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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Genesis 13

 

 

Verses 1-4

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Went up out of Egypt] In the language of the Jew the direction to Jerusalem from every quarter was upwards; besides, Egypt was a low-lying country and the traveller would have to ascend on his way to the hilly country of Canaan.—Into the south] Heb. Towards the south. Not the south of Egypt, but the southern region of Palestine. A certain part of the country was called "the south" before the times of the Patriarchs. The LXX. has εις την ερημον, into the desert; which conveys the same meaning, for Judea was bounded on the south by the desert region of Idumea.—

Gen . And he went on his journey] Heb. According to his removings. He proceeded after the manner of a nomad, striking his tent frequently and performing his journey by stations.—Between Bethel and Hai] "Stanley well describes this point as a conspicuous hill, its topmost summit resting on the rocky slopes below, and distinguished by its olive groves, offering a natural base for the altar, and a fitting shade for the tent of the patriarch" (Jacobus)—Called on the name of the Lord] This implies more than an ordinary prayer: he re-established public worship.—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE BELIEVER LEARNING FROM HIS GREAT ENEMY

It is an old saying that "It is lawful to learn from an enemy." We may strive to overcome him, to protect ourselves with all care, and to maintain our cause. Still, he may teach us many lessons. We may refuse to unite with him, but we cannot help being instructed. The world is the great enemy of the believer, and Egypt was to Abram the representative of all worldliness. Abram was faith, Egypt was carnality. The patriarch had sojourned in the world's kingdom, and had learned those solemn lessons which, as it too often happens, only a bitter experience can teach. He returned a sadder, but a wiser man. By the strength of Divine grace the believer may recover from the effects of the danger to which he had exposed himself by too close an alliance with the world. Even his faults and failings may result in spiritual gain. The lessons of wisdom may be dearly bought, still they are the secured possessions of the soul. The believer who has fallen into the world's snares, or comes dangerously near to them, learns—

I. That it is not safe to leave the paths marked out by Divine Providence. While Abram dwelt in Canaan, in the land which God had promised to give him, he was in the way of duty and of Providence, and was therefore safe. Calamity drove him to seek refuge in Egypt. He consulted his own safety, leaned to his own understanding, instead of seeking to know what was the Divine will. He ought to have trusted in Providence, and kept within the area of the promise. It is a dangerous experiment to leave the paths of Providence for any advantages the world may offer.

1. While we are in the path of Providence we may expect Divine direction. God honours the law of life which He has laid down for man by protecting and strengthening him while he observes it. There are special promises of grace to a sincere and exact obedience. When the sense of duty is so strong that we are regardless of any worldly consequences to ourselves, God will guide us and find a way to bring us out of the evil. To submit to be ruled absolutely by the will of God is meekness, which is the true conquering principle. They only have the true victory over all that is really evil, who acknowledge God in all their ways.

2. When we leave the paths of Providence we are thrown upon the resources of our own wisdom and strength, and can only expect failure. The world is too powerful and cunning an enemy for the believer to encounter by any might and skill of his own. He who would conquer must not engage in a private expedition on his own charges, but must have all the strength of the kingdom of God lawfully engaged on his side. He must enter the conflict as one of the loyal and obedient hosts of God. The believer, himself redeemed from the world, can never be kept above that world but by the strength of a Divine power. The grace of God is not a sudden impulse which suffices once for all, but a source of perpetual strength. When we cease to receive from that, the power of evil gains upon us and we are in spiritual danger.

3. Every step we take from the paths of Providence only increases the difficulty of returning. Though Abram followed his own will in going down to Egypt, he still retained his hold upon God. His heart was set upon obedience, and he only erred in not waiting for a clear sense of the Divine guidance. Though his fault was not grievous, it brought him into an entanglement with the world from which he could only extricate himself with difficulty. The danger continually increased, and the moral situation to which he had brought himself was perplexing. When once we leave the clear paths of duty which the will of God points out, our moral danger increases, and the difficulty of returning. Moral deviation generates a fearfully increasing distance from the good we have left. Another lesson which the believer may learn from his enemy is—

II. That the friendship of the world involves deep spiritual loss. Abram's strong faith and firm principle of obedience could not save him from danger when exposed to the influences of the world, during his sojourn in Egypt. The world is an enemy that must be always regarded as such. There must be no pause in our spiritual warfare, no friendly overtures under the protection of a truce. The believer who courts friendship with the world, though he proceeds with much caution and firm purpose of integrity, is sure to suffer spiritual loss. Thus, in the case of Abram—

1. The delicacy of the moral principle was injured. By his prevarication Abram had exposed his wife to danger, and himself to an irreparable loss. He saw that wealth, power, and rank were arrayed against him, and he sought his own safety by a false expediency. The step was then easy to deceit, and to the dangerous verge of absolute falsehood. He had learned this from the world, which had taught him to swerve from his better purpose, to be otherwise than his better self. It is a great calamity when the delicacy of conscience is injured. Fresh sin becomes easier, and even doubtful things deepen into the dark colours of evil. Above all, it is dangerous to depart from truth—to rest our moral being in any degree upon an unreality. The contagion of that which is false rapidly corrupts our whole moral nature.

2. There was actual spiritual loss. When Abram turned aside from the truth and selfishily sought his own ends, the sense of the Divine presence must have been less clear. The faith in Providence to protect and guide him in the time of danger must have been less strong. The fervour of his first dedication to God must have greatly abated. The whole character was weakened. At first he had faith so strong that he could leave all at God's command and venture upon an unknown and untried journey. He was satisfied with light for one step at a time, and trusted God for the future. Now he refuses to tell the whole truth, to take the consequences, and to trust in God to find the way of deliverance. Any loss of faith, of the clear insight of conscience, of the comforting and supporting sense of the Divine presence, is to be deplored. We cannot indulge in friendship with the world without some injury, and there is the danger of total loss. This is the dark side of the picture, but there is a way of escape. We may, through the grace of God, repair the losses we have sustained. The world teaches us some sad lessons, yet hereby we learn wisdom.

III. That the soul's safety is best secured by revisiting, in loving memory, the scenes where God was first felt and known. "And he went on his journey from the south, even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai" (Gen ). He returned to the Land of Promise, where he could be assured of God's protection and His grace. There God had blessed him, there he experienced the first fervours of faith, the first sensations and stirrings of a new life. Thus, when the world has injured our faith or hope in God, or tempted us to evil, our way of return is marked out for us. We have to "do our first works," and to "remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." The believer, when his soul has been injured by the world, derives comfort and encouragement from the past—from revisiting the scenes where God was first felt and known.

1. He is aided by remembering the strength and fervour of his early faith and love. When God first appears to the soul, and faith and love are awakened, we feel strong for duty, and all difficulties seem to vanish. Through the impulse of our first devotion we continue for a season loving and serving with an ardent mind. But when we grow cold, or the world has gained an advantage over us in an unguarded hour, we may revive our languishing graces by the thought of what we once were, and still may be, if we return to our first love. The torch of an almost expiring faith and devotion may be rekindled at the altar where we were first consecrated to God. We can thus take our stand upon a fact in our spiritual history, and believe that God is able to repeat his former kindness.

2. Memory may become a means of grace. It is well for us to look backwards, as well as forwards by the anticipations of hope. What God has done for us in the past is a pledge of what He will do in the future, if we continue faithful to His grace. We may use memory to encourage hope. "Because Thou hast been my help; therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." Let us imitate Abram, who returned to the sweet memorial places where he first met God. There we know that we shall have succour and deliverance.

IV. There must be a fresh consecration to God. Abram went at once to Bethel, where at the beginning he had pitched his tent, and built an altar to God. There he "called on the name of the Lord." This implies a fresh consecration of himself, and points out the method by which we may recover our spiritual loss. Such a fresh consecration is necessary, for there are no other channels of spiritual blessing, but those by which it first flowed to us. There is no new way of restoration. We must come back to Him who first gave us our faith and made reconciliation. This renewed consecration of ourselves to God involves—

1. The acknowledgment of our sin. It was sin that made, at first, our reconciliation with God necessary, and fresh sin renews the obligation to seek His face.

2. The conviction that propitiation is necessary to obtain the favour of God. Repentance for the sinful past is not sufficient; for it often fails to repair the evils that we have brought upon ourselves. There is still a dread behind that we are answerable for our sins to One whom we have offended. Such has been the universal feeling of mankind, who have added sacrifices to their repentance. They have felt that God must be propitiated—that they must seek His favour by some appointed way of mercy. We need an altar and a sacrifice. Some expedient is necessary to restore the alienated heart of man back to God. We confess by offering sacrifice that in strict justice we deserve the penalty, yet that Divine mercy has a way of escape for us so that we may see salvation.

3. The open profession of our faith. "Abram called on the name of the Lord." He who knows the salvation of God must confess Him before men. The believer cannot live to himself; he must stand forth as an example to others, a witness for God in the world. God can be seen but dimly in His works. He is most of all manifested in His saints. By their possession of truth and righteousness they reflect His intellectual and moral image. It is necessary that God should be represented to the world by good men. To call upon the name of the Lord is to acknowledge our relation to Him, and the duties thence arising; that His benefits demand recognition and praise. When we make an open profession of our faith before men we glorify God, we revive and keep in full vigour the sense of our adoption, and feel that in all our wanderings we are still God's children and His witnesses in the world.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . When the course of God's Providence opens up a way of escape from the scenes of temptation and trial, our duty is to follow in it.

We are safe only when we leave the land of carnality and dwell in the land of promise.

Unreality and deceit are some of the characteristic marks of the world, and the children of faith do not always escape their infection.

In Egypt the Church—the chosen people—was introduced to the world. Egypt was to Abram, to the Jewish people also, to the whole course of the Old Testament, what the world, with all its interests and pursuits and enjoyments, is to us. But while Egypt, with its pride of wealth and art and power, its temples and pyramids, is almost forgotten, the name of the shepherd patriarch lives. Egypt is a type of the world-kingdom, abounding in wealth and power, offering temptations to a mere carnal sense. But Abram had encountered its worldliness and pride, and had been in danger of losing his personal and domestic peace, and was glad, doubtless, to escape from the land, and yet be once more within the boundaries of the Land of Promise.—(Jacobus.)

Abram's deliverance from Egypt is a prophecy of the final deliverance of God's people from this present evil world.

Lot accompanied Abram on his journeys as joined to him by the tie of natural relationship, and it may be also that the association contributed to his prosperity; but the event will tell how he has separate interests and is governed by a prevailing selfishness of nature.

Gen . We have an account of the return of Abram from the land of Egypt rich. It has been observed that the blessedness of the Old Testament is prosperity, while that of the New Testament is affliction. Let not men say from this that the law of God is altered; it is we who have altered in conceptions of things. There was a time when men fancied that afflictions were proofs of God's anger, but the revelation of God in Christ has since manifested to us the blessedness of affliction; for it is the cross that God bestows as His highest reward on all His chosen ones.—(Robertson.)

Riches, if rightly used, do not hinder men from going after God.

Gen . The believer cannot find his true rest where God is not enjoyed.

Abram moves to Bethel, where he had known God at the first. Thus the heart obeys the superior attraction. The magnetic needle may be disturbed by some force from its position, but when the constraint is removed it trembles towards the pole. In the midst of all his wanderings the heart of the patriarch pointed true.

Bethel:

1. The scene of the manifestation of God.

2. The birthplace of a new spiritual life.

3. The home of the most precious memories.

4. The earthly counterpart of heaven.

In things spiritual, to come back to our first love is true wisdom.

With his heart set, not upon his earthly possessions but upon his heavenly inheritance, he measured his steps to the place where he might "compass God's altar," and renew those delightful experiences which still dwelt upon his memory. It is well known with what exquisite emotions we re-visit, after a long absence, the scenes with which we were familiar in childhood and youth. The sight of the well-remembered places and objects calls up a thousand interesting associations, and our past existence seems for a time to be renewed to us. But to the pious heart how much more delightful and exhilarating is the view of scenes where we have experienced striking instances of providential kindness, where we have received token of the Divine favour, where we have held communion with God, and been refreshed with the manifestations of His love. Bethel was a place thus endeared by association to Abram, and it is only the heart that is a stranger to such feelings that will find any difficulty in accounting for his anxiety to tread again its pleasant precincts, and breathe the air which was shed around it.—(Bush.)

Gen . Abram returns to the place of his altar in Bethel. In like manner Christian settlements, towns, and villages, cluster around their churches.—(Lange.)

Tent and altar were now in his mind as he had enjoyed them at first. We remember our sweet home and our sweet church after we have roamed in a land of exile. We yearn to get back to where we have enjoyed the dear circle of our family, and that of our Christian brethren—where we have lived, and where we have worshipped. Because it was Bethel, he loved it, even as the house of God (Psa ).—(Jacobus.)

Coming to the altar, and calling upon the name of the Lord, regard—I. Public religion.

1. The witness to, and confession of God before men.

2. The missionary element. By such an action Abram was spreading the knowledge of God amongst men. True religion must be aggressive and make war upon the enemy's camp. The patriarch's office was to generate faith in others. II. Private religion.

1. Confessions of sin. God cannot be approached directly, but by some way of mediation. This implies that man has sinned, and has no longer access to God except by a way of mercy which God Himself appoints.

2. Supplication for forgiveness. The altar implies that God is offended by the sin of man, and, therefore, His mercy must be sought.

3. The necessity of sacrifice to propitiate the Divine favour. The stroke of justice must fall upon the sinner's substitute. The life sacrificed upon the altar is accepted instead of that of the suppliant. Our altar is the cross.

4. The revival of the spirit of adoption. Abram had lost that clear sense of the Divine acceptance which he once enjoyed, and now he seeks to recover it by returning to the place where God at a former time met him in mercy.

Every time we come to God, even though we may have to do so in great penitence and humiliation, we renew our strength.

He who first gave us our spiritual life is necessary afterwards to sustain it.

The soul of the believer has its true home in the house of God, where His glory is manifested. By the strength and beauty of the Divine presence he enjoys there his own home, and the whole scene of his life becomes consecrated.

The manner in which "the place of the altar" is mentioned, seems to intimate that he chose to go thither, in preference to another place, on this account. It is very natural that he should do so; for the places where we have called on the name of the Lord, and enjoyed communion with Him, are, by association, endeared to us above all others. There Abram again called on the name of the Lord; and the present exercises of grace, we may suppose, were aided by a remembrance of the past. It is an important rule in choosing our habitations, to have an eye to the place of the altar. If Lot had acted on this principle, he would not have done as is here related of him.—(Fuller.)

ABRAM'S JOURNEY TO THE PLACE OF THE ALTAR

"The steps of a good man," says the Psalmist, "are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in his way." The truth of this has never been disputed in the Church, and proofs of the regard which God entertains to His devoted children may be derived from all parts of Scripture, which unite to prove that the eye and hand of an overruling Providence have been constantly engaged on their behalf. The history of Abram shows the individual attention which God bestows towards His faithful servants. Their names are held in imperishable memorial, their interests are perpetually consulted, nothing which concerns them is too minute to escape the Divine notice—their birthplace, their journeyings, their crosses, their comforts, their enemies, their friends. The great empires of the world, and the names of their rulers and disturbers, are seldom mentioned but in connection with the Church. Cain's generation is numbered in haste, but the generations of the godly are carefully recorded. Seth's posterity are written in a large scroll and more legible hand, with the number of the years in which they lived, which in the case of Cain's posterity is not noticed. God remembers Noah's cattle as well as his sons. Jacob's flocks and herds are distinctly noted; and here all that concerns Abram is deemed worthy of attention—his journeyings, his companions, his possessions, the place where his tent was fixed, the circumstances which led to the erection of his altar, and the fact of his offering his customary devotions. We notice—

I. His love to the Land of Promise, which all the attractions of Egypt could not extinguish or overpower. Egypt was at this time the most important country in the world, the resort of all nations. From the earliest times it was called the world's great granary, a country so fair and fertile, that the Egyptians boasted that they could feed all men and feast all the gods. It is noticed, too, that Abram was very rich, and had probably great increase of his wealth in Egypt, which was a greater temptation to him to protract his stay. But Egypt, with all her plenty and pleasure, had not stolen away his heart from the Promised Land. Neither had he so laden himself with thick clay, as that he was disinclined to strike his tent and pursue his journey, but he went from strength to strength. All this was done by faith. Let us imitate his great example. In the midst of all we enjoy, remember how much more we have in hope. In the midst of peace, prosperity, honours, and enjoyments, let us still consider that we are pilgrims, and while we thankfully accept the favours showed us in a strange country, let us not forget our better home. A Land of Promise contents Abram; he leaves the possession to his posterity. Abram went up from Egypt, so there should be daily an ascension of our minds to the better country above. Abram took all he had; the Christian is not content to go to Heaven alone. Happy it is to journey to Heaven when accompanied by those we love.

II. His veneration for the place where God first appeared to him. He went on his journey to Bethel. Many a weary step he took till he came to his old altar. He went to sanctify that good he had got in Egypt, to give God thanks for it, and to consecrate it to Him. Enemies may part us and our tents, but not us and our God. The remembrance of the sweet communion and intercourse he had with God at that place was delightful and reviving to his mind. It was there God had appeared to him when he first set his foot in the land of Canaan, and the recollection appears to have been hallowed to him as it was to Jacob in after times. It was his first special time of dedication to God. It was there he built his first altar—there he received his first promise—there he offered his first prayer—there he recorded his first vow. The review of the same was eminently satisfactory and grateful to his mind. Twice it is mentioned, "the place where his tent had been," "the place of the altar." There may be in the Journey of life many inviting scenes, many fertile spots, but there is no place like the place of the altar. From this spot nothing that Egypt and the intermediate countries could offer was able to divert Abram. He came back prosperous, but his heart was unchanged. Time is apt to wear out the sense of mercies. Many in their travels leave religion behind them.

III. His concern wherever he was to erect his altar. Wherever we go we must take our religion with us.

1. As a public profession.

2. As keeping up family religion. Wherever he had a tent God had an altar.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Abram and Lot! Gen . We have here—I. The Contention, which was

(1) unseemly,

(2) untimely, and

(3) unnecessary. II. The Consolation, which was

(1) unbounded,

(2) undoubted, and

(3) unearthly. Or, we have here—I. The Churlishness of the herdsmen. II. The Selfishness of Lot. III. The Unselfishness of Abram, and IV. The Graciousness of God. Or, we have here—I. The Return of Abram,

(1) forgiven and

(2) favoured. II. The Request of Abram,

(1) forbearing, and

(2) foregoing. III. The Reward of Abram (l) forgetting the earthly and

(2) foreshadowing the heavenly inheritance. The Lesson-Links or Truth-Thoughts are—

1. Wealth means

(1) strife,

(2) sorrow, and

(3) separation.

2. Abram manifests

(1) faith,

(2) forbearance, and

(3) forgetfulness of self.

3. Worldly love means

(1) stupidity,

(2) suffering, and

(3) sinfulness.

4. God manifests

(1) favour,

(2) fulness, and

(3) faithfulness to Abram.

"The pilgrim's step in vain,

Seeks Eden's sacred ground!

But in Hope's heav'nly joys again,

An Eden may be found."—Bowring.

Returns and Reviews! Gen .

(1) The poet has immortalised the Swiss patriot's sentiments on returning to the Alpine crags and peaks after strange and perilous experiences in exile. The historian has inscribed on the tablet of Church history the devout emotions of Arnaud on his return from danger and exile to the Vaudois Valleys. The litterateur has depicted on the page of his tale the joyful sensations of the emigrant, returning in safety and wealth to the home from which he had gone forth in peril and poverty.

(2) Abram had been driven by famine into the fruitful fields of Egypt, where he had narrowly escaped reaping death as the fruit of his fears and folly. God had in His wise and merciful Providence brought him back again to Hebron. He, therefore, calls on the name of the Lord. He, no doubt, received with thankfulness the Lord's intimations of mercy as connected with his previous sojourn; and he, doubtless, acknowledged with gratitude God's loving interposition with Pharaoh in his behalf.

(3) It is well to go back in review of old spots and past experiences in order to call up instrumentally thereby, says Doudney, the gracious acts, interposing goodness, and boundless benefits of our covenant-God in Christ. The light so shining upon the past prompts us to take down our harp from the willows, and to sing—

"His love in times past forbids me to think,

He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."

Flocks and Herds! Gen .

(1) In a very old Egyptian tomb near the Pyramids the flocks and herds of the principal occupant are pourtrayed. The numbers of them are told as 800 oxen, 200 cows, 2,000 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Job at first had 7,000 sheep, 500 yoke of oxen, 3,000 camels, etc. We can thus form some idea of the number and magnitude of the patriarchal flocks and herds.

(2) At the present day these are no exaggeration, however startling the figures sound. In an Australian sheep-run one grazier has nearly 20,000 sheep. Not long ago an American sheepowner had as many as 9,000 browsing on the heights of Omaha, so that when a traveller looked forth at daybreak the mountains seemed like waves of the sea. In Zululand the flocks and herds of Cetewayo were immense.

"Abram's well was fann'd by the breeze,

Whose murmur invited to sleep;

His altar was shaded with trees,

And his hills were white over with sheep."—Shenstone.

Patriarchal Wealth! Gen .

(1) Dr. Russell tells us that the people of Aleppo are supplied with the greater part of their butter, cheese, and flesh by the Arabs, Rushmans, or Turcomans, who travel about the country with their flocks and herds, as the patriarchs did of old. Before America became so thickly peopled, its primitive white patriarchs wandered with flocks over the richly-clothed savannahs and prairies. Having collected vast stores of cheese, honey, skins, etc., they would repair to the townships and dispose of them.

(2) The Hebrew patriarchs no doubt supplied the cities of Canaan in like manner. Hamor, in Gen , expressly speaks of the patriarchs thus trading with his princes and people. La Rogue says that in the time of Pliny the riches both of the Parthians and Romans were melted down by the Arabs, who thus amassed large treasures of the precious metals. This probably explains how Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver and gold. Not that Abram trusted in his riches.

"Oh! give me the riches that fade not, nor fly!

A treasure up yonder! a home in the sky!

Where beautiful things in their beauty still stay,

And where riches ne'er fly from the blessed away."—Hunter.

Communion! Gen .

(1) Watson says, that he knows of no pleasure so rich—no pleasure so hallowing in its influences, and no pleasure so constant in its supply of solace and strength, as that which springs from the true and spiritual worship of God. Pleasant as the cool water brooks are to a thirsty hart, so pleasant is it for the soul to live in communion with God.

(2) Rutherford wrote to his friend from the prison of Aberdeen, "The king dineth with his prisoners, and his spikenard casteth a smell; he hath led me to such a pitch and degree of joyful communion with himself as I never before knew." This reminds us of Trapp's quaint speech, that a good Christian is ever praying or praising: he drives a constant trade betwixt earth and heaven.

(3) Abram built his altar while the Canaanites looked on. He lifted up a testimony for God, and God honoured him; so that Abimelech was constrained to say, "God is with thee in all that thou doest." Reader, in Greenland, the salutation of a visitor, when the door is opened, is this, "Is God in this house?" Remember that the home which has no family altar has no Divine delight.

"'Tis that which makes my treasure,

'Tis that which brings my gain;

Converting woe to pleasure,

And reaping joy for pain."—Guyon.

Returns and Reviews! Gen .

(1) The poet has immortalised the Swiss patriot's sentiments on returning to the Alpine crags and peaks after strange and perilous experiences in exile. The historian has inscribed on the tablet of Church history the devout emotions of Arnaud on his return from danger and exile to the Vaudois Valleys. The litterateur has depicted on the page of his tale the joyful sensations of the emigrant, returning in safety and wealth to the home from which he had gone forth in peril and poverty.

(2) Abram had been driven by famine into the fruitful fields of Egypt, where he had narrowly escaped reaping death as the fruit of his fears and folly. God had in His wise and merciful Providence brought him back again to Hebron. He, therefore, calls on the name of the Lord. He, no doubt, received with thankfulness the Lord's intimations of mercy as connected with his previous sojourn; and he, doubtless, acknowledged with gratitude God's loving interposition with Pharaoh in his behalf.

(3) It is well to go back in review of old spots and past experiences in order to call up instrumentally thereby, says Doudney, the gracious acts, interposing goodness, and boundless benefits of our covenant-God in Christ. The light so shining upon the past prompts us to take down our harp from the willows, and to sing—

"His love in times past forbids me to think,

He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."

Flocks and Herds! Gen .

(1) In a very old Egyptian tomb near the Pyramids the flocks and herds of the principal occupant are pourtrayed. The numbers of them are told as 800 oxen, 200 cows, 2,000 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Job at first had 7,000 sheep, 500 yoke of oxen, 3,000 camels, etc. We can thus form some idea of the number and magnitude of the patriarchal flocks and herds.

(2) At the present day these are no exaggeration, however startling the figures sound. In an Australian sheep-run one grazier has nearly 20,000 sheep. Not long ago an American sheepowner had as many as 9,000 browsing on the heights of Omaha, so that when a traveller looked forth at daybreak the mountains seemed like waves of the sea. In Zululand the flocks and herds of Cetewayo were immense.

"Abram's well was fann'd by the breeze,

Whose murmur invited to sleep;

His altar was shaded with trees,

And his hills were white over with sheep."—Shenstone.

Patriarchal Wealth! Gen .

(1) Dr. Russell tells us that the people of Aleppo are supplied with the greater part of their butter, cheese, and flesh by the Arabs, Rushmans, or Turcomans, who travel about the country with their flocks and herds, as the patriarchs did of old. Before America became so thickly peopled, its primitive white patriarchs wandered with flocks over the richly-clothed savannahs and prairies. Having collected vast stores of cheese, honey, skins, etc., they would repair to the townships and dispose of them.

(2) The Hebrew patriarchs no doubt supplied the cities of Canaan in like manner. Hamor, in Gen , expressly speaks of the patriarchs thus trading with his princes and people. La Rogue says that in the time of Pliny the riches both of the Parthians and Romans were melted down by the Arabs, who thus amassed large treasures of the precious metals. This probably explains how Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver and gold. Not that Abram trusted in his riches.

"Oh! give me the riches that fade not, nor fly!

A treasure up yonder! a home in the sky!

Where beautiful things in their beauty still stay,

And where riches ne'er fly from the blessed away."—Hunter.

Communion! Gen .

(1) Watson says, that he knows of no pleasure so rich—no pleasure so hallowing in its influences, and no pleasure so constant in its supply of solace and strength, as that which springs from the true and spiritual worship of God. Pleasant as the cool water brooks are to a thirsty hart, so pleasant is it for the soul to live in communion with God.

(2) Rutherford wrote to his friend from the prison of Aberdeen, "The king dineth with his prisoners, and his spikenard casteth a smell; he hath led me to such a pitch and degree of joyful communion with himself as I never before knew." This reminds us of Trapp's quaint speech, that a good Christian is ever praying or praising: he drives a constant trade betwixt earth and heaven.

(3) Abram built his altar while the Canaanites looked on. He lifted up a testimony for God, and God honoured him; so that Abimelech was constrained to say, "God is with thee in all that thou doest." Reader, in Greenland, the salutation of a visitor, when the door is opened, is this, "Is God in this house?" Remember that the home which has no family altar has no Divine delight.

"'Tis that which makes my treasure,

'Tis that which brings my gain;

Converting woe to pleasure,

And reaping joy for pain."—Guyon.


Verses 5-9

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Tents] Including their occupants, as wives, children, and domestics. Thus we have in 1Ch 4:41 : "Smote their tents, i.e. those who occupied them."—

Gen . And the land was not able to bear them] The LXX. has, did not contain them to dwell together. Their flocks and herds had grown too numerous to find pasture there. An inability, moreover, of a moral kind may be implied.—

Gen . The Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land] The Perizzites are not mentioned in the table of nations, Chapter 10. Their origin is obscure. The Canaanites were the original occupants of the soil.—

Gen . For we are brethren] Heb. Men, brethren. The same phrase is used (Act 15:13; Act 23:1) when referring to national brotherhood. Abram was both brother-in-law and uncle to Lot; they were therefore kinsmen. They were also brethren in the unity of religious faith.—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

STRIFE BETWEEN BRETHREN

Such is the condition of human nature, even under the culture of religious thought and feeling, that few communities can exist long without some causes of dispute. Strife arose in this little society of religious men, consisting of Abram and Lot. The light of God as it falls upon human souls becomes tinged with their own earthliness. Hence even in churches founded by the Apostles disputes and divisions have arisen. The perfect gift of the grace of God is maimed in its effects by the imperfection of man. Here, in the verses before us, we have the first draft of a Church in a short space disfigured by human failings. Men who ought to have lived as brethren, with common interests and pursuits, were obliged to part for the sake of maintaining peace. The history of Churches is but a sad comment upon the features of this incident. Let us consider such strife:—

I. As to the causes of it. We find that Lot, by his association with Abram, had, like him, grown rich (Gen ). Hence one of the causes of strife between brethren is—

1. Worldly prosperity. "The land was not able to bear them that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together" (Gen ). As long as they had little, or but moderate wealth, they could live together in peace. They were seized by no lust of ambition or display, there was no prize to be snatched at, and to cause a quarrel, their dependents could agree together as the servants of one family. But as riches increase they become unwieldy, and more difficult to be managed. Complications arise unknown to humbler days, when wants were few and habits simple. It has often happened that friends have lived together in harmony till one of them has been made rich; then disputes have arisen, there is a coldness between them, and at length complete separation. The tendency of great possessions is to nourish the natural covetousness of the human heart, which grows by what it feeds on. It is a sad fact that with increase of wealth the heart does not always enlarge with noble and kind emotions. Men become proud, harsh, overbearing, selfish, and suspicious of the advances of their friends. Riches are often the apple of discord. Another cause of strife is—

2. The mean ambition of the ignoble souls associated with us. It was between "the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle" that the strife at first arose which so soon spread to their masters. The land was too narrow for them when their flocks had increased, and they were tempted to encroach upon each other's territories. Strife often begins with the servants of men who are in great places, power, or wealth. A certain meanness of spirit is almost inseparable from a state of servitude. Underlings can seldom take large views; their passions are easily aroused, and they soon pick an occasion of quarrel. They are the victims of low ambition. Their supreme object in life is devotion to a chief, or courting the favour of their master; and for this they will contend with fierce passions, and to the sacrifice of peace and morality. Such disputes often alienate families and their chiefs. Another cause is—

3. The want of the obliging nature. Men, especially those who are mean-spirited and of narrow views, are slow to yield what they consider as their rights. They insist upon them however much others may be injured by such severity, or however ridiculous or unreasonable such conduct must of necessity be in some cases. There is a certain gracious spirit and behaviour by which men acquire that kind of gliding movement so as to pass through life with little friction. What is called politeness or gentility in common speech, to some extent accomplishes this. But the Christian religion alone can produce this spirit in all its reality and perfection.

II. As to the evils of it. Though strife often arises from a small occasion, yet it may grow to a great evil. A little matter may kindle a spark that will increase till it becomes a devouring fire. The wise man has said that "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water." A slight fissure in the embankment through which a little water flows, gradually makes a wider rent until the floods at length burst through and spread destruction all around. Strife tends more and more to separate men from one another, to divide interests which ought to be united. Among the many evils of strife between brethren are the following:

1. It destroys the sacred feeling of kinship. Abram and Lot belonged to the same family, and each might naturally look to the other for every office of kindness. They ought to have been able to dwell together in harmony. Strife arises between their servants, and though this was not sufficient to alienate the masters, yet it must do so in the end unless they separated. They could no longer dwell close together as brethren. The true ideal of human society is that all men should be able to dwell together as belonging to one kin—as members of one great family. The word kind comes from kin, as pointing out that disposition which should be maintained by those who are really members of the same family. Strife destroys this feeling of a common brotherhood.

2. It exposes true religion to contempt. When strife exists between those who are not only members of the same family, but also of the household of God, the evils which arise are more than personal. They affect injuriously the interests of the Church itself. Here we read that "the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land." The heathen around were witnesses to the strife, and they would derive an unfavourable impression of the religion of the men who exhibited such base passions. They could hardly consider that such a religion was superior to their own. To embrace the true religion is to join a brotherhood, to become naturalised, as it were, into a holy nation; and any strife or disorder arising must tend to bring that religion into contempt. Few men have penetration enough to judge principles by their tendencies, and not by their perversions. They estimate religion by the conduct of its professors. Thus the way of truth comes to be evil spoken of. The men of the world are spectators of the Church. If Christianity had not been hindered by the conduct of its professors, it might, at this hour of history, have overspread the whole world.

3. It brings spiritual loss to individuals. When brethren of the same household of faith fall to strife there must be some spiritual loss. Some may have sufficient strength of principle to recover; others may be permanently injured. Lot was deprived of the benefit of Abram's example and influence by his separation from him. As Lot had not sufficient strength of character to overcome his natural selfishness, the loss of the influence of such a religious life upon him was, as the event proved, most serious. Strife and envy tend to bring about every evil work.

III. As to the remedies of it. There are remedies for the moral evils of the world, and through the grace of God these are rendered effectual towards producing perfection of character. The mode of Abram's dealing with strife shows us how we may overcome this evil. As a remedy for strife, therefore, we may propose—

1. The recognition of the obligations of brotherhood. "Let there be no strife," said the Father of the Faithful, "for we be brethren." This ought to have put a restraint at once upon such unruly passions. If we could only preserve a clear recognition of the fact of our common brotherhood, especially as heirs of the same heritage of faith and hope, we could never allow ourselves to engage in strife. The true atmosphere, the very life of the family, is peace. The thought that "we are brethren" ought to put an end to all disputes.

2. The yielding temper. In religion this would be called the spirit of meekness, which is a disposition to yield what is a right and privilege, and even to submit to be wronged rather than that another should be injured. As he was the principal, Abraham had the right to choose his part of the country first, but he yields to Lot. He gives up his own privilege rather than disturb religious peace. Thus we may learn not to insist upon our rights when by doing so greater evils than any personal loss to ourselves must arise. Jesus, because He was the Son of God, might have claimed exemption from the payment of the half-shekel tax, levied in very deed for the support of worship rendered to Himself; yet rather than give offence He wrought a miracle to obtain the necessary sum (Mat ). The meek have the true victory; they inherit the earth. "The heavenly principle of forbearance evidently holds the supremacy in Abram's breast. He walks in the moral atmosphere of the Sermon on the Mount" (Murphy).

3. Confidence in the promise of God that we shall suffer no real loss by obedience to His command. To be devoted to the good of others, to be meek and humble-minded, is in accordance with the will of God. Whatever temporary evils may arise, we can suffer no real loss by following God's command. Abram was confident that his covenant God would support him and make good the promise of His blessing. Let his kinsman choose the best of the land, and be more prosperous in this world's goods, yet for himself it sufficed that he had the better portion, and the comfort and peace arising from obedience and the sense of an interest in the everlasting covenant.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Those who cast in their lot with the friends of God are often blessed for their sakes. The very shadow of the Church of God falling upon men has a healing influence. The righteous wish to all prosperity in the name of the Lord.

Prosperity is a curse to some. In Lot's case it may have increased that thirst for gain which fed his selfishness, and ended in the injury of his spiritual character.

Gen . It was in a literal sense true that the land could not bear them, for their riches—consisting chiefly of cattle—had grown so great. But there may have been a moral inability, arising from the perverse disposition and unkindness of their servants, or it may be from something in the character of Lot that would eventually have led to a rupture.

Probably their cattle and flocks now numbered too many to be accommodated by the pasturage. The country was an open common. It could not be held by any title. Everyone drove his cattle where he could find the best grazing for them. This absence of law to define and protect real estates would naturally open the way for jealousy and strife, and the strong would have an advantage over the weak.—(Jacobus.)

It is a pity that those whom grace unites, and who are fellow-heirs of eternal life, should be parted by the lumber of this world. Yet, so it is. A clash of wordly interests has often separated chief friends, and been the occasion of a much greater loss than the greatest earthly fulness has been able to compensate. It is not thus with the riches of grace or of glory; the more we have of them the closer it unites us.—(Fuller.)

We saw in creation a separating process before a perfecting one; we shall see it again and again in man's development. Abram separated from Ur, and from Terah, and from Egypt, has further to be separated from Lot also before he can be perfected; for it is only "after that Lot was separated from him that the Lord said unto him, Lift up now thine eyes, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it."—(Jukes: Types of Genesis.)

Gen . This quarrel arose partly from disobligingness of disposition. Here we find the Christian community resembling the Jewish. There is a constant strife now among servants as to whose duty it is to do certain things, arising from the same indisposition to oblige one another. Then observe how by degrees Lot and Abram are drawn into the quarrel, and how again we find human nature the same in all ages. The bitterness between child and child, between husband and wife, are often to be referred back to the bitterness between domestic servants. Again, the scandal of this disagreement passed on through the land; the Canaanite and the Perizzite heard of it. Here is a lesson both for Christian masters and servants. Our very doors and walls are not sufficient to guard domestic secresy; if there has been a scandal in a place, that scandal is sure to be heard. And if Christian men and women listen to the gossip of their servants, with whom does the guilt lie? On the other hand, servants who wish to be servants not after the flesh but after the spirit—with good-will doing service as to the Lord and not unto men—should recollect that they are admitted into secrets which they must know, but that there is an honour which should bind their tongue. They are trusted; they should let that trust be kept sacred for the Lord.—(Robertson.)

The fortunes of Abram and Lot become affected by the strifes of their servants. It is difficult even for the best of men to keep clear of all consequences arising from the evils of others.

Abram and Lot became rich in cattle and herds, but as long as they dwelt in one compact community this involved scarcity of herbage. Thus riches often increase in one direction while they diminish in another. How often it happens that a man increases in wealth, and grows poorer in moral principle, in human kindness, and in spiritual religion!

The germinal divisions of masters ofttimes reveal themselves clearly in the strifes of their servants and dependents. Even the wives are often in open hostility while their husbands are still at peace. Abram teaches us how to observe these symptoms in the right way. His proposal to separate arises from his love of peace, not from any selfish regard to his own interests.—(Lange.)

These two godly men could not dwell together because of the strifes of their servants. The outward unity of their families was destroyed, though their inward unity might still be preserved. How often does God's kingdom suffer from the strifes of His servants! The Church, rent by divisions, and distracted by endless controversies, becomes a stumbling-block to unbelievers, and a sorrowful regret to those who love her most.

The strife here recorded was watched by unfriendly eyes. This ought to have prevented the evils of dissension, yet still they broke forth; so difficult it is to restrain the stormy passions of men. It is sad to reflect that the scandal which must arise from the exhibition of violence and wrong on the part of professors of religion has not always acted as a check upon their conduct.

The godly in every land are exposed to the observation of ill-disposed neighbours.

The evils of passion and strife must be accepted as one of the sad facts of our poor human nature. Such is our condition since the Fall, that this terrible fatality lies upon us. Even in the Church itself it "must needs be that offences come." There is a necessity for these things. The corruption of our spiritual nature by sin has laid this destiny upon us.

In all ages enemies of the Church are ever on the watch to discover, publish, and triumph over the feuds and jealousies that may arise between its members. This consideration alone should quench the unholy flame of divisions among brethren.—(Bush.)

Gen . True religion is of a practical nature, and adapts itself with a godly prudence to the exigencies of life. By a determination of character, and the assertion of a great fact, and consequent principle of duty, Abram was able to put an end to strife.

So the father of the faithful replied in language that might well extend beyond the strife of herdsmen and shepherds to the strife of "pastors and teachers" in many a church and nation.—(Stanley.)

From the conduct of Abram we may learn lessons of prudence in dealing with the evils of society, especially those which closely affect ourselves.

1. To check them in their rising. The strife had only extended to the servants, but Abram foresaw that it would extend further unless some arrest were put upon it. Therefore he was determined to put an end to the evil before it had grown too great.

2. To assert some great principle, the truth of which all must acknowledge. They were "brethren," and if this fact were only considered in the light of clear reason and a good conscience, there could be no strife or ill will. Thus St. Paul sought to compose the differences between the members of the Church at Rome by the assertion of some great principle which, were it considered, must unite them all in love.

To be a peacemaker is to possess a likeness to God, who is Himself the author of reconciliation.

There was yet a higher sense in which they were "brethren," viz., in their religion. They professed the same faith and the same mode of worship, and as disciples of a religion breathing love and peace, goodwill and good offices, it could not but be attended with the worst consequences were they now to fall out with each other, and present the sad spectacle of a divided brotherhood. Indeed, if one of the laws of our adoption into the family of God is that we become in all things brethren to each other, and bound to study each other's interest, how little does that sacred relation effect, if it does not avail to extinguish our mutual animosities? When we see the quarrels and the coldnesses, the lawsuits and strifes between those who are not only bound by the common tie of Christian fraternity, but by the closest bonds of affinity and blood, are we not tempted to inquire, Can these men be indeed "brethren?" Can they all be trusting to the same hope of salvation, and expecting, or even desiring, to dwell together in the same heaven?—(Bush.)

Gen . Abram's conduct was marked—

1. By humility. He was the heir of a large inheritance—the land was distinctly promised to him; yet he is not puffed up with pride, he assumes no haughty bearing. To his nephew, to whom no such promises were made, he says, "Is not the whole land before thee?" Thus in his humility he boasts not in his superior portion.

2. By condescension. Abram, as the elder of the two and as called of God, might have claimed submission from one who was but an attendant; and also the right of first choice. But he waived his prerogative, and acted the part of an inferior in order to preserve peace. The proposal originates with him. If they must separate, it shall be after a manner which becomes godly men. Such condescension wins the truest honour, creates the largest influence, for "the meek shall inherit the earth." How many quarrels and cruel wars might have been prevented if men strove, as with a godly ambition, who should be the first to make proposals of peace!

3. By generosity. It was but ordinary justice that they should divide the land equally, yet Abram concedes to Lot the right of choice, and this though he knew that the land on the other side of him afforded richer pasture. What nobleness of mind did he display! He who has strong faith in God can afford to be generous towards man.

Light is seen and is multiplied by the various surfaces on which it falls, the whole scene of it being enlarged by every particle which it brightens; so the reality and beauty of the believer's faith towards God is seen in the performance of his duty towards all around him.

The heavenly principle of forbearance evidently holds the supremacy in Abram's breast. He walks in the moral atmosphere of the Sermon on the Mount (Mat .)—(Murphy).

"Wilt thou to the left hand," etc. An eternal shining example, and a watch-word of the peace-loving magnanimous, self-denying character which is the fruit of faith.—(Lange).

He could have claimed the exclusive possession on the high ground of the Divine promise and plan. He could have said, "If the land is not large enough for us both, then you must seek another country, or even return to the land whence you came out." But this exclusiveness is not the spirit of our holy religion. We cannot assume to stand upon our Divine right, and claim all the privileges and promises, leaving no room for others, nor giving them over to uncovenanted mercies. In the true spirit of grace, we are to be gracious and conciliatory and peace-making, for we be brethren. Nor need we all seek to occupy the very same ground, nor claim the same territory. There is room enough for all names and claims that are truly Christian. There is much land to be possessed, and God has a field for all denominations to cultivate.—(Jacobus.)

Had Abram stood upon his rights, he would have but followed the selfish principles which govern the generality of mankind in their dealings with one another. He is a spiritual man, not who lives according to the maxims of the world, but beyond them. The child of faith has his eye fixed upon those eternal realities before which the temporary advantages of this world are as nothing.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Abram and Lot! Gen . We have here—I. The Contention, which was

(1) unseemly,

(2) untimely, and

(3) unnecessary. II. The Consolation, which was

(1) unbounded,

(2) undoubted, and

(3) unearthly. Or, we have here—I. The Churlishness of the herdsmen. II. The Selfishness of Lot. III. The Unselfishness of Abram, and IV. The Graciousness of God. Or, we have here—I. The Return of Abram,

(1) forgiven and

(2) favoured. II. The Request of Abram,

(1) forbearing, and

(2) foregoing. III. The Reward of Abram (l) forgetting the earthly and

(2) foreshadowing the heavenly inheritance. The Lesson-Links or Truth-Thoughts are—

1. Wealth means

(1) strife,

(2) sorrow, and

(3) separation.

2. Abram manifests

(1) faith,

(2) forbearance, and

(3) forgetfulness of self.

3. Worldly love means

(1) stupidity,

(2) suffering, and

(3) sinfulness.

4. God manifests

(1) favour,

(2) fulness, and

(3) faithfulness to Abram.

"The pilgrim's step in vain,

Seeks Eden's sacred ground!

But in Hope's heav'nly joys again,

An Eden may be found."—Bowring.

Returns and Reviews! Gen .

(1) The poet has immortalised the Swiss patriot's sentiments on returning to the Alpine crags and peaks after strange and perilous experiences in exile. The historian has inscribed on the tablet of Church history the devout emotions of Arnaud on his return from danger and exile to the Vaudois Valleys. The litterateur has depicted on the page of his tale the joyful sensations of the emigrant, returning in safety and wealth to the home from which he had gone forth in peril and poverty.

(2) Abram had been driven by famine into the fruitful fields of Egypt, where he had narrowly escaped reaping death as the fruit of his fears and folly. God had in His wise and merciful Providence brought him back again to Hebron. He, therefore, calls on the name of the Lord. He, no doubt, received with thankfulness the Lord's intimations of mercy as connected with his previous sojourn; and he, doubtless, acknowledged with gratitude God's loving interposition with Pharaoh in his behalf.

(3) It is well to go back in review of old spots and past experiences in order to call up instrumentally thereby, says Doudney, the gracious acts, interposing goodness, and boundless benefits of our covenant-God in Christ. The light so shining upon the past prompts us to take down our harp from the willows, and to sing—

"His love in times past forbids me to think,

He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."

Flocks and Herds! Gen .

(1) In a very old Egyptian tomb near the Pyramids the flocks and herds of the principal occupant are pourtrayed. The numbers of them are told as 800 oxen, 200 cows, 2,000 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Job at first had 7,000 sheep, 500 yoke of oxen, 3,000 camels, etc. We can thus form some idea of the number and magnitude of the patriarchal flocks and herds.

(2) At the present day these are no exaggeration, however startling the figures sound. In an Australian sheep-run one grazier has nearly 20,000 sheep. Not long ago an American sheepowner had as many as 9,000 browsing on the heights of Omaha, so that when a traveller looked forth at daybreak the mountains seemed like waves of the sea. In Zululand the flocks and herds of Cetewayo were immense.

"Abram's well was fann'd by the breeze,

Whose murmur invited to sleep;

His altar was shaded with trees,

And his hills were white over with sheep."—Shenstone.

Patriarchal Wealth! Gen .

(1) Dr. Russell tells us that the people of Aleppo are supplied with the greater part of their butter, cheese, and flesh by the Arabs, Rushmans, or Turcomans, who travel about the country with their flocks and herds, as the patriarchs did of old. Before America became so thickly peopled, its primitive white patriarchs wandered with flocks over the richly-clothed savannahs and prairies. Having collected vast stores of cheese, honey, skins, etc., they would repair to the townships and dispose of them.

(2) The Hebrew patriarchs no doubt supplied the cities of Canaan in like manner. Hamor, in Gen , expressly speaks of the patriarchs thus trading with his princes and people. La Rogue says that in the time of Pliny the riches both of the Parthians and Romans were melted down by the Arabs, who thus amassed large treasures of the precious metals. This probably explains how Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver and gold. Not that Abram trusted in his riches.

"Oh! give me the riches that fade not, nor fly!

A treasure up yonder! a home in the sky!

Where beautiful things in their beauty still stay,

And where riches ne'er fly from the blessed away."—Hunter.

Communion! Gen .

(1) Watson says, that he knows of no pleasure so rich—no pleasure so hallowing in its influences, and no pleasure so constant in its supply of solace and strength, as that which springs from the true and spiritual worship of God. Pleasant as the cool water brooks are to a thirsty hart, so pleasant is it for the soul to live in communion with God.

(2) Rutherford wrote to his friend from the prison of Aberdeen, "The king dineth with his prisoners, and his spikenard casteth a smell; he hath led me to such a pitch and degree of joyful communion with himself as I never before knew." This reminds us of Trapp's quaint speech, that a good Christian is ever praying or praising: he drives a constant trade betwixt earth and heaven.

(3) Abram built his altar while the Canaanites looked on. He lifted up a testimony for God, and God honoured him; so that Abimelech was constrained to say, "God is with thee in all that thou doest." Reader, in Greenland, the salutation of a visitor, when the door is opened, is this, "Is God in this house?" Remember that the home which has no family altar has no Divine delight.

"'Tis that which makes my treasure,

'Tis that which brings my gain;

Converting woe to pleasure,

And reaping joy for pain."—Guyon.

Untimely Contention! Gen . It was untimely contention when Monarchists and Republicans in France disputed with each other, while the German Armies were hemming them in on all sides. It was untimely contention when Luther and Zwingle disputed together, while the Roman hosts were assailing the newly-erected structure of the Reformation. It was untimely contention when Liberals and Conservatives disputed amongst themselves, while the Russian hordes were advancing on Constantinople, and intriguing with Affghanistan. It was untimely contention between Judah and Israel, when the Syrian and Assyrian powers were watching for an opportunity of attack and conquest. It was untimely contention between French and English Canadians, when Indians were on alert to lay waste homes and settlements with fire and sword. And so it was untimely contention between the servants of Lot and Abraham, when surrounded by heathen tribes:—to let their angry passions rise—

"Like high fed horses, madly breaking loose,

Bearing down all before them."—Shakespeare.

Unseemly Contention! Gen . It was unseemly contention on the part of the two Israelites, whom Moses found striving in the fields, and to whom he said, "Ye are brethren." It was unseemly contention on the part of the disciples, whom Jesus overheard striving which of them should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It was unseemly contention on the part of Paul and Barnabas when they separated from each other because of Mark's instability of character. It was unseemly contention when Evangelical Nonconformists and Evangelical Churchmen strove together over s. d. considerations. It was unseemly contention when the two Church of England Missionary Societies disagreed as to the evangelisation of Madagascar. And so it was unseemly contention between the servants of Lot and Abraham, seeing they were brethren.

"Alas! how light a cause may move

Dissension between friends that love!

Friends that the world in vain had tried,

And sorrow but more closely tied."—Moore.

Unnecessary Contention! Gen . It was unnecessary contention for the Western emigrant to dispute with his neighbour over a narrow strip of land, when whole acres of virgin soil was at the disposal of either or both of them. It was unnecessary contention for the Manx boy to dispute with his sister over the possession of a fig, when a whole box of figs was at the service of either or both of them. It was unnecessary contention for the Hudson hunter to dispute with his fellow-huntsman over the ownership of a fox skin, when the Indians had placed at their disposal a bundle of skins of equal value. It was unnecessary contention for the Kentish mother to dispute with her sister as to which of them should inherit their father's araucaria, seeing there were two of them of like growth and grace, vigour and verdure. And so Abram says that it was quite unnecessary to have any quarrel over land and water in Shechem, inasmuch as both Lot and he had their choice of all the fields and wells of Palestine:—

"From Egypt's river to the north,

Where, like a glory, the broad sun

Hangs over sainted Lebanon;

Whose head in wint'ry grandeur towers,

And whitens with eternal state;

While summer, in a vale of flowers,

Lies sleeping rosy at our feet."

Avoid Contention! Gen . We say that it takes two to make a quarrel; and he who will not quarrel has the best of his adversary. Saul was anxious to pick a quarrel with David, but in vain. We all know who came off best in the end. Gotthold quaintly says, "It is not disgraceful to step aside when a great stone is rolling down the hill up which you are climbing, and let it rush past." He who provokes a quarrel sets the stone rolling, and he who steps aside to avoid it does not disgrace himself by so doing. When the Indian hurled his tomahawk unexpectedly in a moment of passion against the white man's breast, the surrounding red and white men did not think their white friend had incurred disgrace as, with astonishing agility, he stepped aside, caught the shining knife by its haft as it passed, and hurled it into the lake on whose borders they were standing. Abraham was no coward in disgrace when he avoided the contention as unseemly, untimely, and unnecessary.

"Where two dispute, if the one's anger rise,

The man who lets the contest fall is wise."—Plutarch.

Christian Contention! Gen . Fontaigne says that religious contention is the devil's harvest. And this is true, where the contention is unseemly, untimely, and unnecessary. But all religious contention is not the devil's harvest. To contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints is not doing Satan's work; but the contrary.

(1) To contend against the pirate seeking to plunder the English merchantman is not doing the pirate's work. To contend against the adversary who is eagerly endeavouring to sow tares in my wheat field is not doing the adversary's work. To contend against the wolf, which, arrayed in sheep's clothing, is seeking to enter in to the sheep-fold where the lambs are bleating safely, is not doing the wolf's work.

(2) When Noah, the preacher of righteousness, contended against his ungodly contemporaries, he was doing God's work. When Jeremiah, the melancholy seer of Jerusalem's overthrow, contended against the hireling shepherds of Jehoiakim's reign, he was doing God's work. When Paul withstood Peter at Antioch on the theme of circumcision, when John contended against prating Diotrephes, when Athanasius maintained the truth against Pelagius, when Cranmer and Luther struggled in conflict with the papal priests and princes, they were doing God's work.

(3) Only the contention must be conducted in method and manner, by mean and medium, with precept and principle, strictly Christian. There is, however, a happy contention. Lord Bacon says it is when churches and Christians contend, as the vine and olive, which of them shall bring forth the sweetest fruit to God's glory; not as the briar and thistle, which of them shall bear the sharpest thorns.

"Then every branch which from them springs,

In sacred beauty spreading wide,

As low it bends to bless the earth,

Shall plant another by its side."

Unselfishness! Gen .

(1) Two squatters, uncle and nephew, with their waggons and servants, were travelling in the Far West, in search of a new home. Suddenly they came upon a small but lonely savannah, through whose midst flowed a silver-threaded stream. The servants of the two soon proceeded from words to blows in disputing the possession. The uncle, in a generous disinterested spirit, gave his nephew the choice, and offered to take the adjoining portion of country, of a more wooded character.

(2) Two sons were left the sovereignty of an eastern kingdom by their father. The princely supporters of each disagreed on the division of the country, whereupon the elder, who could rightly have claimed the first choice, waived his right of primogeniture in favour of his younger brother. Less magnanimous than his brother, the younger prince chose the fairest and most prosperous half of the royal territory.

(3) When the herdsmen of Abram and Lot disputed over the wells of water it was Lot's duty to have said to his uncle Abram, "Take the richest land, the fairest pastures, the purest water-springs, and I will seek a home elsewhere." It was left to Abram to display the banner of unselfishness and generosity. So Abram travelled westward, while Lot went down towards the east, to live in the fair vale of Siddim.

"The truly generous is the truly wise;

And he who loves not others lives unblest."—Home.


Verses 10-13

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Jordan] The first reference to this river—the only one in the country which flows through the entire summer.—Plain of Jordan] Lit. the circle of Jordan—the environs. "He saw not, indeed, the tropical fertility and copious streams along its course. But he knew of its fame as the garden of Eden, as of the valley of the Nile. No crust of salt, no volcanic convulsions had as yet blasted its verdure, or touched the secure civilisation of the early Phœnician settlements which had struck root within its deep abyss" (Stanley).—Before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah] The face of the country was altered by the destruction of these cities.—Garden of the Lord] Heb. Garden of Jehovah, i.e., Eden.—Like the land of Egypt as thou comest unto Zoar] Houbigant translates, "Before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was all, as thou goest to Zoar, well watered, even as the garden of the Lord, and as the land of Egypt." The name of the city at this time was Bela, and was called Zoar by anticipation.—

Gen . Journeyed east] By this we might suppose that he took the "right hand," according to the offer (Gen 13:9); but the Hebrews, in naming the points of the compass, supposed the face to be turned towards sun-rising; and the right hand would be the south.—And they separated themselves one from the other] Heb. A man from his brother.—

Gen . Land of Canaan] That portion of Palestine between the Jordan and the Mediterranean sea, excluding the valley of the Jordan.—Pitched his tent toward Sodom] He advanced towards it till he came near, but was probably prevented from entering by the well-known character of its inhabitants.—

Gen . Wicked sinners before the Lord exceedingly] Onkelos reads, "But the men of Sodom were unrighteous with their riches, and most vile in their bodies before the Lord exceedingly."—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

A WORLDLY CHOICE

The character of Lot, though it has many faults, has a bright side. He was unquestionably a "righteous" man, in whom conscience had been awakened to a sense of what was pure and just, for he "was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked." He, too, had left his father's house, and clave to Abram in his faith during all their wanderings through the land, and in the journey to Egypt and the return. But Lot's besetting sin was worldliness. This great evil lies as a dark shade upon his character and spreads itself throughout the whole of his history. It is probable that the worldly spirit grew stronger within him during his sojourn amidst the luxury and pride of Egypt, for those forms of temptation are the most dangerous which answer to our dispositions. In accordance with the prevailing fault in his character we find that Lot makes a worldly choice. That such was its nature is clear from the following facts—

I. It was determined by external advantages. "He lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt" (Gen ). The beauty and luxuriance of the place have become proverbial. It drew together vast numbers of men who had grown rich upon its productions, and built themselves into prosperous nations. Here was a strong temptation to such a man as Lot, whose chief desire was to increase his wealth, little heeding how he might thereby place his spiritual character in peril. The best and purest motives were weak in him. He was guided by no spiritual principle, and therefore shaped his course by external advantages. Such conduct is condemned by religion.

1. External advantages are not the chief end of life. Lot was guided in his choice by the beauty of the country, the richness of the pasturage, and the prosperity of the inhabitants. It is not wrong to employ means for increasing our wealth, or to take delight in the natural beauties of the world. Religion does not oblige us to seek the leanest pastures and to content ourselves with desolation and barrenness. But when we make worldly profit, comfort, and external beauty our chief aim, we sin against God—we miss what is the great end of life. Wealth is not the one thing needful; and he cannot be a religious man who makes this his great aim in life, having no regard to what is of far higher importance, the peace of his conscience arising from a sense of duty done towards God and man. The chief end of life is to glorify God, and to prepare our souls for the future state. All else should be subordinated to this. We are placed here, not to serve our own selfish interests at any cost, but to do our duty and to look for our place and reward from God.

2. External advantages are not the true happiness of life. True happiness is the very life of life, which all human experience teaches us does not consist in the abundance of the things which a man possesseth. How many are unhappy in the midst of outward splendour and the means of enjoyment! Some faults of disposition, the selfishness which has grown up with increasing wealth, or a sad burden resting upon the conscience, have dulled all enjoyment, and things that were made to give delight languish in the eye. The greatest happiness in life is found in doing deeds of kindness and good will to others, and in serving God. He who, for the sake of growing rich, refuses to follow that course of life which is most in accordance with his natural ability and tastes, and where he could be most useful to his fellow-men, cannot expect to have any real happiness. He is out of frame with his circumstances, and true enjoyment is impossible. Peace of conscience, too, must be considered. If that makes a void in the heart, all the good things in this world cannot fill it up. How little does the true joy of life depend upon what is outward! Good men, even in the midst of privation and suffering, have felt a peace above all earthly dignities.

3. External advantages, when considered by themselves, tend to corrupt the soul. If we choose our path in life by these and not from higher motives, we nourish our selfishness, we weaken the moral principle, and our spiritual sensibility becomes dull. We come under the influence of a base materialism, which tends to efface the true glory of life and to degrade man to the level of the brute.

II. It was ungenerous. With a noble generosity, Abram offered to Lot his choice of the whole land. If Lot's finer feelings had not been blunted by his selfishness, he would have passed the compliment to Abram, and declined the offer. But he grasps eagerly at the chance of wealth. In his own opinion he may have regarded himself as a shrewd man, one who would not let the main chance slip out of any weak compliance with the claims of his moral nature. But it showed a mean spirit to take advantage thus of the generosity of a friend. There are many such who take delight in generous natures only for the sake of what they can gain. Lot ought to have caught the spirit of his kinsman, and to have answered in the same dignified and noble manner. But he had too mean a soul for this. Such selfish men are the most unsatisfactory of friends. They fail us in the hour of trial. Such intense worldliness unfits men for all the duties of friendship.

III. It showed too little regard for spiritual interests. "The men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." As this is mentioned in connection with Lot's choice, it is most likely that he was aware of the fact. The wickedness of this people was known to him, yet he determines to run the risk. The sins of the people of Sodom were of more than common vileness and grossness, and they were nourished to that moral rankness by the very luxuriance of the soil, which formed so attractive a feature in the eyes of Lot. The prophet Ezekiel tells us how the vices of Sodom were to be traced to three causes—"pride, fulness of head, and abundance of idleness" (Eze ). All these evils were fully known to Lot when he made his choice; yet, blinded by the love of gain, he rushed into their midst. How great the evil to which he was exposing himself!

1. The loss of religious privileges. No worship of God was established in Sodom. No faith which had any claim to be called a religion was possible in the midst of such sensuality. It was a dangerous experiment to enter a community having no religious privileges, and where there was not even the chance of introducing them. It must be a hardy plant of piety which can thrive in such a soil. Lot may have quieted his conscience by the thought that he could be a means of blessing to the inhabitants of Sodom. But his selfishness, which would only have been increased by his dwelling among such people, would have enfeebled every effort to do good. No man intent only on worldly gain can be a missionary.

2. The contagion of evil example. The moral atmosphere of Sodom was so tainted as to expose weak virtue to the risk of the foulest infection. Dangerous it was even to the strong. He who goes into such a society without a sufficient call of duty and great strength of principle, runs the risk of being himself turned to ungodliness.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . If Lot had possessed a higher moral instinct he would have replied to Abram's proposal at once. He would have no need to look round upon the land. His was the cautious deliberation of a selfish man, who was determined to secure his own profit.

Lot judged by sight and sense, according to the world's judgment. The worldly man is under the tyranny of appearances.

But how does young Lot conduct himself on this occasion? He did not, nor could he object to the generous proposal that was made to him; nor did he choose Abram's situation, which though lovely in the one to offer, would have been very unlovely in the other to have accepted. In the choice he made he appears to have regarded temporal advantages only, and entirely to have overlooked the danger of his situation with regard to religion. "He lifted up his eyes, and beheld a well-watered plain;" and on this he fixed his choice, though it led him to take up his abode in Sodom. He viewed it, as we should say, merely with a grazier's eye. He had better have been in a wilderness than there. Yet many professors of religion, in choosing situations for themselves, and for their children, continue to follow his example. We shall perceive in the sequel of this story what kind of harvest his well-watered plain produced him.—(Fuller.)

The grasping worldly spirit is associated with meanness of soul, which blunts the perceptions of moral beauty.

No outward conditions, however fair and promising, will prove a paradise for a man as long as he makes it his highest good to seek his own profit. Selfishness will at length eat out the very core of his happiness. There is only one supreme good for man. To remove from the region of the means of grace for the purpose of carrying God's truth to those who are in darkness is to be commended, and he who undertakes that work in a right spirit will find that God can make rivers to spring up in the desert. But he who wilfully leaves behind him the outward privileges of religion for the sake of gain exposes his soul to great peril. The loss of the outward ordinances of religion is not easily compensated.

He can hardly be supposed to have been ignorant of the character of the people of Sodom, for they declared their sin in the most open and unblushing manner, as if in defiance of heaven and earth; nor could he but have been aware of the tendency of evil communications to corrupt good manners. But as he seems to have left them without regret, so it would appear that he approached Sodom without fear. What benefits he was likely to lose—what dangers to incur by the step, seem not to have entered his mind. His earthly prosperity was all that engaged his thoughts, and whether the welfare of his soul was promoted or impeded he did not care. This conduct no one hesitates to condemn, yet how many are there that practically pursue the same heedless and perilous course in their great movements in life! With the single view of bettering their worldly condition they often turn their backs upon the means of grace, and, reckless of consequences, plant themselves and their families in places where Sabbaths and sanctuaries are unknown, and where they are constantly exposed to the most pernicious influences. Alas, at how dear a price are such worldly advantages purchased! Well will it be for them if their goodly plains and fields do not finally yield such a harvest of sorrow as was gathered by hapless Lot.—(Bush.)

In the most marked features of his sin, Lot is punished.

1. For his worldly-mindedness. He failed to gain that which he had set his heart on, for in the battle with the kings he suffered the loss of all his property. "They took Lot and his goods." In the destruction of Sodom he had to leave all behind, and to flee for his life.

2. For his ungenerous conduct towards Abram he is brought under frequent obligations to him. Abram rescued him from the captivity of war, and made intercession for the city where he dwelt. He was a friend to him in his poverty.

3. For his disregard of the interests of his soul, the tone of his religious character became lowered. His moral principle was weakened by the pernicious atmosphere of ungodliness around him. Both himself and his family followed religion with but a languid interest—with so weak a devotion that they were overmastered by the influences of the world. So it comes to pass that men are punished in those very things from which they expected the highest worldly advantage. This is the solemn irony of Providence.

The memory of the Garden of Eden had not yet perished from among men. All nations have had their traditions of a Golden Age, some lost Paradise.

Gen . The selfish spirit is prompt to secure its own ends. Lot begins to choose at once, and without delay proceeds to take possession of his rich portion.

How vile is the sin of covetousness, which so dulls the conscience as to permit a man to enjoy what he has gained by an ungracious action!

The words "all the plain" seem to hint at the grasping disposition of Lot. Nothing less than this will satisfy him. This lust of land, the inordinate desire to add "house to house and lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth," has given birth to deeds of tyranny and oppression.

It was better that Abram and Lot should part, for events were pointing to a possible separation in heart. It is well to secure peace, even at some pain and inconvenience to ourselves.

As nature, affection, religion, affliction, all conspired to unite them, no doubt the prospect of separation was a severe trial to the feelings of Abram; but it was a friendly parting, and whatever blank was made by it in his happiness, it was speedily and abundantly compensated by renewed manifestations of favour from that Almighty Friend "who sticketh closer than a brother."—(Bush).

Thus, for awhile, is the path of faith more lonely. The true believer is more than ever cast on God. The Lots "choose" according to the sight of their eyes, and so, by degrees, get from communion with the godly to communion with the godless. Unlike souls, sooner or later, must separate. If there be not one spirit, no bond or arrangement can keep men long together. Each is gravitating to his place by a law which none can gainsay—dust to dust, and the spirit to God who is a spirit. Let us not forget the steps of Lot. First "he saw;" then "he chose;" then "he journeyed from the east," like some before him; then "he pitched towards Sodom;" then "he dwelt there." In a word, he walked by sight, then by self-will, then away from the light, then towards the unclean world, at last to make his home in it. This is the path of Lots in every age. And such, though "righteous" and "saved," are only "saved so as by fire."—(Jukes: Types of Genesis.)

Gen . The children of faith are content with their promised portion. Their present temporal condition does not disturb their hope and confidence in God.

It is possible, after all, that Lot's principle fault lay in pitching his tent in the place he did. If he could have lived on the plain, and preserved a sufficient distance from that infamous place, there might have been nothing the matter; but perhaps he did not like to live alone, and therefore "dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent towards Sodom." The love of society, like all other natural principles, may prove a blessing or a curse; and we may see by this example the danger of leaving religious connections; for as man feels it not good to be alone, if he forego these, he will be in a manner impelled by his inclinations to take up with others of a contrary description.—(Fuller.)

He who sets his face towards the tents of sin will soon become the victim of the dangerous fascination of the enchanted ground, and unless the grace of God prevails over his weakness, be drawn onwards, step by step, to his destruction.

How dangerous it is to commit ourselves to a course of sin, even where the motions of it are scarcely perceptible! This is like venturing on the outer edge of the whirlpool, until we are carried faster and faster through the giddy round and at last swallowed up in the terrible vortex!

Now that the covenant head has fairly a footing in the promised land in his own covenant right, let us look back from this point at the covenant thread in the history of the nations and persons. We find the general table of nations in Genesis 10, leaving us with Shem's line, so as to trace the covenant lineage. And in Genesis 11 accordingly, after the narration of the event which led to the dispersion of nations and peopling of the earth, Shem's line is resumed so as to trace it to Terah, where we are introduced to Abram, the covenant head. Accordingly, of the sons of Terah, we find Lot and his posterity dropped, and Abram left alone in the list, as he in whom the promises descend—the conveyancer of blessings to all the nations.—(Jacobus.)

Gen . The greatest depravity is often found amongst the inhabitants of the most fertile lands. Such is the ingratitude of human nature that where the gifts of God are most lavish there men most forget Him.

It is one of the moral dangers of prosperity that men become so satisfied with this present world that they think they have no need of God.

We may purchase worldly prosperity too dearly.

1. If it nourishes our selfishness and pride.

2. If it deprives of the benefit of religious ordinances.

3. If it exposes us to the contagion of evil examples.

4. If the spirit of the world so increases upon us that we forget God and our duty.

As a bar of iron has its breaking strain, so for every man there is a certain strength of temptation which his moral nature is not able to withstand. It is dangerous for us willingly to expose ourselves to the power of evil acting with its greatest force.

The grace of God will support a man in the ordinary temptations of life, but to rush into the midst of the most tainted atmosphere of sin is daring presumption.

"Sinners before the Lord exceedingly." Men are to be estimated as they stand in the sight of God. Crime has reference to the evils inflicted upon society, but sin has reference to man's moral accountability to God.

The higher blessings of good society were wanting in the choice of Lot. It is probable he was a single man when he parted from Abram; and, therefore, that he married a woman of Sodom. He has in that case fallen into the snare of matching, or, at all events, mingling with the ungodly. This was the damning sin of the antediluvians (Gen ). Sinners before the Lord exceedingly. Their country was as the garden of the Lord. But the beauty of the landscape, and the superabundance of the luxuries it afforded, did not abate the sinful disposition of the inhabitants. Their moral corruption only broke forth into greater vileness of lust, and more daring defiance of heaven. They sinned exceedingly, and before the Lord. Lot has fallen into the very vortex of vice and blasphemy—(Murphy).

It is an awful character which is here given of Lot's new neighbours. All men are sinners; but they were "wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." When Abram went to a new place it was usual for him to rear an altar to the Lord; but there is no mention of anything like this when Lot settled in or near to Sodom—(Fuller).

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Abram and Lot! Gen . We have here—I. The Contention, which was

(1) unseemly,

(2) untimely, and

(3) unnecessary. II. The Consolation, which was

(1) unbounded,

(2) undoubted, and

(3) unearthly. Or, we have here—I. The Churlishness of the herdsmen. II. The Selfishness of Lot. III. The Unselfishness of Abram, and IV. The Graciousness of God. Or, we have here—I. The Return of Abram,

(1) forgiven and

(2) favoured. II. The Request of Abram,

(1) forbearing, and

(2) foregoing. III. The Reward of Abram (l) forgetting the earthly and

(2) foreshadowing the heavenly inheritance. The Lesson-Links or Truth-Thoughts are—

1. Wealth means

(1) strife,

(2) sorrow, and

(3) separation.

2. Abram manifests

(1) faith,

(2) forbearance, and

(3) forgetfulness of self.

3. Worldly love means

(1) stupidity,

(2) suffering, and

(3) sinfulness.

4. God manifests

(1) favour,

(2) fulness, and

(3) faithfulness to Abram.

"The pilgrim's step in vain,

Seeks Eden's sacred ground!

But in Hope's heav'nly joys again,

An Eden may be found."—Bowring.

Returns and Reviews! Gen .

(1) The poet has immortalised the Swiss patriot's sentiments on returning to the Alpine crags and peaks after strange and perilous experiences in exile. The historian has inscribed on the tablet of Church history the devout emotions of Arnaud on his return from danger and exile to the Vaudois Valleys. The litterateur has depicted on the page of his tale the joyful sensations of the emigrant, returning in safety and wealth to the home from which he had gone forth in peril and poverty.

(2) Abram had been driven by famine into the fruitful fields of Egypt, where he had narrowly escaped reaping death as the fruit of his fears and folly. God had in His wise and merciful Providence brought him back again to Hebron. He, therefore, calls on the name of the Lord. He, no doubt, received with thankfulness the Lord's intimations of mercy as connected with his previous sojourn; and he, doubtless, acknowledged with gratitude God's loving interposition with Pharaoh in his behalf.

(3) It is well to go back in review of old spots and past experiences in order to call up instrumentally thereby, says Doudney, the gracious acts, interposing goodness, and boundless benefits of our covenant-God in Christ. The light so shining upon the past prompts us to take down our harp from the willows, and to sing—

"His love in times past forbids me to think,

He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."

Flocks and Herds! Gen .

(1) In a very old Egyptian tomb near the Pyramids the flocks and herds of the principal occupant are pourtrayed. The numbers of them are told as 800 oxen, 200 cows, 2,000 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Job at first had 7,000 sheep, 500 yoke of oxen, 3,000 camels, etc. We can thus form some idea of the number and magnitude of the patriarchal flocks and herds.

(2) At the present day these are no exaggeration, however startling the figures sound. In an Australian sheep-run one grazier has nearly 20,000 sheep. Not long ago an American sheepowner had as many as 9,000 browsing on the heights of Omaha, so that when a traveller looked forth at daybreak the mountains seemed like waves of the sea. In Zululand the flocks and herds of Cetewayo were immense.

"Abram's well was fann'd by the breeze,

Whose murmur invited to sleep;

His altar was shaded with trees,

And his hills were white over with sheep."—Shenstone.

Patriarchal Wealth! Gen .

(1) Dr. Russell tells us that the people of Aleppo are supplied with the greater part of their butter, cheese, and flesh by the Arabs, Rushmans, or Turcomans, who travel about the country with their flocks and herds, as the patriarchs did of old. Before America became so thickly peopled, its primitive white patriarchs wandered with flocks over the richly-clothed savannahs and prairies. Having collected vast stores of cheese, honey, skins, etc., they would repair to the townships and dispose of them.

(2) The Hebrew patriarchs no doubt supplied the cities of Canaan in like manner. Hamor, in Gen , expressly speaks of the patriarchs thus trading with his princes and people. La Rogue says that in the time of Pliny the riches both of the Parthians and Romans were melted down by the Arabs, who thus amassed large treasures of the precious metals. This probably explains how Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver and gold. Not that Abram trusted in his riches.

"Oh! give me the riches that fade not, nor fly!

A treasure up yonder! a home in the sky!

Where beautiful things in their beauty still stay,

And where riches ne'er fly from the blessed away."—Hunter.

Communion! Gen .

(1) Watson says, that he knows of no pleasure so rich—no pleasure so hallowing in its influences, and no pleasure so constant in its supply of solace and strength, as that which springs from the true and spiritual worship of God. Pleasant as the cool water brooks are to a thirsty hart, so pleasant is it for the soul to live in communion with God.

(2) Rutherford wrote to his friend from the prison of Aberdeen, "The king dineth with his prisoners, and his spikenard casteth a smell; he hath led me to such a pitch and degree of joyful communion with himself as I never before knew." This reminds us of Trapp's quaint speech, that a good Christian is ever praying or praising: he drives a constant trade betwixt earth and heaven.

(3) Abram built his altar while the Canaanites looked on. He lifted up a testimony for God, and God honoured him; so that Abimelech was constrained to say, "God is with thee in all that thou doest." Reader, in Greenland, the salutation of a visitor, when the door is opened, is this, "Is God in this house?" Remember that the home which has no family altar has no Divine delight.

"'Tis that which makes my treasure,

'Tis that which brings my gain;

Converting woe to pleasure,

And reaping joy for pain."—Guyon.

Lot's Survey! Gen , etc.

(1) Apparently the two patriarchs stood on a lofty summit, from which a wide survey could be obtained. To the east, says Stanley, would rise in the foreground the jagged range of the hills above Jericho, and in the distance the dark wall of Moab. Between them would lie the Valley of the Jordan, its course marked by the tract of forest in which its rushing stream is enveloped. Down to this valley would be a long and deep ravine, the main line of communication by which it is approached from the central hills of Palestine—a ravine rich with wine, olive, and fig. In the south and west Lot's view would command a survey of the bleak hills of Judea, varied by the heights crowned with what were afterwards the cities of Benjamin.

(2) An American writer, anxious to give a local impression of Lot's prospect, says that it was like standing at the Catskill Mountain House, and looking down through a broad cleft in the hills to the Hudson Valley below. But there is one element to be introduced into the calculation, viz., the remarkable transparency of the Syrian sky. In that country the air is so exceedingly clear, the light so very bright, and the atmosphere is so free from vapours that the optic vision pierces a great distance with absolute ease. Thus Lot could see the whole country, as Moses afterwards did from Mount Pizgah.

"To Lot, who look'd from upper air,

O'er all th' enchanted regions there,

How beauteous must have been the glow,

The life, the sparkling far below."—Moore.

Lot Leaving! Gen .

(1) Of some of those who followed the Master whithersoever He went up and down Judea and Galilee, we know that it is written, they left Him, and went their way. It was with sad heart that the Apostle of the Gentiles announced the lapse of one of His chosen companions: "Demas hath forsaken me—having loved this present world." And it was with tear-filled eye that one of Europe's noble Reformers told to his flock that his trusted fellow-soldier had yielded to the attractions of wealth.

(2) Lot's first days were bright with hope, as the near kinsman of Abram. Together they left Chaldea,—entered Canaan. But though the school of piety, in which he was trained, was most pure, Lot went astray. Caring only about this world's wealth, Lot sees the lovely plains of Sodom, and decides to go away. Of him, the patriarch might sadly whisper to his own heart, "Lot hath forsaken me, having loved this present world."

"Seek not the world!

'Tis a vain show at best;

Bow not before its idol shrine; in God

Find thou thy joy and rest."—Bonar.

Lot's Lot! Gen .

(1) A rough shell may hold a pearl, remarks Law. There may be silver amongst much dross. Life may exist within the stem, when leaves are seared and branches dry. The spring may yet be deep, while waters trickle scantily. A spark may live beneath much rubbish.

(2) So many heirs of glory live ingloriously. Heaven is their purchased rest, but their footsteps seem to be downward. In their hearts there is incorruptible seed, but sorry weeds are intermixed. They are translated into the kingdom of grace, but still the flesh is weak.

(3) Such is the gloomy preface to Lot's story. Yet the Holy Spirit, who by the pen of Moses records his tottering walk, by Peter's lips announces him as "just." Thrice in short compass, a glorious title enshrines him among the saved. The voice of truth proclaims him righteous: 2Pe .

"For his clothing is the Sun—

The bright Sun of Righteousness;

He hath put salvation on—

Jesus is his beauteous dress."—Wesley.

Godless Gain! Gen .

(1) A godly man in a rural village in Suffolk, where for generations the people had been highly favoured with a succession of earnest "winners of souls" to Christ, tempted by the offer of higher wages and greater scope in London, left his home and took up his residence in an ungodly neighbourhood in the East-end. But the higher wages and greater scope were very quickly outweighed by the corruption of his children, etc.

(2) Even religious men, says Robertson, sometimes settle in a foreign country, notoriously licentious, merely that they may increase their wealth. But very soon they find to their cost that God has terrible modes of retribution. In the choice of homes, of friends, and in alliances, he who selects according to the desires of the flesh lays up in store for himself many troubles and anxieties. Such was Lot's experience.

(3) How frequently, remarks Blunt, have men found that their greatest disquietudes and troubles have been the fruits of their own selfish selectings. Often that "vale of Siddim," which they have most anxiously coveted, has been the wellspring from whence has flowed the bitter waters of sorrow and distress. Far better, if God tries us by putting a blank paper into our hands, to fill in our free choice, humbly refer the choice back to Him and say,

"Thy way, not mine, O Lord,

However dark it be;

Lead me by Thine own hand,

Choose out the path for me."—Bonar.


Verses 14-18

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . To thee will I give it, and to thy seed] Perhaps a better rendering would be, "To thee will I give it, even to thy seed." The Heb. particle translated "and" has frequently the signification of "even." 1Ch 21:12 : "The Lord's sword, and the pestilence," i.e., even the pestilence. It is certain that the promise was never fulfilled to Abram personally.—

Gen . Plain of Mamre] Heb. word denotes a tree or grove. Mamre is also a personal name (Gen 14:13)—a person described as an Amorite.—Which is in Hebron] The first mention of this name. It is one of the most ancient cities in the world. In Num 13:22 it is said to have been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. The ancient name was Kirjath-Arba. Here Sarah and Abraham died.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE SAINTS' COMFORT IN SOLITUDE

Abram and Lot, who had so long lived together in loving companionship, are now parted from each other. It was necessary that he to whom the promises were made should stand by himself, as the head of a race chosen of God to illustrate the ways of His providence and to be the channels of His grace to mankind. Human companionship would have been grateful to such a nature as Abram's, but now he must dwell alone. Such solitude has wonderful compensations.

I. The Divine voice is more distinctly heard. With his friend separated from him, and the painful memory of trials so lately endured, Abram stood in need of encouragement. This was graciously granted. God spoke to him, and showed him his large inheritance. God still speaks to the souls of men. Every strong conviction of the reality of eternal truths is a fresh communication of God to the soul. But in the crowded ways of life, with its distractions, the strife of tongues and tumult of the passions, God's voice is seldom heard. It is with us as it was with Abram. When all is taken from us and we are alone, then God draws near to us and speaks. We need this consolation.

1. To confirm our faith. Every grace of God in us must partake of our own imperfection, and we cannot expect that the grace of faith will prove an exception. All that we do, know, or feel must be tainted by our own earthliness. There are also grievous trials to faith, and when they press most heavily there is danger lest the soul should faint. We need the felt experience of a Presence greater than ourselves, and bidding us be of good cheer. Appearances often seem to be against us in this world until we are almost tempted to suspect that our very religion is a delusion. The facts of physical science have the advantage of verification. They can be assured as coming out clear from every fair trial. But in spiritual things we must venture much, and the effort of doing this sometimes severely taxes our strength. The sense of our own past failures oppresses us, lowers the tone of our spiritual life, and weakens the effort of our will. Therefore our faith needs frequent encouragement. God gave the life of faith at first, and His visitation is still needed to preserve it from destruction. Spiritual life, as the natural, draws breath in a suitable atmosphere. The loving presence of God is the very breath of our life. We must acknowledge the fact that the soul depends wholly upon God for its life. Again, it is necessary for us to hear God's voice speaking to the soul, because—

2. We require a renewed sense of the Divine approval. It is a gracious sign of His favour when God speaks loving words to our souls. It is the light of His countenance which is our true joy—the very life of our life. It is in this way—speaking in Bible language—that God "knoweth the righteous," or recognises them as His own. He knows their works, their struggles with temptation, their strong desire to do His will in the face of all difficulties. Though their obedience is imperfect He approves of them in the tenderness of His goodness, for they are true at heart. "He remembereth that they are dust." We need this renewed sense of the Divine approval, in order that we may justify to ourselves our conduct as spiritual men. On the strength of our belief in God we have committed ourselves to a new course of life. We have laid hold of certain truths, which, when they are really considered, impose upon us a kind of conduct different from the rest of mankind. We should be able to justify ourselves in the ways of our life, and this we can only do by assuring ourselves that we are well-pleasing to God.

3. We require comfort for the evils we have suffered on account of religion. It is true that like the angels we should do "all for love, and nothing for reward." This is the purest and noblest form of obedience. Still the approving love of God is in itself a reward, having infinite compensations. Our hearts would fail in the midst of the most exalted duty unless we were assured that our labour was not in vain in the Lord. Abram at this time needed strong consolation and the recompense of God's approving voice. He had yielded to Lot, apparently to his own disadvantage. He had been obliged to part from his friend, the loving companion of many years. One would expect to find him in great sorrow, but in the midst of it God appears and brings comfort. Thus our extremity is often God's opportunity for giving us special consolations. The darkest hour of our night is that just before the dawn of a day which brings us light, and peace, and prosperity.

II. The Divine promises are more clearly apprehended.—God spake to Abram in words which promised good things to come. He chose the time when the patriarch was alone. "And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." (Gen .) In like manner it is with us in our solitude, when the world is shut out and our souls commune with God.

1. We are more free to survey the greatness of our inheritance. Abram is commanded to look around him on every side, and even to walk through the length and breadth of the land that he might see how large was his inheritance. It is only when we realise God's presence, and His voice speaking within us, that we become really aware how goodly is our heritage and how pleasant is the land which God gives us to possess. In the great architectural works of man's skill, some composure of mind and intentness of vision are necessary to enable us to take in their true grandeur. That elevation of soul which God imparts when He appears and speaks gives us the power to see how great are His gifts, and to imagine what the reserves of His goodness must be.

2. We have an enhanced idea of the plentifulness of the Divine resources. This is the third occasion on which the Lord appeared to Abram, but it is the first time that it is distinctly promised that he himself is ultimately to possess the land. When the Lord first appeared to Abram, before he left the country of his fathers, he was assured that signal blessings were to be enjoyed by him, and that he was to be the channel of their conveyance to the rest of mankind. On his arrival in Canaan he is told that the land is to be given to his seed. Now, when God visits him for a third time, he is invested with the lordship of the land. The promise becomes clearer and more definite as time advances. It would seem—speaking after the manner of men—that God is never weary of showing Abram the land which He had made over to him as an inheritance. The good things which God promises cannot be taken in at one view. The riches of their glory are revealed in succession. They are from the fulness of God, but they can only be apprehended by us as we receive one degree of grace after another. What happened to Abram is illustrated in the case of every faithful believer. In the solitudes of our soul, when meditating upon God, His promises seem to multiply as we bring them to mind. They grow clearer, and evermore suggest to us higher and better things. In this, as in every grace of God, "To him that hath shall be given." Every promise realised is a pledge of greater good—the sure foundation of eternal riches.

III. We are led on to perceive the spiritual significance of life. The promises made to Abram seem to relate entirely to the present world. But, in this regard, they were never fulfilled. Abram, to the very end of his life, was a wanderer in Canaan. He possessed no part of it, except a place to bury his dead, and this he obtained by purchase. Thus he was led, by the disappointment of any earthly hopes he may have indulged in, to feel that the spiritual is the only reality. He "received not the promises," but by the discipline of Providence the conviction grew stronger from day to day within him, that God has better things in reserve for His children than this world can bestow. Life's hopes become delusive as we proceed, and this is intended to lead us to seek "the better country." If failure and disappointment here produce not that blessed result, we must become the victims of dark despair. As the promises which this life gave, and which we foolishly trusted, prove to be deceitful, we should feel that our true home is in heaven. There ruined hopes are repaired, and all things completed that concern our eternal good. Such is the spiritual education which the experience of human life imparts, if we only learn to interpret it by God's teaching. We have to acknowledge the fact that in this life we are the victims of delusions, which are only gradually cleared away as our higher faculties grow stronger and more enlightened.

1. Our senses deceive us. In early life we are under the tyranny of appearances. In the distant horizon the earth seems to touch the sky. Our world appears to be still, and the sun, moon, and stars to travel round it. The ideas which man in early ages had of external nature were only those of children. As we grow older, and become acquainted with the true principles of science, we learn to correct the reports of sense. We can only know the ultimate facts of nature through study and long observation. We have to get rid of many delusions and misconceptions before we can attain true science.

2. Our youthful hopes deceive us. Life promises much to the young. The future is bright and plentiful; but as life passes on, and the hard lessons of experience have to be learned, the pleasing dream vanishes. The world's happiness is seen to be unsubstantial, deceitful, and leading to no permanent good. Could the young fully realise how delusive life's promise is, that ghastly thought would take away all gladness from their hearts. Who, when life opens so full of promise before him, could live an hour, were the sad reality of things fully to come home to him! Thus God teaches us, by the experience of human life, that all real and enduring good is beyond and above us. Like Abram, we are led on, gradually and painfully it may be, to higher things. We are leaving what is unreal and shadowy for "a better and an enduring substance." We shall find in the end that all has failed with us, unless we have learned what is the spiritual significance of life, how we ought to employ it to glorify God and to prepare ourselves for all He shall unfold hereafter. Since the promises of life deceive us, let us learn that "there is nothing sure but heaven."

IV. The spirit of devotion is strengthened. "Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord" (Gen ). As he did at the first, so he does now. He is alone with God, and the spirit of devotion revives and increases.

1. When God speaks to the soul, our sense of reverence is deepened. When the world is shut out, and all other objects are cleared away and we are alone with God, then we feel true reverence before so great and holy a presence. We are powerfully affected by the thought of the majesty of God and the littleness of ourselves.

2. When God speaks, our sense of duty is deepened. The first duty of all is to adore and worship our God, to build the altar of consecration, and devote ourselves to His service. And this feeling is always strengthened when God appears to our souls. Worship becomes more pleasing and earnest work when we know that we are receiving good, and that the object of it is there to bless. When we are alone with God, it is then that we rise to the summits of devotion and discern somewhat of the glory of that land which God has promised, and which will remain sure to us though all else seem to fail.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . God is able to compensate His children for the loss of human companionship. His presence—always with them—is often most manifest when they are left alone.

Even so sweet a blessing as friendship has in it, like all other earthly good, an admixture of evil. The parting of friends is one of the sorrows of human life. Hence the importance of forming a friendship with God, whose love knows no change, and who cannot be severed from us. Abram was the friend of God; and now that he is left alone, the value of that sacred bond becomes more manifest.

Lot had "lifted up his eyes," but only to feed his covetousness. He sought eagerly the goodly land before him, determined to enjoy its plenty, and little caring how he exposed his soul to peril. Now, Abram is commanded to lift up his eyes upon a better inheritance, for God's blessing rested upon it, and it was the shadow and promise of higher things. "Thus he who sought this world, lost it; and he who was willing to give up anything for the honour of God and religion, found it."—(Fuller.)

Upon his withdrawment from Lot, the Lord again meets him in mercy, and renews to him His gracious covenant-promise. He bids him lift up his eyes and look around the whole horizon, surveying the land on the north and the south, on the east and the west, and then confirms to him and his posterity the gift of the whole as far as the eye could reach. How striking an instance this of the considerate kindness, of the recompensing mercy, of Him with whom we have to do. At the moment when Abram had been making the greatest sacrifices for peace, and demonstrating how loosely he sat by the richest earthly abundance compared with the desire of securing the Divine favour, the Most High visits him with a fresh manifestation of his favour, and comforts him with renewed assurances of his future inheritance.—(Bush.)

Abram could not with his outward eye see all the land which God was about to give him. He must complete the picture in his imagination, and from what he could see, reason to what he could not. So we can behold but a small portion of our vast inheritance of faith, yet still enough to enable us to divine what God hath prepared for them that love Him.

God says to every believer, "Look from the place where thou art."

1. We should not dwell despairingly upon our present losses and privations. We ought not to sorrow as men who have no hope.

2. We should look from that World which we must lose some day to that world which is sure, and abides for ever—Paradise. The golden age of humanity is not here, but is ever beyond and above us.

Now that Lot was separated from Abram, the covenant head stands alone, and in a position to be addressed and dealt with in his covenant relations. He is now parted from his kinsman, the companion of his journeyings, and, isolated in the world, he is to receive the special encouragement of his covenant God. Now he is formally constituted the rightful owner of the land, and inducted into the heritage. He is to make a full survey of the land in all directions, and he is assured that it is his to inherit, and a title deed is given to him for his seed for ever—(Jacobus).

Gen . The first promise relates to the person of Abram; in him and in his name are embraced all promised blessings. In the second a seed was more definitely promised to Abram, and also the land of Canaan for the seed. But here, in opposition to the narrow limits in which he is with his herds, and to the pre-occupation of the best parts of the land by Lot, there is promised to him the whole land in its extension, and to the boundless territory, an innumerable seed. It should be observed that the whole fulness of the Divine promise is first unreservedly declared to Abram after the separation from Lot. Lot has taken beforehand his part of the good things. His choice appears as a mild or partial example of the choice of Esau (the choice of the lentile-pottage)—(Lange).

Jehovah hath what He giveth; therefore He giveth freely, He cannot deceive.—(Hughes).

The heavenly Canaan is to believers not as wages for service they have rendered, but the gift of God. It is, strictly speaking, an inheritance which we have lawfully derived by reason of our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

The term "for ever," as applied to the land of Canaan, can only mean as long as the subject of it lasts. That must come to an end. But the Canaan above can have no end, for, unlike the earthly one, it is pure and unmixed good, and good is in its very nature eternal.

The reasoning of Paul respecting Abram's heavenly hope cannot possibly refer to anything short of the final and eternal inheritance of glory. To that, according to the Apostle—and to nothing short of that—did the patriarch look forward; certainly not to any merely temporary occupation of the land before the end of all things, nor to the possession of it, for a limited though protracted period, during the ages of millennial prosperity. The land of Canaan, and the earth of which it forms a part, may, for anything we can tell, be the local scene and seat of the inheritance that he means. The whole force of the Apostle's argument depends on the contrast which he draws between Abram's condition as a stranger and pilgrim in the land, and his condition as having an eternal abode in heaven. When he formerly dwelt in the land, he confessed that he was a stranger and pilgrim on the earth; so also did his sons, Isaac and Jacob.—(Chandlish.)

Gen . The spiritual purport of the promise is here further reached, in the innumerable seed. The literal increase is not excluded, but this was not all that was meant, else it would be of small moment comparatively. God does not so account of the mere earthly progeny. He rebuked their boast of being Abram's seed according to the flesh. But the spiritual posterity, and the true Israel, after the spirit, this was the grant here made of Abram. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abram's seed and heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:29.)—(Jacobus.)

Abram's household is smaller than it was at the first; he is old and childless, and yet he believes that his seed shall be as the dust of the earth.

This multitude of seed, even when we take the ordinary sense which the form of expression bears in popular use, far transcends the productive powers of the promised land in its utmost extent. Yet to Abram, who was accustomed to the petty tribes that then roved over the pastures of Mesopotamia and Palestine, this disproportion would not be apparent. A people who should fill the land of Canaan would seem to him innumerable. But we see that the promise begins already to enlarge itself beyond the bounds of the natural seed of Abram.—(Murphy.)

The multitude of the heirs of salvation must be great, for God will not allow the costly work of our redemption to end in an insignificant result. The fruits of grace must be on a scale with the Divine magnificence. The sons of glory will be many, even in the estimate of the Divine arithmetic. Hence, St. John saw in heaven "A multitude which no man could number."

Gen . God repeats His promises for the support of the faith of His servants.

We are bidden to survey the utmost dimensions of God's promises (Eph ).

It is permitted to us to see and enjoy some portion of our spiritual inheritance; yet this conveys no sufficient idea of its greatness. We have dim suggestions of what we shall be, but the full glory of it "doth not yet appear."

The largest latitude is thus allowed him, as the proprietor of the soil, to walk over the land in its utmost limits, at his own pleasure, and to call it all his own, and feel himself to be inducted thus, by the Divine grant, into the formal proprietorship of the whole country. And this grant of the earthly Canaan is typical of that higher heritage of the heavenly Canaan—the believer's land of promise. "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Heb ). "For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterwards have spoken of another day?" (Heb 4:8). And this is the better country, even an heavenly, which the covenant God of Abram promises to give to him personally.—(Jacobus.)

The promises of God to His children are so great that it seems to us impossible that they shall be fulfilled to us; and, indeed, it is one of the great trials of our faith to believe them. It is said that a certain beggar once made an application to Alexander the Great for alms. The king, upon hearing the request, gave two hundred talents of silver to his servant, and commanded him to convey them to the poor man. The beggar, astonished at so unexpected a charity, said, "Take it back and say, ‘this is too much for a beggar to receive.'" Whereupon Alexander said, "Tell him that if it is too much for a beggar to receive, it is not too much for a king to give." So when God gives He does not do it according to our narrow, niggardly notions, but He gives as a king, as one who is the proprietor of all kings.

What we can see with the spiritual eye we really possess.

Arise, walk through the land.

1. God allows His blessings to be put to the test of experiment. We can verify them one by one by observation and experience. We can feel and know.

2. God allows His blessings to become a vantage ground for faith. What He gives now promises to us higher and better things.

Gen . "Abram removed his tent." He is still a wanderer and pilgrim. Our human habitations are shifting, and there is only one certain dwelling place—our eternal home in heaven.

A third altar is here built by Abram. His wandering course requires a varying place of worship. It is the Omnipresent whom he adores. The previous visits of the Lord had completed the restoration of his inward peace, security, and liberty of access to God, which had been disturbed by his descent into Egypt, and the temptation that had overcome him there. He feels himself again at peace with God, and his fortitude is renewed. He grows in spiritual knowledge and practice under the great teacher.—(Murphy.)

Believers, wherever they go, should provide for the public and private worship of God. In this Abram showed himself "the father of the faithful." As it is a necessity of our physical nature that we should have some abode, so it is a necessity of our spiritual nature that we should find an abode for the Highest, a place where our own soul has a home, and where we feel the comforting presence of our God.

In all his wanderings through the world, and the varied scenes and changes through which he passes, the believer makes the worship of his God the first and last consideration.

Upon every remove, it is always recorded of Abram that he built an altar unto the Lord. Nothing could hinder him; not the fatigues and journeyings, the approach of age, the presence of enemies, the most difficult duties of life, nor the increase of his possessions. Nothing was allowed to interfere with his devotion to God. He kept up his correspondence with heaven.

Abram's altar was intended—

1. As a public profession of religion in the midst of enemies;

2. As a constant memorial of God's presence;

3. As a tribute of gratitude for His mercies;

4. As expressing a sense of obligation to His love, and a desire to enjoy His presence;

5. As a sign of his determination to be fully dedicated to God.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Abram and Lot! Gen . We have here—I. The Contention, which was

(1) unseemly,

(2) untimely, and

(3) unnecessary. II. The Consolation, which was

(1) unbounded,

(2) undoubted, and

(3) unearthly. Or, we have here—I. The Churlishness of the herdsmen. II. The Selfishness of Lot. III. The Unselfishness of Abram, and IV. The Graciousness of God. Or, we have here—I. The Return of Abram,

(1) forgiven and

(2) favoured. II. The Request of Abram,

(1) forbearing, and

(2) foregoing. III. The Reward of Abram (l) forgetting the earthly and

(2) foreshadowing the heavenly inheritance. The Lesson-Links or Truth-Thoughts are—

1. Wealth means

(1) strife,

(2) sorrow, and

(3) separation.

2. Abram manifests

(1) faith,

(2) forbearance, and

(3) forgetfulness of self.

3. Worldly love means

(1) stupidity,

(2) suffering, and

(3) sinfulness.

4. God manifests

(1) favour,

(2) fulness, and

(3) faithfulness to Abram.

"The pilgrim's step in vain,

Seeks Eden's sacred ground!

But in Hope's heav'nly joys again,

An Eden may be found."—Bowring.

Returns and Reviews! Gen .

(1) The poet has immortalised the Swiss patriot's sentiments on returning to the Alpine crags and peaks after strange and perilous experiences in exile. The historian has inscribed on the tablet of Church history the devout emotions of Arnaud on his return from danger and exile to the Vaudois Valleys. The litterateur has depicted on the page of his tale the joyful sensations of the emigrant, returning in safety and wealth to the home from which he had gone forth in peril and poverty.

(2) Abram had been driven by famine into the fruitful fields of Egypt, where he had narrowly escaped reaping death as the fruit of his fears and folly. God had in His wise and merciful Providence brought him back again to Hebron. He, therefore, calls on the name of the Lord. He, no doubt, received with thankfulness the Lord's intimations of mercy as connected with his previous sojourn; and he, doubtless, acknowledged with gratitude God's loving interposition with Pharaoh in his behalf.

(3) It is well to go back in review of old spots and past experiences in order to call up instrumentally thereby, says Doudney, the gracious acts, interposing goodness, and boundless benefits of our covenant-God in Christ. The light so shining upon the past prompts us to take down our harp from the willows, and to sing—

"His love in times past forbids me to think,

He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."

Flocks and Herds! Gen .

(1) In a very old Egyptian tomb near the Pyramids the flocks and herds of the principal occupant are pourtrayed. The numbers of them are told as 800 oxen, 200 cows, 2,000 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Job at first had 7,000 sheep, 500 yoke of oxen, 3,000 camels, etc. We can thus form some idea of the number and magnitude of the patriarchal flocks and herds.

(2) At the present day these are no exaggeration, however startling the figures sound. In an Australian sheep-run one grazier has nearly 20,000 sheep. Not long ago an American sheepowner had as many as 9,000 browsing on the heights of Omaha, so that when a traveller looked forth at daybreak the mountains seemed like waves of the sea. In Zululand the flocks and herds of Cetewayo were immense.

"Abram's well was fann'd by the breeze,

Whose murmur invited to sleep;

His altar was shaded with trees,

And his hills were white over with sheep."—Shenstone.

Patriarchal Wealth! Gen .

(1) Dr. Russell tells us that the people of Aleppo are supplied with the greater part of their butter, cheese, and flesh by the Arabs, Rushmans, or Turcomans, who travel about the country with their flocks and herds, as the patriarchs did of old. Before America became so thickly peopled, its primitive white patriarchs wandered with flocks over the richly-clothed savannahs and prairies. Having collected vast stores of cheese, honey, skins, etc., they would repair to the townships and dispose of them.

(2) The Hebrew patriarchs no doubt supplied the cities of Canaan in like manner. Hamor, in Gen , expressly speaks of the patriarchs thus trading with his princes and people. La Rogue says that in the time of Pliny the riches both of the Parthians and Romans were melted down by the Arabs, who thus amassed large treasures of the precious metals. This probably explains how Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver and gold. Not that Abram trusted in his riches.

"Oh! give me the riches that fade not, nor fly!

A treasure up yonder! a home in the sky!

Where beautiful things in their beauty still stay,

And where riches ne'er fly from the blessed away."—Hunter.

Communion! Gen .

(1) Watson says, that he knows of no pleasure so rich—no pleasure so hallowing in its influences, and no pleasure so constant in its supply of solace and strength, as that which springs from the true and spiritual worship of God. Pleasant as the cool water brooks are to a thirsty hart, so pleasant is it for the soul to live in communion with God.

(2) Rutherford wrote to his friend from the prison of Aberdeen, "The king dineth with his prisoners, and his spikenard casteth a smell; he hath led me to such a pitch and degree of joyful communion with himself as I never before knew." This reminds us of Trapp's quaint speech, that a good Christian is ever praying or praising: he drives a constant trade betwixt earth and heaven.

(3) Abram built his altar while the Canaanites looked on. He lifted up a testimony for God, and God honoured him; so that Abimelech was constrained to say, "God is with thee in all that thou doest." Reader, in Greenland, the salutation of a visitor, when the door is opened, is this, "Is God in this house?" Remember that the home which has no family altar has no Divine delight.

"'Tis that which makes my treasure,

'Tis that which brings my gain;

Converting woe to pleasure,

And reaping joy for pain."—Guyon.

God's Gift! Gen .

(1) It was a season of depression. One by one she had lost husband and children, save the youngest. Fondly had she nursed and nurtured him. Prayerfully had she trained and tended him. For years he had been her companion, and now earth's last link was broken. When budding into manhood he had been suddenly taken from her side into the eternal world. A sense of unutterable loneliness was creeping over her heart. One friend—one friend only—had she in the world; but that one friend was a friend indeed. Hastening to the desolate home, she ministered to the lonely and depressed heart—with almost angelic skill and sweetness winning back that heart to sweetness and cheerfulness.

(2) It was a time of depression to Abraham. Separated from country and kindred, he had but one link left to him of the chain of Mesopotamian associations. Now it had been snapped. Lot had gone forth to the plain of Sodom, and Abraham was alone. Sitting on the summit beside his altar and tent, beneath the shadow of Moreh's wide spreading oak, Abraham prays for strength. One friend—one friend only—had he in the world; but that friend was a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Jehovah-Jesus, whether in human form visibly or only to the inner consciousness we know not, appears, and ministers to him "God's Gift!"

"Thou whisperest some pleasant word,

I catch the much-loved tone;

I feel Thee near, my gracious Lord,

I know Thou keepest watch and ward,

And all my grief is gone."—Anon.

Godliness Gain! Gen , etc. A philosopher, on being pressed to embrace the promises of the Gospel, demurred on the ground that by professing Christ he would lose friends and fields. A Christian thereupon offered to give him on the spot a bond of security against all losses which he might incur by yielding to the Holy Spirit, and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as all his salvation and all his desire. Thus fortified against contingencies, the philosopher embraced Christianity, erected an altar in his family circle, and proclaimed himself a follower and servant of God. Years passed by, and the hour of the philosopher's departure for the eternal world drew near. Conscious that his days were numbered, he sent for the Christian, who had given him the bond, and tearing the paper in pieces, he died saying, "There is nothing for you to pay; for the Lord Jesus has made up to me an hundredfold for all I have ever suffered on His account."

"For men, scanning the surface, count the wicked happy,

Nor heed the compensating bliss which glad-deneth the good in his afflictions."—Tupper.

Christian Compensation! Gen , etc. Abram, walking by faith, receives the promise of an eternal inheritance—compensating for his self-sacrifice of worldly interest in favour of Lot. This is the third occasion of Messiah's appearance to him; but it is the first time we find explicit mention made of what he himself is ultimately to possess. At the first interview came the Gospel privilege of free justification, on the faith of which Abram starts on pilgrimage. On the second occasion, the patriarch is briefly told that the earthly Canaan is to be the portion of his natural posterity. But on this third manifestation of Himself the Lord Jesus favours Abram with a fuller and more express communication. He is to be "infefted" in the land, says Candlish. He is to take a survey of it—to make a measurement of it—to assume investiture in the lordship of it: "It is thine: to thee I give it." Yet it was not mere walking by sight over the earthly fields and pastures of Canaan, to which Abram was directed. He was to walk by faith up and down the heavenly plains and waters of Paradise, in the blessed hope and full assurance, of the resurrection of himself and his spiritual children to glory, and their full enjoyment of the everlasting inheritance of the saints in light. He was to survey—

"From every mountain's rugged peak,

The blessed land of rest;

And from its fields of fadeless bloom

Feel zephyrs laden with perfume,

Cheering his pilgrim breast."

Abram's Seed! Gen . Sitting one Sunday afternoon in the cosy parlour, warmed pleasantly by the winter's fire, were mother and two children. Before them was Bible Pictures and Poems. It lay open at Genesis 13, and the conversation flowed upon Abram and his little plot of land known as Palestine. The mother had just read Gen 13:16, when she was interrupted by her girl inquiring, in child-like curiosity, "Did Abram have so many children as that?" Speaking for the mother, it is well to notice that the prophecies of the Bible often have two or more meanings. This promise was true in two ways—

(1) after the flesh;

(2) after the spirit.

(1) Literally after the flesh there never lived a man, since the days of the heads of the human race, whose children made so many nations as those of Abraham. Limiting the promise even to Isaac, look around over the ages and countries of Christendom alone, and see what myriads upon myriads of children Isaac had.

(2) Metaphorically, after the spirit, there never lived a man whose children were so numerous. Christians—whether Jewish or Gentile converts—are the children of Abram according to the promise. If we be Christ's, says St. Paul, then are we Abram's seed and heirs according to the promise. Abram's seed during all the Christian centuries are to come from all Christian countries and sit down with him in the heavenly country.

"Now, o'er whose acres walk those blessed feet,

Which eighteen hundred years ago were nailed

For our advantage to earth's bitter cross?"

Divine Duty! Gen .

(1) Two men stood on a lofty slope in the West of England from which an extensive prospect of woodland and waterland presented itself. It was a charming scene, and the brilliant early summer sunshine added to the charm. The elder of the two was a wealthy merchant prince, who, wandering over seas and lands, had amassed wealth, and purchased the estates around. The lines on his face, the furrows on his brow, the far-away look in his eye, and the silver snows on his head, told that his pilgrimage could not be long. The younger one is his son, to whom he is saying, "Look around, these are thine; to thee and thy children I give them; go forth and survey them to thy heart's content, as their future, rightful owner." And the young man, with grateful heart, went hither and thither.

(2) So with Abram. He was to arise and walk through the length and breadth of the land. When the Lord Jesus appeared to him beneath the giant oak of Moreh, Abram was able to look round and behold a wonderful country, wonderful in its fairness, fertility, and figuration. That country was God's gift to him and to his children; and, as its rightful proprietor, he was to walk up and down in it, even as the squire, or nobleman, or prince surveys his wide domains from north to south, and east to west. Yet, after all, that land was itself a figure, and the gift itself a figure. To Abraham and his seed after the spirit was to be given a better country—the wide fair fields and fruits of Gospel grace, the vast rich dells and dales of moral blessing.

"Arrayed in beauteous green,

Its hills and valleys shine,

And to it Abraham is led

By Providence Divine."—Doddridge.

Hebron-Heights! Gen .

(1) It lies higher than any other city in Syria, wanting as it does but 500 feet of being as high as the snowclad summit of Snowdon in Wales. Thus, while it is far south and near the hot, dry desert airs, it is a region of refreshing coolness. Coming from Egypt towards Hebron, it certainly looks a lovely place. It lies in a long, narrow valley, full of vineyards and fruit-trees and gardens, with grey olive groves on the slope of the hills. The city was at the southern end of the valley; and near it, in Abram's day, was a grove of oaks belonging to one of the Canaanite inhabitants.

(2) Abram had before pitched his pilgrim-tent under the towering trunk of Moreh's oak—now he does so again. It may sound strange to us that Abram could thus enter and take possession of land so near a mighty city as Hebron. But at the present day, a Bedaween sheikh will bring his tribe and flocks into the immediate vicinity of a Syrian town, and make his pilgrim-home there for a time. Even in our own country, centuries ago, the Egyptian gipsies were free to enter upon lands, and pitch their moving tents or trucks near townships.

(3) Abram was a wealthy chieftain, with a tribal band of servants and followers, whose tents were scattered over the table-land above the valley of Hebron. His immense flocks and herds wandered over all the hill-sides, cropping the sweet wild thyme and browsing on the pastures which abounded there. The people of Hebron dealt more in mercantile pursuits; so that they were less likely to resent Abram's appearance.

By gentle rivers of refreshment oft

Abram wandering was led; and borne aloft

In arms that failed him not, still fondly watched

From hidden dangers and destruction snatched.

Abram's Oak! Gen .

(1) Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that in his day "Abram's Oak" stood. It is certain that an oak did stand about two miles from Hebron, on the undulating table land which stretches off from the top of the valley; but it is doubtful whether it really was the oak in Moreh. Under that tree Arabs, Jews, and Christians used to hold a fair every summer, and honour the tree by hanging their different pictures and images on it. The Emperor Constantine destroyed these symbols of tree-worship, but left the tree standing. It has long since gone.

(2) At the present day another oak is called "Abram's oak," but this cannot be more than one thousand years old. It is, however, a fine old tree, its branches giving a shadow ninety feet in diameter. It stands some distance up the valley, with nice clean grass underneath, and a well of water near. English and American tourists picnic beneath its shadow. Out of the joints of the stones there are the prettiest dainty little ferns growing.

"He sat him down beneath this tree, whose branches spread so fair,

And many a weary traveller found rest and refreshment there;

He showed the fount that flowed below, and parched lips on him smiled;

Men journeyed on and mutely blessed the patriarch of the wild."—Shipton.

Abram! Gen . The patriarch had his feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, and for an helmet the hope of salvation. Those who are his seed should imitate their father, by putting on what he has bequeathed as the family heir-looms, viz., the greaves and headpiece. The gospel of peace will prepare the children's feet as it prepared the father's, for walking as strangers, warring as soldiers, and suffering as pilgrims on earth. The hope of salvation will guard the children's heads, as it guarded their father's head from the assaults of the enemy. Raised erect above the smoke and din of this earthly scene, Abram's children, by faith in Christ Jesus, should fix their steadfast and ever-brightening gaze on the glory to be revealed, looking for that city which hath foundations, their inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

"When the shaded pilgrim-land

Fades before the closing eye,

Then, revealed on either hand,

Heaven's own scenery shall lie;

Then the veil of flesh shall fall,

Now concealing, darkening all."—Lange.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 13:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/genesis-13.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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