The Call of Abraham*

Hebrews 11:8‑18  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: (Hebrews 11:8‑18)Quite a new principle was brought to light when God began to deal with Abraham; i.e. the principle of calling out. God distinctly called Abraham.
(*This article will also appear (if the Lord will) in vol. i. of the Papers of the beloved late G.V.W.-ED)
Many other things are connected with Abraham, as father of the faithful, and a pattern model man, to show forth God's dealings: he was the first that God called forth out of his own country. One of the first principles of truth to a soul lies in the discovery that Abraham made; that is, the personal existence of God, and an invitation from Him to keep in His company-" Come unto the land that I shall show thee." Many may not have denied the existence of God, but as to any personal connection, it would never have entered their minds unless He had revealed Himself. Others had faith too, but it did not come out like Abraham's. Abel showed his by offering a lamb. Again, we get Enoch's call, but his heart was above before he went on high. Noah's lot was cast in exceedingly evil days; he believed God, prepared the ark, and was carried out of one earth to another. (We do not get Lot called apart) Abraham is among an idolatrous people, and God comes and calls him, saying, " I have a place for you, and there I will bless you and make you a blessing in every way, and you shall know what it is to have the living God as your help in every time of need."
I want you who are old, and you who are young in faith, to set to your seal that God has introduced Himself as a living Person to your soul. Directly we have Jesus Christ, we have God, and all our associations are connected with God. Faith produces different effects; the moment you bring in anything save God and His word, that is not faith. The path of faith is never the path of nature; nature takes quite a contrary course. " What! " Abraham's kindred. might have said, " a stranger, a God we do not know, has told you to leave us all, and you are going forth in a mist, not knowing where He is going to take you to." God had spoken, and Abraham as an individual had to act on His word, and God did accredit His own word to Abraham. It then became a question whether Abraham could say, " I will put aside all the reasonings of my friends, and listen only to Thee." When did his faith fail? When he came to a difficulty, and stopped to consider for himself, and settle for himself, which way to get out of it. God had told him the way, but he got upon circumstances and off faith. First, he had been told to leave all; if it came to that he must go without Terah. He did not leave all, he takes with him Terah and Lot, and the effects become evident; he had to stop till Terah died, and he could not get on till Lot was separated from him.
God will not give up with His people, He will have patience till they know it will not do to depart from His word. Not until after Terah died did Abraham come to Canaan; first, he had to get rid of Terah, and then of Lot. If I interrupt the word of the Lord in any one part, it lowers the tone of my whole soul unconsciously. There was Lot, and besides a famine came. There was corn in Egypt; Abraham says, " I will go there." The littleness of faith carries him there, and he gets into the thick of the fight, loses Sarah-where is she? He is at his wits' end, and what can he do? Nothing; departure from the word has brought him into all this, and what was to help him out of it? God's own word. Again he is sent forth in the power and presence of God.
Remark in the 8th verse, when called to go out, by faith Abraham obeyed, and went forth, not knowing whither he went. Nothing tries and searches human nature so much as uncertainty; we cannot bear suspense (there is relief in the worst certainty); but that is just God's principle of acting with us. He does not want you to know how to face famine. He does not want Abraham to know how His promises are to be made good: his seed was to be as the stars of heaven; how was this to be, seeing he had no child? God has given him everything but that; silver and gold, flocks and herds, and three hundred trained servants. He was a man most remarkable in his day, and all seemed to say to his heart, " Who is to inherit all this?" It ever seemed to be bringing to his heart the thought that he had no children, and poor Sarah tried to smuggle a child into the house, but that was not an Isaac. The question was continually raised, " Where is your city? where is your seed?" He had to wait a long time, and it came at last by a miracle wrought of God. The very prosperity of Abraham forced him to hang on God. Who is to be the heir? the man-servant? No, wait; hang upon God.
Remark in the 9th verse, the pilgrim and stranger character kept up: dwelling in tabernacles was the mark of a stranger and a pilgrim. Tents were made for Israel in the wilderness; they did not have houses till in the land of Canaan. God's dwelling in the wilderness is a tent, in the land a temple. Abraham dwelt in a tent; Lot did so too at first; but he did not keep up the pilgrim character. First, he pitched his tent towards Sodom, then sat in the gate, and had a house in Sodom. Abraham kept it (looked for a city); he knew there was such a city, and the Holy Ghost adds, " Whose builder and maker is God." Remark how this man's faith was sustained. He can look above everything counting on it. There it was; he had not yet got the fulfillment of the promise, but he was to have it; but he had a faith sustained by God's word. As heavenly pilgrims, we cannot say we have got what we hope for; but the time is coming when we shall go right into heaven, and cease to be pilgrims and strangers down here.
Is our faith set above? If God and you are keeping company, do you think He will let you have a single need unsatisfied? Oh, what a jealous God He is! What a wall of fire round about us! When He separates anyone to Himself, He plants the blood of Christ right behind them. If He had spoken to us of His glory, and told us not to mind earthly things, should not our associations be, not of ties of nature down here, but of His company, His country, His interests? Waiting as people who do want to keep up their character of strangership, plainly confessing by their walk and ways that they are pilgrims on their way to a better country? Even poor Jacob could not help being a pilgrim. How came Jacob to be in a condition to receive wages of Laban? Because he got off the ground of being a pilgrim. He had a deal to say at the end of how long and how dreary his life had been, whilst Abraham's whole pathway is strewed with blessings every step. God was with him. Jacob too dwelt in a tent. If God has revealed Himself to your heart, and spoken to you of future glory, separating you unto Himself, He would not like you to be passing through the wilderness "hardly bestead," not with Jacob's experience talking of the great things you have to give up. He does not like that. He wants you to be like Abraham, saying, " Look at all my blessings; look how close God has set me to Himself, and see how He is going to fill all my circumstances, to make me rise over all my difficulties, and make His own presence so sweet to me, that I would rather be in difficulties with Him than out of them without Him."
We learn what God is by Abraham's walk. Look, too, at Paul, when moved out of everything: when in difficulties of all kinds he always had a song to the praise of God's grace. What a difference between God saying, " Here is something good for you," and your holding out your hand and taking it, and saying you are not good enough for what God gives you. Christ would not give Himself to us in resurrection till He was given to the Father. He must come down to us as the Father's gift. Whether it be sorrow or joy, if it is God's gift, we can say to everything else, "That is not good enough for me." Did God's people lack power in His company to feel that He was their portion? The very country not theirs till God had given it to them? What you must be looking out for is God's gift at the present time. If anything bright offers itself (not God's gift) do not take it, it will not have sweetness, you will not find God in it. Let Him be first, and you keep behind Him. If a pilgrim, you will not be thinking of settling in houses, you will hang all your hopes on the place where the Son is; but do not take anything but God's gift to you at the present time. If God has prepared a city for me, should my mind be absorbed by anything down here? Abraham refuses to touch a single thing, and the moment after God says, " I am thy shield and exceeding great reward." We never read of His being the God of Lot. He promised to be Abraham's God to Lot, and fetched him out of Sodom; but Lot was not in tile way to talk of Him as " my God." What! the God of a man settled in Sodom? No! but the God of pilgrims and strangers. The same untiring grace and love; but God could not blazon it abroad that He was the God of Lot in Sodom. There was no planning with Abraham. When we deal with God we cannot make plans; directly we make a plan we get our feet entangled.
You and God must go together; there can be no planning if with God. The trial God puts Abraham to in regard to offering up Isaac is very remarkable. God tries hearts often in the same way. I do not know anything more heart-searching than this that Abraham had put before him, but he left it with God to settle all his difficulty. It was just the test whether he was hanging on God or not. Yes, he was; and he gives up Isaac, his hand is stretched out to slay, but God comes in; it was not in the heart of the Father to let that father slay his son. Oh, what a feeling must there have been in Abraham, the feeling of all blessing from first to last being in the approbation of God Himself, the feeling in the soul that the faith given by God had been tried and not found wanting! How God does try our faith in many ways! Do you know what suspense is? Do you know what it is not to see your way on? And if you put forth a single thing to help yourself, does He not move it out of His way? To be kept in suspense is one way that we may be compelled to wait upon God; to look to, to hang upon Him, in the being satisfied with that God, so as to leave all to Him for the fulfillment of our desires.
To be in suspense, to be a pilgrim and a stranger, not to take anything, but wait till God gives. Oh, a man walking with God will have a happy, a blessed experience! Otherwise there will be only sorrow and disappointment, as Lot and Jacob found.
G. V. W.