Then Abraham answered, "Now that I have ventured to speak to the Lord--though I am but dust and ashes--
1. The first thing that occurs, is the lamentable folly of those who cry up the dignity of human nature: for neither revelation nor reason discovers any nature to us, but such as is mortal and sinful; and there is no dignity either in sin or mortality.
(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.
But dust and ashes.I. THE TRUE POSTURE FOR A SINNER, AT THE THRONE OF GRACE. He must lie low, and aim high. You see this in the behaviour of Abraham on the present occasion. Though honoured by a fresh token of the Lord's confidential friendship, he has —
1. Low thoughts of himself. He cannot forget who and what he is: "I am but dust and ashes!" The expression is singular. It alludes, I think, first to the meanness of his origin. What was Abraham — what are all men — but "dust"? But this expression of Abraham may allude, secondly, to the corruption of his nature. "Dust" is what God made it: but "ashes" have had a value, which is now departed from them. Thus man, however mean, was yet not offensive, till he "corrupted his way" before God.
2. High thoughts of God: high thoughts, first, of His equity; "The Judge of all the earth," he is persuaded, must and "will do right." Any other supposition, indeed, were an affront to the Lord. But, secondly, let Abraham teach you also to entertain equally high thoughts of His mercy. Be not backward to ask of God, what you are unable to claim.
II. THE GENEROUS CHARACTER OF TRUE GODLINESS. For whose welfare does Abraham make this urgent intercession? Two parties were included in it, neither of whom had very greatly deserved such kindness at his hands.
1. Lot his nephew, though not named, had (we may suppose) the foremost place in his good wishes. He was a pious person; and "wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?"
2. The people of Sodom, on the other hand, are expressly named. Abraham knew that they "were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." Yet even for them he prays.
III. THE EFFICACY OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER is another lesson taught us by this narrative.
IV. A FAINT TYPE OF OUR GREAT INTERCESSOR, JESUS THE SON OF GOD.
1. Was Abraham's a generous interposition? That of Jesus is far more unmerited. He intercedes for enemies!
2. Did Abraham appear to have some weight, as "the friend of God"? Far more authoritative is the mediation of Jesus. He stands in His own name, and on His own merits; not as a servant, high in favour indeed at court — but as the King's Son.
3. Did Abraham persevere, with an earnestness which, in his own eyes, seemed almost to border upon presumption? The event showed, notwithstanding, that he left off too soon. This will never be said of our Divine Intercessor. "He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth" — till He have fully accomplished all His purposes of grace.
4. Once more: let Abraham intercede as he might, whether on this or on subsequent occasions, yet his good offices were sure to be terminated, sooner or later "not being suffered to continue, by reason of death." After death — as the rich man in torments found — he neither can nor will interpose. But Jesus "ever liveth to make intercession for us."
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
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.)
2. Secondly, the fearful effects of sin are displayed to us by this subject in a very particular manner. Why does the body, so wonderfully formed by the Divine wisdom, return again to its original dust, but because that which has taken root in it cannot otherwise be extracted? Why are we under condemnation, and liable to be reduced to ashes, but because sin has kindled the flames of the Divine wrath? How odious then must sin be in itself, and how contrary to the nature of God, if it compels His justice to destroy the work of His hands! Lastly, they who have ears to hear, will learn from this subject, not to set their affections upon a world, which is under sentence of condemnation, and whose end is to be burned.
(W. Jones, M. A.)
PeopleAbraham, Mamre, Sarah
PlacesCanaan, Gomorrah, Sodom, Sodom and Gomorrah
TopicsAlthough, Answereth, Answering, Ashes, Behold, Bold, Dust, Myself, Nothing, Replied, Speak, Though, Thoughts, Truly, Undertaken, Ventured, Willed
Outline1. The Lord appears to Abraham, who entertains angels.
9. Sarah is reproved for laughing at the promise of a son.
16. The destruction of Sodom is revealed to Abraham.
23. Abraham makes intercession for its inhabitants.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 18:27
1230 God, the Lord
1511 Trinity, relationships in
1095 God, patience of
4113 angels, agents of judgment
5076 Abraham, life of
8221 courage, strength from God
LibraryJanuary 5. "I Know Him that He Will do the Law" (Gen. xviii. 19).
"I know him that he will do the law" (Gen. xviii. 19). God wants people that He can depend upon. He could say of Abraham, "I know him, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham all that He hath spoken." God can be depended upon; He wants us to be just as decided, as reliable, as stable. This is just what faith means. God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love, and power, and faithful promises. When God finds such a soul there is nothing He will not do for him. God's engines are …
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