I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burial plot with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
We shall attempt the task of analysing the relations which Abraham sustained to his heathen neighbours. We perceive at once that they were those of entire friendliness, but of absolute separation. We shall follow, therefore, this simple division of the subject of this chapter.
I. HIS FRIENDLINESS. Mark you, not his " friendship." Let it not be implied that there was any agreement of his principles with theirs, any community of interests between them, or any sympathy in character. He was indeed their friend, but he was not their fellow, and in his friendship there was no fellowship whatsoever. Their life was abhorrent to him. Their practices were such as gave him the greatest pain. The neighbours of Abraham were cruel, covetous, and licentious beyond the very conception of the vast majority who live in Christian lands to-day. But Abraham never ceased to be on friendly terms with them. He never manifested towards them an amicable disposition, treated them with noticeable courtesy and did them signal favours. But Abraham always kept the peace, and never made an enemy among them all. Some of the stories are exceedingly beautiful, as illustrating the existing friendliness. Look, for example, at that of the covenant between Abimelech and Abraham. The feelings which neighbouring chiefs entertained toward Abraham is nowhere better shown than at the time of the sack of Sodom and the capture of Lot and his family. But this was not all. His magnanimity took a higher form and his friendliness was of nobler nature than could possibly have been displayed in any affair of temporal character. Those heathen lay upon his heart. No one ever pleaded for guilty men as Abraham did — save only their Divine Saviour. A praying friend is the best friend, and such was Abraham!
II. Is it possible, then, for one who shows such friendliness to the ungodly, to be also ABSOLUTELY SEPARATE, from them? Yes, Abraham made it plain: so plain that it was clear, not only in his own secret soul — as is so often the case; but clear also to all among whom he sojourned. They would have been glad to have had him identify himself with them. But he would not do so. Nearly seventy years he lived among them; but he was not of them. He was a "confederate" only, never a "compatriot"; a sojourner, never a citizen. As his separation from these sinners is the important thing for us to study, note the following particulars wherein it was manifested. Beginning with the simpler, observe that it appeared —
1. In the food which he ate. A trifling thing, you say, but nothing is trifling whereby the holy is set apart from the unholy. Leaven is produced by fermentation, and fermentation is a species of corruption. Therefore Abraham would have none of it. So, when the three angels appeared to him as he sat in his tent door (Genesis 18:1-5)he was ready to entertain them, and offered at once to "fetch them a morsel of bread" for their "comfort." Ah! it is worth our while to remember that in just such trifles there is a vast difference between the clean and the unclean. As some one has so wisely said, it is by trifles that we reach perfection, and perfection is no trifle.
2. In his dwelling. It was a tent, which could be easily moved from place to place. Had Abraham ever built a house, the whole meaning of his outward life would have been destroyed. It would have indicated that he had come to stay, and have rendered ridiculous his declaration, "I am a sojourner with you."
3. In his private business. His avocation was in keeping with his mission, and his covenant relations to his God. He did not mingle with the ungodly multitudes. The cities, with the glare and glitter of their iniquitous life, had no attraction for him. Lot became covetous of their wealth, ambitious for their preferment, and settled in Sodom; but Lot was not a party to the everlasting covenant — not a "church-member."
4. In his business transactions. He must needs have dealings with men of the world; but he so dealt with them as to emphasize his separateness. He became rich, but he never manifested any undue haste to be rich, nor took any " short cut" to fortune. Observe several illustrations. What a noble spirit he manifested in the dissolution of the partnership existing between himself and Lot. But his principles are more plain, if possible, in his transaction with Ephron, the Hittite (Genesis 23.). The custom of the country was not the law of his life. He was the only man in all the land who conducted his business in this way.
5. Once more: his separation from the world appears in his conquest of the world. Though Abraham was a man of peace, as we have seen, yet it seems most appropriate that once, at least, in his long life, he should have exhibited his peculiar power over the men and agencies of this world. It was spiritual power for physical ends — something of which the world as yet knows little. Chedorlaomer and his allies had sacked Sodom, and were hastening away with the spoils and captives.
(D. R. Breed, D. D.).
Parallel VersesKJV: I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.