Stopping Short
Genesis 11:27-32
Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.…

The simple fact, "Terah died in Harsh," stands in the Scriptures as a monument, like the pillar of salt which uttered its warning to every passer by, "Remember Lot's wife." It exhibits an old man, after his many years spent in idolatry and ignorance, attempting in a late obedience to Divine commands to remove from his native condition and home, to the land of promise; but wasting in procrastination the time for his journey, and indolently staying upon the road over which he was required to pass to gain the end placed before his view; and finding all his efforts and plans to accomplish his purpose, to prove unavailing for his good. He never attained the inheritance for which he set out so late, and which he pursued so carelessly. Has this fact then no practical connection with ourselves? Does it not exhibit a striking illustration of the folly and danger of postponing until old age, our own commanded journey to the land of promise?

I. Let us consider THE WORK WHICH GOD REQUIRES SINFUL MAN TO UNDERTAKE. The call of Abraham from his country and home is frequently employed to illustrate the great duty which is required of every sinful man. Like him, everyone is commanded in the gospel to attain and exercise a simple controlling faith in the Divine promises; to follow in this spirit of faith the peculiar commands of God the Saviour; to go out, in its reliance upon Him, from a state of selfishness and idolatry, man's natural condition, to seek the better and heavenly country which is revealed in the gospel, and offered in Christ Jesus, to every believing soul. Such an exercise of faith developing itself in full and permanent obedience to the Divine commands, is the work which God requires of all who hear the gospel. But when is this great work to be undertaken? When shall man begin to subdue his rebellious heart into reconciliation to the will of God? May he select his own time for the work? Surely not. The Scriptures never intimate a moment beyond the time in which the command is actually given, as the time for man's obedience. The morrow is not given to man. "Now," "today," are the Divine designations of the proper time for man's submission. Whenever God speaks, it is that His will may be done at once. He who rejects and disobeys the commands of God in his youth, is exceedingly unlikely to find the opportunity or the disposition to obey in his subsequent years.

II. Let us consider THE COURSE WHICH MEN GENERALLY PURSUE IN REFERENCE TO THIS IMPORTANT MATTER. Do they, or do they not, generally obey at once? Do they, with Abraham, arise and go? or do they more commonly with Terah, procrastinate the enterprise until it is too late to accomplish it at all? Some few accept with gratitude the blessed invitations of the Saviour, and unite themselves unto Him, in a perpetual covenant, never to be forgotten. But what is the course pursued by the great majority of mankind? Do they not altogether drive away the convictions of this early period? They refuse to yield their hearts and characters, to be thus subjected by the Holy Spirit to the service of God. They bargain with their consciences, in order to silence their awakened demands, that at some future period they will attend to the duty required of them. Thus most frequently, they live and die in their chosen idolatry and guilt; always hearing the command, "arise and go," and always determining that they will obey it; but never putting their resolution into effect. Like Torah, they die in Haran; they perish amidst unfulfilled vows and attempts of obedience to God, and under the guilt and burden of actual rebellion against Him.

III. Let us trace THE USUAL RESULT OF THIS COURSE OF PROCRASTINATION. It will be but tracing the history and experience of the great proportion of mankind. Twenty years of the sinner's life go by. They are the most important, and in most cases the deciding period of his existence, in reference to his eternal welfare. But their close finds him still unrenewed in his character, and hardening his mind and conscience against the power of truth. In the wonderful forbearance of God, twenty years more are added to these, all of them crowned with privileges, and with invitations to a better land. But the lingering sinner still refuses to arise and go. By this time, he has seen and felt much of the folly of things temporal, and of the emptiness of the heart which depends upon them. But he is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; and he is unwilling to make the decided and violent rupture which seems necessary if he would now effect his escape from an impending ruin. With more light in his conscience, he has more dulness and obduracy in his affections; and the work of true piety grows more and more difficult. If twenty years more bring him to the verge of feebleness and death, he is still found more deeply anxious to obtain the hope which he does not possess, and which he finds it more and more impossible to get. By this time, he is mourning over nearly all his joys as departed forever. Almost every monument of his life seems to be a tomb. "Here lie the remains," is the inscription which he reads upon pleasures, and possessions, and hopes which are gone. And now, old age is looked for to effect that which youth and maturity have failed to accomplish. But here another disappointment comes. Old age also is very different in its character from its anticipated appearance. Man then awakes to the sorrowful conviction that he has been deluded through the whole of his course in life. He sees nothing of that spontaneous preparation for eternity, which he hoped to find in the later years of life. It is now harder, vastly harder, than it has ever been before, to lay hold of any adequate and abiding hope for a world to come. Lingering Terah sits down to measure up, in the sad calculation of his own experience, the folly by which he has been so long deceived. The love of the world and the pride of self have grown upon his heart.

IV. What now becomes THE RESULT OF THIS PROCRASTINATION? Generally one of two things. Either total, hardened, self-defending negligence; or a partial, constrained, and unsatisfying attention to the duties of religion. That is, Terah either positively refuses to obey the Divine command, and remains to die as he has lived, in Chaldea; or else, he unwillingly sets cut under the lashes of an awakened conscience, and goes as far as Haran, and dies there, in a new condition indeed, but with the same character.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.

WEB: Now this is the history of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran became the father of Lot.

Setting Out, But Stopping Short of the Promised Land
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