Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE DIVINE VISIT TO THE PATRIARCH.
1. A remarkable proof of the Divine condescension.
2. A striking adumbration of the incarnation of Christ.
3. An instructive emblem of God's gracious visits to his saints.
II. THE DIVINE FEAST WITH THE PATRIARCH.
1. The courteous invitation.
2. The sumptuous provision.
3. The ready attention.
III. THE DIVINE MESSAGE FOR THE PATRIARCH.
1. Its delivery to Abraham.
2. Its reception by Sarah.
3. Its authentication by Jehovah. - W.
I. THE PREPARATION FOR DIVINE MANIFESTATION.
1. Abraham stands on a higher plane of spiritual life. He is endeavoring to fulfill the commandment given (Genesis 17:1): "Walk before me," &c. The appearances and communications are more frequent and more full.
2. The concentration of the believer's thought at a particular crisis. His place at the tent door, looking forth over the plains of Mature, representing his mental attitude, as he dwelt on the promises and gazed into the future.
3. There was a coincidence between the conjuncture in the history of the neighboring cities and the crisis in the history of the individual believer. So in the purposes of God there is preparation for his manifestation both in external providence and in the events of the world on the one hand, and on the other in the more personal and private history of his people.
II. THE MANIFESTATION ITSELF.
1. It was very gracious and condescending. The angels did not appear in angelic glory, but in human likeness. They came as guests, and, in the fragrant atmosphere of a genial hospitality, at once quickened confidence and led forward the mind to expect a higher communication. The household activity of Abraham and Sarah on behalf of the three visitors, while it calmed and strengthened, did also give time for thought and observation of the signs of approaching opportunity.
2. There was from the first an appeal to faith. Three persons, yet one having the pre-eminence. The reverential feeling of the patriarch called out at the manner of their approach to his tent The coincidence possibly between the work of the Spirit in the mind of the believer and the bestowment of outward opportunity.
3. The communication of the Divine promise in immediate connection with the facts of human life. The great trial of faith is not the appeal to accept the word of God in its larger aspect as his truth, but the application of it to our own case. We may believe that the promise will be fulfilled, and yet we may not take it to heart, "I will return unto thee." "Sarah shall have a son." The strength made perfect in weakness, not merely for weakness. The Divine in the Scripture revelation does not overwhelm and absorb the human; the human is taken up into the Divine and glorified. Taking the narrative as a whole, it may be treated -
(1) Historically - as it holds a place in the history of the man Abraham and in the progressive development of revelation.
(2) Morally - suggesting lessons of patience, reverence, humility, truthfulness, faith.
(3) Spiritually - as pointing to the Messiah, intimating the incarnation, the atonement, the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices of the promised Redeemer; the freedom and simplicity of the fellowship of God with man; the great Christian entertainment - man spreading the meal before God, God accepting it, uniting with man in its participation, elevating it into that which is heavenly by his manifested presence. - R.
1. The incongruity between a Divine promise and the sphere of its fulfillment is temptation to unbelief.
2. A disposition to measure the reality and certainty of the Divine by a human or earthly standard is sure to lead us to irreverence and sinful doubt.
3. There may be an inward and concealed working, known to God though not outwardly expressed. Which is still both an insult to him a d an injury to us.
4. The root of unbelief is in the ground of the soul. Sarah laughed because she was not prepared for the gracious promise. She was afraid of her own thoughts because they were not such as became her, and did dishonor to God's sufficiency and love. "She denied, saying, I laughed not." A more receptive and spiritual mind would have both risen above the incongruity and been incapable of the dissimulation. - R.
I. TAKE IT AS THE QUESTION WHICH GOD ASKS OF MAN.
1. Remonstrance. The history of Divine manifestations proves that nothing is demanded of faith which is not justified by the bestowments of the past.
2. Invitation. We connect the question with the promise. He opens the gate of life; is it too hard for him to give us the victory? "At the time appointed" his word will be fulfilled. He would have us rest on himself. "Believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder," &c. What he is, what he says, are blended into one in the true faith of his waiting children.
II. TAKE THE QUESTION AS ONE WHICH MEN ASK OF ONE ANOTHER.
1. When they set forth the goodness of Divine truth. The possibility of miracles. The hardness of the world's problems no justification of unbelief.
2. When they proclaim a gospel of supernatural gifts, a salvation not of man, but of God. Why should we doubt conversion? Why should a regenerated, renewed nature be so often mocked at?
3. When they would encourage one another to persevere in Christian enterprise. The methods may be old, but the grace is ever new. The world may laugh, but the true believer should see all things possible. The times are cur measures. Eternity is God's. - R.
Lord. The superior angel, the Lord, remains behind his companions that Abraham might have the opportunity of intercession; so the Lord lingers in his providence that he may reveal his righteousness and mercy. As to the pleading of the patriarch and the answers of the Lord to it, we may take it -
I. As it bears on the CHARACTER OF GOD.
1. He is open to entreaty.
2. He is unwilling to destroy.
3. He spares for the sake of righteousness.
4. He "does right" as "Judge of the earth," even though to the eyes of the best men there is awful mystery in his doings.
II. As it reveals the CHARACTERISTICS OF PATRIARCHAL PIETY.
1. It was bold with the boldness of simplicity and faith.
2. It was full of true humanity while deeply reverential towards God. Abraham was no fanatic.
3. It waited for and humbly accepted Divine judgments and appointments not without reason, not without the exercise of thought and feeling, but all the more so as it prayed and talked with God.
4. The one living principle of the patriarchal religion was that entire confidence in God's righteousness and love, in separating the wicked and the good, in both his judgments and his mercy, which is the essence of Christianity as well. "The right which the Judge of all the earth will do is not the right of mere blind law, or rough human administration of law, but the right of him who discerneth between the evil and the good, too wise to err, too good to be unkind." - R.
(1) understanding of God's acts;
(2) that he should become a mighty nation;
(3) that he should be ancestor of the promised Seed;
(4) that he himself should be a blessing to others.
Of these points two at least are not confined to him personally, but belong to all who will. To know what God doeth a man must be taught of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14; cf. Isaiah 7:12). There is a wide difference between seeing an event, or even foreseeing it, and understanding God's lessons therein. To be able in everything to mark the love, and care, and wisdom of God; to walk with him as a child, accepting what he sends not merely as inevitable, but as loving; to learn lessons from all that happens, and through the works of his hands to see our Father's face - this is peace, and this is what the wisdom of this world cannot teach (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 21). Again, Abraham was to be not merely the ancestor of a nation, but the father of a spiritual family by influence and example (Matthew 3:9; Galatians 3:7). In this his calling is that of every Christian (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 5:13, 14). Text connects the godly rule of a family with both these blessings. Christianity is not to be a selfish, but a diffusive thing (Matthew 5:15; Matthew 13:83); and the influence must needs begin at home (cf. Numbers 10:29; Acts 1:8), among those whom God has placed with us.
I. THINGS NEEDFUL FOR THIS WORK.
1. Care for his own soul. If that is not cared for a man cannot desire the spiritual good of others. He may desire and try to train his children and household in honesty and prudence; to make them good members of society, successful, respected; and may cultivate all kindly feelings; but not till he realizes eternity will he really aim at training others for eternity. Might say that only one who has found peace can fully perform this work. A man aroused with desire that his family should be saved. But he cannot press the full truth as it is in Jesus.
2. Love for the souls of others. Christians are sometimes so wrapped up in care for their own souls as to have few thoughts for the state of others. Perhaps from a lengthened conflict the mind has been too much turned upon its own state. But this is not the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:24). It is not a close following of him. It tells of a halting in the "work of faith" (2 Corinthians 5:13, 14; cf. Romans 10:1).
3. Desire to advance the kingdom of Christ. When a man has this he sees in every one a soul for which Christ died (cf. John 4:35), and those with whom he is closely connected must chiefly call forth this feeling.
II. THE MANNER OF THE WORK. Family worship; acknowledgment of God as ruling in the household; his will a regulating principle and bond of union. Let this be a reality, not a form. Let the sacrificial work of Christ be ever put forward in instruction and in prayer. Personal example - constantly aiming at a holy life. To pray in the family and yet to be evidently making no effort to live in the spirit of the prayer is to do positive evil; encouraging the belief that God may be worshipped with words, without deeds; and tending to separate religion from daily life. Prayer in private for each member - children, servants, &c.; and watchfulness to deal with each as God shall give opportunity (Proverbs 15:23). Let prayer always accompany such efforts. - M.
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, &c. Under the shady terebinth celestial visitants partake, or appear to do so, of a meal hastily provided by the patriarch. The whole narrative is given in such a way that, - after the manner of the time, - to God are ascribed human passions, desires, hesitancy, and resolve. Hence God is described as resolving, on two grounds, to reveal to Abraham that which he is about to do in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:
(1) that he would become a great and mighty nation;
(2) that he would direct his household to follow in the ways of righteousness and truth. Notice -
I. THE VALUE GOD PLACES ON EARLY SPIRITUAL TRAINING. Children and servants are both to be brought under spiritual influence. The heart will not become pure naturally, any more than the boat left to itself would make headway against a strong current. The set of the world-tide is in an evil direction. Abraham had no written book to aid him in his work. His unwritten Bible was the tradition of God's dealings with the race and with himself. He could tell of the promises of God and of the way of approach to him by sacrifice. Evidently there had been careful training in this respect; for when Isaac was going with his father to the mount of sacrifice he noticed that, although the fire and wood were carried, they had no lamb for a burnt offering.
II. GOD NOTICES HOW SPIRITUAL TRAINING IS CARRIED ON. "I know him." He could trust Abraham, for he would "command," &c., not in the dictatorial tones of a tyrant, but by the power of a consistent life. Many children of religious parents go back to the world because of the imperious style of training they have received. In training, every word, look, and act tells. In many homes there is, alas, no training given and no holy example set. Parents are held accountable for failure, and should therefore be firm and loving in training. They should not readily delegate to others the work of training, either in secular or religions knowledge. Sunday-school teaching should supplement, not supplant, home training.
III. GOD MADE THE BESTOWMENT OF INTENDED BLESSINGS CONTINGENT ON THE FAITHFUL DISCHARGE OF DUTY. "That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." If Abraham had not been faithful his name would have died out, and there would have been no handing on of the narrative of his devoted life and tenacious hold of the Divine promises. Isaac followed in his father's steps and was a meditative man. Jacob cherished the promises and handed them on to his sons. The Jews preserved a knowledge of God when all other races were sunk in polytheism. From them came the One who was the Savior of the world. All, however, depended on the right training of Isaac. The rill flowed to the streamlet, the streamlet to the creek, the creek to the river, the river to the ocean. Influence ever widened, and God's aim with respect to Abraham was carried out. Let all strive so to act that the character of the life may not undo the teachings of the lip. - H.