When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, behold, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the halves of the carcasses.
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep, &c. The great blessings promised are still afar off. As yet Abraham has no son to hand down his name to posterity. By means of a vision God strengthened his faith. Weird is the picture in this fifteenth chapter. See the solitary sheik in the desert offering his varied sacrifice, then watching until the sun goes down to drive off the vultures from the slain offerings. His arms become weary with waving and his eyes with their vigils. As the sun sinks below the widespread horizon, and night quickly steals over the desert, a horror of great darkness creeps over his spirit. Then a deep sleep falls upon him, and in that sleep come visions and a voice. The vision was of a furnace and a shining lamp moving steadily between the divided emblems. Look at the meaning of that vision.
I. It indicated the ACCEPTANCE OF THE OFFERINGS. Fire in the East is generally understood to be a solemn witness to any engagement. To confirm an oath some Orientals will point to the lamp and say, "It is witness." Nuptial ceremonies are sometimes solemnized by walking round a fire three times, and the parties uttering certain words meanwhile.
II. The furnace may have referred to THE NEED FOR PURIFICATION, AND THE LAMP TO THE CERTAINTY OF DIVINE GUIDANCE.
1. Both the Israel after the flesh and that after the spirit had to pass through the fire of persecution; but the lamp of truth had always been kept alight by the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors of the Church.
2. The life and work of Christ may also have been shadowed forth in that furnace and lamp. Christ knew the bitterness of betrayal, denial, and death; but he knew also the joy of conscious sinlessness, complete self-sacrifice, and unending power of salvation.
3. They illustrated the character of the life of many believers. Trial and joy must be intermingled. As Abraham saw the vision in connection with sacrifice, so on Calvary shall we best learn the meaning of the smoking furnace and burning lamp. - H.
Behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
In this whole striking and impressive narrative there are teachings of the utmost interest and value; and I would fain extract alike from the sacrifice, the furnace, and the lamp, guiding light and strengthening cheer for Abraham's spiritual seed today.
1. Note, first, that Abram's long and lonely hours of watching came to an end at last, and that patient waiting upon God obtained its due reward. You, too, may find that your offering of ardent prayer, or self-sacrificing deed of service or of suffering, may seem for long unanswered and in vain. Yet, though the vision tarry long, still wait for it; the day may slowly die, the night may gather round before the gladdening light shall come, but it shall come, and turn the darkness back again to dawn.
2. Note, further, that from every offering to God — the song of praise, the fervent prayer, the submissive will, the good deeds, or the consecrated life — we need to drive, with watchful hand and eye, the vultures of evil thoughts and selfish aims and worldly motives and Satanic temptations away. Now, as then, man's extremity is God's opportunity, and still the unclean spirits which haunt and harass the Christian, even at his devotions as well as otherwise, are scared off just as they circle round for a final swoop, and wing their baffled flight away!
3. Note, further, that the mysterious furnace and the supernatural lamp were seen in direct connection with the chosen sacrifice. They moved to and fro upon the altar and among the consecrated offerings, and were seen nowhere else. Now, see how this applies to the seed of Abraham, the Israelitish race. They were a chosen people, selected and set apart out of all the tribes of men to be, in a sense, absolutely singular — God's own people. This choice on God's part, and this consecration on theirs, was symbolized and ratified by altar sacrifices and the fire from heaven. Their consecration to God brought the furnace of purification and the lamp of illumination, in order to fit them for the high and glorious destiny to which they were called. In the life and death of Jesus Christ, too, Abram's glorious seed, the vision was fulfilled. How clearly we can see the "smoking furnace" in the sore affliction through which He passed! Yet, ever amid all, through the whole of His sharp pilgrimage, He had ever the light and the comfort, the cheer and the guidance, of the "burning lamp." By His conscious sinlessness, His secret mountain intercourse with God, by the baptism of the Brooding Dove, by the Father's voice and presence, by saintly messengers from heaven, by perpetual gift of gracious power, the "burning lamp" of light and love moved along through all His life of sacrifice, up the hill of Calvary, through the sepulchre, and from Mount Olivet up to the hills of God! The patriarch's vision is fulfilled, too, in the history and experience of the Church of God, the true Israel, the spiritual seed of Abraham. The Church of Christ, the guild and family of true believers throughout all the world, is also, like Abram's sacrifice, the elect of God. It is a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, elect, precious. By holy dedication the Church lays itself on the altar of its Lord, and offers perpetual sacrifice through the blood of the Atoning Lamb; and God says of it, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Here, again, we see how consecration is linked with purification and illumination — here, again, the Chosen Sacrifice is subjected to the smoking furnace and burning lamp. The smoke of the one and the gleam of the other can be traced all along the line of the Church's march. You can see the reek of the furnace in the rage of Herod, in the cruelty of Domitian, in the savagery of Nero, the passion of the English Mary, the atrocities of papal Rome. You can catch the reflection of the furnace glow in the sword of Mahomet, the rocks of Madagascar, the dungeons of Naples, the stakes of Smithfield, and the Inquisition of Spain. In some form or other, today, the "smoking furnace" moves through the pilgrim and militant Church of Christ. But, as with Israel of old, as with Jesus, the Church's Head, so the Church itself has never been without the glow of the "burning lamp." God's Church has never lost the light of truth, never been robbed of the divinely-kindled lamp of Love! I want to extract one more lesson for personal application. The singular vision of Abram is equally fulfilled in the life and lot of every Christian believer. Like Abram's offered victims, the Christian, too, is the chosen and consecrated possession of the Lord. He hath presented himself a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, and in return, "the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself." And here, again, in the individual, consecration is attended by purification and illumination. The living sacrifice goes hand in hand with the smoking furnace and the burning lamp. In the Christian life the smoking furnace is full often seen and felt. The path of suffering, test, and trial must be trodden by every child of God. This Christian must carry along a painful bodily ailment. That one must go mourning because of an absent face, a silent voice, a vacant chair. Another must struggle, baffled and perplexed with temporal and financial cares, half worsted in the fight. And still another weeps over a blighted hope, a thankless child, or an unfaithful friend. Everywhere, and with everyone, the smoking furnace moves in and out along the consecrated life. But still, in the Christian's lot the "burning lamp" holds precious and abiding place. The word of promise, grace, and guidance is with him all the way. The "candle of the Lord" burns in his heart; the lamp of eternal truth and love burns with a quenchless fire, casts a guiding light on his heavenward path, sweeps away the mists even from death's deep river, expels the shadows from the very grave, and is reflected by the jasper walls that gleam on the hills of God! Is Abram afraid of the smoking furnace? In the light of the burning lamp he reads, "Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield, thy exceeding great reward." Does Paul's thorn rankle so deep that he pleads thrice with tears and sighs to be delivered? The burning lamp flings the promise on the smoke cloud — "My grace is sufficient for thee," and at once the apostle "glories in his infirmities and praises God in the fire!" So with thee, O Christian! In thy trials thou shalt have triumphs, in thy sorrows thou shalt have solace. For thy trouble thou shalt have double; in tribulation shall come compensation, and always and ever the smoking furnace shall be held in check by the gleam of the burning lamp! Do you ask in doubtful wonder why a consecrated life should be so closely linked with affliction? I answer that the furnace is the purifying agent making the sanctification perfect and the sacrifice more precious and complete. The furnace, too, endows the consecrated soul with the properties of steel, gives the tempered hardness and solidity of character which enables the Christian to fulfil the Apostolic counsel — "Quit you like men; be strong!" That was the end of Israel's sore distresses. "Behold I have refined thee," says Jehovah — "I have chosen thee out of the furnace of affliction." Even of Jesus it is said that He learned obedience by the things that He suffered, and that by suffering He was made perfect as the Captain of our salvation. Take heart, then, O thou follower of the Captain. If that is the way the Master trod, should not the servant tread it still? Make thy sacrifice thorough, willing, constant, and entire.
In illustration of this very ancient mode of ratifying a covenant, Roberts says — "It is an interesting fact that the burning lamp or tire is still used in the East in confirmation of a covenant. Should a person in the evening make a solemn promise to perform something for another, and should the latter doubt his word, the former will say, pointing to the flame of the lamp, 'That is the witness.' On occasions of greater importance, when two or more join in a covenant, should the fidelity of any be questioned, they will say, ' We invoke the lamp of the temple.' When an agreement of this kind is broken, it will be said, 'Who would have thought this, for the lamp of the temple was invoked'?"
PeopleAbram, Amorites, Canaanites, Eliezer, Girgashite, Girgashites, Hittites, Jebusites, Kadmonites, Kenites, Kenizzites, Perizzites, Rephaites
PlacesDamascus, Egypt, Euphrates River, Ur, Valley of Shaveh
TopicsAppeared, Behold, Blazing, Bodies, Burning, Dark, Darkness, Fallen, Fire, Firepot, Flame, Flaming, Furnace, Lamp, Oven, Pass, Passed, Pieces, Pot, Smoke, Smoking, Thick, Torch
Outline1. God encourages Abram, who asks for an heir.
4. God promises him a son, and a multiplying of his seed.
6. Abram is justified by faith.
7. Canaan is promised again,
9. and confirmed by a sign, and a vision,
18. prophetic of the condition of his posterity till brought out of Egypt.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 15:17
5076 Abraham, life of
7258 promised land, early history
1346 covenants, nature of
1348 covenant, with Abraham
5467 promises, divine
LibraryGod's Covenant with Abram
'And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness. And He said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And He said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Justification by Faith --Illustrated by Abram's Righteousness
Referring to the chapter before us for a preface to our subject, note that after Abram's calling his faith proved to be of the most practical kind. Being called to separate himself from his kindred and from his country, he did not therefore become a recluse, a man of ascetic habits, or a sentimentalist, unfit for the battles of ordinary life--no; but in the noblest style of true manliness he showed himself able to endure the household trouble and the public trial which awaited him. Lot's herdsmen …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 14: 1868
"And he believed in the Lord: and he counted it to him for righteousness." --Gen. xv. 6. The right touches a man's status. So long as the law has not proven him guilty, has not convicted and sentenced him, his legal status is that of a free and law-abiding citizen. But as soon as his guilt is proven in court and the jury has convicted him, he passes from that into the status of the bound and law-breaking citizen. The same applies to our relation to God. Our status before God is that either of the …
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit
Kate Lee's Secret
Of Kate Lee General Bramwell Booth writes, 'She was one of those conquering souls who seldom look like a conqueror. She presented an extraordinary contrast. She was weak, and yet she was strong. She was poor, and yet she was one of the richest. She was intensely human, with many of the most marked limitations which belong to the human, and yet she was in an extraordinary degree spiritual, yes, even divine.' These contrasts were clear to all and puzzling to many. Not a few people both in and outside …
Minnie L. Carpenter—The Angel Adjutant of "Twice Born Men"
God's People in the Furnace
And the first observation I shall make will be this: all persons in the furnace of affliction are not chosen. The text says, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction," and it implies that there may be, and there doubtless are, some in the furnace who are not chosen. How many persons there are who suppose that because they are tried, afflicted, and tempted, therefore they are the children of God, whereas they are no such thing. It is a great truth that every child of God is afflicted; but …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 1: 1855
19th Sunday after Trinity. S. Matt. ix. 4. "Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?" INTRODUCTION.--Thoughts are only thoughts! who is to beheld accountable for them? They are clouds blown about by fancy, taking various shapes. God is not so hard as to judge us for our thoughts; He will try us by what we have done, not by what we have dreamed. No garden is without weeds; there are tares in every cornfield. Who speak thus? Is it those who are conscientious and scrupulous to drive away evil thoughts? …
S. Baring-Gould—The Village Pulpit, Volume II. Trinity to Advent
The Purification of the virgin and the Presentation in the Temple
FOREMOST amongst those who, wondering, had heard what the shepherds told, was she whom most it concerned, who laid it up deepest in her heart, and brought to it treasured stores of memory. It was the Mother of Jesus. These many months, all connected with this Child could never have been far away form her thoughts. And now that He was hers yet not hers - belonged, yet did not seem to belong, to her - He would be the more dear to her Mother-heart for what made Him so near, and yet parted Him so far …
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Covenanting Performed in Former Ages with Approbation from Above.
That the Lord gave special token of his approbation of the exercise of Covenanting, it belongs to this place to show. His approval of the duty was seen when he unfolded the promises of the Everlasting Covenant to his people, while they endeavoured to perform it; and his approval thereof is continually seen in his fulfilment to them of these promises. The special manifestations of his regard, made to them while attending to the service before him, belonged to one or other, or both, of those exhibitions …
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting
Letter xxxv. From Pope Damasus.
Damasus addresses five questions to Jerome with a request for information concerning them. They are: 1. What is the meaning of the words "Whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold"? (Gen. iv. 5.) 2. If God has made all things good, how comes it that He gives charge to Noah concerning unclean animals, and says to Peter, "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common"? (Acts x. 15.) 3. How is Gen. xv. 16, "in the fourth generation they shall come hither again," to be reconciled …
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome
Letter xxxvi. To Pope Damasus.
Jerome's reply to the foregoing. For the second and fourth questions he refers Damasus to the writings of Tertullian, Novatian, and Origen. The remaining three he deals with in detail. Gen. iv. 15, he understands to mean "the slayer of Cain shall complete the sevenfold vengeance which is to be wreaked upon him." Exodus xiii. 18, he proposes to reconcile with Gen. xv. 16, by supposing that in the one place the tribe of Levi is referred to, in the other the tribe of Judah. He suggests, however, that …
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome
Palestine Eighteen Centuries Ago
Eighteen and a half centuries ago, and the land which now lies desolate--its bare, grey hills looking into ill-tilled or neglected valleys, its timber cut down, its olive- and vine-clad terraces crumbled into dust, its villages stricken with poverty and squalor, its thoroughfares insecure and deserted, its native population well-nigh gone, and with them its industry, wealth, and strength--presented a scene of beauty, richness, and busy life almost unsurpassed in the then known world. The Rabbis never …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
A Sight of the Crowned Christ
(Revelation, Chapter i.) "Since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus, I've lost sight of all beside, So enchained my spirit's vision, Looking at the Crucified." "The Lord Christ passed my humble cot: I knew him, yet I knew him not; But as I oft had done before, I hurried through my narrow door To touch His garment's hem. "He drew me to a place apart From curious crowd and noisy mart; And as I sat there at His feet I caught the thrill of His heart-beat Beyond His garment's hem. "Rare was the bread He broke …
by S. D. Gordon—Quiet Talks on the Crowned Christ of Revelation
He Severely Reproves Abaelard for Scrutinizing Rashly and Impiously, and Extenuating the Power Of, the Secret Things of God.
He severely reproves Abaelard for scrutinizing rashly and impiously, and extenuating the power of, the secret things of God. 17. This is the righteousness of man in the blood of the Redeemer: which this son of perdition, by his scoffs and insinuations, is attempting to render vain; so much so, that he thinks and argues that the whole fact that the Lord of Glory emptied Himself, that He was made lower than the angels, that He was born of a woman, that He lived in the world, that He made trial of our …
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux
Parable of the Importunate Widow.
^C Luke XVIII. 1-8. ^c 1 And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 saying, There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man [an utterly abandoned character]: 3 and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of [rather, Do justice to me as to] mine adversary. [In Scripture language widowhood is symbolic of defenselessness (Ex. xxii. 22-24; Deut. x. 18; xxvii. 19; Mal. iii. 5; Mark xii. 40), …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
Meditations to Stir us up to Morning Prayer.
1. If, when thou art about to pray, Satan shall suggest that thy prayers are too long, and that therefore it were better either to omit prayers, or else to cut them shorter, meditate that prayer is thy spiritual sacrifice, wherewith God is well pleased (Heb. xiii. 15, 16;) and therefore it is so displeasing to the devil, and so irksome to the flesh. Bend therefore thy affections (will they, nill they) to so holy an exercise; assuring thyself, that it doth by so much the more please God, by how much …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
The Blessings of Noah Upon Shem and Japheth. (Gen. Ix. 18-27. )
Ver. 20. "And Noah began and became an husbandman, and planted vineyards."--This does not imply that Noah was the first who began to till the ground, and, more especially, to cultivate the vine; for Cain, too, was a tiller of the ground, Gen. iv. 2. The sense rather is, that Noah, after the flood, again took up this calling. Moreover, the remark has not an independent import; it serves only to prepare the way for the communication of the subsequent account of Noah's drunkenness. By this remark, …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
Meditations for Household Piety.
1. If thou be called to the government of a family, thou must not hold it sufficient to serve God and live uprightly in thy own person, unless thou cause all under thy charge to do the same with thee. For the performance of this duty God was so well pleased with Abraham, that he would not hide from him his counsel: "For," saith God, "I know him that he will command his sons and his household after him that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
The First Chaldaean Empire and the Hyksos in Egypt
Syria: the part played by it in the ancient world--Babylon and the first Chaldaean empire--The dominion of the Hyksos: Ahmosis. Some countries seem destined from their origin to become the battle-fields of the contending nations which environ them. Into such regions, and to their cost, neighbouring peoples come from century to century to settle their quarrels and bring to an issue the questions of supremacy which disturb their little corner of the world. The nations around are eager for the possession …
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 4
The Prophet Joel.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS. The position which has been assigned to Joel in the collection of the Minor Prophets, furnishes an external argument for the determination of the time at which Joel wrote. There cannot be any doubt that the Collectors were guided by a consideration of the chronology. The circumstance, that they placed the prophecies of Joel just between the two prophets who, according to the inscriptions and contents of their prophecies, belonged to the time of Jeroboam and Uzziah, is …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
In Romans 3:28 the Apostle Paul declared "that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," and then produces the case of Abraham to prove his assertion. But the Apostle James, from the case of the same Abraham, draws quite another conclusion, saying, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). This is one of the "contradictions in the Bible" to which infidels appeal in support of their unbelief. But the Christian, however difficult he finds …
Arthur W. Pink—The Doctrine of Justification
Moses and his Writings
[Illustration: (drop cap W) Clay letter tablet of Moses' time.] We now begin to understand a little of the very beginning of God's Book--of the times in which it was written, the materials used by its first author, and the different kinds of writing from which he had to choose; but we must go a step farther. How much did Moses know about the history of his forefathers, Abraham and Jacob, and of all the old nations and kings mentioned in Genesis, before God called him to the great work of writing …
Mildred Duff—The Bible in its Making
The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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