And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
That which we have more especially to take notice of is, with what apprehensions or conceptions of God Abraham did speak to God, did deport himself towards God, did manage this great undertaking with God: concerning which, four things present themselves for our observation: —
1. That those apprehensions or conceptions [which] Abraham had of God, did highly exalt and magnify the greatness and excellency of God in his heart: "Behold, now I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord"; One who hath excellency, and sovereignty, and majesty, and dominion, and power, and glory.
2. That they were such conceptions of God as did humble, vilify, and abase Abraham in himself in comparison of God: "I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes"; a sinful, weak, worthless, frail piece of vanity and mortality.
3. That they were such conceptions of God as did represent Him gracious, propitious, benevolent to the creature, notwithstanding the greatness and excellency of God, and the meanness and unworthiness of the creature: thus much seems to be comprehended in the note of admiration, "behold!" O what admirable condescension is this in the great God! O what wonderful mercy and grace is this, that such a poor vile creature should have liberty to speak to Him, to parley with Him!
4. That they were such apprehensions of God as did beget in Abraham a faith of acceptation with God in the performance of that duty, without which it had been dangerous presumption in him, "who was but dust and ashes, to take upon him to speak unto the Lord."DOCTRINE: THAT SUCH AS SPEAK TO GOD OR SPEAK OF GOD, SUCH AS DRAW NEAR TO GOD OR HAVE TO DO WITH GOD IN ANY PART OF DIVINE WORSHIP, MUST MANAGE ALL THEIR PERFORMANCES WITH RIGHT APPREHENSIONS AND DUE CONCEPTIONS OF GOD.
1. The first proposition is this: That we cannot have any true, right apprehensions or conceptions of God, except we have a true knowledge of Him. Such as have not known God, have slighted Him: "Who is the Lord," saith Pharaoh, "that I should obey His voice? I know not the Lord" (Exodus 5:2). Such as know not God, nor desire to know Him, are so far from drawing near to God, that they drive Him as far from them as they can; they say unto the Almighty, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways" (Job 21:14).
2. The second proposition is: That we cannot know anything savingly of God, further than He is pleased to manifest and make known Himself to us. No man can make known God but God Himself. Moses, who had seen as much of God's glory as any man, when he desired a further manifestation of God's glory, in a higher measure or degree than formerly he had seen, he goes to God Himself for it: "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory" (Exodus 33:18).
3. The third proposition is: That the clearest manifestations of God to us, and such as can beget in us right apprehensions and due conceptions of Him, are made out to us in and by Jesus Christ. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). Therefore no man ever did or can apprehend anything of God truly, that is, upon a saving account, but in and by Jesus Christ. The Divine Essence or Godhead "no man hath seen, nor can see" in itself (1 Timothy 6:16). In the works of creation, God is a God above us; in His works of providence, a God without us; in the law, a God against us; in Himself, a God invisible to us. Only in Christ He is Emmanuel, "God manifested in our flesh," God in us, "God with us," God for us.
4. Hence follows the fourth proposition: That the manifestations of God to us in Christ are those which alone can beget those due apprehensions and right conceptions of God, with which we must draw near to Him, and perform all our worship to Him. As Abraham is held forth to us a pattern of faith; so he may be to us a pattern of worship, inasmuch as all true worship to God is performed by faith, by faith in Christ.
(1) Those apprehensions Abraham had of God did beget, as we have shown, high thoughts of God. With such apprehensions of God we must perform all our worship. See what high thoughts of God His people have always had in worshipping Him: Nehemiah 9:5, 6; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:16.
(2) Abraham had such conceptions of God as humbled, emptied, and abased him in himself in comparison of God. And with such apprehensions of God must we perform all our worship to Him. We are exhorted to "come and worship, and bow down, and kneel" (Psalm 95:6). In all worship we are to testify, as our absolute subjection to God, so our humblest submission to Him. Observe what self-abasing thoughts the apprehension of God's goodness wrought in David when he went to worship before the Lord (2 Samuel 7:18-20).
(3) Abraham had such conceptions of God as did represent Him gracious, propitious, benevolous to the creature, a bountiful rewarder of him that serveth Him, notwithstanding the greatness of God, or the unworthiness of the creature. Such apprehensions we must have of God in all our approaches to Him, in all our performances of duty and worship.
(4) Abraham had such apprehensions of God as did beget a comfortable persuasion of faith for his acceptation with God in that his drawing near to Him. Now, such apprehensions of God as beget a faith of acceptation with God in our approaches to Him, can spring only from the manifestations of God to us in Christ. The use I shall make of this point is, to inform Christians how much it concerneth us to acquaint ourselves more intimately with God as He hath manifested Himself in Christ Jesus; in whom alone we can have right apprehensions and due conceptions of God; without which we cannot perform aright any kind of worship to God.
1. Without due apprehensions and conceptions of God, we cannot perform any part of that natural worship we owe to God. We cannot love Him, fear Him, trust in Him, pray unto Him, praise Him, &c.
2. Without the right apprehensions and due conceptions of God in Jesus Christ, we cannot perform aright any part of His instituted worship.
(1) For all the ordinances of God's instituted worship (as the sacrifices and sacraments under the law, so the sacraments and other ordinances under the gospel) seem to have immediate relation to, and near dependence on, Christ. "God manifested in the flesh."(2) The Divine Essence or Godhead in Jesus Christ seems to be the proper object of all worship. This Divine Essence is wholly in Christ: "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
(3) The flesh or humanity of Christ is the medium or mean by which we have access to God in all our worship. — This is expressed: "Having boldness to enter into the holiest," where the Divine glory appeared between the cherubims on the mercy-seat, "by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (Hebrews 10:19, 20).
(T. Mallery, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: