PATRIARCHS AND PROPHETS # 12
Abraham in Canaan
Abraham had been nearly twenty-five years in Canaan, the Lord appeared unto
him, and said, "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect."
In awe, the patriarch fell upon his face, and the message continued: "Behold,
My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." In
token of the fulfillment of this covenant, his name, heretofore called Abram,
was changed to Abraham, which signifies, "father of a great multitude."
Sarai's name became Sarah--"princess;" for, said the divine Voice, "she shall
be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her."
At this time the rite of circumcision was
given to Abraham as "a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet
being uncircumcised." Romans 4:11. It was to be observed by the patriarch and
his descendants as a token that they were devoted to the service of God and
thus separated from idolaters, and that God accepted them as His peculiar
treasure. By this rite they were pledged to fulfill, on their part, the
conditions of the covenant made with Abraham. They were not to contract
marriages with the heathen; for by so doing they would lose their reverence
for God and His holy law; they would be tempted to engage in the sinful
practices of other nations, and would be seduced into idolatry.
God conferred great honor upon Abraham.
Angels of heaven walked and talked with him as friend with friend. When
judgments were about to be visited upon Sodom, the fact was not hidden from
him, and he became an intercessor with God for sinners. His interview with the
angels presents also a beautiful example of hospitality.
In the hot summer noontide the patriarch
was sitting in his tent door, looking out over the quiet landscape, when he
saw in the distance three travelers approaching. Before reaching his tent, the
strangers halted, as if consulting as to their course. Without waiting for
them to solicit favors, Abraham rose quickly, and as they were apparently
turning in another direction, he hastened after them, and with the utmost
courtesy urged them to honor him by tarrying for refreshment. With his own
hands he brought water that they might wash the dust of travel from their
feet. He himself selected their food, and while they were at rest under the
cooling shade, an entertainment was made ready, and he stood respectfully
beside them while they partook of his hospitality. This act of courtesy God
regarded of sufficient importance to record in His word; and a thousand years
later it was referred to by an inspired apostle: "Be not forgetful to
entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Abraham had seen in his guests only three
tired wayfarers, little thinking that among them was One whom he might worship
without sin. But the true character of the heavenly messengers was now
revealed. Though they were on their way as ministers of wrath, yet to Abraham,
the man of faith, they spoke first of blessings. Though God is strict to mark
iniquity and to punish transgression, He takes no delight in vengeance. The
work of destruction is a "strange work" to Him who is infinite in love.
"The secret of the Lord is with them that
fear Him." Psalm 25:14. Abraham had honored God, and the Lord honored him,
taking him into His counsels, and revealing to him His purposes. "Shall I hide
from Abraham that thing which I do?" said the Lord. "The cry of Sodom and
Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now,
and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is
come unto me; and if not, I will know." God knew well the measure of Sodom's
guilt; but He expressed Himself after the manner of men, that the justice of
His dealings might be understood. Before bringing judgment upon the
transgressors He would go Himself, to institute an examination of their
course; if they had not passed the limits of divine mercy, He would still
grant them space for repentance.
Two of the heavenly messengers departed,
leaving Abraham alone with Him whom he now knew to be the Son of God. And the
man of faith pleaded for the inhabitants of Sodom. Once he had saved them by
his sword, now he endeavored to save them by prayer. Lot and his household
were still dwellers there; and the unselfish love that prompted Abraham to
their rescue from the Elamites, now sought to save them, if it were God's
will, from the storm of divine judgment.
With deep reverence and humility he urged
his plea: "I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and
ashes." There was no self-confidence, no boasting of his own righteousness. He
did not claim favor on the ground of his obedience, or of the sacrifices he
had made in doing God's will. Himself a sinner, he pleaded in the sinner's
behalf. Such a spirit all who approach God should possess. Yet Abraham
manifested the confidence of a child pleading with a loved father. He came
close to the heavenly Messenger, and fervently urged his petition. Though Lot
had become a dweller in Sodom, he did not partake in the iniquity of its
inhabitants. Abraham thought that in that populous city there must be other
worshipers of the true God.
And in view of this he pleaded, "That be
far from Thee, to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked:
. . . that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
Abraham asked not once merely, but many times. Waxing bolder as his requests
were granted, he continued until he gained the assurance that if even ten
righteous persons could be found in it, the city would be spared.
Love for perishing souls inspired Abraham's
prayer. While he loathed the sins of that corrupt city, he desired that the
sinners might be saved. His deep interest for Sodom shows the anxiety that we
should feel for the impenitent. We should cherish hatred of sin, but pity and
love for the sinner. All around us are souls going down to ruin as hopeless,
as terrible, as that which befell Sodom. Every day the probation of some is
closing. Every hour some are passing beyond the reach of mercy. And where are
the voices of warning and entreaty to bid the sinner flee from this fearful
doom? Where are the hands stretched out to draw him back from death? Where are
those who with humility and persevering faith are pleading with God for him?
The spirit of Abraham was the spirit of
Christ. The Son of God is Himself the great Intercessor in the sinner's
behalf. He who has paid the price for its redemption knows the worth of the
human soul. With an antagonism to evil such as can exist only in a nature
spotlessly pure, Christ manifested toward the sinner a love which infinite
goodness alone could conceive. In the agonies of the crucifixion, Himself
burdened with the awful weight of the sins of the whole world, He prayed for
His revilers and murderers, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they
do." Luke 23:34.
Of Abraham it is written that "he was
called the friend of God," "the father of all them that believe." James 2:23;
Romans 4:11. The testimony of God concerning this faithful patriarch is,
"Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes,
and My laws." And again, "I know him, that he will command his children and
his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do
justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath
spoken of him."
It was a high honor to which Abraham was
called, that of being the father of the people who for centuries were the
guardians and preservers of the truth of God for the world--of that people
through whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed in the advent of
the promised Messiah. But He who called the patriarch judged him worthy. It is
God that speaks. He who understands the thoughts afar off, and places the
right estimate upon men, says, "I know him." There would be on the part of
Abraham no betraying of the truth for selfish purposes. He would keep the law
and deal justly and righteously. And he would not only fear the Lord himself,
but would cultivate religion in his home. He would instruct his family in
righteousness. The law of God would be the rule in his household.
Abraham's household comprised more than a
thousand souls. Those who were led by his teachings to worship the one God,
found a home in his encampment; and here, as in a school, they received such
instruction as would prepare them to be representatives of the true faith.
Thus a great responsibility rested upon him. He was training heads of
families, and his methods of government would be carried out in the households
over which they should preside.
In early times the father was the ruler and
priest of his own family, and he exercised authority over his children, even
after they had families of their own. His descendants were taught to look up
to him as their head, in both religious and secular matters. This patriarchal
system of government Abraham endeavored to perpetuate, as it tended to
preserve the knowledge of God. It was necessary to bind the members of the
household together, in order to build up a barrier against the idolatry that
had become so widespread and so deep-seated. Abraham sought by every means in
his power to guard the inmates of his encampment against mingling with the
heathen and witnessing their idolatrous practices, for he knew that
familiarity with evil would insensibly corrupt the principles. The greatest
care was exercised to shut out every form of false religion and to impress the
mind with the majesty and glory of the living God as the true object of
It was a wise arrangement, which God
Himself had made, to cut off His people, so far as possible, from connection
with the heathen, making them a people dwelling alone, and not reckoned among
the nations. He had separated Abraham from his idolatrous kindred, that the
patriarch might train and educate his family apart from the seductive
influences which would have surrounded them in Mesopotamia, and that the true
faith might be preserved in its purity by his descendants from generation to
Abraham's affection for his children and
his household led him to guard their religious faith, to impart to them a
knowledge of the divine statutes, as the most precious legacy he could
transmit to them, and through them to the world. All were taught that they
were under the rule of the God of heaven. There was to be no oppression on the
part of parents and no disobedience on the part of children. God's law had
appointed to each his duties, and only in obedience to it could any secure
happiness or prosperity.
His own example, the silent influence of
his daily life, was a constant lesson. The unswerving integrity, the
benevolence and unselfish courtesy, which had won the admiration of kings,
were displayed in the home. There was a fragrance about the life, a nobility
and loveliness of character, which revealed to all that he was connected with
Heaven. He did not neglect the soul of the humblest servant. In his household
there was not one law for the master and another for the servant; a royal way
for the rich and another for the poor. All were treated with justice and
compassion, as inheritors with him of the grace of life.
"He will command his . . . household."
There would be no sinful neglect to restrain the evil propensities of his
children, no weak, unwise, indulgent favoritism; no yielding of his conviction
of duty to the claims of mistaken affection. Abraham would not only give right
instruction, but he would maintain the authority of just and righteous laws.
How few there are in our day who follow
this example! On the part of too many parents there is a blind and selfish
sentimentalism, miscalled love, which is manifested in leaving children, with
their unformed judgment and undisciplined passions, to the control of their
own will. This is the veriest cruelty to the youth and a great wrong to the
world. Parental indulgence causes disorder in families and in society. It
confirms in the young the desire to follow inclination, instead of submitting
to the divine requirements. Thus they grow up with a heart averse to doing
God's will, and they transmit their irreligious, insubordinate spirit to their
children and children's children. Like Abraham, parents should command their
households after them. Let obedience to parental authority be taught and
enforced as the first step in obedience to the authority of God.
The light esteem in which the law of God is
held, even by religious leaders, has been productive of great evil. The
teaching which has become so widespread, that the divine statutes are no
longer binding upon men, is the same as idolatry in its effect upon the morals
of the people. Those who seek to lessen the claims of God's holy law are
striking directly at the foundation of the government of families and nations.
Religious parents, failing to walk in His statutes, do not command their
household to keep the way of the Lord. The law of God is not made the rule of
life. The children, as they make homes of their own, feel under no obligation
to teach their children what they themselves have never been taught. And this
is why there are so many godless families; this is why depravity is so deep
Not until parents themselves walk in the
law of the Lord with perfect hearts will they be prepared to command their
children after them. A reformation in this respect is needed--a reformation
which shall be deep and broad. Parents need to reform; ministers need to
reform; they need God in their households. If they would see a different state
of things, they must bring His word into their families and must make it their
counselor. They must teach their children that it is the voice of God
addressed to them, and is to be implicitly obeyed. They should patiently
instruct their children, kindly and untiringly teach them how to live in order
to please God. The children of such a household are prepared to meet the
sophistries of infidelity. They have accepted the Bible as the basis of their
faith, and they have a foundation that cannot be swept away by the incoming
tide of skepticism.
In too many households prayer is neglected.
Parents feel that they have no time for morning and evening worship. They
cannot spare a few moments to be spent in thanksgiving to God for His abundant
mercies--for the blessed sunshine and the showers of rain, which cause
vegetation to flourish, and for the guardianship of holy angels. They have no
time to offer prayer for divine help and guidance and for the abiding presence
of Jesus in the household. They go forth to labor as the ox or the horse goes,
without one thought of God or heaven. They have souls so precious that rather
than permit them to be hopelessly lost, the Son of God gave His life to ransom
them; but they have little more appreciation of His great goodness than have
the beasts that perish.
Like the patriarchs of old, those who
profess to love God should erect an altar to the Lord wherever they pitch
their tent. If ever there was a time when every house should be a house of
prayer, it is now. Fathers and mothers should often lift up their hearts to
God in humble supplication for themselves and their children. Let the father,
as priest of the household, lay upon the altar of God the morning and evening
sacrifice, while the wife and children unite in prayer and praise. In such a
household Jesus will love to tarry.
From every Christian home a holy light
should shine forth. Love should be revealed in action. It should flow out in
all home intercourse, showing itself in thoughtful kindness, in gentle,
unselfish courtesy. There are homes where this principle is carried out--homes
where God is worshiped and truest love reigns. From these homes morning and
evening prayer ascends to God as sweet incense, and His mercies and blessings
descend upon the suppliants like the morning dew.
A well-ordered Christian household is a
powerful argument in favor of the reality of the Christian religion--an
argument that the infidel cannot gainsay. All can see that there is an
influence at work in the family that affects the children, and that the God of
Abraham is with them. If the homes of professed Christians had a right
religious mold, they would exert a mighty influence for good. They would
indeed be the "light of the world." The God of heaven speaks to every faithful
parent in the words addressed to Abraham: "I know him, that he will command
his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the
Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that
which He hath spoken of him."