Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and afterward I brought you out.
I. THE FACT THAT ABRAHAM WAS ORIGINALLY A HEATHEN. He was not merely born and bred an idolater, as we might have gathered from the story of Bachel's teraphim, but was a pagan in exactly the same condition of belief as many in India or in China are today. Some, in later times especially, and indeed in all times, worshipped the true God, but employed an idol to assist their imagination of Him; that is, they simply sought ritualistic and sensuous aids to religious thought and feeling. But Abraham began life far lower down in the religious scale. His fathers served other gods; the deified powers of nature representing little more than the forces and tendencies of life. Primitive tradition had lost any brightness it ever had. The religious sentiment had lost that reverence and habit of attention which soon begins to perceive God and to feel that the God constantly appealing to it is one and the same. The worship of several deities is always a mark of a superstitious ingredient blending with faith. Terah's family were in this condition. They were not only idolaters but polytheists - without Bible or sacrament, promise, or law. Abraham was precisely in the same sort of spiritual circumstances, and had been taught the same sort of religious ideas, and trained in the same superstitions, as are found in all pagan lands today. Yet with advantages so slight, he became the spiritual father of the religious nation of antiquity - type of all saintliness, of everything bright in faith and unquestioning in obedience. There is some reason to suppose that a god of vengeance was one of those deities most reverently regarded by his people; and yet he finds and worships a God of love! He, like all of us, had Christ, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He, unlike most of us, followed the Christ light within him. Following the Divine light, it grew ever clearer, and his vision became stronger to perceive and his heart to follow it. Amongst a multitude of silent deities, One spoke to him through his conscience, with more and more of frequency, and, in the devotee in which He was obeyed, with more and more of clearness, both in the comforts He whispered and the commands He enjoined, till gradually he felt there was but one great God, who governed all, and should receive the homage of all; who was the friendly refuge as well as the omnipotent Creator of men. Gradually his life began to revolve around this unseen Centre, and the outward aspect and inward purpose of his life stood out in palpable difference from that of his fellows. Doubtless he preached his deep conviction, gathered about him some kindred spirits; perhaps had to endure persecution; till at last he got a strong impression borne in upon his conscience that his path of duty and of spiritual wisdom was to leave his native land and seek a new home for what was a new faith amongst men. His coming to Ur of the Chaldees, and then to Canaan, may be compared with the expedition of the Pilgrim fathers. Like them he sought "freedom to worship God," and like them founded a great nation in doing so. In any view of his character, his decision, his devotion, the clearness of his faith, the promptness of his obedience, are marvellous. But they become much more so when we mark the fact that Joshua here brings out, that Abraham began his career in heathen darkness - that the father of the faithful began life as a mere pagan. Observe -
II. SOME LESSONS OF THIS FACT. For evidently it has many. We can only suggest them.
(1) A little grace and a little light go a long way when well used. How little had Abraham to begin with! But, using what he had, it grew more, and was enough to do more for him than light a thousand times as clear does for some of us today. A man who has light upon his next step of duty has really an "abundance of revelation." Do not go in for being omniscient, postponing all obedience until you get light on all truth. Use your little light well whatever it is, and so you will get more.
(2) Obedience is the mode of self enlightenment. "If any man will do God's will, he shall know God's doctrine." So says Christ. Doing duty is the way of discovering truth. Since the creation of the world there has been no other. Take this.
(3) All the sacraments are means of grace, not conditions of salvation. The Church has always been tempted to exaggerate the helpful into the essential, until it says, "Extra ecclesiam, nulia salus." Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, arguing with those who held the sacrament of circumcision essential to salvation, quotes Abraham as reaching all his spirituality and acceptance with God, "not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision," i.e, not by sacraments, but without them altogether. Sacraments are aids. The mercy that gave them to be such will, in the absence of them through error or inadvertence, use some other way of enriching and enlightening the obedient heart.
(4) However sunk in superstition the heathen may be, they are capable of religion. The difference between the Christian and the heathen in the matter of spiritual advantages is not a difference between having all and having nothing, but between having more and having less. They have the Christian inward light - movings of God's spirit, lessons of God's providence. God speaks to them, and "wakes their ear in the morning." They lack the testimony of God's saints, their examples, the revelation of God's highest law, a clear light on immortality; above all, the light which comes from the life and death of the Son of God - "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." This fuller light would multiply vastly the number of the devout amongst them, and give a higher character to their devotion. But they may be saved, as we are taught explicitly both by Peter and by Paul, by a Saviour they feel and follow, though they do not know the story of His love.
(5) The heathen being thus capable of religion, and our higher advantages being influential to produce it, we ought to extend to them the full light of the Saviour's glory. Our neglect of Christian missions grows from our despair of heathen men. We ought to think of the millions in heathen darkness as Abraham's brethren, and capable of appreciating and responding to all that is true and gracious. If we rightly reverence them, we should not eat our morsel of the bread of life alone, but should share it with them. Let us seek to extend the knowledge of the gospel of Christ, and we shall yet behold many an Abraham rising up in heathen lands. - G.
I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir.I. HISTORY AND THE HAND OF GOD IN IT. See: "I gave"; and then again, "I gave." It is not merely that Esau and Jacob were born of Isaac and Rebekah, but the Lord says, "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau." How plainly doth this declare that the hand of God is in human history! At first sight history seems a great tangle, a confusion; but on looking at it more closely we perceive that it is only in appearance a maze, but in fact a marvellous piece of arrangement, exhibiting perfect precision and never-failing accuracy.
1. We see the hand of God in history very strikingly in the raising up of remarkable men at certain special periods. "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau": children are the gift of God. This is true not only of Isaac but of all mortal men. God gave to a worthy couple, George Washington; to another pair, John Howard; and to a third, George Whitefield. Each of these, in his own special way, was a Divine gift to men. Children are born with different talents and varied capacities, but all about them which will make them blessings is the gift of God.
2. So also is the hand of God distinctly to be seen in all great events. If Esau captures Mount Seir, then the setting up of the Edomite dominion, bad as it may have been, is from another point of view a matter in which God's purpose and design are to be noted, for He says: "I gave Esau mount Seir." In everything that happens, be it small or great, the Lord is present, and His will is done. It is so in all the plottings and manoeuvrings of kings and princes and senates, in the stirs of public opinion, in the marchings of armies, and in all that transpires among mortal men. Though the iniquity of man is seen abundantly, yet the overruling power of God is never absent.
3. To us the hand of God is very visible in our own case. Look at the hand of God that gave to you and to me such parents as we have: I mean those of us who have the great delight of having descended from Christian men and women. Had we anything to do with that? And yet the greatest part of man's future depends upon the parents of whom he is born. Is not the hand of God in it?
4. And do we not see the hand of God, again, in our children? Bring these gifts of God to God, and say, "Here, Lord, are the children which Thou hast given me. O Lord, let Thy name be named on them, and let Thy grace be glorified in them."
5. Observe, further, that the Lord's hand is in all the prosperity which He gives to any. He says, "I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it." It is by God's allotment that temporal things fall as they do: even the ungodly have their portion in this life by Divine grant.
6. And, once more, God's hand is to be seen in the place in which we live. If Esau lives in Mount Seir, it is because God appoints him to be there; and if Israel goes down to Egypt, it is for the selfsame reason. If you and I remove from one place to another, it is sweet to see the cloud moving before us, and to know that the Lord directs our way.
II. BIRTH AND ITS DISAPPOINTMENTS. "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau," twin children born of godly parents. In that birth there was joy, but sorrow came by it as well as joy. Children are certain cares and doubtful comforts. They may bring to their parents such sorrow that they may be inclined to think the barren happier than the fruitful. Hence it is well for us to leave our hopes of posterity with God; and if we reckon that in a childless house we have missed a great joy, we ought also to reckon that we have missed a mint of trouble by the same fact.
III. WORLDLINGS AND THEIR POSSESSIONS. Why does God so often give possessions to ungodly men? Why do they flourish? Why do they have their portion in this life? Is it not, first, because God thinks little of these things, and therefore gives them to those of whom He thinks little? "Why," said Luther in his day, "the whole Turkish empire is but a basket of husks that God gives to the hogs, and therefore He hands it over to the unbelievers." Something infinitely better is reserved for the Lord's own family. The rich blessing of true grace He reserves for His children and heirs. Do you wish that ungodly men should have less? For my part, I am reconciled to their present prosperity, for it is all they ever will have. Poor souls, let them have as much of it as they may here; they have nothing hereafter. Let those have the treasures of this present evil world who have nothing else. Never quarrel with the Lord for saying, "I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it." Besides, these comforts may lead them to reflect upon God's bounty to them; and at any rate they ought to move them to repentance.
IV. THE CHOSEN OF GOD AND THEIR TRIALS. Esau reigns, but Israel serves; Esau set his nest on high, but Israel crouched by the reeds of the river. The worldling would read the Scripture as if it said, "As many as I love, I caress and pamper"; but the Lord speaketh not so; His word is, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten"; "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." To carnal reason this seems strange; faith alone can explain it.
1. Israel and his children went down into Egypt, first, for their preservation. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions. The salt and bitterness of sorrow often preserves men from the gall and bitterness of sin.
2. They went down into Egypt, next, for their improvement. God often thrusts His people into adversity that He may improve them, arouse them, instruct them, and ennoble them. See to it, that the Lord's design be fulfilled in you to the full. May the fire and the file, the crucible and the flame, work in you a clearance of dross and rust, and make you pure and bright.
3. They also went down into Egypt for their education. The chosen seed needed teaching; they were getting to be rustic, not to say barbarous, in their manners; acquirements and knowledge were scant among them. They must go down into the seat of ancient learning to acquire arts and sciences and civilisation. For future usefulness it is well that we bear present sorrow, and like Jacob go down into Egypt.
4. And they went down to Egypt, again, that God might display His great power in them. It is worth while to go down into Egypt to come out of it with a high hand and an outstretched arm. Oh, the glory of the Lord in His redeemed! Oh, the lofty destiny of the tried people of God! Oh, the sublimity of their lives even now! There is God in them; there is God about them. "Jacob and his children went down into Egypt." That is where the story ends, according to my text; but you know the story does not end there after all; for out of Jacob and his children came the Star, the Sceptre, and the Throne.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
PeopleAaron, Amorites, Balaam, Balak, Beor, Canaanites, Egyptians, Eleazar, Esau, Girgashite, Girgashites, Hamor, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Jebusites, Joseph, Joshua, Nachor, Nahor, Nun, Perizzites, Phinehas, Seir, Serah, Terah, Zippor
PlacesCanaan, Egypt, Euphrates River, Gaash, Gibeah, Jericho, Jordan River, Moab, Red Sea, Seir, Shechem, Timnath-serah
TopicsAaron, Afflicted, Afterward, Afterwards, Egypt, Egyptians, Midst, Plague, Plagued, Signs, Thereof, Troubling
Outline1. Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem
2. A brief history of God's benefits from Terah
14. He renews the covenant between them and God
26. A stone the witness of the covenant
29. Joshua's age, death, and burial
32. Joseph's bones are buried
33. Eleazar dies
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 24:5-7
LibraryFebruary the Tenth Registering a Verdict
"The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey." --JOSHUA xxiv. 22-28. Here was a definite decision. Our peril is that we spend our life in wavering and we never decide. We are like a jury which is always hearing evidence and never gives a verdict. We do much thinking, but we never make up our minds. We let our eyes wander over many things, but we make no choice. Life has no crisis, no culmination. Now people who never decide spend their days in hoping to do so. But this kind of life …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
A Summary of Israel's Faithlessness and God's Patience
Jesus Sets Out from Judæa for Galilee.
Meditations for Household Piety.
The Promise to the Patriarchs.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
And for Your Fearlessness against them Hold this Sure Sign -- Whenever There Is...
Covenanting Performed in Former Ages with Approbation from Above.
The First Commandment
Moses and his Writings
"The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. So Then they that Are
Gen. xxxi. 11
Manner of Covenanting.
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