, as we learn further on, have been sent in the providential ways of God for Lot's preservation in the eventual overthrow of the guilty cities. What Lot sets before the angels displays a refined sense of discernment, which is all the more touching as we consider the environment in which this was eaten. "And he made them a repast, and baked unleavened cakes, and they ate." Here was one who vexed his righteous soul from day to day with the lawless works of ungodly men; himself apart from the corruption around, who could provide that which in every way was suited to his heavenly guests, but who had no power to maintain what was pleasing to God, because of unholy and defiling associations. How immeasurable was the distance between Abraham and Lot, who, though they started off together, reached a very different goal. How truly do the Scriptures say, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." In such unholy surroundings it is impossible to enjoy communion with those whose presence can only prove to be a perpetual reproach and rebuke to one who has in his ways renounced the path of faith. Unlike Abraham, he is not master of his circumstances, but they of him.

How solemn the ribald intrusion of these ungodly men of Sodom as Lot entertains his heavenly guests; and despite his earnest entreaties and dishonourable overtures to these wicked men, the good he seeks is spurned, and judgment falls on those with whom he had chosen to associate himself. How solemn and searching is all this in a day when heaven is regarded as a sheltered haven to be safely reached at the end of life's journey, and not as the present dwelling-place of the saint of God; and when saints — for whom Christ gave Himself, to deliver them from this present evil world — count it no shame to be citizens of this world, to be yoked in every possible way, commercially, politically, socially, and even ecclesiastically, with unbelievers.

The Word of God insists that one's personal state is reflected in the associations voluntarily assumed. Not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers" is the condition God gives on which He can be a Father to us; and to be purged from vessels of dishonour fits one to "be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and pre-pared to every good work" (2 Cor. 6:17-18:2 Tim. 2:21). Those who seek to obey these Scriptures must be prepared to have every charge of narrow-mindedness and legality levelled against them by those who would seek to establish that strange amalgam of friendship with the world and friendship with God, spite of the solemn declaration of God's Word, "Whoever therefore is minded to be the friend of the world is constituted enemy of God." Despite such plainness of speech on God's part, evangelical leaders identify themselves publicly with modernists, and whole companies of professed Christians gather together in hearty fellowship with those who are regardless of the Lord's glory. How solemn indeed that many, who would protest strongly of their allegiance to Christ, can nevertheless be so easily content to leave Him aside on any utilitarian plea by which they may have fellowship with His rejectors.

As has already been remarked, communion was impossible for Lot in Sodom. How is it possible to say to the world "I will walk with you," and stretch out the other hand to God saying "Walk with me?" How little with most of us is Christ the abiding occupation and enjoyment of our souls, and when we would thus enjoy communion with Christ, how many are the unwelcome intrusions to mar its enjoyment — just as unwelcome as the men of Sodom were to Lot: but the responsibility for which he could not evade — nor can we! Let us not forget that Abraham, the man of faith, had no such intrusions.

If Lot had not a calf "tender and good" to entertain his heavenly guests, as Abraham had, he had the "unleavened bread" with which the Apostle Paul bids us keep our passover feast, that which speaks of "sincerity and truth." How then may we interpret this in relation to Lot, whose ways and associations were so far removed from these? Is not the solemn answer found on the first occasion the feast was observed? where we read, "And the people took their dough before it was leavened … for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt" (Ex. 12:34-39). Does not this show that their obedience to the divine command was the fruit of their being forced out of Egypt, and therefore the result of stern necessity? And in tracing the church's history, do we not see many points of resemblance as to the circumstances in which the feast has thus been kept? Has it not been often the world's hostility that has forced the church into the place of separation from it? (See also Psalm 119:67, 71).

With Lot there is no recovery, and in him we see the complete prostration of faith: his life ends in shame and dishonour, as he sows the seeds of a terrible harvest by bringing into being two nations, Moab and Ammon, who proved themselves to be the determined and implacable enemies of the people of God.

May all these solemn realities speak with divine admonition and timely warning to our souls, as we remember that as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."

In Genesis 20 and 21, which we are now to consider, we are introduced to a people who, because of their fierce and unrelenting opposition to God's earthly people, figure very prominently in the after-history of the children of Israel, and who, throughout the times of Samson, Eli, Samuel and Saul, hold the chief place among the implacable enemies, whom God uses to scourge His erring people. David defeats and subjugates them, but they rise again in the times of his degenerate successors, still marked with the same relentless, ruthless and insatiable spirit of antagonism, despite the many unmistakable indications of divine intervention on behalf of His wayward and wilful people. The Philistines, for such is their name, were not Canaanites, although sons of Ham.

It is not only a matter of interest, but of great spiritual instruction, to refer to Genesis 10, where we find the origin of those nations whose histories are so intimately and vitally interwoven with that of the people of God. Many of the nations, who were afterwards great adversaries of Israel, sprang from Ham, who was under the curse. We find many familiar names there, such as Babylon, Nineveh, Egypt, the Canaanites and the Philistines, and all these were the inveterate enemies of Israel; all belong to the family under the curse.

But it is particularly with the Philistines that we have to do at this juncture in the history of Abraham, and it is a notable fact that these were always found in the land of Canaan, in a part of the country adjoining Egypt, with which they had the most unhindered and unobstructed communication. The spiritual interpretation of these historical facts brings home to the exercised soul that morally, the world, through which we wend our pilgrim way to Canaan's rest, is marked by the same spirit of opposition and antagonism as Abraham encountered in his day. These Philistines therefore, spiritually interpreted, are natural men in heavenly things, and their typical importance must correspond to their place in an inspired history of "things" which "happened unto them for types" or "ensamples," and their general history and character throw great light on truths of great moral import.

We have seen in Genesis 18 and 19 the significant contrast between the privilege of faith enjoyed by the truly circumcised that is one who accepts death upon all that is of nature and the flesh — and the loss suffered by unbelief, even when found in a righteous person who has not accepted circumcision, who walks in practice after the flesh. Lot was providentially cared for in the faithfulness of God, but faith's privilege was not his. In Genesis 20 and 21 we have another contrast. We see the believer walking in such a way that he comes under the rebuke of the world (20); then we see him walking so that the world has to acknowledge that God is with him in all that he does (Gen. 21:22). In the former chapter, the same weakness and failure betray themselves in Abraham as were evidenced in chapter 12, where he denies his true relationship with Sarah; but the denial here assumes a much more serious form. This is generally the case when unbelief is left unjudged. When faith is at a low ebb, how easy it is to succumb to importunities, and to indulge in the shameful subterfuges of unbelief. The sharp knives of Gilgal can alone deal adequately with the morbid out-growths of the flesh in whatever form it may seek to express itself.

The working of unbelief in Genesis 12 was in connection with Abraham giving up the heavenly position, leaving Bethel and going down to Egypt; in chapter 20, it was after the promise that Sarah would be the mother of Isaac, with whom God's covenant would be established, and who would inherit all the promises that God had pledged Himself to fulfil. The special testimony in chapter 12 was of the inheritance; in chapter 20 it was concerning the heir. Is it not a very solemn reflection, dear reader, that the special testimony of the moment was the focal point against which all the efforts of the enemy were directed with unabated tenacity. If Abraham had been in the practical faith of the promise which had been divinely confirmed to him, he would have realised how essential it was to maintain the true relationship in which he stood to Sarah; it was the essential thing in relation to the testimony of God at that moment. As another has said, "The top shoot goes first."

Unbelief, weakness or fear always leads to the giving up of the choicest thing; and so Abraham fails at Gerar as long before he had failed in Egypt. These Philistines too are but Egyptians, though in Canaan; even as the world, though come into the church, is still the world. Sarah, as typifying the covenant of grace, belongs still, as always, to the man of faith; but how often has he failed to assert uncompromisingly this absolutely exclusive claim! It is a solemn warning for every true-hearted child of God, that one so privileged — one who enjoyed such nearness to God — should so grievously depart from faith, as to his public testimony. But has each one of us not to own with deep shame and sorrow of heart, as we review our own history in the light of Abraham's sad failures, that these are but faithful portrayals of our own failures by the way. Have we not known what it was to speak and walk inconsistently with the path of faith, even after having tasted the joy of heavenly things. The unfriendly eyes of the world would not always have detected in our walk and ways that we were in the dignity and blessedness of our calling and privilege. It is sad indeed to see how the thoughts of nature can come in and practically set aside the thoughts of faith.

Abraham was afraid, the fear of man had been a snare to him; "they will kill me," he exclaimed. But the root of this sad defection is laid bare in verse 13, where we read, "God caused me to wander from my father's house." Is this Abraham's estimate of that sovereign call of the God of glory, that reached him when he was worshipping other gods? What a low and natural conception of that wondrous call from the unseen. The call, the inheritance and the privileges of a heavenly man were all lost sight of for a moment in "God caused me to wander from my father's house." Is this the thought or the confession of faith? But is Abraham alone in this? How often do we find words on our lips that do not rise above the level of natural men? In the storm, the disciples cried out in great distress, "We perish." In the wilderness they said, "Whence should we have so many loaves to satisfy so great a crowd?" When the Lord warned them against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they said, it is "because we have taken no bread;" and again, when He told His disciples that He had meat to eat that they knew not of, they said, "Has any one brought Him anything to eat?" Peter did seem to rise to thoughts of faith when he confessed Jesus to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God;" but almost immediately he displays how far removed he was in spirit from His divine Master in relation to the path of suffering that lay before Him, as he exclaims, "This shall in no wise be unto Thee." This all shows how quickly the thoughts of faith can be departed from; and when this occurs, there is sure to be the denial of the relationships in which we stand spiritually.

It is good to see how God's controlling hand is over the principal actors in this scene, acting in perfect consistency with His nature and attributes, as the One Who can snatch victory out of defeat, and lay signal honour upon His failing servant by saying to Abimelech, "he is a prophet and will pray for thee, that thou mayest live." God always loves to honour His people. Think of how wonderfully this is brought out in Job 42, where God says, "My servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly, for you have not spoken of Me rightly like My servant Job." It was necessary for Abraham however, that he should come under the rebuke of the world. In spite of the world's hatred to Christ and those who seek to be true to Him, it expects a standard of behaviour eminently greater and more elevated than its own, even though it regards such conduct with critical and disapproving eyes.

Sarah was the vessel of promise for the bringing in of Isaac — typically, Christ — and because of this the enemy was behind all the weakness and fear of Abraham and also the actions of Abimelech to defeat this purpose. How solemn is the admonition contained in all this for our souls. Depend upon it, if we seek to effect a compromise with the world, it will entail the denial of our relationship with Christ, and the moral inability to present Him in testimony to those whose capricious friendship we have bought at such a price. The Galatians provide us with a very instructive illustration of what has been asserted: they were taking ground as having "fallen from grace," which involved the denial of their divine relationships.

How humbling too the rebuke Abimelech administers to Sarah! She ought to have been veiled, as Abraham's wife; then Abimelech would not have seen her. Twice in the fourth chapter of the Song of Songs the veil is mentioned. "Thine eyes are doves behind thy veil;" "As a piece of pomegranate are thy temples, behind thy veil" (vv. 1, 3). All the varied beauties that mark the saints of God are for the eye of Christ alone. The moment anything is done to attract the eye of man, the true character and comeliness of the spiritual life are gone. When Rebecca saw Isaac she veiled herself; a very precious indication that she was to be for Isaac exclusively. The church ought to have been always veiled — to have kept herself exclusively for Christ, instead of displaying herself before the world that has refused and rejected her Lord.

Unmoved from His purpose of wisdom and love, despite the failure and unfaithfulness of Abraham, God fulfils the promise He had made. A son is given to gladden Abraham's life: Isaac is born; a type surely of a greater, in whom all the promises find completion. The "great feast" which Abraham provides signifies that wondrous day in the history of the soul when Christ is acknowledged as the only One to have the place of unchallenged supremacy. This has been called the "coronation day;" setting forth in figure "Christ's day," when He shall be supreme and without a rival.

But there is one discordant voice heard amid the rejoicings of the great feast — Ishmael mocks! When Isaac is given his rightful place, the true character of Ishmael is exposed. And it is the bringing in of the true Isaac, and according Him the place of undisputed pre-eminence, that exposes all that man is after the flesh and arouses the deep enmity of his heart. If we insist that man after the flesh must go, and that Christ alone must have the place of pre-eminence, we shall find that Ishmael is still a mocker. The flesh in us cannot endure the thought of being set aside; but it must go! The bondman and her son must be cast out; and this having been accomplished, we see Abraham in moral superiority in the place where his weakness had been so apparent, so that Abimelech has to own that God is with him. This is the result of Isaac getting his rightful place.

We then find that Abimelech's servants had violently taken away a well of water which Abraham had dug. (It is worthy of note that the hostility of the Philistines towards Abraham and Isaac is manifested in relation to their wells). As already noted, the Philistines represent those who are professedly on divine ground, but who have not faith. Their undeviating purpose is to deprive the saints of these sources of spiritual refreshment. Unlike a pool or a cistern, a well is fed and kept in freshness by a living spring, and is a store of refreshment from which we can draw at all times. The ministry of Christ by the Spirit is necessary to maintain us in spiritual freshness and vigour; the Spirit Himself being the source of the never-failing spring. If we wish to have unhindered enjoyment of the well, we must see to it that we honour Christ alone, and do not give Ishmael, the man after the flesh, any place. The seven ewe lambs might suggest the spirit of yieldingness and of grace towards those who have been hostile. "Let your gentleness be known of all men; the Lord is near" ((Phil. 4:5). The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle towards all. The presence of God with Abraham, and the grace displayed by Him, result in Abraham's title to the well being established. May we cherish more and more the source and means of divine refreshment, which the Father Himself has provided for us; and in the spirit of grace seek to make good our claim to the wells in the presence of those who would deprive us of them.

In Genesis 22 we have the historical account of that which is so beautifully and touchingly epitomised by the Spirit of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews. "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up His only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure " (Heb. 11:17-19). It might be helpful, at this point, to note with reference to that remark-able expression "… he that had received the promises," that despite the fact that Abraham was asked to offer up Isaac, the one in whom all the promises reposed, he had so found that inward strength in faith as to lay hold upon the One Who had made these wonderful promises, and which he had taken up and appropriated, although in the present circumstances it seemed as though they had been given to be capriciously revoked.

It may seem strange, at first thought, that God should put to the proof a faith He held in such precious regard; but this was Abraham's justification by works before men; God demonstrating before others that which he had long before seen and borne witness of. This is what James refers to, "What is the profit, my brethren, if any one say he have faith, but have not works? can faith save him? … Show me thy faith without works, and I from my works will show thee my faith … Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and that by works faith was perfected" (James 2:18-22). In all this, the spiritual mind, instructed and taught of the Spirit by the Word, sees yet another indisputable and convincing proof of the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; whereas the hyper-critical disputant, his mind evilly disposed by agnostic prejudices, sees nothing but irrelevant contradictions. The child of God discerns with ever growing wonderment and delight how each inspired pen-man, as borne along by the Spirit of God, adds to the harmonious completeness of the Word of God, which is indivisible in character and divine in origin; so that in the doctrine of justification by works, as set forth in the Epistle of James, he sees how this forms an integral and complementary part of the emancipating doctrine of justification by faith, as so strenuously affirmed by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.

Paul gives us the inward principle, James, the outward development of that principle; but there must be the inward principle before there can be the outward acting. Abraham was justified when he believed God, and was accounted righteous in virtue of his faith this was his secret standing before God. But he was also justified when he offered up Isaac: this was before men, and in this way the reality of his faith in God was demonstrably witnessed to by God, so that the trial of Abraham's faith, which is more precious than of gold that perisheth, and which was sustained to a triumphant conclusion, stands forth in the most honoured position. The trial of faith, at the hand of God Himself, invariably results in great enrichment of soul, as we acquire an enhanced sense of the measureless resources which are available for us.

How these great men of faith, Abraham, Paul, Peter and others exemplify in a pre-eminent degree the truth of these words, "Ye have … seen the end of the Lord: that the Lord is full of tender compassion and pitiful" (James 5:11).

How touching, though rebuking to us, the unquestioning, unhesitating obedience exhibited by Abraham in the carrying out of God's command. There is no emotional outburst, no plaintive entreaties; nature is entirely silent and subservient to the will of Him Who has demanded so great a sacrifice. All is measured with divine intent and precision, and in language calculated to impress Abraham with the magnitude of his sacrifice. "And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and there offer him up for a burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."

But faith sees in all that took place between Abraham and Isaac the movements of another Father and Son, and in these carefully measured ingredients of sorrow which filled Abraham's cup to the brim, can we not discern the shadowy outline of a sacrifice transcendently greater than this by far? Yes, it is the Father laying bare the deep and changeless love of a heart that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.

"Take now thy son, thine only son," God says to Abraham, and how significant is this in the light of that profound Scripture, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Such is the manner and the measure of the love He has manifested to us in the gift of His only begotten Son, the Son Whom He loved.

To some, this is too human a term to use, and profess to do Him honour in denying that this is His divine Name. They own Him Son of God as "that holy thing," born of the virgin Mary; they own Him too as "God over all blessed for ever," but His eternal Sonship they do not own. As another has said, "Had the Father no bosom before Christ was born on earth?" If there was no Son then, there was no Father. "He that denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father." And if such be the case, what of all the blessed consequences which imply and necessitate the existence of this eternal relationship; "The Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world;" and "God gave His only begotten Son." This expression is in contrast to His title "First-begotten;" "First-born among many brethren." The former as decisively excludes others from sharing with Him, as the latter just as definitely includes others. And when "The Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us," the glory of Deity, seen in the tabernacle of His manhood, was "the glory as of an only-begotten with a Father, full of grace and truth." Again, if only God could reveal God, it is "The only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father" Who hath declared Him.

This Blessed One, whom no one knows but the Father, was the nursling of His love, daily His delight in a past eternity. "The Father only that blest Name of Son can comprehend." How John, whose peculiar theme is the manifestation of God in the Word made flesh, loves to bring before us the surpassing glory of Him Who is the only-begotten." The Jews, the unrelenting persecutors of the Son of God, understood that in claiming God to be His Father, the Lord Jesus made Himself equal with God (John 5:18). How very solemn, in spite of the clearest testimony of these and many other Scriptures, certain men, in our own day, have had the temerity to say that the Sonship of our blessed Lord constitutes Him inferior to the Father. Our safety, in considering the truth relative to Divine Persons, lies in adhering unshakably to the sublime pronouncements of the Word of God. When the waves of infidelity lap with all their subtle, insidious, and disintegrating power, or dash themselves in all their destructive and unrestrained fury, we are safe only as we take our stand on "the impregnable rock of holy Scripture;" for in this infallible source of divine communication, the revelation of the Father and the Son is the very essence of Christianity.

In considering the offering up of Isaac, how significantly do these precious words fall upon our ears, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all" (Romans 8:32). It is the loved object of a father's heart that is to be delivered up in this most touching and affecting scene. Think of what Isaac was to Abraham; his son; his only one; his loved one, whose name conjures up the deep joy which his birth occasioned in the heart of the aged patriarch. And in all this we have a faint foreshadowing of what lay in the heart of the blessed God. Who can tell what it was to God to give up His blessed Son to death? a death which was the full manifestation of the love of God. How precious are these Scriptures that reveal to us the deep, intense affection that existed between the Father and the Son; how spontaneous the reciprocation of affection! "On this account the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again," and "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father has commanded me, this I do" (John 10:17; John 14:31).

The Lord Jesus was that perfect "burnt offering" in which was expressed the sweet savour of perfect affections devoted to God in death. Truly His death was "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Ephesians 5:2). All the offerings mentioned in Genesis partook of the character of the burnt-offering, and in this chapter we are presented with another aspect in the development of the truth concerning this particular offering. It has been suggested that in Abel's offering we have the thought of excellence; then in Noah's the thought of cleanness — moral purity: but what we have here is a beautiful and touching picture of the affections involved in it. How precious is this aspect of the death of Christ, inasmuch as it was entirely for the pleasure of God.

Think of how the Son cherished the thoughts of the Father concerning those who were to be His companions in glory, consequent upon His work of redemption; and who, in order to bring these precious thoughts into effect offered Himself in all the fragrance of affection "which no suffering stayed," by which He provided a holy and divine basis on which all the purposes of eternal love could be brought to fruition.

How the Father cherished these affections which were expressed in so supreme and profound a measure in death. We are so prone to consider only what the Lord Jesus took away in His death; but how supremely great is that which His death secured for the pleasure of the Father. Christ has also displayed, in the offering of Himself, the affections of sonship in Manhood; and the fruit of that offering will be that the "many sons," whom He is bringing to glory in triumph, will respond to God eternally in all the strength of these affections proper to sonship.

In Isaac's submission to the will of his father we see obedience in its perfection and beauty. He was not the child often pictured to us; he was in the full vigour of early manhood; yet how perfect and absolute is his submission, and it is this which gives emphasis to the touching words twice repeated, "they went both of them together." The Father had sent the Son to accomplish His will, and the Son had come to do it; and in the Gospel of John we read, "I am not alone, but I and the Father Who has sent me" (John 8:16); the Father and the Son are going on together. Again, the Son said, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work" (John 5:17), and "He that hath sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I do always the things that are pleasing to him" (John 8:29). These and many more Scriptures can be adduced as supporting the peculiar suitability of these words to the Father and the Son. Indeed, the whole of John's Gospel can be read in the light of these words, "They went both of them together."

Throughout the trial of Abraham's faith, we must not lose sight of the fact that the faith of resurrection cheered his heart; "… counting that God was able to raise (Isaac) even from among the dead, whence also he received him in a figure" (Hebrews 11:19). The promises of God were assured in him of whom He had said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." If therefore God called for him to be offered up, the resurrection power of God must restore him from the very flames of the altar; and indeed he was restored, for Abraham received him from the dead as "in a figure." This figure of resurrection must be borne in mind, for it is to Christ in resurrection that the events following typically refer.

There appears to have been no suggestion previously of the action of resurrection power: it is an entirely new feature brought in in connection with this type. Abraham had said, "I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." Yes, Isaac would "come again." It could not be otherwise to Abraham's faith, considering who Isaac was, for, as has already been stated, all the promises of God and their accomplishment were wrapped up in him. And how certain it is of the true Isaac that He would "come again," for the "pains of death" must be loosed, "Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life" (Psalm 16:10-11). The power of resurrection was inherent in Him, "… marked out Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead" (Romans 1:4). He was "The Resurrection and the Life."

And so Isaac is spared; the ram caught in a thicket by his horns is his substitute; a beautiful type surely of Him who, in all the energy of divine love, offered Himself in devoted and unswerving obedience for the carrying out of the Father's will, even unto death. It has been truly said that Christ was held by the strength of His love for the accomplishing of all that precious work that was needful for the glory of God and for the gratification of the Father's heart, so that the many sons might be brought to glory. The voice of God stayed the hand of Abraham and pre-served the life of Isaac, but there was no voice from heaven to stay the rod of divine judgment that fell in all its crushing power upon the blessed head of our sinless Substitute.

No alleviating power or influence was allowed to enfeeble the sense of divine wrath that pressed in upon His holy soul. He could say, "I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold." This, however, was more in accordance with the character of the sin-offering, where the Holy One of God was "made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." On the cross He bore our sins, and as made sin was forsaken of God, and endured the fire of divine wrath against sin. As the sin-offering, God took up the question of sin with Him according to His holiness, and in this connection the fire of necessity takes the character of wrath. But as the burnt-offering, the character in which He is set forth typically in this chapter, the fire brings out all the sweet savour and acceptable fragrance of the spotless Victim. Under the most intense searching and testing, even as suffering in the outside place, even when forsaken of God, having reached the culmination of His measureless sufferings, suffering all that was due to the righteousness and holiness of God, even then the searching action of the fire only brought into more distinctive relief the superlative and surpassing excellence of the sinners' Surety. The intense searching and testing of the fire as applied to Christ, the Beloved Son, only disclosed His inward devotion and perfection.

How beautifully the chapter ends with the introduction of Rebecca — beautiful type of the church as brought to Christ, risen and glorified in heaven. It is a risen and glorified Christ who secures the bride. The true Isaac has been offered up, and now another divine Person is brought typically into view — the Holy Spirit. With in-creasing wonder we contemplate the movements of the Spirit of God, Who makes every circumstance subserve the end for which He came into the world; sent of the Father for the express purpose of securing a bride for the Son of His love; and this is the work which is going on in the present dispensation, and will go on, in spite of all the evil machinations of the enemy to avert it, until in the glorious and triumphant consummation of the ways of God, the bride, with bridal affections for her absent lover, will say in unison with the Spirit, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Lord Jesus come!
The Man of sorrows once,
The Man of patience waiting now —
The Man of joy, for ever, Thou,
Come, Saviour, come!
Yes, the "Man of joy," the true Isaac — he will laugh.

In Genesis 23 we have the intimation of the death of Sarah, the vessel of promise. Sarah's death typifies the passing, for the time, of Israel and the promises in relation to the earth, so as to make way for the heavenly blessings and relationships according to the wondrous purposes of the Father concerning the Son and all that He has counseled for Him. The Son has gone through death, and taken up a heavenly position, in consequence of which the Bride is being formed here upon earth, united by indissoluble links of undying affection to her heavenly Bridegroom — nourished and cherished by Him as members of His body — "we are of His flesh, and of His bones;" for it was from the side of the last Adam, so to speak, when He lay in the deep sleep of death, that the church is being built.

How blessed it is to consider that all our relationships with the Father and the Son have been established on the risen side of death, beyond any and every possibility of failure or breakdown — eternal, unchangeable, inviolate and enduring. What fact is more wonderful than this there is a risen Man in the glory of God? How blessed it is to behold the risen Son of God as He is presented to us in John 20, announcing to Mary the establishment of that wonderful relationship with the Father, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

Mary had been led by the unerring instinct of affection to the place where the body of her beloved Lord had been laid, but her night of weeping was dispelled by the radiant beams of that glorious resurrection morning as she heard the voice of Him, Who had emerged triumphant from death's dark domain, announcing to her the establishment of a relationship surpassingly great in character and extent, and founded on His resurrection. He had laid down His life and taken it again, as He had said in John 10:17; but He had taken it upon new and heavenly conditions, suited to that place of surpassing glory and excellence He was so soon to occupy at the Father's right hand.

Mary imagined that He had come back, like Lazarus, on the old footing; but she had to learn that, as risen from the dead, all her links with Him now must be of a heavenly character. This Blessed One, in spite of that perfect life, which was ever marked by every moral beauty and perfection, was not restored to continue life in this world; but, thrice blessed it is to consider, He is still Man though in the glory; resurrection for Him did not involve discarding the Manhood He had assumed in incarnation. No element of corruption lurked in the holy body prepared for Him, even as had been written of old, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life."

But even in the contemplation of these astounding truths, let us not be limited in our apprehension, or in our conception of them, for this glorious One was not only raised from the dead, but was set down by God at His own right hand in the heavenly places. There, He is far above all the great spiritual heavenly beings, and the fame of His Name transcends that of all the great of earth or heaven, either of the present age or of the great age that is yet to come. This glorified Man is not only above them all, but is far above them. He is Head and Chief over every one of them, and further, He is Head to His body, the church, "the fulness of Him Who fills all in all."

How excellent the thought that, in the risen and exalted Man, Christ Jesus, we see the pledge and beginning of those
Bright and blessed scenes,
Where sin can never come,
Whose sight our longing spirit weans
From earth where yet we roam.

In spirit we are there already, associated with our true Isaac who, as the last Adam, has breathed into us His own Spirit; and we await that wonderful moment when the saints as a mighty army shall stand forth in glory, our bodies of humiliation transformed "into conformity to His body of glory, according to the working of the power which He has even to subdue all things to Himself."

In continuance of the thought concerning the offering up of Isaac as typifying the offering up of the Son of the Father's love, we would do well to remind ourselves that types are essentially illustrative in character and not totally expressive of the truths they are intended to convey. The importance of this cannot be too greatly emphasised when dealing with that which the Spirit brings before us in this 24th Chapter of Genesis. Here, in stringently typical language, the counsels of the Father for the securing of a suited companion for His Son are unfolded. The true Isaac has been offered as a burnt-offering, and on the ground of this every thought of the Father's heart can be brought into effect. Nothing will be lacking that will gratify His own heart and that of the Son of His love.

We have the death of Sarah, the vessel of promise, in Chapter 23; Sarah gives place to Rebekah, the mother to the bride. Sarah bespeaks the covenant of grace in connection with the people "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came" (Rom. 9:5). Sarah's death typifies the passing, for the present, of Israel and the promises connected with the earth, so that a new order of things might be brought in, characterized by heavenly blessings and relationships. Isaac is typically the heavenly One, Who went into death to lay the basis on which every thought of the Father might be fully realised.

Here, Isaac remains in Canaan, as Christ in heaven, and the Spirit of God, having all the fulness of the divine treasury "under His hand," comes down as the un-named servant. Thorough devotedness to the father's will and to the interests of the son marked the servant's course; he is thus truly representative of One Who does not speak from Himself, or seek His own glory, even as we read, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26). See also John 16:13-14.

In contemplating the prominent features of this exceedingly interesting and instructive narrative, one is brought to the conclusion that to give this chapter an exclusively Gospel application would be to falsify the purpose for which it was written. The servant is sent by Abraham to find a bride in every way suited to Isaac. In the first place, the bride must be suitable in origin; none of the daughters of the Canaanites could be a worthy or suited companion for Isaac, even as Abraham directed his servant, "I will make thee swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth, that thou take not a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am dwelling; but thou shalt go to my land, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac."

Rebekah is of Isaac's kindred, she is portrayed as perfectly suitable to be his bride; she does not represent the call of sinners by the Gospel but rather the call of saints to a special place of relationship with Christ on high, though, as to the present, still found in wilderness conditions. This is a dispensation unique in the world's history, a dateless period of time, singularly precious to the heart of God the Father, a period marked by the movements of the Godhead, gathering together "the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52). All in whom the mighty work of the Spirit of God has been effected, from Pentecost until the Lord comes for His own, these are kindred to Christ and constitute "His fair and ransomed bride."

Whom does the Lord own as His kindred in Matthew? "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, Who is in heaven." In Mark, it is "Whosoever shall do the will of God;" and in Luke, "Those who hear the word of God, and do it." This makes it very plain who are His kindred.

John, in his Gospel and in the Revelation makes very marked reference to the Bride. At the beginning of the Gospel he speaks of John Baptist as one who had recognised that the Son of God was the Bridegroom, and that He alone was entitled to have the bride. Then at the close of the Revelation, the bride is seen responding as the "Bride-groom of her heart" speaks of Himself so touchingly in the words "I Jesus." In unison with the Spirit, Who has been her faithful and unfailing Companion throughout her long pilgrimage, she exclaims with earnest expectation, "Come!" Do we not see from such Scriptures that the Spirit of God is graciously forming in the saints the bridal character and affections that are suitable to Christ?

The servant goes out to find a bride suitable for Isaac; He does not find an unsuitable one and make her suitable. The bride of Christ of which Rebekah is a figure is a meet companion for Christ as a result of the work of divine generation, which makes her kindred to Him. (It is necessary to state here that we cannot make the bride individual, though individuals partake of the divine nature, and as such form part of the bride.)

This unknown servant, figurative of the Holy Spirit, finds Rebekah by the well of water — a constant figure of truth as a living reality for the soul — and in consistency with this, and as acting in the spirit of grace, she goes far beyond the request of the servant, ministering to him and his camels the needed refreshment with a lavish hand in which there was no element of restraint. It was this that conveyed to the servant that Rebekah was the one suitable to be the bride of Isaac, and worthy to be adorned with the ring and bracelets. And so, as the fruit of divine working, there are those found with the moral features which are eminently suited to Christ.

There would have been no "treasure hid in the field," and no "pearl of great price," if there had not been the sowing, and the preparation of the heart by the Father for the reception of the good seed. Resulting from this divine work there has been brought to light a generation upon which those spiritual ornaments (suggested by the silver, gold and clothing) rest with becoming propriety. Coming under the precious ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, the saints of God have entirely new conceptions of the deep, unchanging and measureless love of the Father, and the love of the Son for the bride of His heart. The Lord Jesus, as the true Isaac, has invested those who compose the bride with those precious ornaments which are descriptive of Himself and expressive of His love for her. He becomes their excellency and ornament the hidden man of their hearts is adorned with the characteristics and moral features of Christ.

It was not until the proposal of the servant had been made and accepted that his reserve vanished, and he brought out all the wealth with which he had been en-trusted for the bride. How richly have we been endowed with all the wealth of the Father's love, and in its lavish bestowal we discern the greatness of His thoughts for us. The "jewels of silver" suggest the treasures connected with God's grace in redemption through which He has secured a bride for the Son of His love. The death of Christ is the price God has paid to set us in all the sweet and abiding savour of His love before His face; and it is with unspeakable joy that we rest in all this wealth of blessing and divine favour, which alone is the adequate answer to the atoning and wondrous death of His beloved Son.

The "Jewels of gold" suggest the treasures concerning the glory and righteousness of God, all connected with the revelation of Himself so that the saints might be filled even to all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:19). How blessed it is to see the Lord Jesus in John 14 — 16 setting forth the divine enrichment of His disciples, and of those who would believe on Him through their word, as a consequence of His going to the Father. The Spirit has come, as we also see in these chapters, to unfold these heavenly treasures to those who have been associated with Christ on the risen side of death, to tell them of all that He has secured for them through His death, resurrection and glory.

Then the "raiment" speaks of how the saints are clothed with the features of the heavenly Christ. How the Spirit delights to tell out the glories of Christ, and to speak of the wealth and blessedness in which He can grace the saints! Do we desire to be found here manifesting the beauty and grace of that heavenly One our every relationship down here characterized by that meekness and lowliness and gentleness that were ever seen in Him? Do we desire that all our movements might carry with them the sweet savour of Christ?

In this connection it is very instructive to compare what is said of ornaments in Isaiah 3 and 4 In the former chapter, all the ornaments of the daughters of Zion are to be taken away, and all would be ruin and corruption; but in Chapter 4, the Christ is spoken of as "a sprout of Jehovah for beauty and glory, and the fruit of the earth for excellency and for ornament for those that are escaped of Israel."

Another point worthy of note is the readiness with which Rebekah responded to the desire of the servant to return to his master. The servant said "Do not hinder me, seeing Jehovah has prospered my way;" and to the question "Wilt thou go with this man?" Rebekah replies without restraint or hesitation, "I will go." How touching this is as we consider that in verse 5 the servant had been concerned regarding the willingness of the woman to return with him. Already her thoughts were with the one to whom she was to be betrothed; these beautiful words of Psalm 45 were true of her, "Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house, so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty."

How attractive is this simplicity of faith on the part of Rebekah; she believes the report concerning the one she had not seen; the precious things she received being the earnest of what awaited her. Is this eagerness, this willingness, to meet our heavenly Bridegroom ever with us? Has the thought of seeing Him as He is, and of being like Him, so stimulated our affections that we press on with renewed ardour and quickened footsteps for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus?

We have no details of the journey, but at the end Isaac comes to meet her, "And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac … she said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant said, It is my master; therefore she took a veil, and covered herself." She was to be exclusively for him. And at the end of our pilgrim journey, now so near, when the cry, "Behold the Bridegroom" has already gone forth, shall there not be with those to whom the Spirit has spoken anything that answers to this beautiful action of Rebekah's? Our heavenly Bridegroom is He Whose glory Isaiah saw, and before whom the seraphim cover themselves; and the nearness of the place to which we have been called, and the intimacy enjoyed, will only produce deeper and more self-effacing reverence.

It is a point of great interest that Rebekah was brought to Sarah's tent, and speaks of the present compensation that Christ has in having the assembly. He has lost Israel, the vessel of promise, figuratively set forth in the death of Sarah, but how great is His compensation as possessing the bride. And it is blessed to consider that nothing that was represented in Sarah is lost; all is cherished and maintained in the assembly. How blessed to view the bride as the expression of the Father's love to the Son, since she is the object which the Father's love has secured for Him.

It would doubtless be right to consider the close of Genesis 24 as concluding historically the life of Abraham, the friend of God, the man of faith. There are certain actions and incidents, however, brought before us in the chapter following which, separately and in combination, serve as a fitting epilogue to this fruitful and instructive life that we have been privileged to consider in the clear and unsullied light of that infallible and uncompromising arbiter of all that claims to be truth — the Scripture of truth.

In the beginning of Genesis 25 we read, "Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac" (Gen. 25:5), and "God blessed his son Isaac" (Gen. 25:11). These are very simple statements, but in their typical application how very important they are, and how far-reaching in their spiritual significance, suggesting as they do that all blessing and every promise is made good in Him, Who is the true Isaac — the One Who is now out of death, and Who awaits the accomplishment of the Spirit's mission, the formation of the bride, in accordance with the Father's counsels.

We see in type in the death of Abraham that the promises give place to the One in Whom they are made good, even as the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For whatever promises of God there are, in Him is the yea, and in Him the amen, for glory to God by us." In this connection it stands in relation to what Paul and Silas and Timothy had preached among the Corinthians. Was the Son of God, Whom they preached, One in Whom there existed conflicting elements — yea, and nay? Was He the Author of a conditional and uncertain blessing? Far be the thought! All was affirmed and assured with divine certitude in Him; He is the certainty of every divine promise, both as to its announcement and fulfilment.

There is not only in the Son of God the substantiation of every positive blessing; there is also the full and perfect revelation of God; and this is brought before us in Isaac dwelling at Beer-lahai-roi, the well of the living One Who reveals Himself. How immense, how infinite, how great indeed are the blessings that flow from this stupendous fact, that God has revealed Himself in grace. "No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). "And confessedly the mystery of piety is great, God has been manifested in flesh…" (1 Tim. 3:16). Yes, He is the living One Who reveals.

The interpretation given by the Authorised Version, "Thou God seest me," conveys a most solemn truth, but surely it is a much greater thought for me to see God in Christ. It is not only that He sees me, but that I see Him revealed in perfect grace. "Isaac had just returned from Beer-lahai-roi" when he met Rebecca. This is the true and proper environment for the saint of God; standing in the noon-tide splendour of the revelation of God in Christ, and feeding where the new nature develops and becomes exceedingly fruitful.

Another incident to be noted in this chapter is the death of Ishmael "in the presence of all his brethren" (Gen. 25:18). It would appear that Ishmael and his brethren set forth Israel after the flesh; and it is not without significance that twelve princes are mentioned here. Ishmael had been rejected, and cast out; now he passes from the scene, where Isaac and Israel have their place according to the promise of God. And so it will be in the coming day: Israel after the flesh, as under the old covenant, will pass away, and instead Israel under the new covenant will remain to enter into all that God has promised. What a moment it will be for Israel when they discover that as in the flesh, and as under law, they are under death; and in deep contrition of heart they are constrained to cry out in their great distress to Him Who will assuredly open their eyes to see the well. Then will they be brought to know God as "The Living One. Who reveals Himself."

To the observant reader it will be evident that a new history opens with Gen. 25:19, even that of Isaac; a history richly patterned with exercises relative to the promises of God, which are most instructive; for we all pass, in measure, through similar exercises. At every step God would have His people shut up to Himself for the exercise of faith, illustrating the truth of Hebrews 11:6, "For he that draws near to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who seek Him out." Rebecca, like Sarah, is barren, and is therefore the subject of divine intervention; and the result of God intervening is the occasion of another exercise in which the sovereignty of God is disclosed. Rebecca has to learn that the two peoples represented in her two children are quite distinct; the one according to the priority and strength of nature, the other according to the choice of God. Moreover, she has to learn to set aside every natural thought, and to acknowledge the pre-eminently greater claim of God's choice.

It is very interesting and instructive to note the exercises of Eve, Sarah and Rebecca, three women who occupy a prominent place in the Book of Genesis. The exercises of Eve were with Cain and Abel; those of Sarah were connected with Isaac and Ishmael, while Rebecca's exercises were in relation to Jacob and Esau. It has been suggested that in relation to Cain and Abel the lesson to be learnt is that a divine seed is "not of blood." Eve thought that she had obtained the promised "seed," who would bruise the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15), when Cain was born, for she said, "I have acquired a man with Jehovah," but she had to learn that sinful parents could only beget sinful children, and that on the line of nature there was nothing for God. It would appear that Eve had learned this lesson, for when her second son was born, she called him Abel, meaning vanity. We have to learn that as born into this world, everything under the sun is marked by vanity.

In connection with Ishmael and Isaac, we are taught that the divine seed is not "of the will of the flesh." What was of the flesh must needs be cast out as being unacceptable to God; the divine seed is secured on the line of promise, and on the principle of faith. In relation to Esau and Jacob we learn that the seed is not "of the will of man." Rebecca learned that divine sovereignty must have its way, that the will of man can have no place. Unquestionably, the will of man would prefer Esau to Jacob; from the natural view-point Esau would be, indeed has been, considered the better and the nobler of the two; but when God is working, the will and thoughts of man must give place to His unerring sovereignty. Divine sovereignty excludes all that originates with man, and man hates this, and challenges it. Well did the Apostle say, "O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" (Rom. 9:20). God had told Rebecca that the elder would serve the younger, and we find from her subsequent history that her affections were guided and controlled by God's sovereign choice.

God is not influenced by the natural character and qualities of man. This is also seen in 1 Corinthians 1, where we read, "For consider your calling, brethren, that there are not many wise after the flesh, not many powerful, not many high-born. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world, that He may put to shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world, that He may put to shame the strong things; and the ignoble things of the world, and the despised, has God chosen, and things that are not, that He may annul the things that are; so that no flesh should boast before God" (vv. 26-29).

Do you think that Christians are the kind of people that men would have chosen to be ennobled, elevated, and placed in the most exalted position? Hannah has spoken of this in her prayer, where she said, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust; from the dung-hill He lifteth up the needy, to set him among nobles; and He maketh them inherit a throne of glory" (1 Samuel 2:8). The man with the Esau qualities and characteristics takes precedence in the world; and there may be many qualities that we can admire; but God is not influenced by these things; for what "is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15).

How restful to our spirits when we are brought to see the unassailable workings of the sovereignty of God, which has been spoken of by another as that "which purposes and acts just because God purposes and wills to act and to appoint, and for no other reason whatever." In the light of God's sovereignty, how shallow and futile do all the busy movements of men appear, as they strive with "might and main" to reach the paradise which they have forever forfeited.

It is very beautiful to see the effect produced in the Apostle Paul as he contemplates the amazing and wide-spread operations of divine sovereignty; how rich the outpouring of his heart to this God Who is rich in mercy:

O depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! … For of Him, and through Him, and for Him are all things; to Him be glory for ever. Amen" (Romans 11:33-36).
A. Shepherd.