“And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.”
ABRAHAM knew it would be. Probably he never told Sarah what God had asked of him till he and the lad were safely back in the tent. What need to trouble her? Her weak faith could not have stood the ordeal. It was with an unfaltering tone that the patriarch told his young men that they two would presently return.
Even though he should actually take Isaac’s life, he was sure that he would receive him again from the altar in health. It was only at the very last moment that God indicated the ram as the sufficient substitute. So God’s deliverances always come; they are provided in the mount of trial and sacrifice.
When the foe seems secure of victory. — So it was with Israel.
Pharaoh, with his hosts, counted on an easy victory, the precipices around, the sea in front. To the eye of sense it seemed impossible to escape: all hope died. It was just then that the Almighty cleft a path through the mighty deep.
“In the fourth hour of the night.” — Strength was well-nigh exhausted in long battling with the waves. For hours the disciples with difficulty had kept themselves afloat. It seemed as if they must give in through physical collapse. It was then that the form of Jesus drew nigh unto the ship.
On the night before execution. — Thus Peter lies sleeping whilst the Church is gathered in prayer. Tomorrow he will be a corpse. But the angel comes then to open the prison doors.
So you may have come to an end of your own strength, and wisdom, and energy. The altar, wood, and fire are ready, the knife upraised, your Isaac on the point to die: but even now God will provide. Trust Him to indicate the way of escape.
“I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
THE minute details of this purchase are recorded to emphasize the fact that, though the whole land was Abraham’s by the Divine gift, he would not enter on its possession until God’s time was come. We may be sure of certain blessings — ours in God’s safe keeping — though they are withheld until the moment that His wisdom sees best. It was a touching confession. The aged patriarch had for long years owned no settled dwelling-place. After years in the land of promise he was still without land enough for a grave.
Faith cannot be satisfied with the things of this world. — The sons of Heth had goods and lands, but Abraham did not envy them; he had caught a glimpse of the city which hath foundations, and this so satisfied and attracted him that he had no desire for aught that Palestine could yield.
Faith detaches us from the present. — We are content to dwell in tents, because here we have no abiding place. The shows and vanities of the world, in comparison with the vision of eternal realities, are as the glare of the streets compared with the steady glory of the constellations of the night.
Faith prompts to confession. — It bewrayeth itself. We should be careful and orderly in our business arrangements; but, in our dealings with our fellows, in our justice, fairness, honor, the lightness of our hold on the present world, we should make it manifest that we are seeking a country not our own.
Faith cannot be ashamed. — The God who prompted it must satisfy it, else He would have reason to be ashamed of having failed the souls that trusted Him. But now He is not ashamed to be called our God, because He has prepared for us a city.
“And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.”
THIS worthy man, Eliezer, the steward of Abraham’s house, was almost garrulous about his master. Count up the number of times in which he contrives to bring in the two words, “my master.”
We may learn from him how to speak of our Master, whenever we get the opportunity. “Rabboni, which being interpreted is, My Master.”
We too can speak of the Lord God as our Master. — The servant did not know Jehovah directly; it was enough that he had seen and heard Abraham pray to Him. This encouraged him to draw near for himself. So we are emboldened to draw near, because God is the God and Father of our Master Jesus. We love Him that was begotten, and are attracted to Him of whom Jesus said, “I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.”
We, too, can plead for our Master’s sake. — When asking for good speed to be sent to himself, he alleged as his plea that it would be showing kindness to his master Abraham. So when we ask great things from God, we can plead in the name of Jesus, and urge that in answering our petition God will be showing kindness to his Well-beloved.
We, too, should bless in our Master’s name. — When the answer was given, this reverent soul gave thanks as though the favor had been shown to his master. Indeed, all through his intercourse with Bethuel and Laban he seems to have lost his identity in Abraham.
He could talk of nothing else but that one scheme; was only eager to carry his point for his master’s sake; and when the errand was done, longed only to get back to his master’s side. It is a beautiful lesson for those who call Jesus Master and Lord.
“And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.”
EVERY one is born with a birthright, which the devil tries hard to make him barter away for a mess of pottage. In that birthright are included:— Innocence and purity. — The child of the vilest ancestry enters this world unsullied by the filthy touch of unclean habit. But how eager Satan is to induce us to part with this for his unsatisfying pleasure.
The love of our kind. — Few are the children, of all the myriads of our race, that are not loved by some fond heart. In some cases the infant life is cradled in love. But Satan is glad when he can get the soul to break away from all earthly affection, which might possibly soften and refine it, and to renounce mother, sister, wife, child, for the drunkard’s cup, the wanton’s kiss.
The redemption of Jesus Christ. — Every one is born into a redeemed world; the propitiation of the blessed Lord, the blood that flowed on Calvary, the canceling of the effects of Adam’s sin, are for all. As all the world was affected by Adam’s sin, so all are included in God’s love in Jesus. But again Satan is eager to induce men to abjure and cast away these benefits; he blinds the eyes of those that believe not, so that they refuse to “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
The grace of the Spirit. — Every one may build up a strong and beautiful character by yielding to the Holy Ghost’s gracious promptings. That grace knocks, like sunshine, at the windows of every soul; but how often it is sold for a mess of pottage! The choice between these two is constantly being presented to us. God help us always to choose the divine, the spiritual, the eternal!
“Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
IT is awful to realize how our sins may repeat themselves in our children. Here is Isaac following in the precise steps of Abraham, who had acted in a similar manner towards Sarah when entering Egypt. In each case there was a sad lapse of faith; but it was even worse for Isaac, with Abraham’s example to warn him.
But a man may pass blessings on to his children, as well as the sad entail of evil habits.
He leaves the blessing of the divine covenant. — God had entered into covenant with Abraham, and was prepared to fulfill its provisions to his son. “I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee.” So a godly ancestor may be able to secure for all his seed a share in the divine grace and favor. The spirit that is put on him does not depart from his seed, or his seed’s seed for ever.
The blessing of his prayer. — It is impossible to over-estimate the effect of a good man’s prayers; they are as streams or trees, which go on flowing and bearing fruit long after they were originated. The legacy of a good man’s prayers is of priceless worth. He may have long since passed to his rest; but God remembers them, and answers them in blessings to the next generation. How often in this chapter we read that “God blessed Isaac.”
The blessing of a noble name. — We may all leave that, if we can transmit nothing else. To have had a father that knew God, walked with God, pleased God; who was on intimate terms with Him, and could speak to Him, as a man with his friend — illumined the ordinary nature and existence of Isaac with unearthly beauty. Let us live so that our children may be ranked as nobles, because they bear our name.
“And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.”
ON this incident the writer to the Hebrews found the impressive lesson, that the choices of the past may cast a bitter and irrevocable shadow on all our future. When he afterward desired to inherit blessing he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears (Hebrews 12:16–17).
Beware of the cravings of appetite. — In an evil moment Esau yielded to these, and sold his birthright to secure their gratification; he found afterwards that the choice made in that hour was irrevocable. How needful that we watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation!
There are four facts which, when borne in mind, guard us against the sudden oversetting of passionate appetite.
We were once dead in sins. — Surely we do not want to go back again to the charnel-house with its corruption.
We died for sins in the person of Christ our Representative. — In Him we have met the demands of God’s holy law; but surely that must be an awful thing which cost our Savior so dearly.
We died to sin with the Lord Jesus. — We have passed with Him on to Resurrection ground; so that we belong to the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
We are called on to reckon ourselves dead to sin. — The nearer we live to God, the more sensitive we shall be to the most distant suggestion of evil, closing doors and windows against its entrance, reckoning ourselves “not at home” to it, and yielding our members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.”
ALL men feel that earth and heaven touch at the horizons of the distant past and future; but we ought to feel that the present moment of time and this bit of the world’s surface are linked with heaven. This is what the ladder meant for Jacob. The moorland waste, where he lay, and Laban’s home, whither he journeyed, were as near God as his father’s tent. Earth is linked with heaven:— By God’s daily providence. — His loving eye is ever upon us, his ears always open to our cry, and his angels go to and fro on our world performing ceaseless ministries.
By our Savior’s mediation. — As He intimated to Nathanael, His own nature as uniting God with man, and especially His Ascension glory as the man Christ Jesus, is the one great connecting link.
“Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
By daily fellowship and holy thought. — We should practice the sense of God’s presence, often stopping ourselves amid our ordinary avocations and interests to say, aloud when possible, “God is near, God is here.” In all likelihood we are daily living amid the glories of the eternal world; but our eyes are blinded. Oh that by humility and purity we may become more sensitive, and awake to the things that are unseen and eternal! Lord, open our eyes, that we may see!
(2 Kings 6:17).
By holy yearning. — When Jesus ascended, He unrolled a path behind Him, along which we shall one day travel to meet Him.
Hope treads that glorious Ascension ladder; and as she does so, again we see the heaven opened, and our destiny unfolded at Christ’s right hand.
“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”
THAT touch is enough! We can fill in all the rest. This old-world love was of the same quality as our own. Oh, blessed God!
What a priceless inheritance this is! Time itself never tedious, but always too short; labor never hard; distance never long; sacrifice unheard of, the word almost in disuse — where Love is queen. This is how we would feel to our dear Lord: so that the missionary away from home and friends, as well as the invalid suffering for Jesus, might feel years of loneliness and pain but a few days, for love of the beloved Master. We may acquire such love thus:— Meditate much on the love of Jesus. — Sit with the Apostle beneath his cross, and say, each time with deeper appreciation: He loved me, He gave Himself for me. Do not think of your love to Him, but of His. It is well to take the Lord’s Supper frequently, as affording opportunities for remembering His dying love.
Be on the alert to detect His love in daily providence and trifles.
— It is amazing how much is ever being arranged by His tender thoughtfulness to alleviate and brighten our lot. If you cannot detect it, dare still to believe it.
Ask the Holy Spirit to breathe His love into your heart. — He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; and when the doors are open between Christ and the soul, the aroma of His love freely enters.
Show His love to every one. — Whether you like people or not, do to them as He would do; let His love flow through you to them; what we manifest to others for His sake, we shall come to feel towards Him, and them also. “This commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
“And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.”
LABAN requested the longer stay of Jacob because he felt sure that the Divine blessings had been brought by him into his home. It was a selfish, low, motive for desiring the postponement of his departure; and Laban was destined, alas! to be terribly undeceived. He would wake up one day, to find that during his sojourn with him, and under the cloak of religion, Jacob had been ruthlessly plundering his property. It was a shameful betrayal of trust on Jacob’s part; and it conveys a searching warning to those who, because of their religious professions, are trusted by their relatives or others:— With their property. — Always do the best possible for your employer or friend, who has entrusted his interests to you, acting towards him as the servant and steward of God. Bear in mind that God has bidden you undertake the office for Himself, and accepts your fidelity as rendered to Him: He will recompense.
With their friendship. — Be very careful here. God puts us into one another’s lives, that we may be the medium through which His love and tenderness may enter them; but there is such danger of our monopolizing for ourselves the place that He would fill. Sometimes we almost unconsciously deteriorate rather than elevate our friends by the intrusion of our own personality.
With their Christian instruction and training. — Ministers of God’s holy gospel must specially guard against the tendency to make name, fame, money, out of a position which they should occupy only as God’s stewards. There is such subtleness in the temptation to attract men to ourselves, instead of attaching them to Christ.
“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”
THIS visitation of God made a deep impression on Laban. He refers to it afterwards as restraining him from injuring his runaway son-in-law. Jacob, too, was struck by it. It is very wonderful to find the Holy God casting the mantle of His protection around this crafty and deceitful soul. No doubt it was due to His covenant relationship with the family and race, of which Jacob was a most unworthy member (Genesis 31:13, 42). But if God thus interposed for Jacob, will He not much more interpose for those who desire to be His obedient children?
God will lay an arrest on your persecutors. — Israel was rebuked because the exiles in Babylon thought they would perish before a man that could die, and the son of man who was as grass, and forgot their Maker, the Lord of heaven and earth. All around you the fire may rage; but you shall walk amid it unscathed, if only you trust.
No weapon formed against you shall prosper.
God will lay an arrest on trial. — His finger is always on our pulse; and the moment the pain becomes more than we can bear, He will stay it. His eye is ever upon His own.
God will lay an arrest on the power of the evil one. — We shall not be tempted beyond that we are able to bear. There is always a thus far and no farther. “The Lord maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters.” The Only-begotten of the Father keeps the sheep whom his Father has entrusted to Him. Not one of them can be devoured by the lion of hell. If only we believed this, we should be calmer, happier, even though circumstanced as Jacob. No need to altercate with Laban, but to look beyond him to the “Fear of Isaac.”