Abraham: Chapter 12-13

Genesis 12-13
What we see in the word of God before this remarkable account of the call of. Abram though profitable surely for us, is also bumbling; and much the more, the more we think of it and see what God has told us of man's sin and ruin, net merely as bringing on the flood but as following it. What was to be done now? For God had hung out a sign in the very heavens that He would no longer visit, the iniquity of the race as He had done in the deluge. There had been a secret principle of grace with God that He always acted on; and now this principle was to be brought out manifestly. What had made the difference in the case of Abel, of Enoch, or even Noah? It was grace that had flowed to them and wrought in them whatever was good and holy and true. But there is a new thing that comes out in the history now before us. It was to be no longer the favor of God, In its bidden dealings. Promise was to be thenceforth a manifest ground of action on the part of God. Is not this a most weighty and instructive change? God was no longer content that He should act after a secret sort. If He had Himself called souls without any one knowing it outside, now He would make the call distinct and plain, drawing to it the attention of friends and enemies: and this so definitely that it has been the invariable starting-point with God from that day to this. It was the call of God, no, more secret but evident to all.
So we are told in this place: “Now the Lord had said to Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house unto a land that I will show thee.” We are apt to pass over such a statement of the ways of God, because of the tendency to confound what is a secret of grace with what is manifest. But Abram was called by God to a place of separation, and this so as to be manifest, the express point with which the chapter opens, and the great principle that God would now hate us to weigh with all seriousness.
By Israel at Sinai the ground of law was taken. Yet God had called His people by grace. out of Egypt; but they were, as most know, put (or put themselves) under the law. The consequence was that, however divine the principle was, it fell through in the case of the chosen nation. So again, God has now applied the self-same principle to the call of the church. There, it is not (one need not say) a body put under law, but the very contrary, dealt with in sovereign grace. It is not merely mercy towards the soul, for this has always been true; but God has a body publicly called in this world, composed of such as are meant to be witnesses of His grace in Christ on high, just as much as Israel ought to have represented the law graven on stones and manifested it before the whole earth:
This will show, then how early and wide the principle is—but the Lord begins, as you can easily understand, first of all with an individual; and there was great wisdom and much force in this. Long centuries after it was the resource of the prophet Isaiah, impressed on his heart by God when Israel was passing into a desperately low condition, and with the prophecy of still greater ruin at hand. How does he seek to comfort the people? With the fact that God called Abraham alone. He falls back upon what was the salient principle of God's dealing at this very time. It was as good as saying “Be things as they may, count on the Lord. Impossible to be lower than that with which Israel began; for when God called and blessed at first, it was Abraham alone.”
To what end was this? Not only that he himself should be blessed, but to be a blessing; and this not only to his own seed, but to others far and wide. “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
In the, earth and with men, as they are, such is the sole possible way of blessing. In the line of His call God brings out His promises, and there it is that His blessing is found and maintained. Man may, no doubt (not to say that He must, when put on the ground of law), end in more manifest ruin than ever; but the principle of His call is not only sound but invariably true. If there is to be blessing at all in a world that is ruined, it must be on the ground of one who comes out obedient to the call of God, not staying where he is, nor attempting to reform the evil in the midst of which he may be. God made it particularly manifest at this time; for it was now for the first—that the world had seen nations and families and tongues, all arranged in the elements of that which is in our day approaching its finally developed form. The world was no more as it had been before the flood; it was separated into its distinct nationalities. Government also had now been instituted. This was of course an outward mercy for the world. Wickedness was not to go on, j unpunished, iniquity must be restrained by the judge. God had accordingly given responsible charge on the earth to man who was thenceforth to curb evil in the world. He had authority for it from God. (Gen. 9)
But now that idolatry had entered (Josh. 24:22And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. (Joshua 24:2)), separation to God, the true God, comes in as the recognized place. Instead of having souls to walk individually with Him, although seeking to please Him by faith, God, from that day to this, takes up what was then a wholly new thing for man, that, if He was to be pleased, or magnified, if His will is really to govern, it must be as separate to Himself, and not merely by our looking to Him individually where we are, and in the midst of all our natural associations. God looks for more now; He calls out. Hence the force of the word here, “Get thee out,” &c.
It is not simply “believe;” this was not at all the question put. The great object of faith was not brought out, though we find a type of the way of faith in chapter 15 where Abram's faith is seen exercised on the word or promise that God gave him; but still it is not a question here of the gospel being sent out, nor of Christ being presented personally. It is God who separates to Himself, at His own word, a man who was in the midst of all that is evil—his own family worshipping false gods like the rest. For although God had already marked off a certain part of the sons of Noah as preserved for blessing, and Shem particularly so—that it might be proved it was in no way an afterthought, but God's purpose in all steadfastness and not depending on a certain part of mankind as in themselves better than others (though in fact piety was there); yet here too was the solemn fact that the family of Shem had gone into idolatry no less than others. In spite of the predicted purpose of God, Shem's sons had proved faithless. What next could be done? Was there no way of securing God's honor? This was the way: the call of God goes out in sovereign grace, separating to Himself a man no better than his fellows but avowedly involved in the idolatries of his fathers. “Get thee out of thy country.... unto a land that I will show thee.”
Now the first thing I would press is that faith is shown, not so much by following what others have received before, but in believing what God brings home now to one's own soul and for one's own path. For God has a will about each successive stage in all the varying phases of life, as evil itself grows and works in the world. Satan does not limit himself to the same snares of falsehood and sin, but becomes more and more subtle and determined in his plans. God looks for faith in His word accordingly. So in this case (I refer now to Shem's line) the very family that had whatever there was to hope for were fatally involved in his meshes just like other men. But God has a way, a blessed and worthy way, of vindicating Himself; and this is a way which, giving all the glory to Himself, faith at once feels is just what it ought to be. The call comes without the slightest ground for it in Abram himself. This we see to be perfectly consistent with the dealings of God. He meant the blessing to be in that line; He meant to take up this man and make him the father of the faithful; but he was evidently a child of the unfaithful, and no doubt an unfaithful child himself. The calling was, accordingly, of grace: God Himself called; and God, at the same time, was fitting this man for the place of blessing; and God had, before Abram was fitted for it, pronounced what it was in His heart to give him, so that it might be, not of Abram who deserved it but of God that called him. It was grace. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great.” The whole principle of the blessing as flowing out of the call of God had been manifested in a man distinctly separated to Him, and (I would add) called out without disturbing the arrangements of the world.” There was no setting him up with a mightier sword in his hand to put down the workers of iniquity. The world was left, after having been arranged under the providence of God in separate families, nations and tongues, but not till government was by man sanctioned by God. But there God's honor being completely set aside, and false gods worshipped, He separates under His promise of blessing the man who comes out at His call to the land He would show him.
This then is God's own blessed way—one most effectual, as it is also peculiar to Himself; and on it in fact God had acted in our own call, whether to Himself or into the church. It is on my heart to dwell a little on the general truth of the call of Abram, so as to illustrate the way in which God connects the principle of the call with the promises and with the whole place of faith here below. It was much for God to say “I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless thee, and make thy name great.” But there was another word, and this was especially dear to the heart of one so blessed himself. “Thou shalt be a blessing.” This was to make him not only the object of grace, but the instrument of it. It was to give him communion with God Himself in the activity of His own goodness. “Thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (of course on the earthly side); “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Abram then acts on the word of the Lord. “He departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him.” But there was more than one drawback. Lot his nephew went with him and we shall see the consequence of that. Further, Abram not only took Lot, “his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran,” but in the chapter before we have a remarkable intimation not brought before us here. It is not that Abram took Torah, but that “Terah took Abram.” This was not merely a hindrance, it was a false position as long as it lasted. It acted as an interference with the call of God; for although the call might seem to nature harsh, and that which no doubt man would have been quick to condemn, the word of God was plain— “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house.” Abram does get out of his country, though hardly from his kindred; but instead of getting “out of his father's house,” his father takes him. There was clearly an influence at work that was inconsistent with the call of God. It was not merely that Terah was with him; the Spirit of God has not put it so, and of course it was incompatible with due relationship that a man should or could be said to take his father. It was “Terah took Abram.”
Here then was that which positively hindered the accomplishment of the will of God as long as Terah lived. The call of God should be paramount; but the honor due to a father who was not in it must oppose. “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law his son Abram's wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldeee.” The simple fact is stated in chapter 11; and one can see that the reason why it is stated there is this. It was purely a question of Abram acting from his own judgment, from himself, and not from the call of God, who therefore does not make it a part of chapter xii. No doubt, the move was after the call of God spoken of in chapter xii. but inasmuch as it was not the accomplishment of His will, God puts it in the chapter of nature and providence (that is, the eleventh), and not in that of grace or promise, the twelfth. We have in chapter 11 simply a list of fathers and sons from the flood, and among the rest Abram and Nahor. Sarai is seen there with no child. This was nature; and had it simply been a question of nature, so it would always have been—Sarai always barren. When grace begins to act, we find the dawning of hope in the heart of Abram (at any rate what we can now well understand to point in that direction); finally God gives the distinct word that Sarah shall have a child. But this was after grace begins to be developed. At first there is nothing of the sort, and it is here therefore we have the account of Terah taking his son Abram and coming as far as Haran, and dwelling there. Accordingly there also we have the days of Terah shown us, and Terah's death.
But now there is another side so distinct that, although the same facts are alluded to, God begins an entirely new unfolding of His mind. In chapter xii. He is not speaking of the family as viewed in nature but of His call. Although Abram believed in God, yet nature was at work and had its way. Accordingly God takes no notice of it here. Thus we see that what looks a great difficulty in the two chapters—a thing which people have often put one against another—is perfectly solved the moment we come to see that the one chapter is the story of the family in nature, the other is the secret of grace now made manifest.
“Now the Lord had said to Abram, Get thee out.” Note that so He “said to Abram,” not to Terah. As long as Terah was there, he was the acting person, as indeed he had the claim of father; and if (not God but) you bring a father on to the ground of faith, what is the effect? If he is not in the call of God and you are, what must result from allowing your father's authority to have its way there? It swamps you. It is not that you raise him into the higher regions of faith, but that he dregs you down into the quagmire of nature. This is what we may see in these two chapters; so that, spite of the blessed call of God we have the fact brought before us that Abram remains at Haran and fails to reach Canaan.
At length however “Terah died in Haran;” and what follows? We are told next (ver. 5) that “Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.” Now what a different tale! Not that everything was according to God, for there is no perfection save in One; but still Abram could now act and not before. Lot was his nephew only, and did not bar the way as his father had done. While he was alive along with him, Abram must needs be subject, but henceforth he was free. Lot might act selfishly and be an encumbrance; but his father, if there at all, must have a father's authority; and so it was. He found himself in a sort of half-way ground, and this is what compromise leads to. It is certainly no longer Ur of the Chaldees, but yet only Haran, and not Canaan. The fact brought before us in the previous chapter explains how it is he can get no farther. Terah, who was not in the call of God, was nevertheless the one who “took Abram” thus far, and Terah acted so positively as a hindrance, that, as long as he lived, Abram could never get on; but the moment that Terah is taken away, as we read, Abram took Sarai, “and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.”
There is no failure, so far, in the accomplishment of the purpose of God. When they reach Canaan, what is it that God sets before us? “The Canaanite was then in the land” (ver. 6). Things were not yet according to God. It was not only that Abram's faith shows the weakness of man, but, further, the state of Canaan was altogether opposed to that which befits the nature and proper purpose of God. It was not only that the world already left behind by the man of faith was still pursuing its idolatries; but if there were men on earth peculiarly under the curse of God, it was the very race that Satan planted in Canaan. “Cursed is Canaan.” What a solemn thing, the meeting of the blessed one, about to be a blessing, with the cursed ones, that God would surely deal with in the day that was coming (and so accordingly we find)! Satan's object by it was no doubt to thwart the purpose of God: but it only gave Him the opportunity of carrying it out more thoroughly and gloriously to the enemy's shame and everlasting contempt.
We never understand the importance of our walk here below, unless these two things are distinctly and steadfastly before us, not merely that we are objects of God's tender mercy and personal interest, but that we are called out to Himself, as well as to “the better country” that He has shown us. But He has told us too who has meanwhile usurped possession of it. The heavens are now opened, and we see by the Holy Ghost sent down thence Him who is on the throne of God, interceding for us as cleansed by His blood, and gone to prepare a place there for us. The heavens were opened not merely for Him to enter as the victorious Savior, but they are open still where He is exalted. This is the way in which He is now revealed to us. They will be open until the Lord has brought us there. I do not say that they will be closed after that, but that judgments will fall thence. In grace they are open for us to look now into. He whose blood opened them for us is the One on whom they opened, not for judgment, as we read once in Ezek. 1 but, as in the very beginning of the New Testament (Matt. 3:1616And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: (Matthew 3:16)), that God might express His delight in Him, His Son, the perfect man withal here below.
Let us remember then that we too are identified with God's great starting-point for Abram; we are called out, and blessed, to inherit and to be a blessing. Does the grace of it (and it is not the richest part of our blessing) fill our hearts at all times? Take for instance our ways as members of Christ's body, the church, &c. It is not merely that we come together to acknowledge His mercy to us, which of course we do. Thankfulness should be the first thought of the heart that has been opened by the grace of God. Who are we that now speak to God, looking up and singing praises? Sinners brought out from guiltier evil than that out of which Abram was called. I can understand those who never had sin celebrating His praise, where sense of personal delivering grace is not the special character of their thank-offering before God. But who can understand a soul that is redeemed presuming to begin with anything but hearty thanksgiving for the mercy that has plucked him from destruction, and put him so, that he can look up to God and magnify His Savior? But whatever we begin with should not be the end for us. It is very right that we should feel evermore what it is to be the object of the tender mercy of God, in awakening our hearts and lips to thank Him; but we should go on to praise Him for what He is as well as own all He has done. For now we see how worthy He is, and can delight in what He is even apart from ourselves. The heart can thus go out in adoration of another and a higher character, in praise and blessing as well as thanksgiving.
But I was going to dwell upon another point. It is not only that we are blessed, and that the spring of thanksgiving is touched, and that praise flows forth from those that are blessed; but there is more than this, an activity of love that looks around according to the goodness we have learned in Him, as well as love breaking out in praises as we look on high and see Him who in our midst praised and taught us to praise before He went there. So we see here: “Thou shalt be a blessing,” and “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Take the occupation of the Lord's-day. That which calls forth our hearts, is it only when we gather round the Lord at His supper? Has not such grace and truth as His furnished special occupation all through the day? I should say that its entire course has its calls and place no less than the assemblage at His table, and I say it the more because there is a danger of a little reaction. Time was when men used to think the chief thing worth hearing was a gospel sermon, and when they used often to bear a great deal that tried them to get what was not even a good sermon, longing to hear something that might help, comfort, and strengthen their souls. There are many Christians in that state still. Are we in the enjoyment of better blessings from God? Have we the sense of what His grace has done for us in heavenly places? But do we, as well, keep up the activity of His love in our souls? or are we settling down, content simply to give thanks for the blessing that we possess as children of God?
Do you suppose that a person can be at the spring of blessing without also knowing more or less of joy in the power of its active going forth? Depend on it that this is of great importance to the Christian as such and to the assembly; for it will always be found true, that if we are not going forth in the power of blessing, the world in its power of evil steals in upon us. There will be a withering influence that will show itself under perhaps fair forms. Do you say, why should I go and listen to the gospel? What have I to do with the message to the unconverted? You have, you ought to have, a great deal to do with it. You may not be a preacher; but is there no such thing as fellow-working? or even loving interest if not positive help? Are there no hearts that go forth with every word that is said by the evangelist, none to pray with him for every soul that listens, and especially for those awakened by the Spirit? I do say that we are called on, not to be as we once were, with our heads down and our eyes anxiously looking out, if haply we might get something to satisfy our starving souls. By grace we now know God to be no hard master, and we can in our measure see and enjoy the rich provision of His glory. We of all men then should not appear like the beggar-man that hexing got his morsel goes off therewith content. Can it be that this, is what it has come to with any of us? Or that any of us would sanction such selfishness? Take care that we never seem to come short in this respect. Let us look to it that we put far from us every semblance of heeding only our own things but the things of Jesus Christ as to sinners as well as saints. If we value the things of our Lord in the church, so also let us not be slack in the gospel. Let us have this simply and fully before our hearts, to remember that we too have Abram's portion, not only as objects but as instruments and channels of blessing. For indeed it is meant that we should draw from the very spring of grace that is ever flowing, whether for the help of those who are already Christ's or for those in that darkness out of which we have been delivered by infinite mercy.
There is a fresh point I should point out. “The Lord appeared unto Abram” —He not only spoke but “appeared,” language to me not casual, but intentional. “The Lord appeared to Abram and said.” How it was done, we do not know; but we do know what is written. All that we read the first time is that “the Lord had said,” but now we find “the Lord appeared to Abram and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” There is nothing vague any longer, but precise. It is not “a land that I will show thee,” but “unto thy seed will I give this land.” What is the consequence? There he builded an altar unto the Lord,” and not this merely, but “unto the Lord who appeared unto him.” It is quite evident therefore to my mind that in this was the needful preliminary to worship, which necessarily awaits the manifestation of the Lord. Worship follows, when He has appeared, and the heart knows Him as He has made Himself known. So Abram, when the Lord had not merely spoken but also appeared, builds an altar to Him.
Do we not know how blessedly true this is in our Lord Jesus Christ? This was precisely what He showed, but what the disciples were so dull to take in. You remember Philip saying, “Lord show us the Father,” when the Lord Jesus had been showing them the Father in His own self all the while here below. It was what the Holy Ghost soon after made real, not when Jesus was there, but after He was gone, that it might be completely a matter of faith, and that we who never saw but believe might have the joy no less. Need I say, that what the word of God gives us of our Lord Jesus Christ is incomparably more to us than if we had but seen Him ever so long with our bodily eyes? I hope we all really understand this; for it is of no slight moment. We can easily imagine what a wonderful thing it was to have looked on Him and to have heard Him; but no intelligent believer need hesitate to say that we have far more of Himself in and by the word than if we had seen and heard Him all through His life and ministry on earth without that word. Do we not appreciate this? If we believe it, let us give God thanks now as we shall forever.
I will explain why this is so. Are your eyes and your ears as good as those of God? The word is not merely Peter's or Matthew's or John's impressions of the Lord, but God's truth, though no doubt He employed them to write it. Then think of the advantage we possess in having it not only perfectly but permanently, not left to the shifting sands of memory under the ebbs and flows of the heart, still less to anything before the eye for a passing moment. Here we have God's mind about Jesus imperishably, faultlessly and completely, in the word of God.
And now is sent down the Spirit that we might see the Father in One who alone could make known the Father. What is the consequence? Wherever the heart surrenders itself to God as He manifests Himself, there is an altar built. This is by grace the way and the effect. It is not therefore the fact, observe, that we had the worship all at once. Not the least trace of it appears till now. Possibly Abram may have built altars on his pathway from Ur of the Chaldees to and in Reran; but this I do say that, if so, God makes nothing of it all. The only altar up to this He mentions is now in Canaan after He had appeared to Abram. It may well be, in point of fact, the first altar that he ever erected; but of this we must be sure, that it was the first that God thought worth naming to us. What a lesson for our souls!
Abram was now in what answered to the heavenly land, and there the Lord gave a fresh manifestation of Himself. It is when the soul has reached this in faith, when not merely His word and His work but the Lord Himself is personally known to us, brought nigh to Him (for this is the point that it sets before us as a principle), that one truly worships. If He has brought me near Him and shown Himself to me in Christ, what can I do but use the altar built for His worship? For “we have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” —they who prefer Jewish forms and shadows to Christ, now that He is come and has wrought redemption and placed us as children before His God and Father.
But there is more than this. Abram “removed from thence;” but if he pitches his tent elsewhere he none the less worships. Move or not, Abram has his altar, wherever he finds himself in the land of Canaan. “There he builded an altar to the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.”
Alas a new scene opens to us. “There was a famine in the land, and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there.” Did he ask the Lord before going there? Did he spread the circumstances of the land before Him? Not a word is said implying it; and I think there is the strongest reason to gather from the silence of scripture that he did not. For its silence, if we are familiar with it, speaks to us no less than what it utters. God brings before us now the sad slip into Egypt of the man who, once called out in the face of difficulty and spite of hindrances which his own unbelief had brought in or allowed, had at last found himself in the place of blessing with God; but there getting into trial, he goes unbidden into the place of the world's plenty. “There was famine in the land.” Why did he not then lay all before the Lord? Undoubtedly Canaan was not yet as it should be according to God; but had not He called him there? and could not He keep him there? Abram goes down to Egypt to sojourn there without a word of guidance from the Lord. It was the direction of common sense. “For the famine was grievous in the land.” God states the fact without reserve; He never withholds the truth, albeit to the shame of those He loves.
“And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into 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.” How solemn it is when a saint takes and perseveres in the downward path! It is not only now that he departs from the land that the Lord had shown him, and given to his seed; that he is distressed just like a Gentile by the famine, and bound for a country, (Egypt, figure of the world, as Canaan of heaven) where there was abundance without a word from God; but now, further, having put himself into these circumstances of nature, he falls even from its proprieties. Indeed, I may ask, do you ever find a child of God taking the ground of nature without going below it? When the Christian deserts Christ to stand on character, wonder not if his character utterly fails. Is God with him in it? A Christian is called to be a witness not merely of justice and right but of Christ. Do you look for no more than honesty in a Christian? Where then is his testimony to the grace and truth of Christ? He is content to give up Christ if he is content to be only an honest man. “He does not want to be always praying and singing, preaching and bringing in his religion.” To slight Christ thus is a solemn thing. I did not ask for his religion, but that he should manifest Christ. Is he ashamed of Him? Is his conduct such, his bearing such, that it would not do for Christ to be named by him? Is it not to be feared so? He does not like to name Christ, lest persons should ask, Who is this that talks so about Christ? He who by faith behaves in a way that becomes that excellent name does not shrink from speaking of Him. But the unfaithful Christian is content to be known among his own class as an honest man. Will this last since God is not with him? God upholds those who humbly confess Christ. To speak of Christ is to sound the silver trumpet of the Lord, who thereon will own and be with you; but you who do not sound His name, have you the Lord to protect you? Assuredly you will fail.
So it was with Abram at this time. He goes down without the Lord directing his way, as he seems not to have called on His name: and in Egypt, sad to say, the father of the faithful is guilty of equivocation, with no purpose higher than that of protecting himself at the expense of his wife: not a noble place for a husband, nor a worthy use to make of his wife. But so it is, when one who ought to have been walking in faith falls back on the slippery path of his own judgment and the world's resources.
See another result. Everything now flourishes outwardly. Abram had never been so rich. He had never prospered before as now. Was it not the marked blessing of the Lord? “He had sheep and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she-asses and camels.” We do not read of this in past times. But how was it all gained? Oh, if Abram had only now got before the Lord, if Abram had but placed himself before Him that appeared to him, not a single acquisition but would have been a wound in his heart, and the keener too as it was through the denial of his wife. Was this to live Christ?
The Lord nevertheless dealt in His own marvelous way; for He did not plague Abram, or even Abram's servants to thin them down, but “he plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues.” How striking are the ways of the Lord, and how full of instruction for us! The righteous government of God was at work; for Pharaoh knew well enough that he had no right to take the woman, even if she were Abram's sister. He was taking advantage of his position to claim what did not belong to him. The issue is that, struck by the evident hand of God, Pharaoh calls Abram and finds out the truth. Now it was Abram's turn to feel. If Pharaoh was plagued, Abram was put to the blush: what a humiliation for him! The very world reproaches Abram. And what can he say? He came without God, and he went without honor.
Abram quits Egypt. Pharaoh had learned somewhat of God's righteous ways: what could he think of Abram? Were his riches to his credit? He had gravely compromised himself, and been rebuked by a heathen; but at least he is on the right road again. “He went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south,” and afterward goes to Bethel “unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first (chap. 13:4), and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.”
Yet surely, brethren, that passage in Abram's life had not been in vain. Did not grace then as now cause all things to work for good to those that love God? No slight work was that which went on in Abram's soul. He had been compelled to review his conduct, and we see clearly that it was the Lord who brought him back to the point whence he ought never to have departed. Repenting before His sight he returns, and in due time and place is found again a worshipper. But it is in Canaan, not in Egypt where scripture says not a word of either tent or altar.
Lot now comes before us. If I do not dwell more on him now, let me remark at this juncture how nobly Abram comes out. There was a strife among their respective herdmen; and what does Abram do? Lot was the nephew, he the uncle. Abram was the one to whom all was promised; nevertheless when dispute arises, he stands up for no rights of his. He had learned too well his wrongs. He had been down before the Lord, and is as far as possible from taking a high place, even with the one who ought to have been subject. But mark the blessedness of bowing before the Lord and of refusing to fight for our rights—so natural to the heart. The moment that Abram gives up to Lot, the Lord appears again; and never was a gift in such distinct and large terms to man as that which He now gives to Abram. Lot “lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan,” and chose the best of it. Now the Lord says to Abram “after that Lot was separated from him, [that is, after he had taken possession of his ill-gotten gains,] Lift up now thine eyes” —how blessed are the words of the Lord!— “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 forever.”
How sweet for Abram to have trusted in the Lord, leaving all the question, though apparently with Lot, really with the Lord! When shall we learn to be thus simple and confiding? Assuredly we shall also learn at the same time that there never is a giving up of self that is not answered by the Lord, in His grace and in the sweet assurance of it to our souls, by a better gift still through Jesus Christ our Lord!