Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
Attention!
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Genesis 15

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-21

XXIII

ABRAHAM’S CONVERSION (PART ONE)

Genesis 15


1. Abraham’s Despondency


2. The Vision of the Word of God.


3. Abraham’s Conversion


4. The Sacrifices of the Covenant and Birds of Prey


5. The Waiting and the Darkness


6. The Trance and the Prophecy


On many accounts this history is one of unusual interest. A number of new words confront us. Not before in the Bible record have we met the phrase, "The Word of the Lord," or the corresponding name of God, uttered by Abram, "The Lord God" (Hebrew, Jehovah Adonai), nor the words, "vision," "shield," "believed." Here, too, for the first time we come upon imputed righteousness, about which theologians in all ages have much to say. If later doctrinal and denominational divergencies took points of wide departure from the covenants, how much more from imputed righteousness?


Here also we find the first clear statement that Abram’s heir shall not be an adopted son, but his own child, though a subsequent revelation must declare plainly the child’s maternity. And here also we find for the first time the yet faraway date when Abram’s descendants shall take possession of the Promised Land, the reason for the long delay, a prophetic outline of their history for 400 years, and the exact boundaries of the territory to be occupied by them in the day of Israel’s greatest extension of empire. And here also is the first minute description of an ancient covenant, the prototype of historic covenants among men and nations for thousands of years.


But the most important new thing is the detailed account of a conversion to God which becomes the model of all subsequent ages, with which even we today must measure our own profession of faith. It has already been shown more than once that the New Testament revelation is but the development and fruitage of Old Testament revelation, but here emphatically we find the taproot of that individual Christianity whose flowers bloom in all climes and times, countries, and races.

ABRAHAM’S DESPONDENCY
Our last chapter revealed Abraham in the role of a matchless warrior triumphant in strategy, celerity, battle, and pursuit, and then blessed by the priest of the Most High God, and then towering above all contemporaries in a disinterestedness concerning the spoils of victory that challenges the admiration of the ages and furnishes a model too high for imitation by the civilization of the nineteenth century nations. Maybe the twentieth century will climb up to its sublime height.


But man’s hopes and fears alternately prevail, like the swing of a pendulum or like the succession of day and night. Abram seems startled at his own success, and fears the prominence it thrust upon him. Kings have delighted to do him honor) and nations glorify him for their deliverance. But instead of being elated at these extraordinary manifestations of human approval, he finds in them an occasion of apprehension. "Will they not excite envy and jealousy? Will they not inspire hatred against the stranger who is only a sojourner among them? Is it not true that


He who ascends to mountain tops shall find

The loftiest peaks most wrapped in clouds and snow;

He who surpasses or subdues mankind

Must look down on the hate of those below?


Then will not Chedolaorner, stung into madness by defeat, and chagrined that the fruit of a great and victorious campaign is snatched from his hands by a handful of men, call out a mightier army from the limitless resources of a great empire and come back in irresistible might to avenge dishonor put upon him by an insignificant adversary? And yet again doubt whispers, "And I am not an impractical idealist to reject the present and substantial rewards of victory? And concerning this proposed country, Do I own a foot of it, or is there a rational prospect of it? And what about it all in any event? Am I not old and childless, with only a servant for an heir?" How natural, how realistic is every Bible story I How unattainable the naturalness by the imitation of the modern novelist! We thus see the state of Abram’s mind, which prepares the way for…

THE VISION OF THE WORD OF GOD
"After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward" (Genesis 15:1). The place is Hebron. The time is night. The despondency, the loneliness, the darkness, the doubt, and the fear call for a new revelation. "The word of God came in a vision." The formula, "the word of God," entirely new here, becomes quite familiar in subsequent history. The word here seems to be a person. Is it not the divine Logos of John’s first chapter, and not a mere saying or message? Does it not address itself to sight as well as to hearing? The word came in a vision, i.e., in mental perception. Abram not only heard words, but saw the speaker. The mind may see an image invisible to others in several ways:


(1) In a dream while asleep, as later in this lesson and as vividly described by Eliphaz:


Now a thing was secretly brought to me,

And mine ear received a whisper thereof.

In thoughts from the visions of the night,

When deep sleep falleth on men,

Fear came on me, and trembling,

Which made all my bones to shake.


Then a spirit passed before my face;

The hair of my flesh stood up.

It stood still, but I could not discern the appearance thereof;


A form was before mine eyes:

There was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,

Shall mortal man be more just than God?


Shall a man be more pure than his maker?

Job 4:12-17


In the dream we both see and hear.


(2) While awake in a trance, as in the case of Paul: "And it came to pass, that, when I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance, and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning me" (Acts 22:17-18).


Consider another experience of the apostle: "But I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth), how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter" (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).


(3) Again, while in a normal waking state, without dream or trance, God may render so acute a vision by the power of his Spirit that the thin veil between the visible and the invisible becomes transparent. This is an immediate view. See the case of the young man on the mountain with Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17), and the case of Stephen (Acts 7:55-56). A notable example of seeing face to face, apart from dream or trance, is the case of Moses. All three of these physical states of receiving revelation are thus set forth later: "And he said, Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I Jehovah will make myself known unto him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so; be is faithful in all my house: with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?" (Numbers 12:6-8). Such immediate vision will ultimately be the privilege of all the saints, says Paul: "For now we see in a mirror darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). The subject of God’s methods of revelation to man is a wide one, and full of interest, with which we shall have much to do later. Then will we learn to pity that unhappy king of whom it was written: "And when Saul inquired of Jehovah, Jehovah answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets" (1 Samuel 28:6).


The comfort of the word of vision to Abram lies in two particulars:

(1) "Fear not, I am thy shield." It is a precious thought that the first Bible use of the word, "shield," refers to God as the defensive armor which will ward off every missile of the enemy. Paul must have had this in view in citing the Christian’s armor in Ephesians 6:10-18, particularly 16: "Withal taking up the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one." The shield of faith is God, behind whom faith shelters and trusts. With God intervening what need Abram care for Chedorlaorner? Indeed, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" President Andrew Johnson, in great peril, put Grant between himself and the irate Edwin M. Stanton. With God between us and our -roes we may sing all the triumphant and defiant songs of the Bible saints. (2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 28:7; Psalms 84:11; Psalms 119:114; Romans 8:37-39.)


(2) "I am thy exceeding great reward." Thus God offers himself to Abram as both safety and treasure. Offers himself as the spring of every joy and the only satisfying portion. Heretofore he has excited Abram by the offer of land, greatness, property, ambition, and children, but now he offers himself. What are the rejected spoils of Sodom to this reward? If a man have all things else and not God, he is poor indeed. If he has God and nothing else, he is rich indeed. This is the only satisfaction to human hunger and thirst. Well might the enlightened psalmist sing: "My heart and my flesh cry out unto the living God." "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before my God?" (Psalms 134:2; Psalms 42:1-2). Surely if God shall say: "The Lord’s portion is his people" (Deuteronomy 22:9), the Christian may respond with David: "God is my portion for ever" (Psalms 73:26). It was because Moses saw and understood this "recompense of the reward" that he refused to be called the son of a princess, and counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.


But the light has not come to Abram yet. "Lord God, what can you give me in the way of reward that will amount to anything, seeing I am a childless old man swiftly passing away, with only a bondservant for an heir?" The visible Logos responds: "The slave shall not be thine heir, but thine own son." And now the narrative assumes rapid movement. The hand of the doubting man feels the electric thrill of the divine hand. He is led forth out of the darkness of the tent into the open air and pointed upward to that marvelous sight, the glorious star-gemmed sky of that Oriental land. Above him through that dry, transparent atmosphere, gleams the splash of the Milky Way, whose myriad light holders, like a clustered chandelier, mingle and intermingle and weave their rays of light into one great bridal veil of silver glory, fit ornament for a soul’s espousal to God. Above him stream out the sweet and unbound influence of the Pleiades and the gleam of the unclosed bands of Orion. Mazzaroth is led forth in his sight by an unseen hand, and Areturus and his sons march forth at the divine mandate. They declare the glory of God and make known his invisible power and Godhead. Revelation whispers in his ear while nature spreads out that other, that sublimely illustrated volume, "Count them if able; so shall thy seed be in multitude." And the tone of every shining star whispers to his heart, "Abram, the hand that made us is divine; Abram, if God made and controls the stars, there is nothing too hard for him. Abram, thy seed shall outnumber the stars, a multitude that no man can number, out of every nation, and tribe, and tongue and kindred. Abram, thy seed shall outshine the stars, for they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever; Abram, have faith in God."

ABRAM’S CONVERSION
But alas! natural light cannot convert the soul and make wise the simple. He turns from the map of the sky to the face of its Maker, in vision before him, and hears his voice: "What are land and children and spoils and stars? Abram, I am thy exceeding great reward, have faith in me." He quickens, he thrills with new-born life, "He believed in Jehovah." Here first we find the word "believed," in all the Bible. "HE BELIEVED," the biggest word that ever entered into the heart of man or fell from his lips. Mark, too, the object of his belief. He believed in Jehovah. The Logos was with God, that was God, and who later became incarnate, stood before him. He saw him, for the Word came in a vision. That very Word, when incarnate, said to the Jews: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad." Abram heard him, for the Word spoke unto him. He felt him, for the Word led him forth. He believed in him and became a converted soul, yea, the father of the faithful until the end of time. And God imputed it unto him for righteousness.


Here every word of the fourth chapter of Romans becomes an exposition of our lesson. The several points there made by the apostle are these:


1. Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. His faith is counted righteousness. The righteousness of God was imputed to him through faith. This was not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth.


2. This faith comes before circumcision in order that he might be father of all that believed, even though they be not circumcised Jews.


3. Righteousness was imputed by faith that it might be of grace to the end that the promise might be sure to all his seed.


4. This was a living, moving, and growing faith. It took steps (Romans 4:12). A faith that will not walk is not the faith of Abraham.


5. It was the faith of regeneration (Romans 4:17).


6. It made him the friend of God (James 2:23)


7. It was the model of faith in David’s day (Romans 4:6-8).


8. It is the model of our faith today. (Romans 4:23-25) and the model of our walk and work (Romans 4:12).


9. It ripened into perfection by use, obedience and work forty years later when he gave up Isaac and had God alone (James 2:22-23).

QUESTIONS
1. Where in the Old Testament do we find an account of Abram’s conversion?


2. In the account of his conversion, what mighty words or phrases appear for the first time?


3. What three other things do we find here?


4. What was the most important new thing found here?


5. What is the relation of Abram’s conversion to ours?


6. What questionings arose in Abram’s mind, just after his great victory, which prepared the way for the vision which followed?


7. What was the place, time, and circumstances of the vision?


8. What is the meaning of "The Word of God" which came to Abram?


9. In what ways may the mind see an image invisible to others? Give an instance of each case.


10. In what two particulars was the comfort of the "word of vision” to Abram?


11. What is the meaning of "I am thy exceeding great reward" and the application?


13. Following this, what question did Abram ask, God’s answer to it and what the method of impressing this upon Abram’s mind?


14. What was Abram’s response and what was the object of his faith?


15. What does our Lord say of Abram’s faith?


16. Where do we find in the New Testament an exposition of this lesson and what are the several points there made?

Verses 1-28

XXIV

ABRAHAM’S CONVERSION (PART TWO) AND SOME SELECTED THOUGHTS

Genesis 15-19:28

SACRIFICES OF THE COVENANT AND BIRDS OF PREY
We have discussed only three divisions of the outline given at the beginning of the last chapter. The next item is "The Sacrifices of the Covenant." Account of that is given in Genesis 15:9-11: "Take me a heifer three years old, and a she-goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. And he took all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half over against the other; but the birds divided he not. And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away." One of the most impressive sermons I ever read was delivered by a Methodist preacher on the text: "Abram drove them away." His line of thought was, that when we come before God with what he has required in our hands, and put it before him, we have to wait his acceptance, and as a test of our faith while he is waiting, the fowls come to destroy the sacrifice. The old commentators used to represent the fowls as nations endeavoring to destroy the people of Abram. Others refer it to the New Testament thought where, when the seed was deposited, the fowls came and picked them up. The spiritual thought is, whoever makes an offering to God, waiting, must see to it that the offering is not spoiled by the enemies of God and man.

THE WAITING AND THE DARKNESS
Abram waited until the sun was nearly down. There he was. He had passed between the pieces. Night came, and a horror of great darkness came upon him. He still waited. God had not signified his presence. Suddenly in a trance he sees a smoking furnace and a shining lamp pass between the sacrifices. The shining lamp is the Shekinah, the indication of divine presence. With the passing through of the visible representation of God there comes a voice of prophecy: "And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in the land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I Judge; and afterwards they shall come out with great substance. But thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. And in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full." That is a remarkable prophecy, that the descendants of Abram should go into bondage among Egyptian people, but would come out in the fourth generation to the land promised to Abram. Two reasons are assigned why Abram or his descendants should not immediately have the land. It would be a long time before his descendants would be sufficiently numerous and disciplined. Then the land was occupied by the Amorites, whose iniquity was not yet full. God does not remove a people until their iniquity is full. The promise, then, was made to Abram afar off. He himself died in a good old age.


I want to notice a serious chronological difficulty. Genesis 15:13, says, "And they shall afflict them four hundred years." Exodus 12:4, "The time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." Notice that difference of thirty years. Acts 7:6, "And God spake in this wise, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land, and that they should bring them into bondage and treat them ill for four hundred years." That agrees with Genesis 15:13. Galatians 3:17, "A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after." Paul states that it was back 430 years from the giving of the law to the call of Abram. If that is so, how do you get 400 or 430 years in bondage in Egypt, as it was 220 years from the call of Abram before they went into Egypt? In my discussion on the covenants I took Paul’s New Testament statement as the correct one, adopted by Archbishop Usher and given in your Bibles, leaving only 210 years in Egypt.

THE TRANCE AND THE PROPHECY
Jehovah said to Abram, “Unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the Euphrates." I find Old Testament proof that at one time Abram’s descendants did actuary-possess all the country from the eastern mouth of the Nile to the Euphrates. The sixteenth chapter opens with a human attempt to fulfill the prophecy of God. In the fifteenth chapter Abram said, "O Lord Jehovah, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and he that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Jehovah said, "This man shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels." Sarah, knowing that she was barren, and that she and her husband were old, falls upon an Oriental method by which Abram should have a son. She gives her handmaiden, Hagar the Egyptian, to Abram as a wife in order that Hagar’s child by Abram should be as Sarah’s child. She got herself, Abram and the handmaiden, the descendants of Abram through her own son and through Hagar’s son all into a world of trouble. Once I kept worrying a teacher who had promised that in an hour he would go to a certain orchard for some fruit. I waited and waited and asked him if it wasn’t most time. So he took an old-fashioned hourglass, filled with sand and narrow in the middle so that the sand could run through in just one hour, and said to me, "When that sand drops through we will go." I sat there and looked at that hourglass. Finally I reached over and shook it. That was human effort. It did not make the sand come a bit faster. So Sarah’s shaking the hourglass did not help matters. When the handmaiden found she was to be the mother of Abram’s child, she despised Sarah; Sarah began to quarrel and oppress the handmaiden so that she ran away. We now come to a new expression (Genesis 16:7), "And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness." After this point that expression occurs often, and all the circumstances go to show that it was a pre-manifestation of the Son of God. You will see later that he is here spoken of as God. The angel prophesied to Hagar. "Return to thy mistress and I will greatly bless thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. Thou shall bear a child and thou shalt call his name Ishmael because God hath heard thy affliction, and he shall be as a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand shall be against him, and he shall dwell over against all his brethren." When I was eleven years old a man in Sunday school asked where the passage was about the boy who was to become like a wild ass. Every boy went home to find the passage, and I determined to find it before I slept. Beginning at Genesis, I read through until I found it, and what a thrill of joy went through my heart. A gentleman in Arkansas who used to know me when a boy asked me this, "What achievement of your life has filled you with the greatest Joy?" I told him that it was catching my first ’possum. I was about seven years old and had a bob-tailed brindle dog named Lupe. He got to smelling around an old log, and finally pulled out a ’possum. I grabbed him by the tail and went home shouting. Now the object of these general questions is to put you on a line of thinking for yourselves. I asked my elder brother about Ishmael. In an atlas he showed me. Arabia, and described the marvelous exploits of the people, and particularly since they adopted the religion of Mohammed how their hands have been against every man. They live in tents and have camels and horses. Lew Wallace tells about the Arab sheik whose fine horse Ben Hur drove in the chariot race. Sir Walter Scott’s Talisman treats of these Bedouins of the desert. Strange that God’s prophecy should designate the characteristics of the descendants of this man for thousands of years.


Genesis 16:13 says, "Thou art a God that seeth, Wherefore the well is called Beer-Lahai-roi," meaning "living after, you have seen." You remember the saying that no mortal can see God and live. She was persuaded that God had met bex. She obeyed his voice, and went back and became subject to Sarah.


I have selected certain thoughts for the reader’s attention. The first relates to the establishment of the covenant of circumcision. I would go extensively into a discussion of that but for the fact that at the twelfth chapter we discussed all the covenants with Abram.


The second thought is the enlargement in God’s announcement to Abram. He now not only specifies that Abram’s son shall be his heir and not his bondservant, but that he shall be a son of his wife, Sarah. It is characteristic of the Old Testament prophecies to become more particular in each subsequent announcement. Genesis 2 says, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head." As the light increases, this seed of the woman shall be a descendant of Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, more particular all the time. In Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians this subject is particularly discussed. In Hebrews we learn that God made an announcement to Abram that involved a natural impossibility, but Abram staggered not through unbelief. In one of these books there is a reference to the steps of Abram’s faith. When the general convention was in session at Dallas some years ago, I was called upon to preach a sermon at the pastors’ conference, and took for my text, "The Steps of Abraham’s Faith." Commencing with the statement that a faith that cannot walk is a very puny child, I traced the steps of Abraham’s faith. When he was seventy years old, God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. He believed God, and stepped far enough to reach Haran. He halted there till his father died, and took another step to the Holy Land. As each new revelation of God would come his faith stepped higher and culminated in the offering of Isaac, confident that God would raise him from the dead and perpetuate his seed through him.


In this larger announcement God changes the name of Abram to Abraham, and of Sarai to Sarah. Indians do not name their children until some exploit is performed which gives them a name. We sometimes overburden our children with names. A child who may have great facility in telling lies about cherry trees, or anything else, we name George Washington. One without missionary spirit is often named Judson, or a child without pulpit eloquence or faith we name Spurgeon. My father did the same with his children. He named one for Richard Baxter, author of Saints’ Rest. He named me for Solomon’s commander-in-chief who succeeded Joab. We are very illustrious in our names. But Abram’s name was changed by an event in his life which evidenced great faith. In other words, it is better to earn a name than to have a great name thrust upon us. Jacob’s name originally meant supplanter, which he was. In that great struggle where he wrestled with God, his name was changed to Israel, a marvelous name, fairly earned. We ought to be more concerned about the name that we merit than about the name with which fond and over expectant parents burden us.


In the enlargement of this promise that his son would inherit, Abraham gives utterance to an expression from which have often preached, and I give it to you to preach from: "O, that Ishmael might live before you." Ishmael, his son by Hagar, was about thirteen years old. Abraham was very much attached to him, and fondly hoped that in him the family fortunes rested. Now comes God’s announcement that a child yet unborn should set Ishmael aside. How many times in substance has a father prayed that prayer. Dr. Andrew Broadis, the elder, had an illustrious son that he did not think much of. He had another son, his Absalom, and prayed continually that this son might live before God. But that son died a drunkard, while the other became a preacher as great as his father. In the Prentiss family of Maine, the likely son died. There was a crippled boy in the family called the child of his mother’s hand, because he was kept alive for five years t)y his mother’s rubbing. The father said, "Oh, that it had been the crippled boy that died." The crippled boy became S. S. Prentiss. What the other boy would have been we do not know.


The next thought refers to Abraham’s hospitality. Standing under an oak tree he sees three illustrious visitors coming in the garb of men, and entertains them with great hospitality. One of them proved to be the angel of the Lord, a pre-manifestation of the Son of God, and the others, the angels that destroyed Sodom. Upon that passage the writer of Hebrews says, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." I quoted that passage to a woman once who had a big house and never entertained anybody. I told her how much the lives of families were influenced by illustrious persons that stopped just one night. How Spurgeon’s career was shaped by an illustrious man who stayed at his father’s house one night, and next morning put his hand on the boy’s head and prayed that God might make him a great preacher and send him to preach the gospel to lost London. The boy never got from under the power of it, nor did the family. This lady said if she ever entertained any angels it was certainly unawares, for she had never found it out. I have known my father to entertain seventy-five messengers at an association. When we did not have enough beds, we scattered the cotton out and put quilts down in the cotton house. When Waco was a village the First Church entertained free of charge 3,500 visitors. They were there from every state in the Union attending the Southern Baptist Convention. We did not have enough homes, so after filling every hotel and boarding house, we went out two or three miles in the country. When I paid the hotel bill next morning it was just $1,500. It did not hurt us. Nothing ever did Texas more benefit. The railroads took it up and gave every one of them a free trip through Texas and Mexico. It advertised Texas all over the world. I entertained forty men in my house. Dr. Sears entertained forty women. His neighbors said he nearly broke his leg so he might stay at home and talk. Anyhow, it was a blessing on his home and mine.


While Abraham entertained these angels a renouncement is made that a son should be born and to his wife, Sarah. Sarah was inside the tent. But women can hear better than men. What I say downstairs my wife can always hear upstairs. Sarah heard them and laughed aloud at the idea that an old woman like herself should become the mother of a son so illustrious. When her child was born and she saw how foolish it had been to laugh at the word of God, she named the child Isaac, meaning, "laughter" – and what a sweet name!


After the entertainment the destroying angels start off to Sodom on their mission. The angel of the Lord, walking with Abraham, asked the question, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do to Sodom, seeing that I know that he will command his children after him to keep my law?" Look at the thoughts: Abraham by his faith had become the companion of God so that God said, "I will have no secrets from Abraham as to my dealings with the affairs of earth." By similar faith and life we get into confidential relations with God, and he promises that we shall know things that others do not know. Notice next the great act which made Abraham trustworthy: "For I know that he will command his children after him." The great sin of Eli was that he did not restrain his children. The great merit of Abraham was that he did rightly raise his child Isaac. The great virtue of Jews to this day is the reverence they have for parents and the obedience that children render to their parents. The Gentile boy is like that wild ass of the desert we discussed. He learns to call his father "the old man," and thinks it mighty smart "to row his own boat," to "gang his own gait." A Jewish boy would not dream of such a thing. They are a thousand miles ahead of us in this respect. The curse of the present day is the ill regulated youth. Instead of remaining children, which would be better, boys nine and ten years old become manikins. A preacher found one on the streets one day and asked, "My son, do you drink?" The boy, thinking it a disgrace if he did not, said, "No, sir, I hasn’t got to that yet but I chews and cusses." That is the spirit of the boyhood of today. The Presbyterians are ahead of the Baptists in training their children. They teach the Catechism better. We let the devil take possession of our children and fortify himself before we begin to do anything for their salvation, as a rule.


As soon as God announced the destruction of Sodom, Abraham commenced praying. In all the Word of God and in all literature there is nowhere else to be found such a prayer. He starts out, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right, and if he does right will he slay the righteous with the wicked?" He asked if God would spare the city for the sake of fifty righteous men. God said, "Yes." He took a forward step and asked God if he would save the city for the sake of forty righteous men. God said, "Yes." "Hear me once again, Will you not save the city if there be thirty?" God said he would spare the city. "Will you spare the city for twenty’s sake?" God said, "Yes." Abraham made his last step, "Will you save the city if there be ten righteous men?" With that precedent why did not Abraham go to five? That leads to a thought presented by our Saviour in the Sermon on the Mount, viz.: "Ye are the salt of the earth" as well as "the light of the world." The world cannot be destroyed while the righteous are in it. The reason why the fire has not leaped out of the storm cloud and riven the earth with its fiery bolt is the good people of God that are in the world. That only keeps cities, states, and nations from instantaneous annihilation by the irrevocable judgments of God. The wicked do not know that all that keeps them from sudden death and out of hell is the righteous constituting the salt of the earth. When God raises the dead bodies of his saints that sleep in the earth, and snatches up to the clouds the living Christians that are changed, immediately, as by the following of an inexorable law, fire worldwide seizes the earth, and ocean and continent are wrapped in flames. The conserving power is gone.


I want you to barely look at what is too foul for public speech. Read it alone, covered with shame, this last sin of Sodom which gives a name to a sin, "Sodomy." Our courts recognize that sin, which is incorporated in the common law of England and the United States. They sought to perpetuate this sin that night and Lot restrains them. These angels of God whom they mistook for men and upon whom they purposed to commit this sin, smote the lecherous crowd with blindness. And after every one of them was stricken blind, they groped for the door still to commit that sin. If you want a picture of the persistence of an evil passion, when the heart is hard and the neck stiffened, when the soul is incorrigible and obdurate, take the picture of these people, blinded by the Judgment of God and yet groping for the door.


The record states that the angels told Lot if he had anybody in that city to get them out mighty quick, and Lot went to his sons-in-law and urged them to go out. My question is, Were they actually his sons-in-law? He had two daughters at home. Did he have other daughters married to Sodomites? Or were the sons-in-law merely betrothed, fiancés? An old backwoodsman first called my attention to it, and I refer the matter to you. In the morning the angel gathers the family out of the city as fast as he can. He says to Lot, "Make haste. We can do nothing till you are out of the city." You must get the good people out before a city can be destroyed. Notice the lamentable fate of Lot’s wife, an Old Testament woman immortalized by our Lord in the great prophecy in Luke 17:32: "Remember Lot’s wife." She looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. The angel said to Lot, "Stay not in the plains." Lot said, "That is too far. Let me stop at Zoan, this little city near by." Some of the funniest things I ever heard in my life were connected with that text, "Is it not a little one?" Like the Methodist preacher’s sermon on "How shall Jacob arise since he is small?"


The destruction that came was a good deal like the report given in Marryat’s novel, Poor Jack. When the father whipped his wife with a pigtail off his head until she fainted, the doctor inquired, "What is the matter with your mother? Is it external or internal?" The boy replied, "Doctor, I think it is both." The destruction that came upon Sodom was both internal and external. Fire came down from heaven, and the earth opened and swallowed it. It had the characteristics of a volcanic eruption, an electric storm and an earthquake. The destruction was instant and total and down there under the water lie the relics of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the sea is called the Dead Sea. No flesh or animal life is in it. Josephus says that when you bite the fruit from the apple tree on its borders a puff of dust fills your mouth. If you jump into it you do not sink. The Dead Sea, lower than the Mediterranean, has no outlet. The Dead Sea that receives into its bosom all the tides of the sacred Jordan from the snows of Lebanon which come through Galilee, waters upon which Christ walked, in which he was baptized; waters that Elijah smote with his mantle; waters in which Naaman was healed of his leprosy; waters the most famous in sacred history; that whole river is like a string on which a necklace of pearls is strung, yet all that water goes into the Dead Sea, which receives it and turns nothing out but dust and ashes. Harris, the author of the book entitled Mammon, compares that sea to the Antinomian heart, always receiving and never giving. It has become the image of eternal destruction. Can you question whether God knows how to preserve the righteous and his ability to punish the wicked and the sinner?

QUESTIONS
1. How was the covenant between God and Abraham ratified and how is the primary meaning of the word "covenant" here exemplified?


2. What two interpretations of "Abram drove them away" and what is the spiritual meaning of it?


3. What trial of Abraham follows this, how then did God signify his presence and what word of prophecy accompanied it?


4, What two reasons assigned for the descendants of Abraham not immediately possessing the land promised to him?


5. What chronological difficulty is pointed out and how do you solve it?


6. How did Sarah try to help the Lord fulfill his prophecy to Abraham and what was the result?


7. How do you explain the appearance of the angel of the Lord to Hagar, what prophecy did he make to her and what was remarkable about this prophecy?


8. What two elements of the enlargement of God’s announcement to Abraham?


9. How did Abraham receive the first and what were the steps of Abraham’s faith?


10. Why did God change the name of Abram and what is the application?


11. In this enlargement to what expression does Abraham give utterance, its meaning and application? Illustrate.


12. What can you say of Abraham’s hospitality, who were the guests and what is the blessing that often comes from such entertainment?


13. What is the origin and meaning of the word "Isaac"?


14. After the destroying angels departed for Sodom, what question did the angel of the Lord raise, into what secret did he let Abraham and what great act of Abraham made him trustworthy?


15. Contrast Jews and Gentiles on parental duty and what denomination of people stands next to the Jews in training children?


16. Describe Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and what was the teaching of our Lord in point?


17. What is the name which indicates the awful sin of the Sodomites?


18. Did Lot have actual sons-in-law? If not, explain the reference to his sons-in-law.


19. What was the fate of Lot’s wife and what was our Lord’s use of this incident?


20. By what means were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed?


21. What New Testament use was made of the judgment on these cities? (2 Peter 2:6-9; Judges 1:7.)


22. Ancient writers locate Sodom and Gomorrah at the southern, extremity of the Dead Sea, modern writers at the northern extremity. What do you say?


23. What does the destruction of these cities symbolize and in view of the permanent effect, what question does this forever settle?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Genesis 15". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/genesis-15.html.
 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile