Wednesday, November 26, 2014

#31. The Child of Promise.

     As early as the time recorded in  Genesis xv.  Abraham learned that God would give him a son, and that his heir should not be “this Eliezer of Damascus”.  When the Lord bade him look toward heaven and consider the multitude of the stars, saying “so shall thy seed be”, Abraham believed.  Chapter xvi.  however opens with the words:--

     “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bare him no children;  and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.”

     This maid was given to Abram by his wife in accordance with the law of the time (recorded in Code of Khammurabi), and the birth of Ishmael was the result.  Abram was eighty-six years of age when Ishmael was born.  Thirteen more years passed and then came the word, “I am the Almighty God, walk before Me, and be thou perfect”.  God then renews the covenant with Abram, “thou shalt be a father of many nations”, and changes his name from Abram to Abraham, “father of a great multitude”.  Then comes circumcision, the sign and the seal of the righteousness of faith (Romans iv.).  God can now reveal the next step to Abraham:--

     “As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah (Princess) shall her name be, and I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her:  Yea, I will bless her, and she shall become nations;  kings of people shall be of her.  Then Abraham fell upon his face and LAUGHED.”

     When Sarai overheard the words of the angel,

     “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son” (xviii. 10),

we read, “therefore Sarah LAUGHED”.  Both Abraham and Sarah laughed — the one in the joy of faith, the other in the derision of unbelief.  Responding to the laugh of faith, the Lord continued to Abraham,

     “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name LAUGHTER (Isaac).”

     In reply to the laugh of unbelief come the words:--

     “Is anything too hard for the Lord?  At the appointed time I will return unto thee according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”

     Three important dispensational principles are disclosed to us by this passage:--

The  nature  of  PROMISE.
The  factor  of  TIME.
The  fact  of  RESURRECTION.

The   nature   of   Promise.

     One of Abraham’s titles is, “he that had the promises” (Heb. vii. 6,  xi. 17).  The land of Canaan in which Abraham sojourned is also called “the land of promise” (Heb. xi. 9).  Isaac and Jacob who dwelt with him there are said to be “heirs with him of the same promise”.  Both the epistle to the Galatians and that to the Romans lay great emphasis upon the nature of God’s promise.  Let us notice what is attached to the promise:--

     “That we might receive the promise through … FAITH” (Gal. iii. 14).

     “The covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the LAW, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect, for if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise” (Gal. iii. 17, 18).

     Here the nature of the promise is shewn by its relation to law and faith.  Turning to  Romans iv.  we shall increase our understanding of the nature of the promise, and also learn more fully the strength of Abraham’s faith.  The first reference echoes  Galatians iii.:--

     “For the promise, that he should be heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the LAW, but through the righteousness of FAITH, for if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect … therefore it is of FAITH that it might be by GRACE, to the end the promise might be SURE to all the seed” (Rom. iv. 13, 14).

     Notice the teaching;  it is by faith, by grace, that it might be SURE.  Abraham and Sarah believed the promise (faith), but they endeavoured to help God (flesh), and the birth of Ishmael was the result.  God will make the promise sure without the intrusion of the flesh, for the very intrusion of the flesh robs the word promise of its meaning.

The   factor   of   Time.

     Attached to every promise of God is an appointed time either stated or implied.  Not only is this necessitated by the outworking of a plan, but it also is used to exercise and encourage simple faith.  Ecclesiastes has noted, “There is a time to every purpose under heaven”.  The answer to the tried faith of Habakkuk was, “the vision is yet for an appointed time … though it tarry, wait for it”.  So the promise to Abraham was timed.  To the flesh the long years that passed after the normal age of parenthood had been reached were a hard trial of faith.  It was not until Abraham was “about an hundred years old” that the promise was fulfilled;  yet there was no tarrying on the part of God.  “At the time of life”, “at the set time”, “at the time appointed”, Isaac is born, and Ishmael is seen to be the symbol of law, bondage, and unbelief.

     “It is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman, but he that was born of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by promise” (Gal. iv. 22-31).

     “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel;  neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, but IN ISAAC shall thy seed be called, that is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (Rom. ix. 6-8).

     In  Genesis xxi.  we read the simple yet sublime account of the fulfillment of God’s promise:--

     “And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as He had spoken.  For Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him … and Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”

     Here Sarah’s laugh is the laugh of faith.  She is however forcibly reminded of her laugh of unbelief, for the context once more uses the word (this time translated “mock”), “and Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham, laughing (mocking).”

     Not only is the promise of God entirely removed from the sphere of law and flesh, the accident of time and the impatience of unbelief, but its essential characteristic and crown is that it triumphs over DEATH.

The   fact   of   Resurrection.

     Romans iv.  displays the essential facts of resurrection both as regards Abraham’s personal faith, the title of God, and the essential element in justifying faith.  Abraham’s personal faith.  Which was easier to believe, that God in some far-off day would raise His own Son from the dead, or to believe that there and then, Abraham and Sarah “as good as dead” should be quickened into life?  Abraham’s faith is thus described:--

     “Who against hope (humanly speaking), in hope believed, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be, and without growing weak in faith, he considered his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb, he did not use doubtful disputation in unbelief (cf. Rom. xiv. 1) against the promise of God, but was strong in the faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform, and therefore it was imputed for righteousness” (Rom. iv. 18-22).

     This  factor  of  resurrection  re-appears  in  connection  with  Abraham’s  faith  in  Heb. xi. 17-19:--

     “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called, accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead;  from whence also he received him in a figure.”

     The one title of God that is given in this passage (Romans iv.) is “God Who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were”.  Abraham’s trust was not in a blind impersonal Providence, not in the Almighty whose name is uttered by the despairing, and forgotten when the storm is passed, but the God of resurrection.  This title of God before all others is the one which all believers to-day must recognize.  Only as such can He be our Father;  only as such can He be the God of hope, of peace, of all comfort, of patience, of glory.  None of the glorious promises enshrined in the Divine titles can ever be realized or enjoyed apart from the resurrection.  The Old Testament saints were taught this;  the land of promise was theirs in resurrection: “they all died in faith not having received the promise”.  The throne of David cannot be occupied apart from resurrection: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” are the words of the decree (see Psalm ii.).

     The Church has no status or blessing apart from resurrection;  chapter and verse can hardly be given, as this thought underlies the whole of the apostle Paul’s ministry, both before and after  Acts xxviii.

The   Essential   Element   in   Justifying   Faith.

     “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him:  but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;  who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again because of our justification” (Rom. iv. 23-25).

     “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. x. 9).

     Let us learn this important teaching concerning the promises of God, for it underlies all His purposes of grace and glory.  The close association between Isaac and Christ  (Gal. iii. 16;   Rom. ix. 7),  the  references to the offering of the only begotten Son  (Heb. xi. 17;   John iii. 16)  reveal that in some mystical way God Himself moves along these lines as well as His people.  He also awaits the hour appointed.  He must eliminate all human merit.  He too works only in the sphere of resurrection life.

     “For how many soever the promises of God, in Him is the yea;  wherefore also through Him is the Amen to the glory of God through us” (II Cor. i. 20).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#30. Circumcision and its relation to being “perfect” (Genesis xvii.).

     Abram has had several trials of faith.  We see his progress much like the climbing record on the meteorological chart.  Not one straight undeviating line does Abram’s record leave.  He falls a few degrees, and advances a few more, but it is to be thankfully noted that he does advance.  One, and One only, ever walked the straight path of perfect faith, and while Abraham may twice figure in the list of those who received a good report through faith, Christ Himself alone is the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews xi., xii.).  Nevertheless, Abram is a follower of the Lord, and to him as to all believers comes the call to go on unto perfection:--

     “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him.  I am El Shaddai;  walk before Me and be thou perfect.”

     When He was revealed as Abram’s shield and reward, Abram believed Him unto justification and inheritance.  Something fuller and deeper lies before Abram now.  Up to this point Abram is the father of all that believe.  Every believing child of God is justified and will receive a share of His inheritance.  Not all believers, however, “go on unto perfection”.  Even Paul, sure as he was of his justification and of his fitness for the inheritance in the light, yet says, “Not as though i were already perfect”.  When Abram is called upon to “be perfect”, a fuller revelation of God is made to him.  It will be helpful to observe the different titles of God that appear in the various phases of Abram’s walk of faith. 

     Stephen tells us that “The God of glory” appeared to Abram and bade him leave Ur of the Chaldees for the land of promise.  This title of the Lord is in vivid contrast to the idolatrous and passing world of Abram’s nativity.  As “The Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth”, the Lord was revealed to Abram before he met the temptation of the king of Sodom.  As Abram’s shield and exceeding great reward the Lord is revealed Who was to justify him and pledge his inheritance through all the trials that awaited him and his seed. 

     His title, when He lets Abram know that his inheritance is sure, is “The Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees” — implying the truth otherwise expressed “that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ”.  This characterized Abram’s faith (see Rom. iv. 21).  As “The Almighty God”, or El Shaddai, the Lord appeared to Abram when He would urge him on to perfection.  If justification by faith supposes the deadness of nature and the resurrection power of the Lord, subsequent perfection will necessitate that God Himself shall be all in all. El Shaddai has been curiously rendered, “The enough God”;  the idea is expressed by the apostle when he said, “Our sufficiency is of God”. 

     Abram’s name is here changed to Abraham, “The father of many nations”, and this is spoken of at some length by the apostle in  Rom. iv. 16-25.   The land of Canaan is given here to Abraham and his seed for “an everlasting” possession, by an “everlasting” covenant, or a possession for the age of undefined limits.  Thus Israel is called the ancient people, or the everlasting people, the people for the age (Isa. xliv. 7).  The connection of this “everlasting” character of the blessing with “perfecting” will be more fully dealt with in the articles on The Epistle to the Hebrews

     The first occurrence in the New Testament of the title “Almighty” is  II Cor. vi. 18  where it is preceded by separation, as in Abram’s case, and followed by cleansing from the filthiness of flesh and spirit, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God”.  Seeing that the word “perfect” in  Genesis xvii.  is the word used of Noah in  Gen. vi. 9,  who “was uncontaminated in his pedigree”, and considering the insistent attempts of Satan to corrupt the line of the promised Seed, as in the case of Pharaoh and Sodom already noticed, there may be an allusion here to the intrusion of the flesh resulting in the birth of Ishmael. 

     Three important aspects of truth are indicated in  Genesis xvii.:--

1.      The Lord reveals Himself. — “I AM” (1). 
2.      The Lord reveals His intention. — “I WILL” (seven times, 2-8). 
3.      The Lord reveals something for Abraham to do. — “Thou shalt keep” (9-14). 

     The Lord is Alpha (I am), and Omega (I will) before Abraham is called upon to do anything.  The seventh “I will” pledges the fulness of El Shaddai in that day to Abraham’s seed, “I will be their God”.  Further, Abram’s name is changed to Abraham before a conditional covenant is made with him. 

     Abraham can be justified without circumcision, but not perfected.  This is vividly brought out by the apostle in  Philippians iii.  where before speaking of the perfection to which he pressed, he spoke of those who were likeminded believers as “the circumcision who had no confidence in the flesh”.  That is the true significance of the rite.  The flesh is repudiated.  After having begun in the spirit, asked Paul of the Galatians, are you now made perfect by the flesh?  To the Colossians the apostle expressed his earnest desire that he might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.  This statement follows the record of their perfect acceptance in Christ, and is followed by the reference to their circumcision in Christ. 

1.      “In the body of His flesh to present you holy and unblameable” (i. 22). 
2.      “That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (i. 28). 
3.      “In Whom ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in the putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (ii. 11). 

     So it is that the changed name follows the command to be perfect, and is in turn followed by “My covenant which ye shall keep”.  This was to be the token of the “everlasting covenant” already mentioned. 

     Sarai’s name is now changed to Sarah.  The meaning of the two names does not differ much.  Sarai means “princely” and Sarah “princess”.  The same letter “H” which was added to Abram’s is added to Sarai’s. 

     There are eight covenants that are made with Abraham, and each is suggestive when we observe its numerical order:--

1.      The great nation.  “Thee” (personal) seven times (Gen. xii. 1-3). 
2.      The Seed.  Redemption.  Altar (Gen. xii. 7). 
3.      The land.  Only Abraham’s in resurrection (Gen. xiii. 14-17). 
4.       Boundaries.  400 years.  4th generation (Gen. xv. 13-21). 
5.      Grace, the changed name.  “H” = 5 in Hebrew.  Circumcision and perfection.  “Abraham laughed” (Gen. xvii. 1-22). 
6.      The flesh a failure.  “Sarah laughed” (Gen. xviii. 9-15). 
7.      Isaac, not Ishmael.  “Let him laugh” (Gen. xxi. 12). 
8.      Blessing in resurrection.  The oath (Gen. xxii. 15-18). 

     It may also have been remarked that in  chapter xvii.  we have a fuller statement of the sevenfold covenant of  Genesis xii.   This covenant has seven “I wills”, but the promises are fuller.  It commences the second set of four covenants.  The first four are concerning the great nation, the promised seed, the promised land, and its geographical boundaries.  These are covenants made with Abram.  The second four are covenants made with Abraham.  They include circumcision as the token, the promise concerning Sarah, the exclusion of Ishmael, and the “better promises” obtained by Abraham, revealed for the first time centuries after in the epistle to the Hebrews.  The earthly inheritance is given in  Genesis xv. 13-21,  the heavenly is contained in  xxii. 16-18. 

     Doctrinally we must repudiate the Ishmaels of our failures, but practically we may have to shoulder our burdens and responsibilities to them.  Thus the apostle did not instruct a believing husband to put away his wife who may have still remained a pagan.  This would have brought the name of the Lord into disgrace.  Abraham remembers his responsibility regarding Ishmael.  Rightly or wrongly, Abraham was his father, and he pleads for Ishmael before the Lord.  The Lord replied:--

     “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed;  and thou shalt call his name Isaac:  and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee:  Behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly;  twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.  But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.  And He left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham” (Gen. xvii. 19-22). 

     Ishmael should be blessed, but the covenant was in Isaac.  Both Ishmael and Isaac were circumcised, yet one was of the flesh, while the other was of promise.  Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day — the day of resurrection, whereas Ishmael was circumcised in his thirteenth year, the number of rebellion. 

     Thus Abraham was instructed, when he set out upon his walk before God, that to be perfect involved the putting off of the body of the flesh.  Ishmael cannot inherit the promises of the covenant.  All must be of God and not of the flesh.  Thus did Abraham learn his first lesson when he was ninety years old and nine.  Thus did he laugh the laugh of faith when he believed that a child should be born to one a hundred years old. 

     The Scriptures in setting forth the truth of perfection allow no room in connection with it the flesh.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

#29. Faith and the Flesh (Gen. xv. 1 - xvi. 16).

     In the two chapters now before us we shall again be brought face to face with the conflict of spirit and flesh, of faith and works, of liberty and bondage, in short with the key words of the epistle to the Galatians, and the very allegory which the apostle uses in that epistle. 

     In response to the words which were given to Abram in the vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward”, Abram said:--

     “Lord God, what will Thou give me, seeing i go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?  And Abram said, Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed;  and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.”

     This must not be interpreted to mean that upon the mention of the word “reward” Abram evidenced a grasping spirit — rather the contrary is the true meaning.  Here he was a stranger among strangers.  His nearer relative had parted from him for the greater attraction of Sodom.  He was getting well on in years and still childless.  Hence he says, “What wilt Thou give me?”;  as much as to say, Thou hast already loaded me with blessings, what can more of the same avail, seeing that in the ordinary course (and according to the law of the land at the time) it must all go to Eliezer my steward?   (For the code of Khammurabi, to which Abram refers here, see volume VI, p.104). 

     God had promised Abram a seed, and Abram began to think that the intention of the Lord was to run along the lines of human codes.  In this he was mistaken:--

     “And behold the word of the Lord came unto him saying, This shall not be thine heir;  but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”

     This definite statement removed Eliezer from the field conferred upon Abram in his old age the assured hope of literal parenthood. 

     Not yet did Abram’s faith firmly grasp the fact that this promise encircled Sarah also;  this is evident by the sequel, yet he believed the literal statement of the Lord and for the time that was all the Lord intended.  When Abram stood alone, rid of the society of Lot, the Lord used the simile of the dust of the earth to indicate the number of his seed.  Now Abram’s eyes are directed heavenward:--

     “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.”

     Abram stood before that heavenly host, a childless old man, yet the simple statement is made — grand in its simplicity — “And he believed in the Lord;  and He counted it to him for righteousness”.  This sentence brings us to one of the most important utterances of Scripture.  Upon the truth contained therein the apostle Paul founded his gospel.  The epistles to the Romans and the Galatians are impossible apart from it:  It will therefore warrant a pause and a prayerful consideration. 

     “He believed in the Lord.” -- Romans iv. 3  says, “Abraham believed God”.  Had not Abraham believed in the Lord, or believed God when he obeyed the command to leave Ur of the Chaldees?  He certainly did, for  Hebrews xi.  definitely says that he acted “by faith”.  Was not the response recorded in  Gen. xii. 7  the act of a worshipper who believed?  Did not Abraham believe the Most High God when he preferred His blessing to Sodom’s gifts?  Surely he did.  Then what is the reason for this statement here?  We believe the whole secret is wrapped up in the fact that Abraham’s belief in the Lord on this particular occasion embraced the idea of resurrection.  This is elaborated in  Romans iv.  in connection with the fuller statement concerning Abraham’s seed given in  Genesis xvii.   That is the character of the faith which justifies. 

     The purpose of justification goes back as far as  Genesis xii.,  for  Gal. iii. 8  says:--

     “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.”

     Justification by faith was incipient in the covenant of  Genesis xii.,  it arrives at full consciousness, so to speak, in  Genesis xv.   Take the words “counted for”.  If we turn to  Rom.iv.1-8,  we find the expression “counted for”, and also “reckoned” and “imputed”, the same word being translated by these various terms.  The important thing to notice is that faith is “counted FOR”, whereas righteousness, sin and reward are “counted”.  The difference is this, righteousness, sin and reward are real value in themselves, whereas faith is only of value by virtue of the work of another and the ordinance of God. 

     A treasury note is worth £1, yet its intrinsic value is practically nil.  Drop a treasury note in the fire and its value ceases.  Drop a sovereign in the fire and its value remains the same.  Faith is the treasury note.  It is counted for, but it is not of itself counted as, righteousness.  The moment we look on faith in itself as a meritorious cause of justification, that moment we make it a work which is excluded. 

     Abraham’s faith, as exhibited in Genesis xv., confessed the utter inability of the flesh to accomplish anything for God.  His faith said practically, "unless God is the One who quickeneth the dead, i have no ground of hope". 

     Following upon this justifying faith comes the confirmatory covenant concerning the inheritance.  “Whom He justified, them He also glorified”;  that is the sequence expressed doctrinally.  “Joint heirs with Christ, if so be we suffer with Him”;  that is the reason for the affliction of Abraham’s seed.  “God works all things together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to a purpose”;  this expresses the superintending hand of God in all the strange pathways of His covenant people.  Thus the history of  Genesis xv.  and the doctrine of  Romans viii.,  bear united testimony.  Even though justification leads on to glory, it does not exempt from intermediate suffering, but rather supports the teaching that it must come. 

     The Lord said to Abram, “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?”  There are two questions in this chapter, and there are two answers.  Indeed the answers precede the questions:--

     “I AM THY SHIELD.” — This was the pledge of Abraham’s justification. 
     “I AM THY EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD.” — This was the pledge of Abraham’s inheritance. 
     “WHAT WILT THOU GIVE ME?” — External confirmation. — The stars. 
     “WHEREBY SHALL I KNOW?” — External confirmation. — The smoking furnace and the burning lamp. 

     Space prevents us from quoting the verses of  Genesis xv.,  the reader is expected to “search and see” with regard to all the articles of this magazine. 

     Offerings are arranged for the purpose of making a covenant, but Abram falls into a deep sleep that the covenant may be manifestly unconditional. 

     The question must arise, Why was it necessary for Israel to go down into Egypt, to be oppressed there, to be delivered out of it, and to be brought back to the same land wherein Abraham already was?  Why should not Abraham’s descendants just continue without a break in the land of their inheritance?  This question expressed in different terms is asked all down the age regarding the strange providence of suffering.  The answer is a revelation of God’s character and purpose:--

     “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again, FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE AMORITES IS NOT YET FULL.”

     The bondage in Egypt was not only for the discipline of Israel and the manifestation of redemption, it was because the longsuffering of God waits until the workers of iniquity have proved themselves incorrigible.  That this is a Fundamental of Dispensational Truth we shall find by other scriptures:--

     “And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance … shall stand up … but he shall be broken without hand” (Dan. viii. 23-25). 

     In  Matt. xxiii. 32-36;    I Thess. ii. 16  we find the words:--

     “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers … that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth … All these things shall come upon this generation”.  

     “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always:  for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”

     “Filled up” sins are met with “filled up” wrath.  John saw “seven angels having the seven last plagues;  for in them is filled up the wrath of God” (Rev. xv. 1). 

     There are spiritual and human workers of iniquity for whose fulness the inheritance waits.  The book of the Revelation shows human and Satanic iniquity fully ripe.  The bondage of the redeemed will then come to an end.  Those that afflict them will be judged, and afterward the redeemed shall “come out with great substance”. 

     Another covenant is made by God, which defined the geographical boundaries of the land of promise.  This land has never yet been possessed by Israel.  It is the “good land and large” that awaits them.  When they enter it they will dispossess 10 nations, “the Kenites … the Jebusites”, which is typical of the overthrowing of the 10 antichristian kings at the time of the end.  An episode follows this chapter of faith which again shows the failure of the flesh. 

     Abraham believed that the son and heir promised to him should be his own flesh and blood, but both Abraham and Sarah seemed to have concluded that Sarah was not to be the mother of the child.  Indeed Sarah says that the Lord had restrained her, when He had done nothing of the kind.  One of the hardest things for the believer to do is to WAIT.  The promise seems to tarry, and the flesh counts the longsuffering of God “slackness”.  The flesh also seeks to help God to fulfil His own unconditional covenant, and the end is always disaster. 

     Ten years had passed, and the trial of faith proved too much.  “Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai”, sad repetition of  Gen. iii. 17.   The transactions of this sixteenth chapter of Genesis seem strange to our ideas, but it was strictly in accord with the law of the land at the time.  This is specially to be remembered when considering verses 3 & 6. 

     The result of the intrusion of the FLESH into the realm of FAITH was the birth of Ishmael.  The epistle to the Galatians has much to say concerning the flesh and the spirit and the enmity between the son of the bondmaid and the son of the freewoman.  The one indicates law which can only touch the flesh.  The other indicates faith which can only apply to the spirit.  The reader is referred to the whole epistle as an inspired comment upon these chapters.  The individual working out of the comparisons and allusions will be a helpful study.  We have the beginner in mind in this series, and nothing is worse than never to allow the beginner the opportunity of searching the Scriptures and receiving the training which results from exercise. 

     Hagar had a wonderful experience.  If Hagar was to wander later in the wilderness of Beer-sheba (the well of the oath) she is first of all to know Beer-lahai-roi (the well of living after seeing).  Another interpretation of this name is The well of the living and the visible One, and when we remember the revelation of Christ to a fallen woman of Samaria (John iv.), the possibility of this equally wonderful revelation being made to the outcast Hagar is not to be dismissed. 

     When Ishmael was born Abram was eighty-six years old.  Faith had yet to be strengthened by longer waiting, for  chapter xvii.  opens with a childless Sarai, when Abram had reached ninety and nine years of age. 

     We shall continually meet with these examples of failure because of not waiting.  May the lesson be not wasted upon ourselves.  “Wait, I say, on the Lord”.  “Which worketh for him that waiteth for Him” (Isa. lxiv. 4, R.V.).  

#28. Faith’s Heritage and Repudiation (Gen.xiii.1-xv.1).

     Lot gives the picture of the failure of a believer’s testimony;  the utter lack of fruit;  the barest minimum of faith. 

     We turn to the other picture of growing and increasing faith, and find it closely linked with a growing and increasing separation.  There seems a clearing of the atmosphere when Lot is at last gone.  Abram is now left alone.  He had left his choice with the Lord.  In the eyes of the world doubtless he would be pronounced a fool — but he was God’s fool. 

     “And the Lord said unto Abram, AFTER THAT LOT WAS SEPARATED from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:  for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever (olam, for the age of undefiled limits).  And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth:  so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.  Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and the breadth of it:  for I will give it unto thee” (Gen.xiii.14-17). 

     Lot chose for himself and lost.  Abram hears God’s choice and obtained.  Surely to each one of us  the contrast is pointed enough to make us desire to emulate the one and shun the other.  Leaving the well-watered plains of this world, let us stand alone in fellowship with the Lord and hear Him say, “Arise, walk through the land, in the length of it and the breadth of it”.  There are blessings which are ours in Christ, which we have never yet experienced.  Let us present that “other-worldly” spirit in contrast with the Lots of our time and explore and appropriate the fulness of blessing that is ours already in Christ. 

     It is doctrinal verity, as much as a record of historical sequence, that Abram did not hear these words until separation was complete.  Separation however must never be considered merely from one side.  Abram was not simply separated from Lot, but separated to the Lord.  This is indicated in his next movement:--

     “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt among the oaks belonging to Mamre (brother of Eschol and Aner, xiv. 13) which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.”

     It appears from  Gen. xxiii. 2  that the name of this city was originally Kirjath-arba, the two names occurring together in the record of Sarah’s death.  Its first name means Strong-hold of Arba, being built by Anak and the sons of Arba  (Josh. xiv. 15;   xv. 13).   It fell to Caleb, the type of the overcomer, where its second name again appears as Hebron.  Hebron means “fellowship” or “confederacy”, and was the name given to the rebuilt city of Kirjath-arba by the Kharibi or allies.  The introduction of the name in the case of Abram emphasizes the typical meaning.  Separation from worldliness meant fellowship, covenant fellowship with the Lord.   David was king in Hebron before he was king over all Israel (II.Sam.ii.11).  He also knew the blessing of fellowship even though not at the time recognized by all his people. 

     This twofold character of separation is found in many scriptures, e.g.:--

     “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;  and I WILL RECEIVE YOU” (II Cor. vi. 17). 

     “Let us go forth therefore UNTO HIM without the camp, bearing His reproach, for here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. xiii. 13, 14). 

     Not, let us go forth without the camp for temperament’s sake, or for misanthropic reasons, but because He is there.  “Unto Him” comes before “without the camp”. 

     There is a great deal of archaeological interest in the chapter that follows this separation and fellowship of Abraham.  We will not deal with it here, however, but go to the end of the chapter to see how Abram has progressed along the line of faith.  After Abram had delivered Lot and all the people and goods of Sodom we read:--

     “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shareh, which is the king’s dale;  and the king of Sodom said unto Abram, give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.’

     Now, viewed from the standpoint of the world, Abram would have been perfectly justified to have taken his reward.  Will he do so?  Does he walk according to the elements of the world, or does he now walk according to the unseen things of faith?  Before we allow Scripture to answer, we must go back and insert the parenthesis which we have omitted. 

     Most abruptly and strangely the episode of the meeting of Abram and the king of Sodom is interrupted by the episode of the meeting of Abram and the king of Righteousness and Peace:--

     “And Melchisedec, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine, and he was priest of the Most High God.  And he blessed him and said, blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth:  and blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.  And he (Abram) gave him (Melchisedec) tithes of all” (Gen. xiv. 18-20).

     Before Abram is tempted to sully the separate character of his walk with the goods of Sodom, he meets with him who was the type of Christ, the High Priest, specially mentioned in that epistle of perfection and overcoming — Hebrews.   Abram’s attitude in  chapter xiii.  led him on to victory and greater blessing.  Did Lot have such a privilege in his “garden of the Lord”?  Could he have repudiated the offer of Sodom’s king? 

     There are times when the believer learns rapidly and accurately.  Such was the condition of Abram.  Melchisedec had ministered to Abram the symbols of covenant-keeping.  Melchisedec had twice spoken of The Most High God, and further, that He was the possessor of heaven and earth.  Melchisedec had blessed Abram in the name of this Most High God, taught Abram that the great deliverance that had been accomplished was entirely the work of this Mighty One, and Abram had recognized the truth and blessedness of all this by giving tithes of all the booty before ever he returned to Sodom.  He was thus equipped to meet the offer of Sodom’s king:--

     “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, i have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth (oh, how small the goods of Sodom become by comparison!  How small Lot’s choice, with the northward, southward, eastward and westward of a separate blessing!) that i will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that i will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, i have made Abram rich:  save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eschol, and Mamre;  let them take their portion.”

     Abram is jealous of the glory of God.  How marked a contrast with the sad lapse before Pharaoh.  Abram’s attitude must have been wholly unintelligible to the king of Sodom, especially as one professing like faith had acted so differently.  “The far more exceeding, age abiding, weight of glory” is in view “while we look not at the things which are seen”.  An eye on the well-watered plains or the goods of Sodom would soon lead to the reasoning that these things were Abram’s possessions — for had not God Himself given them to him?  But no, away with the thought — the blessing is vitally connected with righteousness and holiness, and to be a pilgrim in the midst of the earth is our only capacity “till He come”.  Greater riches than the treasures of Sodom are in store for Abram:--

     “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a great vision, saying, Fear not Abram, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.”

     Great faith leads us face to face with great reactions.  Abram had exposed himself and made possible enemies by his victory.  He had further repudiated legitimate reward, and to confirm his faith and still his fears, the Lord reveals Himself in the twofold capacity of shield from enemies, and reward in the place of Sodom’s repudiated gifts.  As the man of faith goes on in the pilgrim pathway, he learns by blessed experience that his all is in God.  Presently (chapter xvii.) God will reveal Himself in a yet fuller light as El-Shaddai, God all-sufficient;  but for the time being Abram’s faith can rest satisfied in God His shield and exceeding great reward. 

     There is no surer shield and reward for either the writer or the reader, than the same Most High God, made known to us by Him Who ever liveth at the right hand of the majesty on high.  Oh that we all carried the name of the Lord so high and so clear that we could always repudiate the temptations of the world “lest it should say, i have made Abram rich!”.  None shall enrich the child of faith but God alone.  The wilderness journey is designed to teach that man does not live by bread alone. 

     It is noticeable, that Abram had his faith “to himself alone”.  He did not impose it upon Lot who owed his life and liberty to his intervention, neither did he allow his own scruples to rule the attitude of Aner, Eschol and Mamre.  The cause of truth is often hindered by zeal unaccompanied by knowledge.  Think of the offence often caused by one believer telling another believer that he ought not to take the Lord’s supper, for instance.  In the first place the probability is that the said believer is blessed under the terms of the new covenant, and so would be wrong with his present light to forego the observance. 

     Then secondly, the only right that we have to use the word “ought” is with regard to ourselves.  I can say, "I ought not to observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper" with clear conscience and scriptural reasons, but this must not be imposed upon any who do not take the same stand. 

     Lot, Aner, Eschol and Mamre were representative of a different class.  Abram it was that met Melchisedec, and was blessed by him.  Abram it was who lifted up his hand to heaven.  The others were ruled by lower laws, that could not be imposed upon the man of faith, and conversely could not be displaced except by like precious faith.  What Israel did by faith, the Egyptians ‘assaying to do” were destroyed. 

     May we all learn increasingly the blessing of a closer walk with God our shield and exceeding great reward.  

#27. “Saved; yet so as by fire” (Gen. xiii. 5-18).

     “And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together:  for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.  And there was strife …”.

     The “substance”, literally “that which is gathered together”, was partly accumulated during the sojourn in Egypt and partly during the halt at Haran (Gen. xii. 5 & 16).  The LXX translates the word by ta huparchonta, and a very apposite occurrence will be that of  Heb x. 34,  “ye … took joyfully the spoiling of your goods (ta huparchonta), knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance (huparxis)”.  “Goods” cling to Lot in this history.  They originate the cleavage, and they are mentioned pointedly in  Genesis xiv.:--

     “And they took all the goods of Sodom … And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods … and he brought back all the goods … his brother Lot, and his goods … and the king of Sodom said unto Abram, ‘Give me the persons and take the goods to thyself’.”

     These goods, or this substance, seem to have no spiritual character or tendency. 

     Immediately following the record of strife are the words, “And the Canaanite and Perizzite dwelled in the land”.  Abram’s conscience was still tender.  The rebuke given him by the heathen king was yet vivid in his memory.  And the strife between himself and Lot would be no good testimony to the Lord their God.  He was beginning to desire to “adorn” the doctrine.  Therefore it was that Abram, to whom the land had been given by God, stand aside and exhibits that meekness of spirit which should ever accompany the possession of the heavenly gift.  To Lot Abram gives the right of choice.  When all things are ours in God, we can well be generous with those of small faith. 

     Lot was not rebuked apparently by Abram’s forebearance, or, if he was, the well-watered plains of Sodom proved too strong a temptation for him.  It is a curiously mixed description that Scripture gives.  It was well-watered everywhere, yet the words, “before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah”, are inserted between the beginning and the end of the description, “even as the garden of the Lord”.  Its Eden-like appearance was superficial, for the Lord never walked there in the cool of the day.  It was furthermore “like to the land of Egypt as thou comest to Zoar”.  It was a reminder to Lot of that which Abram would fain forget.  So it came about that the choice was made, the two separated.  “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain (or among the cities of the plain) and pitched his tent toward Sodom”.  “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

     The Companion Bible draws attention to the six downward steps of Lot’s course.  (a) “Strife” (xiii.7), (b) “beheld” (xiii.10), (c) “chose” (11), (d) “pitched toward” (12), (e) “dwelt in” (xiv. 12),    
 (f) “sat in its gate” (xix. 1).

     Sodom is proverbial in Scripture for wickedness, yet Sodom did not repel Lot.  The N.T. throws a light upon one side of Lot’s action and attitude:--

     “And delivered righteous Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:  (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds).  The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (II Pet. ii. 7-9). 

     Lot was righteous;  Lot vexed his righteous soul;  Lot was delivered as the godly — all this is comforting.  Lot’s witness, however, was marred.  His fellowship with the Lord was hindered, and he is an example of those who though saved are saved “so as by fire”.  Even in the parable of the Sower, the seed that was choked by the thorns is not to be taken altogether as of the unsaved, for  Luke viii. 14  reads:--

     “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with CARES and RICHES and PLEASURES of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”

     Lot had certainly “gone forth”, but he did not “go on unto perfection”.  Rather did he come nigh unto cursing and being burned (Heb. vi. 8).  He himself was righteous, but he did not bring forth the fruit of righteousness. 

     The two angels, who together with the Lord had been entertained by Abraham unawares, entered Sodom, but the Lord Himself Who had graced the hospitality of Abraham’s tent would not enter the portals of Lot’s city.  Even the two angels were with difficulty persuaded to enter Lot’s house. 

     Now as to the effect of Lot’s choice upon his testimony.  When the angels revealed to Lot the destruction of the city, he went and spoke to his sons-in-law, which had married his daughters, and said, “Up, get you out of this place:  for the Lord will destroy this city”.  What was the effect of this righteous man’s earnest warning?  He seemed as one that MOCKED — or talked nonsense.  Lot had chosen, dwelt in, and established family ties with Sodom.  His actions were reasonable and intelligible;  his words were those of a mocker, or as “one that played with them”.  Lot himself had to be hastened by the angels lest he should be consumed with the city.  Even Lot “lingered”, and had to be laid hold of, “the Lord being merciful”, and set “without the city”.  While Abram’s faith gives him “the land of Canaan” to dwell in (Gen. xiii. 12), such spaciousness was too overpowering for Lot.  He pleads against the command, “neither stay thou in all plain”,

     “Oh, not so, my Lord:  Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life;  and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die;  Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one:  Oh, let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live” (xix. 19, 20). 

     Zoar, the city of his choice, did not long prove a refuge for Lot, “for he feared to dwell in Zoar”.  The last end of Lot is pitiable in the extreme.  Finding a refuge for himself and his daughters in a cave, he who had chosen the well-watered plains and pitched his tent toward Sodom left as his legacy two nations whose history is that of shame and wickedness, Moab and Ammon.  It is surely something more than coincidence that the final prophetic utterance concerning Moab and Ammon takes us back to the destruction of Sodom.  “Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and Ammon as Gomorrah” (Zeph. ii. 9).  An Ammonite or a Moabite were not allowed to enter into the congregation of the Lord even to their tenth generation (Deut. xxiii. 3). 

     Lot’s deliverance from Chedorlaomer was entirely the result of Abraham’s activity, and Lot’s deliverance from Sodom was for Abraham’s sake.  The Scripture does not say, “And God remembered Lot”, but “God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow”.  All the vexing of Lot’s righteous soul did not avail to save one Sodomite.  Abraham who never entered its gates prayed that even if only ten righteous persons were to be found in Sodom it might be spared.  We do not know just the reason why Abraham stayed at “ten”, some think he felt certain that Lot, his wife, his daughters and their husbands, together with their servants, would account for that number.  It was not so however, Lot’s only recorded attempt at preaching sounded as so much mockery — his practice was far too eloquent. 

     Sodom occurs 39 times in the O.T. (13*3), and 9 times in the N.T.   Both numbers are indicative of rebellion and judgment.  The references to Sodom in  II Pet. ii. 6, 7  and  Jude 7  show us the character of the last days fast approaching.  In this light the connections between Sodom and Babylon are suggestive  (Isa. xiii. 19;  Jer. l. 40). 

     The attempt once again to intercept the purpose concerning the promised seed, and defile the Messianic stream, seems manifest.  Sodom stand for all that is anti-Christian.  The dead bodies of the two witnesses shall be in the streets of that great city, “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. xi. 8).  This world with its possessions, even though they may appear as attractive as the garden of the Lord, is on the verge of judgment.  The lesson of Lot seems to be echoed in  I John ii.:--

     “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world … is not out of the Father.”

     Whatever our interpretation of such a passage as, “All things are of God”, certain it is that the Father repudiates the world and its ways as being of Him.  Throughout the dispensations, different as they are in many particulars, there has always been the call of God on the one hand, and the attraction of the world on the other.  Shall it be with us, “a tent in the land of promise as in a strange country”, or shall it be the city with its plenty, its protection, its advantages — and its loss?  The true Hebrew still says, “here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come”. 

     Christ is still “without the camp”.  Let us therefore go out unto HIM.  The fundamental truth, true for all dispensations, which is brought forward prominently by a comparison of the O.T. and the N.T. story of Lot, is the distinction which must ever be drawn between salvation and service, between the One foundation and the building erected thereon, between the hope and the prize.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#26. Gaps in the Calendar of Faith (Gen. xii. 10-20).

     We noticed in our last article the fundamental lesson of separation as it is exhibited in the case of Lot and Abram;   we are now to see Abram in yet another light, and most heart-searching lesson awaits us. 

     “And there was a famine in the land:  and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land.”

     One of the lessons that we all have to learn is expressed in the words of  Deuteronomy viii.:--

     “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no, and He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.  Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years;  thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord chasteneth thee.”

     Perhaps the strongest test of the faith indicated in these occurrences is the character of the manna, “which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know”;  faith trusts apart from sight or knowledge, but sense yearns for something substantial, not realizing that “faith is the substance of things hoped for”.  We must not judge by some rule of thumb, for each case has its own peculiar position in the purpose of God.  When on another occasion a famine swept over Canaan, and the sons of Jacob went down to Egypt, we can see that it was part of a Divine plan to bring about God’s own purpose;  and again, when Herod sought to kill the infant Christ, Joseph and Mary found refuge in Egypt at the command of an angel of God.  Whether, therefore, Abram should have remained in Canaan in spite of the famine, or whether he was right to go to Egypt, it is not for us to say, one thing comes prominently out of the story, and that is the terrible effect upon the pilgrim of faith a close proximity to the world can have. 

     “And it came to pass when he was come near to enter Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon;  therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.  Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister;  that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.”

     Bishop Hall’s pithy comment is worth repeating:--

     “God hath said, I will make thee a great nation:  Abram saith, the Egyptians will kill me … he through inconsiderateness doubted twice of his life doubted not the life of his seed … yet it was more difficult that his posterity should live in Sarah, than that Sarah’s husband should live in Egypt.”

     When we analyze unbelief, it is of all things most unreasonable.  Abram would doubtless have defended his attitude by saying that after all Sarai was his sister.  The poet has it that the lie which is half the truth is ever the blackest of lies, and it is more abominable in Abram to make the semblance of truth his refuge, than for the wicked to lie outright.  The world, the Pharaohs of this spiritual Egypt, they will even reprove the man of faith for his inconsistency.  The famine in Canaan was a trial certainly, but all trials that come upon the child of God are intended to lead him more continually to Christ.  If Abram had only thought what he was doing, as he drew near to Egypt, he would have realized that to take refuge in a lie was to depart from God.  True, Abram exchanged Canaan’s famine for plenty — “he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels” — but he had no fellowship with God.  This we shall see in the sequel. 

     The plagues sent by the Lord because of Abram’s wife are sent to unmask Abram’s deceit.  An unbeliever (or at least a type of this world), rebukes the man of God:--

     “And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me?  Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?  Why saidst thou, she is my sister?  So I might have taken her to me;  now therefore, behold thy wife, take her and go thy way.”

     Let us notice how Abram’s sin involved others.  “What is this that thou hast done unto me?”  The pilgrim cannot step aside from the path of faith without evil resulting to himself and others.  How sad to think that he who had been specially called out to be a blessing to all nations, should by his first individual act involve (but for the mercy of God) a nation in sin! 

     Chapter xiii.  sees Abram leaving Egypt rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold, yet poor as yet in the treasures of faith:--

     “And he went on his journey from the south, even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai, unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord” (Gen. xiii. 3, 4).

     This is a picture of restoration, “He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”.  The time which Abram spent in Egypt was so much waste, so far as God was concerned;  he had to retrace his steps to the starting point.  Similarly, Jonah ran away from the Lord, and entered a ship bound for Tarshish, yet when the great fish vomited up Jonah, he was upon the coast of the country he had been told to visit (Jonah iii. 1):--

     “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.”

     Not only is it true that these lapses in the path of faith are so much lost time to the individual believer, but it enters also into the great prophetical reckonings of God with His people.  We doubtless are aware that there are what are called lo-ammi periods in biblical chronology;  lo-ammi being the  Hebrew for, “not my people”.  According to  I Kings vi. 1  the temple was commenced in the 480th year after the children of Israel had departed  from  Egypt,  whereas  according to  Acts xiii. 17-22  the period  is given as 573 years (this includes 3 years of Solomon’s reign), a difference of  93 years.  Abram’s loss of communion, and the re-commencement with God from where he was at the beginning, is but a small example of the principle that solves this apparent riddle. 

     During the time of the Judges Israel were taken away captive 5 times, and if we note the duration of these captivities, we find they total exactly 93 years!  In case some readers are acquainted with this fact, we give the references hereunder:--

Chusan-rishathaim.                       Judges iii. 8.                  8  years. 
Eglon                                                         iii. 14.              18
Jabin                                                          iv. 2.                20
Midian                                                        vi. 1.                 7
Philistines                                                  xiii. 1   .           40
                                                                                Total  93  years.  

     The years of the Acts reckoning are Anno Mundi (in the year of the world), whereas the 480th year of  I Kings  is Anno Dei (in God’s year), showing that no record is made of the years of captivity.  What a short term of Christian service some of us really serve when we come to consider the many lapses, and the many fresh beginnings that we can remember.  What a mercy that the Lord does restore us, yet should we remember His words, “Go, and sin no more”.  The reader who is interested in the prophetic times of  Daniel ix.  will find a further application of this principle in  volume VI  The Berean Expositor  (page 165). 

     We are sure that when Abram reached the place of tent and altar, and there called upon the name of the Lord, he realized that nothing Egypt could offer was so precious as these two accompaniments of his pilgrimage.  The world throughout all dispensations has been an unqualified snare:  the wise will profit by these scriptural examples, while the foolish will think that where Abram failed, they will succeed.  Doubtless Lot thought he would overcome the evil of Sodom, but we know that he did not. 

     We cannot close without at least a remembrance of that One who though the Son of God (and who could, had He wished, have turned the stones of the wilderness into bread), nevertheless waited upon God, repelling the suggestion of dependence upon any arm save that of His Father.  Abram will find his place in the list of those who lived by faith, but the One who eclipses the whole cloud of witnesses is that One who is the author and perfecter of faith. 

     “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”