Are you a Christian?
NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FACEBOOK - GR FORUMS - GODRULES ON YOUTUBE
by A.W. Pink CONTENTS Introduction. 1. Creation and Restoration. 2. Christ in Genesis 1. 3. Two Trees. 4. The Fall. 5. The Fall, continued. 6. The Fall, concluded. 7. Cain and Abel. 8. Cain and Abel, continued. 9. Enoch. 10. Noah. 11. The Flood. 12. Noah a Type of Christ. 13. The Typology of the Ark. 14. God’s Covenant with Noah. 15. Noah’s Fall and Noah’s Prophecy 16. Nimrod and the Tower of Babel 17. The Call of Abraham. 18. Abraham and Lot. 19. Abraham and Melchizedek. 20. Abraham’s Vision. 21. Abraham and Hagar. 22. Abraham at Ninety and Nine. 23. Abraham at Gerar. 24. Abraham “the Father of us all”.. 25. The Birth of Isaac. 26. The Offering Up of Isaac. 27. The Man Isaac. 28. Isaac Blessing His Sons. 29. The Man Jacob. 30. Jacob at Padan-Aram. 31. Jacob at Padan-Aram, continued. 32. Jacob’s Departure from Haran. 33. Jacob at Mahanaim.. 34. Jacob at Peniel. 35. Jacob Meeting Esau. 36. Jacob at Bethel Again. 37. The Sunset of Jacob’s Life. 38. Jacob’s Prophecy. 39. Jacob’s Prophecy, continued. 40. Joseph As a Youth. 41. Joseph Betrayed by His Brethren. 42. Joseph in Egypt. 43. Joseph’s Exaltation. 44. Joseph the Savior of the World. 45. Joseph and His Brethren, Dispensationally Considered. 46. Joseph and His Brethren, Evangelically Considered.
INTRODUCTION Appropriately has Genesis been termed “the seed plot of the Bible,” for in it we have, in germ form, almost all of the great doctrines which are afterwards fully developed in the books of Scripture which follow.
In Genesis we have the first hint of the Blessed Trinity, of a plurality of Persons in the Godhead — “Let us make man in our image” ( Genesis 1:26).
In Genesis man is exhibited. First as the creature of God’s hands, then as a fallen and sinful being, and later as one who is brought back to God, finding grace in His sight ( Genesis 6:8), walking with God ( Genesis 6:9), made “the friend of God” ( James 2:23).
In Genesis the wiles of Satan are exposed. We “are not ignorant of his devices,” for here the Holy Spirit has fully uncovered them. The realm in which the arch-enemy works is not the moral but the spiritual. He calls into question the Word of God, casts doubt on its integrity, denies its veracity.
In Genesis the truth of salvation is typically displayed. Our fallen first parents are clothed by God Himself, clothed with skins: to procure those skins death had to come in, blood must be shed, the innocent was slain in the stead of the guilty. Only thus could man’s shame be covered, and only thus could the sinner be fitted to stand before the thrice holy God.
In Genesis the truth of justification by faith is first made known: “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” ( Genesis 15:6).
Abraham believed God: not Abraham obeyed God, or loved God, or served God; but Abraham believed God. And it was counted unto him for (not instead of, but unto) righteousness. Then, if righteousness was “counted” unto Abraham, he had none of his own. Believing God, righteousness was reckoned to Abraham’s account.
In Genesis the believer’s security is strikingly illustrated. The flood of Divine judgment descends on the earth, and swallows up all its guilty inhabitants. But Noah, who had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, was safely preserved in the ark, into which God had shut him.
In Genesis the truth of separation is clearly inculcated. Enoch’s lot was cast in days wherein evil abounded, but he lived apart from the world, walking with God. Abraham was called upon to separate himself from idolatrous Chaldea, and to step out upon the promises of God. Lot is held up before us as a solemn example of the direful consequences of being unequally yoked with unbelievers, and of having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
In Genesis God’s disciplinary chastisements upon an erring believer are portrayed. Jacob is the standing example of what happens to a child of God who walks after the flesh, instead of after the spirit. But in the end we are shown how Divine grace triumphs over human frailty.
Jacob, too, prays, and God hearkened.
In Genesis the saint’s rapture to heaven is vividly portrayed. Enoch, the man who walked with God, “was not,” for God had translated him. He did not pass through the portals of death. He was suddenly removed from these scenes of sin and suffering and transported into the realm of glory without seeing death.
In Genesis the divine incarnation is first declared. The Coming One was to be supernaturally begotten. He was to enter this world as none other ever did. He was to be the Son of Man, and yet have no human father. The One who should bruise the serpent’s head was to be the woman’s “Seed.”
In Genesis the death and resurrection of the Savior are strikingly foreshadowed. The ark, in which were preserved Noah and his family, were brought safely through the deluge of death on to the new earth. Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham, at the bidding of his father, is laid, unresistingly, on the altar, and from it Abraham “received him back as in a figure from the dead.”
In Genesis we also learn of the Savior’s coming exaltation. This is strikingly typified in the history of Joseph — the most complete of all the personal types of Christ — who, after a period of humiliation and suffering was exalted to be the governor over all Egypt. Jacob, too, on his deathbed, also declares of Shiloh that “unto him shall the gathering of the peoples be” ( Genesis 49:10).
In Genesis the priesthood of Christ is anticipated. The Lord Jesus is a Priest not of the Aaronic system, but “after the order of Melchzedek.” And it is in Genesis that this mysterious character, who received tithes from and blessed Abraham, is brought before our view.
In Genesis the coming Antichrist is announced, announced as “the seed of the serpent” ( Genesis 3:15). He is seen, too, foreshadowed in the person and history of Nimrod, the rebel against the Lord, the man who headed the first great federation in open opposition to the Most High.
In Genesis the wondrous future of Israel is made known. “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” ( Genesis 13:16). “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” ( Genesis 22:18).
In Genesis the judgment of God on the wicked is solemnly exhibited. Cain confesses his punishment is greater than he can bear. The flood comes on the world of the ungodly and sweeps them all away. Fire and brimstone descend on Sodom and Gomorrah, till naught but their ashes remain. Lot’s wife, for one act of disobedience, is turned into a pillar of salt.
What a marvelous proof is all this of the Divine Authorship! Who but the One who knows the end from the beginning, could have embodied, in germ form, what is afterwards expanded and amplified in the rest of the Bible?
What unequivocal demonstration that there was One superintending mind, directing the pens of all who wrote the later books of Holy Scripture! May the blessing of God rest upon us as we seek to enjoy some of the inexhaustible riches of this book of beginnings.
Arthur W. Pink. Swengel, Pa. 1. CREATION AND RESTORATION <010101> GENESIS The manner in which the Holy Scriptures open is worthy of their Divine Author. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and that is all that is here recorded concerning the original creation. Nothing is said which enables us to fix the date of their creation; nothing is revealed concerning their appearance or inhabitants; nothing is told us about the modus operandi of their Divine Architect. We do not know whether the primitive heaven and earth were created a few thousands, or many millions of years ago. We are not informed as to whether they were called into existence in a moment of time, or whether the process of their formation covered an interval of long ages. The bare fact is stated: “In the beginning God created,” and nothing is added to gratify the curious. The opening sentence of Holy Writ is not to be philosophized about, but is presented as a statement of truth to be received with unquestioning faith. “In the beginning God created.” No argument is entered into to prove the existence of God: instead, His existence is affirmed as a fact to be believed.
And yet, sufficient is expressed in this one brief sentence to expose every fallacy which man has invented concerning the Deity. This opening sentence of the Bible repudiates atheism, for it postulates the existence of God. It refutes materialism, for it distinguishes between God and His material creation. It abolishes pantheism, for it predicates that which necessitates a personal God. “In the beginning God created,” tells us that He was Himself before the beginning, and hence, Eternal. “In the beginning God created,” and that informs us he is a personal being, for an abstraction, an impersonal “first cause,” could not create. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and that argues He is infinite and omnipotent, for no finite being possesses the power to “create,” and none but an Omnipotent Being could create “the heaven and the earth.” “In the beginning God.” This is the foundation truth of all real theology.
God is the great Originator and Initiator. It is the ignoring of this which is the basic error in all human schemes. False systems of theology and philosophy begin with man, and seek to work up to God. But this is a turning of things upside down. We must, in all our thinking, begin with God, and work down to man. Again, this is true of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The Bible is couched in human language, it is addressed to human ears, it was written by human hands, but, in the beginning God “holy men of God spake, moved by the Holy Spirit” ( 2 Peter 1:21).
This is also true of salvation. In Eden, Adam sinned, and brought in death; but his Maker was not taken by surprise: in the beginning God had provided for just such an emergency, for, “the Lamb” was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” ( 1 Peter 1:20). This is also true of the new creation. The soul that is saved, repents, believes, and serves the Lord; but, in the beginning, God chose us in Christ ( Ephesians 1:4), and now, “we love Him, because He first loved us.” “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and we cannot but believe that these creations were worthy of Himself, that they reflected the perfections of their Maker, that they were exceedingly fair in their pristine beauty. Certainly, the earth, on the morning of its creation, must have been vastly different from its chaotic state as described in Genesis 1:2. “And the earth was without form and void” must refer to a condition of the earth much later than what is before us in the preceding verse. It is now over a hundred years ago since Dr. Chalmers called attention to the fact that the word “was” in Genesis 1:2 should be translated “became,” and that between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some terrible catastrophe must have intervened. That this catastrophe may have been connected with the apostasy of Satan, seems more than likely; that some catastrophe did occur is certain from Isaiah 45:18, which expressly declares that the earth was not created in the condition in which Genesis 1:2 views it.
What is found in the remainder of Genesis 1 refers not to the primitive creation but to the restoration of that which had fallen into ruins. Genesis 1:1 speaks of the original creation; Genesis 1:2 describes the then condition of the earth six days before Adam was called into existence. To what remote point in time Genesis 1:1 conducts us, or as to how long an interval passed before the earth “became” a ruin, we have no means of knowing; but if the surmises of geologists could be conclusively established there would be no conflict at all between the findings of science and the teaching of Scripture. The unknown interval between the first two verses of Genesis 1, is wide enough to embrace all the prehistoric ages which may have elapsed; but all that took place from Genesis 1:3 onwards transpired less than six thousand years ago. “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” ( Exodus 20:11).
There is a wide difference between “creating” and “making”: to “create” is to call into existence something out of nothing; to “make” is to form or fashion something out of materials already existing. A carpenter can “make” a chair out of wood, but he is quite unable to “create” the wood itself. “In the beginning (whenever that was) God created the heaven and the earth”; subsequently (after the primitive creation had become a ruin) “the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” This Exodus scripture settles the controversy which has been raised as to what kind of “days” are meant in Genesis 1, whether days of 24 hours, or protracted periods of time. In “six days,” that is, literal days of twenty-four hours duration, the Lord completed the work of restoring and refashioning that which some terrible catastrophe had blasted and plunged into chaos.
What follows in the remainder of Genesis 1 is to be regarded not as a poem, still less as an allegory, but as a literal, historical statement of Divine revelation. We have little patience with those who labor to show that the teaching of this chapter is in harmony with modern science — as well ask whether the celestial chronometer is in keeping with the timepiece at Greenwich. Rather must it be the part of scientists to bring their declarations into accord with the teaching of Genesis 1, if they are to receive the respect of the children of God. The faith of the Christian rests not in the wisdom of man, nor does it stand in any need of buttressing from scientific savants. The faith of the Christian rests upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture, and we need nothing more. Too often have Christian apologists deserted their proper ground. For instance: one of the ancient tablets of Assyria is deciphered, and then it is triumphantly announced that some statements found in the historical portions of the Old Testament have been confirmed. But that is only a turning of things upside down again. The Word of God needs no “confirming.” If the writing upon an Assyrian tablet agrees with what is recorded in Scripture, that confirms the historical accuracy of the Assyrian tablet; if it disagrees, that is proof positive that the Assyrian writer was at fault. In like manner, if the teachings of science square with Scripture, that goes to show the former are correct; if they conflict, that proves the postulates of science are false.
The man of the world, and the pseudo-scientist may sneer at our logic, but that only demonstrates the truth of God’s Word, which declares, “but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” ( 1 Corinthians 2:14).
Marvelously concise is what is found in Genesis 1. A single verse suffices to speak of the original creation of the heaven and the earth.
Another verse is all that is needed to ac-scribe the awful chaos into which the ruined earth was plunged. And less than thirty verses more tell of the six days’ work, during which the Lord “made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” Not all the combined skill of the greatest literary genuii, historians, poets, or philosophers this world has ever produced, could design a composition which began to equal Genesis 1. For reconditeness of theme, and yet simplicity of language; for comprehensiveness of scope, and yet terseness of expression; for scientific exactitude, and yet the avoidance of all technical terms; it is unrivalled, and nothing can be found in the whole realm of literature which can be compared with it for a moment. It stands in a class all by itself. If “brevity is the soul of wit” (i. e. wisdom) then the brevity of what is recorded in this opening chapter of the Bible evidences the divine wisdom of Him who inspired it. Contrast the labored formulae of the scientists, contrast the verbose writings of the poets, contrast the meaningless cosmogonies of the ancients and the foolish mythologies of the heathen, and the uniqueness of this Divine account of Creation and Restoration will at once appear. Every line of this opening chapter of Holy Writ has stamped across it the autograph of Deity.
Concerning the details of the six days’ work we cannot now say very much. The orderly manner in which God proceeded, the ease with which He accomplished His work, the excellency of that which was produced, and the sire-plicity of the narrative, at once impress the reader. Out of the chaos was brought the “cosmos,” which signifies order, arrangement, beauty; out of the waters emerged the earth; a scene of desolation, darkness and death, was transformed into one of light, life, and fertility, so that at the end all was pronounced “very good.” Observe that here is to be found the first Divine Decalogue: ten times we read, “and God said, let there be,” etc. ( vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 14, 20, 24, 26, 30), which may be termed the Ten Commandments of Creation.
In the Hebrew there are just seven words in the opening verse of Genesis 1, and these are composed of twenty-eight letters, which is 7 multiplied by 4. Seven is the number of perfection, and four of creation, hence, we learn that the primary creation was perfect as it left its Maker’s hands. it is equally significant that there were seven distinct stages in God’s work of restoring the earth:
First , there was the activity of the Holy Spirit ( Genesis 1:2); Second , the calling of light into existence ( Genesis 1:3); Third , the making of the firmament ( Genesis 1:6-9); Fourth , the clothing of the earth with vegetation ( Genesis 1:11); Fifth , the making and arranging of the heavenly bodies ( Genesis 1:14-18); Sixth , the storing of the waters ( Genesis 1:20-21); Seventh , the stocking of the earth ( Genesis 1:24).
The perfection of God’s handiwork is further made to appear in the seven times the word “good” occurs here — vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31 — also the word “made” is found seven times in this section — Genesis 1:7,16,25,26,31; 2:2, 3. Seven times “heaven” is mentioned in this chapter — vv. 1, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20. And, it may be added, that “God” Himself is referred to in this opening section ( Genesis 1:1 - 2:4) thirty-five times, which is 7 multiplied by 5. Thus the seal of perfection is stamped upon everything God here did and made.
Turning from the literal meaning of what is before us in this opening chapter of Holy Writ, we would dwell now upon that which has often been pointed out by others, namely, the typical significance of these verses. The order followed by God in re-constructing the old creation is the same which obtains in connection with the new creation, and in a remarkable manner the one is here made to foreshadow the other. The early history of this earth corresponds with the spiritual history of the believer in Christ.
What occurred in connection with the world of old, finds its counterpart in the regenerated man. It is this line of truth which will now engage our attention. 1. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” As we have already observed, the original condition of this primary creation was vastly different from the state in which we view it in the next verse. Coming fresh from the hands of their Creator, the heaven and the earth must have presented a scene of unequalled freshness and beauty. No groans of suffering were heard to mar the harmony of the song of “the morning stars” as they sang together ( Job 38:7). No worm of corruption was there to defile the perfections of the Creator’s handiwork. No iniquitous rebel was there to challenge the supremacy of God. And no death shades were there to spread the spirit of gloom. God reigned supreme, without a rival, and everything was very good.
So, too, in the beginning of this world’s history, God also created man, and vastly different was his original state from that into which he subsequently fell. Made in the image and likeness of God, provided with a helpmate, placed in a small garden of delights, given dominion over all the lower orders of creation, “blessed” by His Maker, bidden to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and included in that which God pronounced “very good,” Adam had all that heart could desire. Behind him was no sinful heredity, within him was no deceitful and wicked heart, upon him were no marks of corruption, and around him were no signs of death.
Together with his helpmate, in fellowship with his Maker, there was everything to make him happy and contented. 2. “And the earth became without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Some fearful catastrophe must have occurred. Sin had dared to raise its horrid head against God, and with sin came death and all its attendant evils. The fair handiwork of the Creator was blasted. That which at first was so fair was now marred, and what was very good became very evil. The light was quenched, and the earth was submerged beneath the waters of judgment. That which was perfect in the beginning became a ruin, and darkness abode upon the face of the deep. Profoundly mysterious is this, and unspeakably tragic. A greater contrast than what is presented in the first two verses of Genesis 1 can hardly be conceived.
No less tragic was that which befell the first man. Like the original earth before him, Adam remained not in his primitive state. A dreadful catastrophe occurred. Description of this is given in Genesis 3. By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin. The spirit of insubordination possessed him; he rebelled against his Maker; he ate of the forbidden fruit; and terrible were the consequences which followed. The fair handiwork of the Creator was blasted. Where before there was blessing, there now descended the curse. Into a scene of life and joy, entered death and sorrow.
That which at the first was “very good,” became very evil. Just as the primitive earth before him, so man became a wreck and a ruin. He was submerged in evil and enveloped in darkness. Unspeakably tragic was this, but the truth of it is verified in the heart of every descendant of Adam. “There was, then, a primary creation, afterward a fall; first, ‘heaven and earth,’ in due order, then earth without a heaven — in darkness, and buried under a ‘deep’ of salt and barren and restless waters. What a picture of man’s condition, as fallen away from God! How complete the confusion!
How profound the darkness! How deep the restless waves of passion roll over the wreck of what was once so fair! ‘The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt’“ (F. W.
Here, then, is the key to human destiny. Here is the cause of all the suffering and sorrow which is in the world. Here is the explanation of human depravity. Man is not now as God created him. God made man “upright” ( Ecclesiastes 7:9), but he continued not thus. God faithfully warned man that if he ate of the forbidden fruit he should surely die. And die he did, spiritually. Man is, henceforth, a fallen creature. He is born into this world “alienated from the life of God” ( Ephesians 4:18). He was born into this world with a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” ( Jeremiah 17:9). This is the heritage of The Fall.
This is the entail of Adam’s transgression. Man is a ruined creature, and “darkness,” moral and spiritual, rents upon the face of his understanding. ( Ephesians 4:18). 3. “And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Here is where hope begins to dawn. God did not abandon the primitive earth, which had become a ruin. It would not have been surprising, though, if He had. Why should God trouble any further about that which lay under His righteous judgment? Why should He condescend to notice that which was now a desolate waste? Why, indeed. But here was where sovereign mercy intervened. He had gracious designs toward that formless void. He purposed to resurrect it, restore it, refructify it. And the first thing we read of in bringing about this desired end was, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” There was Divine activity. There was a movement on the part of the Holy Spirit. And this was a prime necessity. How could the earth resurrect itself? How could that which lay under the righteous judgment of God bring itself into the place of blessing? How could darkness transform itself into life? In the very nature of the case it could not. The ruined creation was helpless. If there was to be restoration, and a new creation, Divine power must intervene, the Spirit of God must “move.”
The analogy holds good in the spiritual realm. Fallen man had no more claim upon God’s notice than had the desolated primitive earth. When Adam rebelled against his Maker, he merited naught but unsparing judgment at His hands, and if God was inclined to have any further regard for him, it was due alone to sovereign mercy. What wonder if God had left man to the doom he so richly deserved! But no. God had designs of grace toward him. From the wreck and ruin of fallen humanity, God purposed to bring forth a “new creation.” Out of the death of sin, God is now bringing on to resurrection ground all who are united to Christ His Son. And the first thing in bringing this about is the activity of the Holy Spirit. And this, again, is a prime necessity. Fallen man, in himself, is as helpless as was the fallen earth. The sinner can no more regenerate himself than could the ruined earth lift itself out of the deep which rested upon it. The new creation, like the restoration of the material creation, must be accomplished by God Himself. 4. “And God said, let there be light, and there was light.” First the activity of the Holy Spirit and now the spoken Word. No less than ten times in this chapter do we read “and God said.” God might have refashioned and refurnished the earth without speaking at all, but He did not. Instead, He plainly intimated from the beginning, that His purpose was to be worked out and His counsels accomplished by the Word. The first thing God said was, “Let there be light,” and we read, “There was light.” Light, then, came in, was produced by, the Word. And then we are told, “God saw the light, that it was good.”
It is by these the man in Christ became a new creation. And the initial step toward this was the entrance of light into the darkness. The entrance of sin has blinded the eyes of man’s heart and has darkened his understanding. So much so that, left to himself, man is unable to perceive the awfulness of his condition, the condemnation which rests upon him, or the peril in which he stands. Unable to see his urgent need of a Savior, he is, spiritually, in total darkness. And neither the affections of his heart, the reasonings of his mind, nor the power of his will, can dissipate this awful darkness. Light comes to the sinner through the Word applied by the Spirit. As it is written, “the entrance of Thy words giveth light” ( <19B9130> Psalm 119:130).
This marks the initial step of God’s work in the soul. Just as the shining of the light in Genesis I made manifest the desolation upon which it shone, so the entrance of God’s Word into the human heart reveals the awful ruin which sin has wrought. 5. “And God divided the light from the darkness.” Hebrews 4:12 tells us, the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This is not a figurative expression but, we believe, a statement of literal fact. Man is a tripartite being, made up of “spirit and soul and body” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The late Dr. Pierson distinguished between them thus: “The spirit is capable of God-consciousness; the soul is the seat of self-consciousness; the body of sense-consciousness.’’ In the day that Adam sinned, he died spiritually. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body; spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. When Adam died, his spirit was not annihilated, but it was “alienated” from God. There was a fall. The spirit, the highest part of Adam’s complex being, no longer dominated; instead, it was degraded, it fell to the level of the soul, and ceased to function separately. Hence, today, the unregenerate man is dominated by his soul, which is the seat of lust, passion, emotion. But in the work of regeneration, the Word of God “pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” and the spirit is rescued from the lower level to which it has fallen, being brought back again into communion with God. The “spirit” being that part of man which is capable of communion with God, is light; the “soul” when it is not dominated and regulated by the spirit is in darkness, hence, in that part of the six days’ work of restoration which adumbrated the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, we read, “And God divided the light from the darkness.” 6. “And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters .... and God called the firmament heaven” ( Genesis 1:6,8). This brings us to the second days work, and here, for the first time, we read that “God made” something ( Genesis 1:7). This was the formation of the atmospheric heaven, the “firmament,” named by God “heaven.” That which corresponds to this in the new creation, is the impartation of a new nature. The one who is “born of the Spirit” becomes a “partaker of the Divine nature” ( 2 Peter 1:4).
Regeneration is not the improvement of the flesh, or the cultivation of the old nature; it is the reception of an altogether new and heavenly nature. It is important to note that the “firmament” was produced by the Word, for, again we read, “And God said.” So it is by the written Word of God that the new birth is produced, “Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth” ( James 1:18).
And again, “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God” ( 1 Peter 1:23). 7. “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God said.
These verses bring before us God’s work on the third day, and in harmony with the meaning of this numeral we find that which clearly speaks of resurrection. The earth was raised out of the waters which had submerged it, and then it was clothed with vegetation. Where before there was only desolation and death, life and fertility now appeared. So it is in regeneration. The one who was dead in trespasses and sins, has been raised to walk in newness of life. The one who was by the old creation “in Adam,” is now by new creation “in Christ.” The one who before produced nothing but dead works, is now fitted to bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
And here we must conclude. Much has been left untouched, but sufficient has been said, we trust, to show that the order followed by God in the six days’ work of restoration, foreshadowed His work of grace in the new creation: that which He did of old in the material world, typified His present work in the spiritual realm. Every stage was accomplished by the putting forth of Divine power, and everything was produced by the operation of His Word. May writer and reader be more and more subject to that Word, and then shall we be pleasing to Him and fruitful in His service. 2. CHRIST IN GENESIS In our first meditation upon this wonderful book of beginnings we pointed out some of the striking analogies which exist between the order followed by God in His work of creation and His method of procedure in the “new creation,’’ the spiritual creation in the believer. First, there was darkness, then the action of the Holy Spirit, then the word of power going forth, and then light as the result, and later resurrection and fruit. There is also a striking fore-shadowment of God’s great dispensational dealings with our race, in this record of His work in the six days, but as this has already received attention from more capable pens than ours, we pass on to still another application of this scripture. There is much concerning Christ in this first chapter of Genesis if only we have eyes to see, and it is the typical application of Genesis 1 to Christ and His work we would here direct attention.
Christ is the key which unlocks the golden doors into the temple of Divine truth. “Search the Scriptures,” is His command, “for they are they which testify of Me.” And again, He declares, “In the volume of the Book it is written of Me.” In every section of the written Word the Personal Word is enshrined — in Genesis as much as in Matthew. And we would now submit that on the frontispiece of Divine Revelation we have a typical programme of the entire Work of Redemption.
In the opening statements of this chapter we discover, in type, the great need of Redemption. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This carries us back to the primal creation which, like everything else that comes from the hand of God, must have been perfect, beautiful, glorious. Such also was the original condition of man. Made in the image of his Creator, endowed with the breath of Elohim, he was pronounced “very good.”
But the next words present a very different picture — “And the earth was without form and void,” or, as the original Hebrew might be more literally translated, “The earth became a ruin.” Between the first two verses in Genesis 1 a terrible calamity occurred. Sin entered the universe. The heart of the mightiest of all God’s creatures was filled with pride — Satan had dared to oppose the will of the Almighty. The dire effects of his fall reached to our earth, and what was originally created by God fair and beautiful, became a ruin. Again we see in this a striking analogy to the history of man. He too fell. He also became a ruin. The effects of his sin likewise reached beyond himself — the generations of an unborn humanity being curst as the result of the sin of our first parents. “And darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Darkness is the opposite of light. God is light. Darkness is the emblem of Satan. Well do these words describe the natural condition of our fallen race. Judicially separated from God, morally and spiritually blind, experimentally the slaves of Satan, an awful pall of darkness rests upon the entire mass of an unregenerate humanity. But this only furnishes a black background upon which can be displayed the glories of Divine Grace. “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” The method of this “abounding of grace” is, in type, outlined in God’s work during the six days. In the work of the first four days we have a most remarkable foreshadowment of the four great stages in the Work of Redemption. We cannot now do much more than call attention to the outlines of this marvellous primitive picture. But as we approach it, to gaze upon it in awe and wonderment, may the Spirit of God take of the things of Christ and show them unto us.
I. IN THE FIRST DAY’S WORK THE DIVINE INCARNATION IS TYPICALLY SET FORTH.
If fallen and sinful men are to be reconciled to the thrice holy God what must be done? How can the infinite chasm separating Deity from humanity be bridged? What ladder shall be able to rest here upon earth and yet reach right into heaven itself? Only one answer is possible to these questions. The initial step in the work of human redemption must be the Incarnation of Deity. Of necessity this must be the starting point. The Word must become flesh. God Himself must come right down to the very pit where a ruined humanity helplessly lies, if it is ever to be lifted out of the miry clay and transported to heavenly places. The Son of God must take upon Himself the form of a servant and be made in the likeness of men.
First , there is the work of the Holy Spirit. “And the Spirit of God moved (Hebrews ‘brooded’) upon the face of the waters” (verse 2). So also was this the order in the Divine Incarnation. Concerning the mother of the Savior we read, “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” ( Luke 1:35).
Second , the word issues forth as light. “And God said (the word) let there be light and there was light” (verse 3). So also as soon as Mary brings forth the Holy Child “The glory of the Lord shone round about” the shepherds on Bethlehem’s plains ( Luke 2:9). And when He is presented in the temple, Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to say, “For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
Third , the light is approved by God. “And God saw the light, that it was good” (verse 4). We cannot now enlarge much upon the deep typical import of this statement, but would remark in passing that the Hebrew word here translated “good” is also in ( Ecclesiastes 3:11) rendered “beautiful” — “He hath made everything beautiful in his time.” God saw that the light was good, beautiful! How obvious is the application to our incarnate Lord! After His advent into this world we are told that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” ( Luke 2:52), and the first words of the Father concerning Him were, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Yes, good and beautiful was the light in the sight of the Father. How blind was man that he should see in Him no beauty that he should desire Him!
Fourth , the light was separated from the darkness. “And God divided the light from the darkness” (verse 4). How jealously did the Holy Spirit guard the types! How careful is He to call our attention to the immeasurable difference between the Son of Man and the sons of men! Though in His infinite condescension He saw fit to share our humanity, yet He shared not our depravity. The light of Christ was divided from the darkness (fallen humanity). “For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” ( Hebrews 7:26).
Fifth , the light was named by God. “And God called the light Day” (verse 5). So also was it with Him who is the Light of the world. It was not left to Joseph and Mary to select the name for the Holy Child. Of old the prophet had declared, “Listen, O isles unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; the Lord hath called Me from the womb; from the bowels of My mother hath He made mention of My name” ( Isaiah 49:1).
And in fulfillment thereof, while yet in His mother’s womb, an angel is sent by God to Joseph, saying, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus.” 2. IN THE SECOND DAY’S WORK THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS TYPICALLY SET FORTH.
What was the next thing necessary in the accomplishment of the Work of Redemption? The Incarnation by itself would not meet our need. s“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” ( John 12:24).
The Incarnate Christ reveals the spotless and perfect life which alone meets the Divine mind, but it helps not to bridge the awful gulf between a holy God and a ruined sinner. For this, sin must put away, and that cannot be done except death comes in. “For without shedding of blood is no remission.” The Lamb of God must be slain. The Holy One must lay down His life. The Cross is the only place where the righteous claims of God’s throne can be met.
And in the second day’s work this second step in the accomplishment of human redemption is typically set forth. The prominent thing in this second day’s work is division, separation, isolation. “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (verses 6-7).
It is striking to note here that there is a twofold division. First there is a firmament in the midst of the waters and this firmament divides the waters from the waters, and secondly, the firmament divided the waters which were under it from those which were above it. We believe that the “firmament” here typifies the Cross, and sets forth its twofold aspect. There our blessed Lord was divided or separated from God Himself — “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”; and there also He was separated from man “Cut off out of the land of the living.”
That the “firmament” here does foreshadow the Cross seems to be clearly borne out by the marvellous analogy between what is here told us concerning it and its typical agreement with the Cross of Christ. Observe four things.
First , the firmament was purposed by God before it was actually made. In verse 6 it reads, “And God said let there be a firmament,” and in verse 7, “And God made the firmament.” How perfect is the agreement between type and antitype! Long, long before the Cross was erected on Golgotha’s heights, it was purposed by God. Christ was “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” ( Revelation 13:8).
Second , the firmament was set in the midst of the waters. It is well known to Bible students that in Scripture “waters” symbolize peoples, nations (cf. Revelation 17:15). In its typical application then, these words would seem to signify, “Let there be a Cross in the midst of the peoples.”
Manifold are the applications suggested by these words. Accurate beyond degree is the type. Our minds immediately turn to the words, “They crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” ( John 19:18). The geographical situation of Calvary is likewise a fulfillment: Palestine being practically the center or midst of the earth.
Third , the firmament divided the waters. So the Cross has divided the “peoples.” The Cross of Christ is the great divider of mankind. So it was historically, for it divided the believing thief from the impotent thief. So it has been ever since, and so it is today. On the one hand, “The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish, foolishness,” but on the other, “unto us which are saved, it is the power of God” ( 1 Corinthians 1:18).
Fourth , the firmament was designed by God. “And God made the firmament.” So was it announced on the Day of Pentecost concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” ( Acts 2:23). So was it declared of old, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.” The Cross was of Divine design and appointment.
Is it not also deeply significant that the words, “And God saw that it was good” are omitted at the close of this second day’s work? Had they been included here the type would have been marred. The second day’s work pointed forward to the Cross, and at the Cross God was dealing with sin.
There His wrath was being expended on the Just One who was dying for the unjust. Though He was without any sin, yet was He “made sin for us” and dealt with accordingly. Does not then the omission here of the usual expression “God saw that it was good” assume a deeper significance than has been hitherto allowed. 3. IN THE THIRD DAY’S WORK OUR LORD’S RESURRECTION IS TYPICALLY SET FORTH.
Our article has already exceeded the limits we originally designed, so perforce, we must abbreviate.
The third thing necessary in the accomplishment of the Work of Redemption was the Resurrection of the Crucified One. A dead Savior could not save anyone. “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him”; Why? “Seeing He ever liveth” ( Hebrews 7:25).
Thus it is in our type. Beyond doubt, that which is foreshadowed on the third day’s work is resurrection. It is in the record concerning this third day that we read “Let the dry land appear” (verse 9). Previously the earth had been submerged, buried beneath the waters. But now the land is raised above the level of the seas; there is resurrection, the earth appears. But this is not all. In verse 11 we read, “And let the earth bring forth grass, etc.”
Hitherto death had reigned supreme. No life appeared upon the surface of the ruined earth. But on the third day the earth is commanded to “bring forth.” Not on the second, not on the fourth, but on the third day was life seen upon the barren earth! Perfect is the type for all who have eyes to see.
Wonderfully pregnant are the words, “Let the earth bring forth” to all who have ears to hear. It was on the third day that our Lord rose again from the dead “according to the Scriptures.” According to what Scriptures? Do we not have in these 9th and 11th verses of Genesis 1 the first of these scriptures, as well as the primitive picture of our Lord’s Resurrection! 4. IN THE FOURTH DAY’S WORK OUR LORD’S ASCENSION IS TYPICALLY SUGGESTED.
The Resurrection did not complete our Lord’s redemption work. In order for that He must enter the Heavenly Place not made with hands. He must take His seat on the right hand of the Majesty on high. He must go “into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us” ( Hebrews 9:24).
Once more we find the type corresponds with the Anti-type. In the fourth day’s work our eyes are removed from the earth and all its affairs and are turned to the heavens! (See verses 14-19). As we read these verses and gather something of their typical import, do we not hear the Holy Spirit saying, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” ( Colossians 3:1,2).
And as we lift our eyes heavenwards what do we see? “Two great lights” — typically, Christ and His people. The sun which speaks to us of “the Sun of Righteousness” ( Malachi 4:2), and the moon which tells of Israel and the Church ( Revelation 12:1), borrowing its light from, and reflecting the light of, the sun. And observe their functions. First, they are “to give light upon the earth (verse 17), and secondly, they are “to rule over the day and over the night” (verse 18). So it is with Christ and His people. During the present interval of darkness, the world’s night, Christ and His people are “the light of the world,” but during the Millennium they shall rule and reign over the earth.
Thus in the first four days’ work in Genesis 1, we have foreshadowed the four great stages or crises in the accomplishment of the Work of Redemption. The Incarnation, the Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our blessed Lord are respectively typified. In the light of this how precious are those words at the close of the six days’ work: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made” ( Genesis 2:1,2).
As we continue our meditations on the book of Genesis may God in His condescending grace reveal unto us “wondrous things out of His Law.” 3. TWO TREES <010201> GENESIS It is not our purpose to give a detailed and exhaustive exposition of Genesis, rather shall we attempt to single out some of the less obvious treasures from this wonderful mine, in which are stored inexhaustible supplies of spiritual riches. This first book in the Word of God is full of typical pictures, prophetic foreshadowings, and dispensational adumbrations, as well as important practical lessons, and it will be our delight to call attention to a few of these as we pass from chapter to chapter.
In studying the typical teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures we learn from them sometimes by way of contrast and sometimes by way of comparison. A striking illustration of this double fact is found in the second chapter of Genesis. In the ninth verse we read of “The tree of knowledge of good and evil.” In Acts 5:30 we read, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree”; and again in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” Now the thoughtful reader will naturally inquire, Why should the Cross of our blessed Lord be spoken of as a “tree”? Surely there must be some deeper meaning than that which appears on the surface. Was it not intended by the Holy Spirit that we should refer back to Genesis 2:9 and compare and contrast these two trees? We believe so, and a quiet meditation thereon reveals some remarkable points both of comparison and contrast between the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree on which our Lord was crucified. Let us consider some of the points of contrast first. 1. The first tree was planted by God “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil” ( Genesis 2:9) This tree then was planted not by Adam, but by Adam’s Maker — God.
But the second tree, the tree to which our Lord was nailed, was planted by man. “And they crucified Him” ( Matthew 27:35) is the brief but terrible record. It was human hands which devised, provided and erected that cruel tree on the hill of Calvary.
In marked contrast from the first tree, it was the hands of the creature and not the Creator which planted the second tree. 2. The first tree was pleasant to the eyes. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” ( Genesis 3:6).
Exactly in what this “pleasantness” consisted we do not know, but the Divine record seems to indicate that this tree was an object of beauty and delight. What a contrast from the second Tree! Here everything was hideous and repellant. The suffering Savior, the vulgar crowd, the taunting priests, the two thieves, the flowing blood, the three hours darkness — nothing was there to please the outward eye. The first tree was “pleasant to the eyes,” but concerning the One on the second tree it is written, “They saw in Him no beauty that they should desire Him.” 3. God forbade man to eat of the first tree. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” ( Genesis 2:17).
A divine prohibition was placed upon the fruit of this tree. But again, how different from the second tree! How startling the contrast! There is no restriction here. In this case man is freely invited to draw near and eat of the fruit of this tree. The sinner is hidden to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” “All things are ready, Come.” The position is exactly reversed. Just as man was commanded not to eat of the fruit of the first tree, he is now commanded to eat of the second. 4. Because God forbade man to eat of the first tree, Satan used every artifice to get man to eat of it. Contrariwise, because God now invites men to eat of the second tree, Satan uses all his powers to prevent men eating of it. Is not this another designed contrast marked out for us by the Holy Spirit? Humanly speaking it was solely due to the cunning and malice of the great enemy of God and man that our first parents ate of the forbidden fruit, and can we not also say, that it is now primarily due to the subtle devices of the old serpent the Devil that sinners are kept from eating the fruit of that second tree? 5. The eating of the first tree brought sin and death “For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” ( Genesis 2:17).
It was through eating of the fruit of this tree that the Curse descended upon our race with all its attendant miseries. By eating of the second Tree comes life and salvation. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life” ( John 6:53,54).
Is there not in these words of our Lord a latent reference to the history of man’s fall, and a designed contrast from the first tree? Just as by the act of “eating” man lost his spiritual life, so by an act of “eating” man now obtains spiritual and eternal life! 6. Adam, the thief, through eating of the first tree, was turned out of Paradise, while the repentant thief, through eating of the second Tree, entered Paradise. We doubt not that once again there is a designed antithesis in these two things. A thief is connected with both trees, for in eating of the forbidden fruit our first parents committed an act of theft. Is it not then something more than a coincidence that we find a “thief” (yea, two thieves) connected with the second Tree also? And when we note the widely different experiences of the two thieves the point is even more striking. As we have said one was cast out of Paradise (the garden), the other was admitted into Paradise, and to say the least, it is remarkable that our Lord should employ the word “Paradise” in this connection — the only time He ever did use it!
Now, briefly, let us consider some of the points of resemblance: 1. Both trees were planted in a garden. The first in the Garden of Eden, the second in a garden which is unnamed. “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden’’ ( John 19:41). Are we not told this, for one reason, in order that we should connect the two trees? Is it not a striking point of analogy, that both the first Adam and the last Adam died in a “garden”! 2. In connection with both trees we find the words “in the midst.” “The tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” ( Genesis 2:9).
The word “and” connecting the two trees together and intimating their juxtaposition in the midst of the garden. In like manner we also read concerning our Savior, “They crucified Him, and two others with Him on either side one, and Jesus in the midst?” 3. Both are trees of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Where in all the world, or in all the Scriptures, do we learn the knowledge of good and evil as we do at the second Tree — the Cross? There we see Goodness incarnate. There we behold the Holiness of God displayed as nowhere else. There we discover the unfathomable love and matchless grace of Deity unveiled as never before or since. But there, too, we also see Evil see it in all its native hideousness. There we witness the consummation and climax of the creature’s wickedness. There we behold as nowhere else the vileness, the heinousness, the awfulness of sin as it appears in the sight of the thrice holy God. Yes, there is a designed resemblance as well as a contrast between the two trees. The Cross also is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 4. Finally, there is another tree beside the one that was planted in Eden, of which Genesis 3:6 is true, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.”
It is “good” as “food” for the soul! And how “pleasant” it is “to the eyes” of faith! There we see all our sins blotted out. There we see our old man crucified. There we see the ground upon which a holy God can meet a guilty sinner. There we see the Finished Work of our adorable Redeemer.
Truly, it is “pleasant to the eyes.” And is not this second Tree also “a tree to be desired to make one wise”? Yes; the preaching of the Cross is not only the power of God, but “the wisdom of God” as well. The knowledge of this second Tree makes the sinner “wise” unto salvation.
In closing this little meditation we would call attention to one or two other scriptures in which a “tree” figures prominently. First, from Genesis 3:17 we learn that the “tree” is linked directly with the Curse: “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat’ of it all the days of thy life.”
In the light of this how significant are the following passages: In Genesis 40 we have recorded the dreams of the two men who were in prison with Joseph. When interpreting the baker’s dream, Joseph said, “Within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shalt hang thee on a tree” ( Genesis 40:19).
Again, in Joshua 8:29 we are told, “And the king of Ai was hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree.” Once more, in Esther 2:23 we read, “And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.” What striking illustrations are these of what we find in Galatians 3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”! “And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray thee, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” ( Genesis 18:1-4).
How suggestive are the last words of this quotation. Why should we be told that Abraham invited his three visitors to rest “under the tree,” unless there is some typical meaning to his words? The “tree,” as we have seen, speaks of the Cross of Christ, and it is there that “rest” is to be found. An additional point is brought out in the eighth verse of Genesis 18: “And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.” Eating is the symbol of communion, and it was under the tree these three men ate: so, it is the Cross of Christ which is the basis and ground of our fellowship with God. How striking, too, the order here: first, rest under the “tree,” and then eating, or fellowship!
Finally, how meaningful is Exodus 15:23-25. When Israel, at the commencement of their wilderness journey reached Marah, “they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter.” And Moses “cried unto the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” Comment is almost needless, the type is so apparent. Here again, the “tree” typifies the Cross of Christ and the Christ of the Cross. It was our blessed Lord Who, by going down into the place of death, sweetened the bitter waters for us. Furthermore, it is only as the believer applies, practically, the principle of the Cross to his daily life, that the Marahs of our wilderness experiences are transmuted into “waters that are made sweet.” To enter into “the fellowship of His sufferings,” and to be “made conformable unto His death,” is the highest Christian privilege.
How remarkable is the order, the progressive order, of these passages!
First , the “tree” is seen as the place of the curse.
Second , the “tree” is seen as the place where rest is found.
Fourth , the “tree” is seen as the principle of action to the daily life of the believer. 4. THE FALL <010301> GENESIS The third chapter in Genesis is one of the most important in all the Word of God. What has often been said of Genesis as a whole is peculiarly true of this chapter: it is the “seed-plot of the Bible.” Here are the foundations upon which rest many of the cardinal doctrines of our faith. Here we trace back to their source many of the rivers of divine truth. Here commences the great drama which is being enacted on the stage of human history, and which well-nigh six thousand years has not yet completed. Here we find the Divine explanation of the present fallen and ruined condition of our race.
Here we learn of the subtle devices of our enemy, the Devil. Here we behold the utter powerlessness of man to walk in the path of righteousness when divine grace is withheld from him. Here we discover the spiritual effects of sin — man seeking to flee from God. Here we discern the attitude of God toward the guilty sinner Here we mark the universal tendency of human nature to cover its own moral shame by a device of man’s own handiwork. Here we are taught of the gracious provision which God has made to meet our great need. Here begins that marvellous stream of prophecy which runs all through the Holy Scriptures. Here we learn that man cannot approach God except through a mediator. To some of these deeply important subjects we shall now give our attention. 1. THE FALL ITSELF The divine record of the Fall of man is an unequivocal refutation of the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution. Instead of teaching that man began at the bottom of the moral ladder and is now slowly but surely climbing heavenwards, it declares that man began at the top and fell to the bottom.
Moreover, it emphatically repudiates the modern theory about Heredity and Environment. During the last fifty years socialistic philosophers have taught that all the ills to which man is heir are solely attributable to heredity and environment. This conception is an attempt to deny that man is a fallen creature and at heart desperately wicked.
We are told that if legislators will only make possible a perfect environment, man will then be able to realize his ideals and heredity will be purified. But man has already been tested under the most favorable conditions and was found wanting. With no evil heredity behind them, our first parents were placed in the fairest imaginable environment, an environment which God Himself pronounced “very good.” Only a single restriction was placed upon their liberty, but they failed and fell. The trouble with man is not external but internal. What he needs most is not a new berth, but a new birth.
A single restriction was placed upon man’s liberty, and this from the necessity and nature of the case. Man is a responsible being, responsible to serve, obey and glorify his Maker. Man is not an independent creature, for he did not make himself. Having been created by God he owes a debt to his Creator. We repeat, man is a responsible creature, and as such, subject to the Divine government. This is the great fact which God would impress upon us from the commencement of human history. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” ( Genesis 2:17).
There was no other reason why the fruit of this tree should not be eaten save the plain command of God. And, as we have sought to show, this command was not given arbitrarily in the real meaning of that word, but gave emphasis to the relationship in which man stood to God. As an intelligent, responsible creature, man is subject to the Divine government.
But the creature became self-seeking, self-centred, self-willed, and as the result he disobeyed, sinned, fell.
First, the voice of the tempter was heeded. Instead of saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” Eve quietly listened to the Evil One challenging the word of Jehovah. Not only so, but she proceeds to parley with him. Next there is a tampering with God’s Word. Eve begins by adding to what God has said — always a fatal course to pursue. “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it.” This last clause was her own addition, and Proverbs 30:6 received its first exemplification, “Add thou not unto his words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Next she proceeded to alter God’s Word, “lest ye die.” The sharp point of the Spirit’s Sword was blunted. Finally, she altogether omits God’s solemn threat, “Thou shalt surely die.” How true it is that “History repeats itself.” God’s enemies today are treading the same path: His Word is either added to, altered, or flatly denied. Having forsaken the only source of light, the act of transgression became the natural consequence. The forbidden fruit is now looked upon, desired, taken, eaten, and given to her husband. This is ever the logical order. Such, in brief, is the Divine account of the entry of sin into our world. The will of God was resisted, the word of God was rejected, the way of God was deserted.
The Divine record of the Fall is the only possible explanation of the present condition of the human race. It alone accounts for the presence of evil in a world made by a beneficent and perfect Creator. It affords the only adequate explanation for the universality of sin. Why is it that the king’s son in the palace, and the saint’s daughter in the cottage, in spite of every safeguard which human love and watchfulness can devise, manifest from their earliest days an unmistakable bias toward evil and tendency to sin?
Why is it that sin is universal, that there is no empire, no nation, no family free from this awful disease! Reject the Divine explanation and no satisfactory answer is possible to these questions. Accept it, and we see that sin is universal because all share a common ancestry, all spring from a common stock, “In Adam all die.” The Divine record of the Fall alone explains the mystery of death. Man possesses an imperishable soul, why then should he die? He had breathed into him the breath of the Eternal One, why then should he not live on in this world for ever? Reject the Divine explanation and we face an insoluble enigma. Accept it, receive the fact that, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” ( Romans 5:12), and we have an explanation which meets all the facts of the case. 2. SATAN AND THE FALL Here for the first time in Scripture we meet with that mysterious personage the Devil. He is introduced without any word of explanation concerning his previous history. For our knowledge of his creation, his pre-Adamic existence, the exalted position which he occupied, and his terrible fall from it, we are dependent upon other passages, notably Isaiah 14:12-15, and Ezekiel 28:12-19. In the chapter now before us we are taught several important lessons respecting our great Adversary. We learn what is the sphere of his activities, what the method of his approach and what the form of his temptations. And here also we learn of the certainty of his ultimate overthrow and destruction.
Contrary to the popular conception, which makes Satan the author of the grosset sins of the flesh, and which attributes to him that which our Lord plainly declared issues out of the human heart, we are here informed that the sphere of his operations is the religious or spiritual realm. His chief aim is to get between the soul and God, to estrange man’s heart from his Maker and inspire confidence instead, in himself. He seeks to usurp the place of the Most High to make His creatures his own willing subjects and children. His work consists of substituting his own lies in the place of divine truth. Genesis 3 gives us a sample of his operations and the method he employs. These things are written for our learning, for his activities, and the realm in which he works are the same today as they were in the Garden of Eden.
The method of Satan’s approach was the same then as it is now. “Yea hath God said?” He begins by throwing doubt on the Divine Word! He questions its veracity. He suggests that God did not mean what He had said. So it is today. Every effort that is being made to deny the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, every attempt put forward to set aside their absolute authority, every attack on the Bible which we now witness in the name of scholarship, is only a repetition of this ancient question, “Yea, hath God said?” Next, he substitutes his own word for God’s, “Ye shall not surely die.” We see the same principle illustrated in the first two parables in Matthew 13. The Lord Jesus goes forth sowing the seed which is the Word of God, and then the Evil One immediately follows and sows his tares. And the sad thing is that while men refuse to believe the Word of the living God, yet they are sufficiently credulous to accept Satan’s lies. So it was at the beginning, and so it has been ever since.
Finally, he dares to cast reflection upon God’s goodness, and to call in question His perfections. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” In other words, the Devil here suggests, that God was despotically withholding from man something which would be advantageous to him, and he presents as his bait the promise that, if only Eve will believe his lie rather than God’s Word she shall be the gainer, and the obtainer of a knowledge and wisdom previously denied her. The same attraction is being dangled by him before the eyes of the devotees of Spiritism and Theosophy, but into this we cannot now enter.
It is to be noted that in the temptation a threefold appeal was made to Eve corresponding with the tripartite nature of the human constitution. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food” — appealing to the bodily senses; “and that it was pleasant to the eyes” — appealing to the desire nature, the emotions, which have their seat in the soul; “and a tree to be desired to make one wise ” — appealing to the intelligence, which has its center in the spirit (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11). Thus we learn here a deeply important fact, namely, that Satan works from without to within, which is the very reverse of the Divine operations. God begins His work in man’s heart, and the change wrought there reacts and transforms the outward life.
But Satan begins with the external and through the bodily senses and emotions of the soul works back to the spirit — the reason for this being, that normally he has not direct access to man’s spirit as God has. This same line was followed in reference to our blessed Lord. “Command that these stones be made bread “ — appealing to the bodily senses; “Cast Thyself down” a challenge to His courage or an appeal to the emotional nature of the soul. “Fall down and worship me’ ‘ — an appeal to the spirit, for we worship the Father “in spirit and in truth.” 3. THE FALL AND MAN The first effect of the Fall upon Adam and Eve was a realization of their shame. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Through sin man obtained that which he did not have before (at least, in operation), namely, a conseience — a knowledge of both good and evil. This was something which un-fallen man did not possess, for man was created in a state of innocency, and innocence is ignorance of evil. But as soon as man partook of the forbidden fruit he became conscious of his wrongdoing, and his eyes were opened to see his fallen condition. And conscience, the moral instinct, is something which is now common to human nature. Man has that within him which witnesses to his fallen and sinful condition! But not only does conscience bear witness to man’s depravity, it is also one of the marks of a personal Creator’s handiwork.
The conscience cannot be of man’s making. He would not voluntarily have set up an accuser, a judge, a tormentor, in his own breast. From whence then does it proceed? It is no more the result of education than is reason or memory, though like both it may be cultivated. Conscience is the still small voice of God within the soul, testifying to the fact that man is not his own master but responsible to a moral law which either approves or reproves.
Having become conscious of their shame Adam and Eve at once endeavored to hide it by making unto themselves aprons of fig leaves. This action of theirs was highly significant. Instead of seeking God and openly confessing their guilt, they attempted to conceal it both from Him and from themselves. Such has ever been the way of the natural man. The very last thing he will do is to own before God his lost and undone condition.
Conscious that something is wrong with him, he seeks shelter behind his own self-righteousness and trusts that his good works will more than counter-balance his evil ones. Church-going, religious exercises, attention to ordinances, philanthropy and altruism are the fig leaves which many today are weaving into aprons to cover their spiritual shame. But like those which our first parents sewed together they will not endure the test of eternity. At best they are but things of time which will speedily crumble away to dust.
How striking is the lesson taught us by comparing these two Scriptures!
Why are we told that Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together? And why are we informed that it was a fig tree which our Lord cursed? Was it not in order that we should connect them together? The fig tree was the only thing which our Lord cursed while He was here upon earth, and are we not intended to learn from that action of His that that which man employs to hide his spiritual shame is directly under the curse of Christ, bears no fruit, and is doomed to quickly wither away!
But these self-manufactured aprons did not remove from Adam and Eve the sense of their shame, for when they heard the voice of the Lord God they “hid themselves” from Him. Man’s conscience then did not bring him to God — for that there must be the work of the Holy Spirit — rather did it terrify him and drive him away from God. Our first parents sought to hide themselves. Again we note how characteristic and representative was their action. They had some faint conception at least of the moral distance that there was between themselves and their Creator. He was holy, they were sinful, consequently they were afraid of Him and sought to flee from His presence. So it is with the unregenerate today. In spite of all their proud boastings, religious exercises, and self-manufactured coverings, men are uneasy and fearful. Why is it that the Bible is so much neglected? It is because it brings man nearer to God than any other book, and men are uneasy in the presence of God and wish to hide from Him. Why is it that the public ministry of the Word is so sparsely attended? People will proffer many excuses, but the real reason is because that these services bring God near to them and this makes them uncomfortable in their sin, so they seek to flee from Him. How evident it is then that we all shared in the first sin and died in Adam. The position in which the first man stood was a federal one; and that he acted in a representative capacity is seen by the fact that all his children share his nature and perpetuate his transgression.
When God sought out Adam and brought him face to face with his guilt, he was given fair and full opportunity to confess his sin. “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” And what was the reply? How did Adam avail himself of this opportunity?
Instead of a broken-hearted confession of his sin he excused himself — “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” It was the same with Eve: “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Attempt was thus made to palliate the sin by shifting the responsibility upon others. How marvellously true to life in this twentieth century! What undesigned proofs are these of Divine inspiration! But the very excuse man makes is the ground of his condemnation. We have another illustration of this principle in the parable of the marriage supper. “I have bought a piece of ground and must needs go to see it. I pray thee have me excused.” Where was the “needs” be? Just this, that he preferred his own gratification rather than to accept God’s invitation. So it was with Adam — “the woman whom thou gavest to be with me” — the excuse he furnishes is the very ground of his condemnation. “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” All these subterfuges were unavailing and man stood face to face with a holy God and was convicted of his guilt and unspeakable shame. Thus will it be at the great white throne.
We find then that the effects of the Fall (so far as we have yet considered it) upon man himself were fourfold: the discovery that something was wrong with himself; the effort to hide his shame by a self-provided covering; fear of God and an attempt to hide from His presence; and instead of confessing his sin, seeking to excuse it. The same effects are observable today the world over. 5. THE FALL, CONTINUED 4. THE FALL AND GOD “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” Beautiful indeed is this record of Divine grace. This was not the voice of the policeman, but the call of a yearning love. Dark as is the background here, it only serves more clearly to reveal the riches of God’s grace. Highly favored as our first parents were, blest with everything the heart could desire, only a single restriction placed upon their liberty in order to test their loyalty and fidelity to their Maker — how fearful then their fall, how terrible, their sin! What wonder if God had consigned them to “everlasting chains under darkness,” as He did the angels when they sinned? What wonder if His wrath had instantly consumed them? Such would have been no undue severity. It would simply have been bare justice.
W. Griffith Thomas has forcibly summed up the significance of this question in the following words: “God’s question to Adam still sounds in the ear of every sinner: ‘Where art thou?’ It is the call of Divine justice, which cannot overlook sin. It is the call of Divine sorrow, which grieves over the sinner. It is the call of Divine love. which offers redemption from sin. To each and to every one of us the call is reiterated, ‘Where art thou?’” Everything recorded in Genesis 3 has far more than a local significance.
God’s attitude and action there were typical and characteristic. It was not Adam who sought God, but God that sought Adam. And this has been the order ever since. “There is none that seeketh after God” ( Romans 3:11). It was God who sought out and called Abram while yet an idolater.
It was God who sought Jacob at Bethel when he was fleeing from the consequences of his wrong doing. It was God who sought out Moses while a fugitive in Midian. It was Christ who sought out the apostles whilst they were engaged in fishing, so that He could say, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” It was Christ who, in His ineffable love, came to seek and to save that which was lost. It is the Shepherd who seeks the sheep, and not the sheep that seek the Shepherd. How true it is that “We love Him because He first loved us.” O, that we might appreciate more deeply the marvellous condescension of Deity in stooping so low as to care for and seek out such poor worms of the dust. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” ( Genesis 3:15).
Here again we behold the exceeding riches of God’s grace. Before He acted in judgment He displayed His mercy; before He banished the guilty ones from Eden, He gave them a blessed promise and hope. Though Satan had encompassed the downfall of man, it is announced that One shall come and bruise his head. By woman had come sin, by woman should come the Savior. By woman had come the curse, by woman should come Him who would bear and remove the curse. By woman Paradise was lost, yet by woman should be born the One who should regain it. O what grace — the Lord of glory was to be the woman’s Seed!
Here we have the beginning and germ of all prophecy. It would be outside our province now to attempt anything more than a bare outline of the contents of this wonderful verse. But three things should be carefully noted.
First , it is announced that there should be enmity between Satan and the woman. This part of the verse is invariably passed over by commentators.
Yet it is of profound importance. The “woman” here typifies Israel — the woman from whom the promised Seed came — the woman of Revelation 12. The children of Israel being the appointed channel through which the Messiah was to come, became the object of Satan’s continued enmity and assault. How marvellously this prediction has already been fulfilled all students of Scripture know full well. The “famines” mentioned in Genesis were the first efforts of the enemy to destroy the fathers of the chosen race. The edict of Pharaoh to destroy all the male children; the Egyptian attack at the Red Sea; the assaults of the Canaanites when in the land; the plot of Haman, are all so many examples of this enmity between Satan and “the woman,” while the continued persecution of the Jew by the Gentiles and the yet future opposition by the Beast witness to the same truth.
Second , two “seeds” are here referred to — another item which is generally overlooked — “thy seed” and “her seed” — Satan’s seed and the woman’s Seed — the Antichrist and the Christ. In these two persons all prophecy converges. In the former of these expressions “thy seed” (Satan’s seed) we have more than a hint of the supernatural and satanic nature and character of the Antichrist. From the beginning the Devil has been an imitator, and the climax will not be reached until he daringly travesties the hypostatic union of the two natures in our blessed Lord — His humanity and His Deity. The Antichrist will be the Man of Sin and yet the Son of Perdition literally the “seed” of the serpent — just as our Lord was the Son of Man and the Son of God in one person. This is the only logical conclusion. If “her seed” ultimates in a single personality — the Christ — then by every principle of sound interpretation “thy seed” must also ultimate in a single person — the Antichrist. “Her seed” the woman’s Seed. Here we have the first announcement concerning the supernatural birth of our Savior. It was prophetically foretold that He should enter this world in an unique manner. “Her seed — the woman’s seed, not the man’s! How literally this was fulfilled we learn from the two inspired records given us in the New Testament of the miraculous conception. A “virgin’’ was with child and four thousand years after this initial prediction “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” ( Galatians 4:4).
In the third item of this marvelous prophecy reference is made to a double “bruising” — the woman’s Seed shall bruise the Serpent’s head, and the Serpent should bruise His heel. The last clause in this prediction has already become history. The “bruising” of the heel of the woman’s Seed is a symbolical reference to the sufferings and death of our Savior, who was “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” The first of these clauses yet awaits fulfillment. The bruising of the Serpent’s head will take place when our Lord returns to the earth in person and in power, and when “the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan shall be bound for a thousand years (the Millennium) and cast into the bottomelss pit ( Revelation 20:2,3). Again, we say, what a remarkable proof this verse furnishes us of the Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures!
Who but He who knoweth the end from the beginning could have given such an accurate outline of subsequent history, and packed it within the limits of this one verse! “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” ( Genesis 3:21).
In order to adequately explain and expound this verse many pages might well be written, but perforce, we must content ourselves with a few lines.
This verse gives us a typical picture of a sinner’s salvation. It was the first Gospel sermon, preached by God Himself, not in words but in symbol and action. It was a setting forth of the way by which a sinful creature could return unto and approach his holy Creator. It was the initial declaration of the fundamental fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission.” It was a blessed illustration of substitution — the innocent dying in the stead of the guilty.
Before the Fall, God had defined the wages of sin: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” God is righteous, and as Judge of all the earth He must do right. His law had been broken and justice cried aloud for the enforcing of its penalty. But is justice to override mercy! Is there no way by which grace can reign through righteousness? Blessed be God there is, there was. Mercy desired to spare the offender and because justice demands death, another shall be slain in his place. The Lord God clothed Adam and Eve with skins, and in order to procure these skins animals must have been slain, life must have been taken, blood must have been shed!
And in this way was a covering provided for the fallen and ruined sinner.
The application of the type is obvious. The Death of the Son of God was shadowed forth. Because the Lord Jesus laid down His life for the sheep God can now be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
How beautiful and perfect is the type! It was the Lord God who furnished the skins, made them into coats and clothed our first parents. They did nothing. God did it all. They were entirely passive. The same blessed truth is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. When the wanderer had taken the place of a lost and undone creature and had owned his sin, the grace of the father’s heart was displayed. “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him” ( Luke 15:22).
The prodigal did not have to furnish the robe, nor did he have put it on himself, all was done for him. And so it is with every sinner. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” ( Ephesians 2:8).
Well may we sing, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” ( Isaiah 61:10). “So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life” ( Genesis 3:24).
This was the immediate climax in the Divine condemnation of the first sin.
After sentence of judgment had been passed first upon the serpent, then upon the woman, and finally upon the man, and after God had acted in mercy by giving them a precious promise to stay their hearts and by providing a covering for their shame, Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise. The moral significance of this is plain. It was impossible for them to remain in the garden and continue in fellowship with the Lord. He is holy, and that which defileth cannot enter His presence. Sin always results in separation. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you” ( Isaiah 59:2).
Here we see the fulfillment of God’s threat. He had announced, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Die, not only physically — there is something infinitely worse than that — but die spiritually. Just as physical death is the separation of the soul from the body, so spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God. — “This my son was dead (separated from me) and is alive again — restored to me. When it is said that we are by nature “dead in trespasses and sins,” it is because men are “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” ( Ephesians 4:18).
In like manner, that judicial death which awaits all who die in their sins — the “Second Death” — is not annihilation as so many are now falsely teaching, but eternal separation from God and everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. And so here in Genesis 3 we have God’s own definition of death — separation from Him, evidenced by the expulsion of man from Eden.
The barring of the way to the tree of life illustrated an important spiritual truth. In some peculiar way this tree seems to have been a symbol of the Divine presence (see Proverbs 3:18), and the fact that fallen man had no right of access to it further emphasized the moral distance at which he stood from God. The sinner, as such, had no access to God, for the sword of justice barred his way, just as the veil in the Tabernacle and Temple shut man out from the Divine presence. But blessed be God, we read of One who has opened for us a “new and living way” to God, yea, who is Himself the Way ( John 14:6). And how has that been accomplished? Did justice withdraw her sword! Nay, it sheathed it in the side of our adorable Savior.
Doubtless that solemn but precious word in Zechariah 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,” looks back to Genesis 3:24. And because the Shepherd was smitten the sheep are spared, and in the Paradise of God we shall eat of the fruit of that tree from which Adam was barred (see Revelation 2:7).
Summing up, then, this important division of our subject — God and the Fall — we discover here: An exhibition of His condescension in seeking man; an evidence of His mercy in giving a blessed prophecy and promise to sustain and cheer the heart of man; a demonstration of His grace in providing a covering for the shame of man; a display of His holiness in punishing the sin of man; and a typical foreshadowment of the urgent need of a Mediator between God and man. 6. THE FALL, CONCLUDED The philosophy of life as interpreted by the Darwinian school, affirms that sin is merely a present imperfection and limitation which will gradually disappear as the human race ascends the hill of life. The evolutionary hypothesis, therefore, not only denies the teaching of Genesis one, but it also repudiates the facts recorded in Genesis three. And here is the real point and purpose of Satan’s attack. The specious reasoning of our modern theologians has not only attempted to undermine the authenticity of the account of Creation, but it has also succeeded in blunting the point of the Gospel’s appeal.
By denying the Fall, the imperative need of the new birth has been concealed. For, if man began at the bottom of the moral ladder — as evolutionists ask us to believe — and is now slowly but surely climbing heavenwards, then all he needs is education and cultivation. On the other hand, if man commenced at the top of the ladder but through sin fell to the bottom — as the Bible declares — then he is in urgent need of regeneration and justification. The issue thus raised is vital and fundamental. 5. THE FALL AND HUMAN HISTORY While we are entirely dependent upon the revelation which God has given us in His Word for our knowledge of the beginnings of human history, and while His Word is absolutely authoritative and to be received with unquestioning faith, and while the Holy Scriptures need no buttressing with human logic and argument, yet an appeal to history and experience is not without interest and value. This is the case in respect to the “Fall.” And we would now submit that the teaching of Genesis three is substantiated and vindicated by the great facts of human history and experience. 1. The Teaching of Human Experience Read the annals of history, examine the reports of our police courts, study life in the slums of our large cities, and then ask, How comes it that man, the king of creation, designed and fitted to be its leader and lord, should have sunken lower than the animals? Illustrations are scarcely necessary to show how low man has sunk, for all who know vice as it really exists beneath the thin covering provided by the conventionalities of modern civilization, are only too painfully aware of the degradation and desolation which exist on all sides. A beast will not abandon its young as is now so frequently the ease with the parents of illegitimate children. The beasts of the field put multitudes of human beings to shame, for in the breeding season they confine themselves to their own mates exceptions being found only among those animals which man has partially domesticated! No animal will drink foul and poisoned water, yet thousands of well educated men and women are annually poisoned with alcohol.
But what is the cause of these effects. What is the true explanation of these sad facts? How comes it that the king of creation has sunken lower than the beasts of the field? Only one answer is possible — SIN, the FALL. Sin has entered the human constitution; man is a fallen creature, and as such, capable of any vileness and wickedness. 2. The Discords of Human Nature Man, the unregenerate man, is a composite being. Two principles are at work within him. He is a self-contradiction. One moment he does that which is noble and praiseworthy, but the next that which is base and vile.
Sometimes he is amenable to that which is good and elevating, but more often he abandons himself to the pleasures of sin. In some moods he seems closely akin to God, in others he is clearly a child of the devil.
Whence comes this conflict between good and evil! Why this perplexing duality in our common make-up? Only one explanation meets all the facts of the case. On the one hand, man is “the offspring of God”; but, on the other, sin has come in through the Fall and marred the Creator’s handiwork. 3. The Universality of Sin Why is it that the king’s son in the palace and the saint’s daughter in the cottage, in spite of every safeguard which love and watchfulness can devise, manifest an unmistakable bias towards evil and tendency to sin?
Why is it that heredity and environment, education and civilization are powerless to change this order? Why are all sinful! Why is it that there is no nation, no tribe, no family, free from the taint of sin? Only the Word of God solves this problem. All have a common origin (Adam); all share a common heritage (the Fall); all enter into a common legacy (Sin). 4. The Existence of Death “There is one event that happeneth to all,” but why should it? We have been created by the Eternal God, we possess a never-dying soul; why, then, should not men continue to live on this earth for ever? Why should there be such things as decay and destruction? Why should man die? Science can furnish no answer to these questions, and philosophy offers no explanation.
Again we are shut up to the Word of God. Death is the wages of sin, and death is universal because sin is universal. If any inquire, Why are sin and death universal, the answer is, “By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” 5. The Present Paralysis of the Human Race Every being and organism is subject to a necessity of becoming other than it is — in a single word, it must grow. Not only the animal and the plant, but the crystal, too, obeys this law, and it is difficult to see why humanity which, as history shows, forms an organic whole, alone does not follow it.
The only solution of this problem is, that man is not now in his original and normal state: he is no longer as God created him. He who denies the Fall has no light upon this profound mystery. It is beyond doubt that had man never fallen, he would have continued to grow in knowledge, goodness and happiness: in fact, would have become more and more like to God. Enoch, the man who walked with God, and whom He took to Himself after he had lived the great cycle of three hundred and sixty-five years — a year for a day — is an example of a human being who had fulfilled his destiny, and most probably a type of what the destiny of all men might have been. But alas! man fell, hence progress and advancement in the final sense became impossible.
The fact that man has not progressed, or rather, is not now progressing, may be seen by comparing the products from the various fields of human enterprise of today with those of two or three thousand years ago. In literature, nothing has appeared which equals the Book of Job, or which rivals the Psalms. In Philology — which is a sure test of the intellectual development and mental life of a people there is no modern language which matches the Sanskrit. In Art, all that is best we borrow from the ancient Greeks. In Science, we are still far behind the designers and builders of the Pyramids — a recent examination of some mummies has revealed the fact that the Egyptians were ahead of us even in dentistry, in Ethics, the marvellous system formulated by Confucius is superior to anything we have today outside of the Bible. In gigantic civilizations, none have outstripped those of the Babylonians and Phoenicians, which flourished hundreds of years before the Christian era commenced. In legislation, forensic and organizing ability, the Romans have never been surpassed.
While physically we compare unfavorably with the ancients.
Here then is a fact fully demonstrated, that as an organic whole, our race is making no real progress and evidencing no signs of growth. And we repeat, it is the only one among all living organisms which is not growing — growing, not evolving. What, then, is the cause of this mysterious paralysis? How can we account for it except by the explanation furnished in the Word of God, namely, that this organism has had a terrible fall, is marred and broken, is not now in its normal and original state!
If then the Fall is a historical fact and the only adequate explanation of human history, what follows! First, man is a fallen creature; second, he is a sinner; third, he needs a Savior. This then is the foundation of the Gospel appeal. By nature, man is alienated from God, under condemnation, lost.
What then is the remedy? The answer is, A new creation. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is not the cultivation of the old nature which is needed, for that is ruined by the Fall, but the reception of an entirely new nature which is begotten by the Holy Spirit. “Ye must be born again.” Anything short of this is worthless and useless. 6. THE FALL AND CHRIST No study of Genesis 3 would be complete without meditating upon it with the Lord Jesus before the heart.
Several passages in the Word link together Adam and Christ, and therefore it behooves us to carefully compare and contrast them. In thinking of Christ and the Fall a threefold line of thought may be developed.
First , a contrast between the first man and the second man in their characters and conduct.
Second , Christ Himself bearing the Curse of the Fall.
Third , Christ reversing the effects of the Fall and bringing in the “better thing.” Let us take up these thoughts in this order.
It has been suggested by another, that in eating of the forbidden fruit Adam cast reproach upon God’s love, God’s truth and God’s majesty. Created in the image of his Maker: vitalized by the very breath of Deity: placed in a perfect environment: surrounded by every blessing the heart could desire: put in complete authority over the works of God’s hands: provided with a suitable companion and helpmeet: made an example to all the universe of Jehovah’s goodness and love, and given one single command that he might have opportunity to show his appreciation by an easy observance of it — yet, he gives ear to the voice of the tempter and believes the Devil’s lie. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” What did Satan wish these words to imply? They were as though he said: Did God tell you not to eat of this tree? How unkind! He is withholding from you the very best thing in the garden. He knows full well that if you partake of this fruit your eyes will be opened, and you yourselves will become as God. In other words, it was an appeal for them to distrust God, to doubt His grace, and to question His goodness. Thus in eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam repudiated and dishonored God’s love.
Moreover, he questioned and dishonored God’s veracity. God had plainly warned him. In unequivocal language He had threatened, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Adam knew nothing of death. He was surrounded only by living creatures. Reason might have argued that it was impossible for death to enter such a fair land as Paradise. But there rang the Word of Him who cannot lie, “Thou shalt surely die.” The serpent, however, boldly denies Jehovah’s Word “Ye shall not surely die,” he declares. Which would Adam believe — God or Satan. He had more confidence in the latter: he dared to doubt the former, and the fell deed was done. Thus, in eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam repudiated and dishonored God’s Truth.
Further: he rejected God’s authority. As the Creator, God possesses the inherent right to issue commands, and to demand from His creatures implicit obedience. It is His prerogative to act as Law-giver, Controller, Governor, and to define the limits of His subjects’ freedom. And in Eden He exercised His prerogative and exprest His will. But Adam imagined he had a better friend than God. He regarded Him as austere and despotic, as One who begrudged him that which would promote his best interests. He felt that in being denied the fruit of this tree which was pleasant to the eyes and capable of making one wise God was acting arbitrarily, cruelly, so he determined to assert himself, claim his rights and throw off the restraint of the Divine government. He substitutes the Devil’s word for God’s law: he puts his own desire before Jehovah’s command. Thus, in eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam repudiated and dishonored God’s Majesty. So much then for the character and conduct of the first Adam.
In turning to the last Adam we shall find that everything is in direct antithesis. In thought, word and deed, the Christ of God completely vindicated the love, truth, and majesty of Deity which the first man had so grievously and deliberately dishonored. How He vindicated the love of God! Adam harbored the wicked thought that God begrudged him that which was beneficial, and thereby questioned His goodness. But how the Lord Jesus has reversed that decision! In coming down to this earth to seek and to save that which was lost, He fully revealed the compassion of Deity for humanity. In His sympathy for the afflicted, in His miracles of healing, in His tears over Jerusalem, in His unselfish and unwearied works of mercy, He has openly displayed the beneficence and benevolence of God.
And what shall we say of His sufferings and death on the cruel tree! In laying down His life for us, in dying upon the cross He unveiled the heart of the Father as nothing else could. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,CHRIST died for us. ‘ In the light of Calvary we can never more doubt the goodness and grace of God.
How Christ vindicated the truth of God! When tempted by Satan to doubt God’s goodness, question His truth and repudiate His majesty, He answered each time, “It is written.” When He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day it was to read out of the Holy Oracles. When selecting the twelve apostles He designedly chose Judas in order that the Scriptures “might be fulfilled.” When censuring His critics, He declared that by their traditions they made void “the Word of God.” In His last moments upon the Cross, knowing that all things had been accomplished, in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled He said, “I thirst.” After He had risen from the dead and was journeying with the two disciples to Emmaus, He “expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Finally, Christ completely vindicated the majesty of God. The creature had aspired to be equal with the Creator. Adam chafed against the governmental restraint which Jehovah had placed upon him. He despised God’s law, insulted His majesty, defied His authority. How different with our blessed Savior! Though He was the Lord of Glory and equal with God, yet He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant. O matchless grace! He condescended to be “made under the law,” and during the whole of His stay here upon earth He refused to assert His rights, and was ever subject to the Father. “Not My will” was His holy cry.
Nay, more: “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Never was God’s law so magnified, never was God’s authority so honored, never were God’s government claims so illustriously upheld, as during the thirty-three years when His own Son tabernacled among men. Thus in His own Person Christ vindicated the outraged majesty of God.
What was the punishment which followed the first Adam’s sin? In answering this question we confine ourselves to the chapter now before us.
Beginning at Genesis 3:17 we may trace a sevenfold consequence upon the entrance of sin into this world. First, the ground was cursed. Second, in sorrow man was to eat of it all the days of his life. Third, thorns and thistles it was to bring forth. Fourth, in the sweat of his face man was to eat his bread. Fifth, unto dust man was to return. Sixth, a flaming sword barred his way to the tree of life. Seventh, there was the execution of God’s threat that in the day man partook of the forbidden fruit he should surely die.
Such was the curse which fell upon Adam as the result of the Fall.
Observe now how completely the Lord Jesus bore the full consequences of man’s sin.
First , Christ was “made a curse for us” ( Galatians 3:13).
Second , so thoroughly was He acquainted with grief, He was denominated “the man of sorrows” ( Isaiah 53:3).
Third , in order that we might know how literally the Holy One bore in His own body the consequences of Adam’s sin, we read “Then came Jesus forth wearing the crown of thorns” ( John 19:5) Fourth , corresponding with the sweat of his face in which the first man was to eat his bread, we learn concerning the second man, “And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” ( Luke 22:44).
Sixth , the sword of justice which barred the way to the tree of life was sheathed in the side of God’s Son, for of old, Jehovah had said, “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My Fellow” ( Zechariah 13:7).
Seventh , the counterpart of God’s original threat to Adam, namely, spiritual death (for he did not die physically that same day), which is the separation of the soul from God, is witnessed in that most solemn of all cries, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” ( Matthew 27:46).
How absolutely did our blessed Savior identify Himself with those which were lost, took their place and suffered the Just for the unjust! How apparent it is, that Christ in His own body, did bear the Curse entailed by the Fall.
In conclusion we shall now consider Christ reversing the effects of the Fall.
God alone is able to bring good out of evil and make even the wrath of man to praise Him. The Fall has afforded Him an opportunity to exhibit His wisdom and display the riches of His grace to an extent which, so far as we can see, He never could have done, had not sin entered the world. In the sphere of redemption Christ has not only reversed the effects of the Fall, but because of it has brought in a better thing. If God could have found a way, consistently with His own character, to restore man to the position which he occupied before he became a transgressor, it would have been a remarkable triumph, but that through Christ man should actually be the gainer is a transcendent miracle of Divine wisdom and grace. Yet such is the case. The redeemed have gained more through the last Adam than they lost through the first Adam. They occupy a more exalted position. Before the Fall Adam dwelt in an earthly Paradise, but the redeemed have been made to sit with Christ in heavenly places. Through redemption they have been blest with a nobler nature. Before the Fall man possessed a natural life, but now, all in Christ have been made partakers of the Divine nature.
They have obtained a new standing before God. Adam was merely innocent, which is a negative condition, but believers in Christ are righteous, which is a positive state. We share a better inheritance. Adam was lord of Eden, but believers are “heirs of all things,” “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Through grace we have been made capable of a deeper joy than unfallen spirits have known: the bliss of pardoned sin, the heaven of deep conscious obligation to Divine mercy. In Christ believers enjoy a closer relationship to God than was possible before the Fall. Adam was merely a creature, but we are members of the body of Christ — “members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” How marvellous!
We have been taken into union with Deity itself, so that the Son of God is not ashamed to call us brethren. The Fall provided the need of Redemption, and through the redeeming work of the Cross, believers have a portion which unfallen Adam could never have attained unto. Truly, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” 7. CAIN AND ABEL <010401> GENESIS There is a very close connection between Genesis 3 and 4. In the former we see the beginning of sin in man, in the latter we read of its progress and fruits; in the one it was sin in the individual, in the other, sin in the family.
Like leprosy, sin contaminates, spreads and issues in death. In Genesis the sin was against God, in Genesis 4 it is against a fellow-man. The order here is ever the same; the one who has no fear of God before his eyes, has no genuine respect for the rights of his neighbor. Again, in Genesis 4 we see the local fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 — the enmity between the two seeds — the wicked and the righteous, Cain and Abel.
Further; we are shown, even more clearly than by the coats of skins in the previous chapter, that the guilty sinner can only approach God by means of a sacrifice. We propose now to study briefly the contents of Genesis from three viewpoints, namely; the historical, the typical and the dispensational. 1. CAIN AND ABEL CONSIDERED HISTORICALLY The record of Genesis 4 is exceedingly terse and much is gathered up which scarcely appears on the surface. The central truth of the chapter is that God is to be worshipped, that He is to be worshipped through sacrifice, that He is to be worshipped by means of a sacrifice which is appropriated by faith (cf. Hebrews 11:4). Three things are to be carefully noted in regard to the worship of Cain and Abel.
First , that there was a place where God was to be worshipped. This is indicated in the third verse: “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.” That is, he brought his offering to some particular place. This supposition seems to be supported by the language of verse — “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.” A further corroboration may be discovered in the mention of “the fat” which Abel brought (verse 4). “The firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof” suggests an altar upon which the victim should be offered and upon which the fat should be burned. Where this place of worship was located perhaps we cannot say for certain, but there is ground for believing that it was at the east of the Garden of Eden. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, in their commentary on Genesis, translate the last verse of Genesis 3 as follows: “And He (God) dwelt at the east of the Garden of Eden between the Cherubim, as a Shekinah (a fire-tongue or fire-sword) to keep open the way to the tree of life.” The same thought is presented in the Jerusalem Targum. If the grammatical construction of the Hebrew will warrant this translation, then Genesis 3:24 would seem to signify that, having expelled man from the garden, God established a mercy-seat protected by the Cherubim, the fire-tongue or sword being the symbol of the Divine presence, and whoever would worship God must approach this mercy-seat by way of sacrifice. We commend this suggestion to the prayerful consideration of our readers. To say the least, Genesis 4 seems to imply that there was some definite place to which Cain and Abel brought their offerings, a place which they entered and from which they went out.
The marginal reading of Genesis 4:3 gives, “And at the end of days it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.” May not this signify, at the end of the week? In other words, does not this expression appear to point to the Sabbath day as the time when God was to be formally worshipped? A third thing implied is a prescribed means of worship. God could be approached and worshipped only by means of sacrifice. This incident then seems to intimate that the children of Adam and Eve had been definitely instructed that there was a place where God could be found, that there was a time in which to come before Him, and that appointed means of approach had been established.
Neither Cain nor Abel would have known anything about sacrifices unless sacrifices had been definitely appointed. From Hebrews 11:4 we learn that it was “By faith Abel offered” his sacrifice, and in Romans 10:17 we are told that “Faith cometh by hearing.” It was by faith and not by fancy that Abel brought his offering to God. He had heard that God required a sacrifice, he believed, and he evidenced his faith by a compliance with Godrevealed will.
The nature of the offerings which Cain and Abel brought unto the Lord, and God’s rejection of the one and acceptance of the other, point us to the most important truth in the chapter. Attention should be fixed not so much on the two men themselves, as upon the difference between their offerings.
So far as the record goes there is nothing to intimate that up to this time Cain was the worst man of the two, that is, considered from a natural and moral standpoint. Cain was no infidel or atheist. He was ready to acknowledge the existence of God, he was prepared to worship Him after his own fashion. He “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.” But mark three things. First, his offering was a bloodless one, and “without shedding of blood is no remission” ( Hebrews 9:22). Second, his offering consisted of the fruit of his own toil, it was the product of his own labors, in a word, it was the works of his own hands. Third, he brought of “the fruit of the ground,” thus ignoring the Divine sentence recorded in Genesis 3:17, “Cursed is the ground.” Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof,” and to secure this, sacrifice had to be made, life had to be taken, blood had to be shed. The comment of the Holy Spirit upon this incident is, that “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” ( Hebrews 11:4).
Next we learn that “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering,” or, as Hebrews 11:4 expresses it, “God testifying of his gifts.” By comparing later Scriptures we may justly infer that the manner in which Jehovah showed His acceptance of the offering was by fire coming down from heaven and consuming the sacrifice (see Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1). “But unto Cain and his offering He had not respect.’’ No doubt Cain’s offering was a very beautiful one. No doubt he selected the very choicest fruits that could be found. No doubt his offering cost him considerable toil and labor, and probably it was with no little self-satisfaction that he came before the Lord. But Jehovah had no respect unto his gift; there was no visible token of the Divine approval; no fire came down from heaven to consume it in proof of God’s acceptance. And Cain’s countenance fell. He was furious that all his labors should stand for nothing. He was angry at the thought that he could not approach and worship God according to the dictates of his own mind. And, as we shall see later, he was filled with wrath as he contemplated the exaltation of Abel above him. So it is today. Unless the darkened understanding of man be illumined by the Holy Spirit and the enmity of the carnal mind be subdued, the human heart rebels against the idea of the impossibility of approaching God save through a bloody sacrifice. The natural man in his pride and self-righteousness hates the truths of substitution and expiation worse than he hates the Devil. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?” The condition of Cain’s heart was clearly revealed by his anger at God’s refusal to receive his offering. His worship, like that of multitudes in our day, was merely “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” ( 2 Timothy 3:5), that is, destitute of any genuineness or reality. Had Cain’s offering been presented in the right spirit there would have been no “wroth” when Jehovah refused to accept it, but instead, a humble desire to learn God’s will. “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” ( Genesis 4:7).
This verse has always been a difficult one to expositors and commentators, and we have never yet seen any explanation of it that fully satisfied us. The interpretation most widely received is as follows: Why art thou wroth, Cain? If thou doest well if you will present the proper and specified offering it will be accepted; and if thou doest not well — if the offering you brought has been rejected the remedy is simple “sin lieth at the door,” i.e., a suitable and meet offering, a sin offering is right to your hand, and if you present this you shall “have the excellency’’ (margin), that is, you shall retain the right of the firstborn and have the precedence over Abel your younger brother. The Hebrew word here translated sin, is in other passages sometimes rendered sin-offering — the one Hebrew word doing duty for our two English expressions. Though many of the ablest Bible students have accepted this translation and interpretation, we feel obliged to humbly dissent from it. And for this reason. Apart from this one doubtful case ( Genesis 4:7), doubtful, as to whether or not the Hebrew word should be translated sin or sin-offering — there in no other reference in Scripture of any Sin offering before the giving of the Law at Sinai. We do read of the patriarch’s presenting burnt and meat offerings, but never of sin offerings.
In the light of Romans 3:20 we firmly believe that there was no sin offering before Moses. “By the Law is the knowledge of sin.” The Law was given in order that sin might be recognized as sin. It was the Law which convicted men of sin and of their need of a sin offering. Hence we submit that there was no sin offering before the Law was given. Job 1:5 supports this contention, “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all, for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” — had they sinned after the Law was given a sin offering, not a burnt offering, would have been needed. What then is the significance of Genesis 4:7?
Undoubtedly the words “If thou doest well” have reference to the bringing of a proper offering to the Lord. In case Cain was willing to do this Jehovah asks, “Shalt thou not have the excellency” (margin), which means, Shalt thou not retain the right of primogeniture over Abel? “And if thou doest not well sin lieth at the door,” which we understand to mean, If you refuse to bring the required offering, sin lieth (Hebrew, is crouching) at the door, and like a wild beast is ready to spring upon you and devour you.
The remainder of the verse referring back to the matter of Cain’s rights by virtue of his seniority.
The use of the word “And” all through the passage and the word “Also” in verse 4 seem to show that Cain and Abel came together to present their offerings unto the Lord. Abel’s offering was accepted, Cain’s was rejected.
Probably, Cain reasoned from this that there would likely be a change in the order of primogeniture and that his younger brother should become his ruler. Hence his “wroth” and readiness to kill Abel rather than submit to him. In a word Cain intended to be first at all costs. Believing that he had lost the place and privilege of the firstborn — for only upon his bringing of the stipulated offering could he continue to rule over his brother — and refusing to sacrifice according to God’s requirements, and fearing that Abel would now be his ruler, he decided that rather than submit to this, he would kill his brother. Such we believe to be the real explanation, the motive, the cause of the first murder. The first word of verse 8 which recounts the deed bears this out, linking it as it does with the previous verse.
To summarize our suggested interpretation of verse 7: Cain’s offering having been refused, anger filled his heart. Jehovah asks him why he is wroth, and tells him there is no just cause for his displeasure, and that if he will bring the required offering it would he accepted and Cain would then retain the rights of the firstborn. At the same time God faithfully and solemnly warns him of the consequences which will follow his refusal to bring the specified sacrifice. If his sin is not removed by an expiatory offering, it will spring upon and devour him. Cain refused to comply with Jehovah’s demands and the Divine threat was carried out. What an illustration of James 1:15! “When lust (desire, passion) hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished (consummated), bringeth forth death.”
This was the precise order in Cain’s case: first — lust, anger — then, sin — lying at the door, — then, death — Abel murdered. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? And He said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” Sin cannot be hid. There may have been no human witness to Cain’s crime, but the eye of God had seen it. Solemn is the lesson taught here. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” “Be sure your sin will find you out.” “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known,” are only so many ways of stating the same truth. To Jehovah’s pointed inquiry, Cain replied, “I know not.” How this brings out the inveterate evil of the human heart! There was no contrition, no confessing of sin, but instead, a repudiation and covering of it. So it was with our first parents in Eden, and so it ever is with all their descendants until God’s grace works effectually in us. It is to be noted that we have here the first mention of “blood” in Scripture, and like all first mention. ings therein, it expresses what is primary and fundamental, hinting also at the amplifications of subsequent teaching. The blood here was innocent blood, blood shed by wicked hands, blood which cried aloud to God. How deeply significant! How it speaks to us of the precious blood of Christ!
After the Divine inquisition comes the Divine sentence upon the guilty one telling of God’s holiness and righteousness which will not for an instant tolerate sin, “And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” No matter where he should go in the world the ground should be against him, the ground that held the blood of his brother, the blood of his victim. The remembrance of his murder should pursue him, so that he would not be able to content himself long in any one place. “And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.”
Cain now realizes something of what he has done, though his mind is occupied more with his punishment than with the sin which had caused it. “My punishment is greater than I can bear” will be the language of the lost in the Lake of Fire. The awful lot of the unsaved will be unbearable, and yet it will have to be endured and endured for ever. “From Thy face shall I be hid” cried Cain. Though the sinner knows it not, this will be the most terrible feature of his punishment — eternally banished from God. “Depart from Me ye cursed” will be the fearful sentence passed upon the wicked in the day of judgment. “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod.” Nod means “wandering” — there is no peace or rest for the wicked: in this world they are like the troubled waves of the sea; in the world to come, they shall be like wandering stars, lost in the blackness of darkness for ever. My reader, if you reject the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, Cain’s doom shall be your doom. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” 8. CAIN AND ABEL, CONTINUED 2. CAIN AND ABEL CONSIDERED TYPICALLY OR REPRESENTATIVELY Cain and Abel stand as the representatives of two great classes of people.
They typify respectively the lost and the saved; the self-righteous and the broken-spirited; the formal professor and the genuine believer; those who rely upon their own works, and those who rest upon the finished work of Christ; those who insist upon salvation by human merits, and those who are willing to be saved by Divine grace; those who are rejected and cursed by God, and those who are accepted and blessed. Both Cain and Abel were the children of fallen parents, and both of them were born outside of Eden.
Both were, therefore, by nature “children of wrath,” and as such judicially alienated from God. Both had been shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, and hence both stood in need of a Savior. But, as we shall show, Cain denied his ruined and fallen condition and refused to accept the Remedy God provided; while Abel acknowledged his sinnership, believed the Divine testimony, put his faith in a sacrificial substitute, and was accounted righteous before God.
In our study of Genesis 3, we saw that before God banished our first parents from Eden, He revealed to them the way of salvation: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them ( Genesis 3:21). This was the first Gospel sermon ever preached on this earth, preached not by word but by symbol. By clothing Adam and Eve with these skins God taught them four lessons. First, that in order for a guilty sinner to approach a holy God he needed a suitable covering.
Fourth, that the necessary covering could only be obtained through death.
Death is the wages of sin. Adam and Eve had broken God’s command, and justice clamored for the execution of law’s penalty. Either they must die or another must die in their place. Mercy can only come in after justice has been satisfied. Grace reigns “through righteousness,” and never at the expense of it. God dealt with Adam and Eve in mercy, but in doing so He first met the claims of His broken law. In clothing them with skins God showed them by forceful symbol that sin could only be covered — atoned for, for the Hebrew word for atone means “to cover” — at the cost of sacrifice, by life being taken, by blood being shed. And so in Eden itself we find the first type and foreshadowment of the Cross of Christ. To Adam and Eve, God preached the blessed and basic truth of substitution — the just dying for the unjust, the innocent suffering for the guilty. Adam and Eve were guilty and merited destruction, but these animals died in their stead, and by their death a covering was provided to hide their sin and shame. So it is with Christ and the believer. In Him I am provided with a robe of righteousness — “the best robe” which perfectly satisfies the eye of the thrice holy God.
In Eden then we hear the first Gospel message. But not only so, in Eden God showed man plainly and unmistakably what He required of him. In the slaying of those animals from whose bodies the skins were taken to clothe our first parents, God revealed the condition upon which alone the sinner can approach his Maker, namely, blood-shedding. Man must put a substitute between himself and God’s wrath. In the slaying of the animal, the offerer identified himself with his offering and acknowledged that he was a sinner, that he deserved naught but judgment at God’s hands, that death was his legitimate due. In the slaying of the offering with which the offerer had identified himself, he saw the death of his substitute, the meeting of God’s claims, the satisfying of Divine justice, and that, because his substitute had died in his stead, he went free.
We have again commented somewhat freely upon Genesis 3:21 because our understanding of this important verse is necessary in order to intelligently apprehend the contents of Genesis 4. As we have seen, Adam and Eve were clearly and definitely instructed by God Himself concerning the terms of approach to their Maker. To them He explicitly revealed His requirements, and these requirements were made known by Adam and Eve to their children. It is beyond question that Cain and Abel knew that in order to come before Jehovah with acceptance they must bring with them a bloody offering. Hebrews 11:4 makes that fact abundantly clear. It was “by faith” that Abel presented his sacrifice to God, and Romans 10:17 tells us “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” hence it is evident that he and his brother had “heard” of God’s requirements. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.” In bringing such an offering Cain deliberately turned his back on God’s revealed will and dared to set up his own will in defiance. In bringing the offering he did, Cain denied that he was a fallen creature — the fallen child of fallen parents — and as such under the sentence of Divine condemnation. He denied that he was a guilty sinner, morally and penally separated from God. He deliberately ignored God’s demand for expiation by the death of a sacrificial substitute. He insisted upon approaching God on the ground of personal worthiness.
Instead of accepting God’s way, he audaciously went his own way and selected an offering which commended itself to his own tastes. He offered to God the fruits of the ground which God had cursed. He presented the product of his own toil, the work of his own hands, and God refused to receive it.
Cain represents the natural man. He represents those who turn their back upon the blood of the Cross and who speak of the Atonement as “a doctrine of the shambles.” He represents that large class of people who reject the finished Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who think to obtain salvation by works of righteousness which they have done. Cain is the father of the Pharisee, who prides himself that he is the superior of the contritious Publican, and who boasts loudly of his morality and religiousness. He is the representative of all who pride themselves that they can in their own strength live a life which is pleasing to God and who can by their own efforts produce that which shall merit Divine esteem. Jude, verse 11, pronounces a solemn woe upon those who have “gone in the way of Cain.” To whom does he refer? They are those who deny that the whole human race sinned and fell in Adam and who are therefore by nature children of wrath. They are those who deny that man has been driven out of God’s presence and that a great gulf is now fixed between them. They deny that that gulf can only be bridged by the Cross of Christ and that through Him and His redemption lies the sole way back to the Father. They deny that human nature is essentially evil, incurably wicked, and under the curse of God. They deny that it is absolutely impossible for a clean thing to come out of an unclean, and that unless a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. On the contrary, they declare that human nature is essentially good, and that by a process of development and culture it can bring forth good fruit — fruit which is acceptable to God.
They offer this fruit unto God in the form of moral character, unselfish deeds and charitable works. Their language is, Something in my hands I bring, to my goodness I do cling. This is the way of Cain. Cain brought of the fruits of the ground which God had cursed, and God had no respect unto such an offering. Human nature is under God’s curse, and as like can only produce like, it follows that human works — the best of them — are only the fruits of a cursed ground; as it is written, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” i.e., obnoxious to God. As it was in the beginning, so it is now. God has no respect for such offerers and offerings. He will not accept them. The only offering that God will receive is that which is presented to Him on the ground of the merits of His blessed Son. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” ( Genesis 4:4).
Abel presents a sharp antithesis to Cain. In bringing the offering which he did Abel confessed that he was a fallen creature, a guilty sinner, one at a moral and penal distance from God. He bowed to the Divine sentence of condemnation resting upon him and owned its justice. He acknowledged that he was worthy of death. By offering a lamb he testified that his only hope before God lay in a substitute taking his place and bearing the penalty which was his due. He presented his offering “by faith.” That is to say, he believed that God would accept this slain lamb, that its shed blood would meet all His requirements and satisfy His justice. He had heard from the lips of his parents that the only way back to God was through sacrifice — through an innocent life being offered up on the behalf of the guilty, and having heard this he believed it, and believing it he acted upon it. This is precisely what constitutes saving faith: It is believing God’s Word and acting on it. Consider an illustration in proof: “He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy Word I wilt let down the net” ( Luke 5:4,5).
Faith is more than an intellectual assent. Faith is the committal of ourselves to God’s Word. Faith necessarily involves volition, “I will let down the net.” Faith flies in the face of all carnal reasonings, feelings and experience and says, “Nevertheless at Thy Word I will.” Abel then took God at His Word, offered his sacrifice by faith and was accepted and pronounced righteous.
As Cain represents the natural man so Abel typifies the spiritual man, the man born from above, the man created anew in Christ Jesus. Abel is the representative of those who take God’s side against themselves; who accept the character which God has given them in His Word; who own that they are lost, undone, helpless; who realize their only hope lies outside of themselves in Another, and who realizing this, cast themselves upon God’s grace, crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Abel represents those who pin their faith to the atoning sacrifice of Calvary, who rest their all both for time and eternity on the redemptive work of the Cross, who sing from their hearts, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” In short, Abel stands as a lasting type of all who receive as their substitute and Savior the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
The ultimate difference, then, between Cain and Abel was not in their characters, but in their offerings. In one word, it was a difference of blood.
Abel was accepted because he offered to God a bleeding lamb. Cain was rejected because he refused to offer such. Here, then, we have traced back to their fountain head the two streams which empty themselves in Heaven and Hell, namely, the saved and the lost, and the dividing line between them in a line of blood. That was the difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians. On the night when God’s avenging angel passed through the land of Pharaoh and found a house upon whose door blood was sprinkled — the blood of a lamb, he passed over. But, when he found a house without blood upon it, he entered and slew the firstborn, from the king upon his throne to the prisoner in the dungeon.
Reader, on what is your hope based? If you are relying upon your efforts and works, if you are trusting to your own goodness and morality to carry you through, you are building your house upon a foundation of sand and great will be the fall of it. But, if you are trusting in and relying upon the merits of the precious blood of Christ, then are you building upon the rock, and in that Rock shall you find shelter from the wrath to come. And now in conclusion: 3. CAIN AND ABEL CONSIDERED DISPENSATIONALLY “Now all these things happened unto them for types (margin); and they are written for our admonition” ( 1 Corinthians 10:11).
Abel is a striking type of Christ, and his murder by Cain was a remarkable foreshadowment of our Lord’s rejection and crucifixion by the Jews. At least thirty-five points of resemblance can be traced here between type and antitype. In considering Abel as a type of our Lord, it is to be noted that, like Isaac, offered up on the altar and the ram caught in a thicket, which afterwards took his place in death, we have here a double type also. Both Abel and the offering which he brought pointed to the Lord Jesus. To make it easier for our readers to follow us, we have numbered the different points of agreement in type and antitype. (1) Abel was a shepherd ( Genesis 4:2) and (2) it was as a shepherd that he presented his offering unto God (3) Though giving no cause for it, he was hated by his brother. As we have shown in the last chapter, Cain was jealous of his brother and (4) it was out of “envy” that he slew him. (5) Abel then did not die a natural death, but (6) met with a violent end at the hand of his own brother. (7) After his death God declared that Abel’s blood “cried” unto Him, and severe punishment was meted out upon his murderer.
Turning from Abel himself to his offering, we note: (8) Abel presented an offering “unto God” ( Hebrews 11:4). (9) That the offering which he presented was “the firstlings of his flock”: in other words, a “lamb.” (10) In bringing his offering “by faith,” he honored and magnified the Will and Word of the Lord. (11) The offering which Abel presented is described as an “excellent” one ( Hebrews 11:4). (12) God had “respect unto Abel and to his offering”: in other words, He accepted them. (13) In the presentation of his offering Abel “obtained witness that he was righteous” ( Hebrews 11:4). (14) After he had presented his offering, God publicly “testified” His acceptance of it. (15) Finally, Abel’s offering still “speaks” to God — “By it he being dead yet speaketh.” The type is perfect at every point. (1) Our Lord is a “shepherd” — the Good Shepherd — and (2) it was as the Shepherd He presented His offering to God ( John 10:11). (3) Though giving no cause for it, He was hated by His brethren according to the flesh ( John 15:25). (4) It was through “envy” that He was delivered up to be crucified ( Matthew 27:18). (5) Our Lord did not die a natural death. He was “slain” by wicked hands ( Acts 2:23). (6) He was crucified by “The House of Israel” ( Acts 2:36), His own brethren according to the flesh. (7) After His death our Lord’s murderers were severely punished by God ( Mark 12:9).
Turning from Himself to His offering we note: (8) The Lord Jesus presented an offering “to God” ( Ephesians 5:2). (9) The offering He presented was Himself — a “Lamb” ( 1 Peter 1:19). (10) In presenting Himself as an offering He honored and magnified the Will and Word of God ( Hebrews 10:7-9). (11) The offering Christ presented was an “excellent” one — it was a “sweet smelling savor” ( Ephesians 5:2). (12) God accepted His offering: the proof of this is seen in the fact that He is now seated at God’s right hand ( Hebrews 10:12). (13) While presenting Himself on the Cross as an offering to God, He “obtained witness that He was righteous “ — the centurion crying, “Certainly this was a righteous man” ( Luke 23:47). (14) God publicly testified His acceptance of Christ’s offering by raising Him from the dead ( Acts 2:32). (15) Christ’s offering now “speaks” to God ( Hebrews 12:24).
Just as Abel and his offering are, at every point, a wonderful type of Christ and His offering, so Cain, who slew Abel, prefigures the Jews, who crucified their Messiah. (16) Cain was “a tiller of the ground” ( Genesis 4:2). Thus the first thing told us about him connects him with the land. (17) In refusing to bring the required lamb, Cain rejected the offering which God’s grace had provided. (18) In his self-righteousness Cain brought an offering of his own choosing. (19) The offering he brought was the product of his own labors. (20) This offering was rejected by God. (21) It was Cain’s God-given privilege to rule over his brother ( Genesis 4:7). (22) This privilege he forfeited. (23) Being envious of Abel, he wickedly slew him. (24) God charged him with his crime. (25) God told him that Abel’s blood cried for vengeance. (26) Because of the shedding of his brother’s blood, God’s curse fell upon Cain. (27) Part of his punishment consisted in the ground becoming barren to him ( Genesis 4:12). (28) Further, he was to be a fugitive and vagabond in the earth. (29) Cain acknowledged that his punishment was greater than he could bear. (30) Because of his sin, he was “driven out” ( Genesis 4:14). (31) Because of his sin, he was hidden from God’s face. (32) Every man’s hand was now against him ( Genesis 4:14). (33) God set a mark upon him ( Genesis 4:15). (34) God declared that He would visit with a sevenfold vengeance those who slew Cain. (35) Cain left the land and went and dwelt in a city ( Genesis 4:17).
Turning once more to the antitype, let us note how accurately Cain foreshadowed the history of Israel. (16) The first thing which is conspicuous about the Jews was that they were the people of a land the promised land, the Holy Land ( Genesis 13:15). (17) In refusing the Lamb of God ( John 1:11) the Jews rejected the offering which God’s grace had provided. (18) The apostle Paul declares that the Jews were “ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness” ( Romans 10:3). (19) The Jews rested upon their own obedience to God’s Law ( Romans 9:21). (20) But God had no respect to their works ( Acts 13:39). (21) Had Israel walked in God’s statutes they would have been the head of the nations ( Deuteronomy 28:13). (22) But through sin they forfeited the place and privilege ( Isaiah 9:14). (23) It was the Jews who crucified the Christ of God ( Acts 5:30). (24) God charged them with their crime ( Acts 2:22,23). (25) Christ’s blood is now judicially resting “upon” the Jews ( Matthew 27:25). (26) Because of the crucifixion of their Messiah, God’s curse fell upon Israel ( Jeremiah 24:9). (27) Part of the curse which God threatened of old to bring upon Israel was the barrenness of their land — “desolate” ( Leviticus 26:34,35). (28) The Jew has been an age-long wanderer in the earth ( Deuteronomy 28:65). (29) Israel will yet acknowledge their punishment is greater than they can bear ( Zechariah 12:10). (30) Forty years after the Crucifixion, Israel was driven out of Palestine. (31) Since then God’s face has been hid from them ( Hosea 1:9). (32) For nigh 2,000 years, almost every man’s hand has been against the Jew ( Deuteronomy 28:66). (33) A mark of identification has been placed upon the Jew so that he can be recognized anywhere. (34) God’s special curse has always rested on those who have cursed Israel ( Genesis 12:3). (35) For the most part, even to this day, the Jews continue to congregate in large cities.
Upon what ground can we account for this remarkable agreement between type and antitype? The only possible explanation lies in the supernatural inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit “moved” the writer of Genesis. Only He who knew the end from the beginning could have foreshadowed so accurately and minutely that which came to pass thousands of years afterwards. Prophecy, either in direct utterance or in symbolic type, is the Divine autograph upon the sacred page. May God continue to strengthen our faith in the divinity, the authority and the absolute sufficiency of the Holy Oracles. 9. ENOCH <010501> GENESIS In our comments upon the fourth chapter of Genesis, we noted how that the descendants of Adam followed two distinct lines of worship through Cain and Abel, Abel worshipping God by faith and bringing a bleeding sacrifice as the ground of his approach; Cain, ignoring the double fact that he was depraved by nature because descended from fallen parents, and a sinner by choice and deed and, therefore, rejecting the vicarious expiation prescribed by grace, tendered only the product of his own labors, which was promptly refused by his Maker. The remainder of the chapter traces the godless line of Cain down to the seventh generation, and then closes with an account of the birth of Seth the appointed successor of Abel and the one from whom the chosen race and the Messiah should come. Genesis 5 begins a new section and traces for us the line of Seth. The opening words of this chapter are worthy of close attention. No less than ten times we find in Genesis this phrase, “These are the generations of,” (see Genesis 2:4; 6:9; <011001> 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12, 19; <013601> 36:1; 36:9; 37:2); but here in Genesis 5:1 there is an important addition — “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” Nowhere else in Genesis, nor, indeed, in the Old Testament (compare Numbers 3:1 and Ruth 4:18), does this form of expression recur. But we do find it once more when we open the New Testament, and there it meets us in the very first verse! “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ.” This is deeply significant and a remarkable proof of verbal inspiration.
Why, then, should there be these two different forms of expression, and only these two — Genesis 5:1 and Matthew 1:1 — exceptions to the usual form? Surely the answer is not far to seek. Are not these the two books of Federal Headship? In the first book — “The book of the generations of Adam” are enrolled the names of the fallen descendants of the first man; in the second — “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” — are inscribed the names of all who have been redeemed by sovereign grace. One is the Book of Death; the other is the Lamb’s Book of Life. “The book of the generations of Adam,” “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” and do we not see the marvelous unity of the two Testaments? The whole of the Bible centers around these two books — the book of the generations of Adam, and the book of the generation of Jesus Christ.
But what is the force of this word “generations”? Here the law of First Mention will help us. The initial occurrence of this expression defines its scope. When we read in Genesis 2:4 “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth” the reference is not to origin but to development.
Had Genesis 2:4 been intended to supply information as to how the heavens and the earth were produced, this expression would have occurred at the commencement of Genesis 1, which treats of that subject. Again, when we read of “The generations of Noah” ( Genesis 6:9) it is not to give us the ancestry of this patriarch — that is found in Genesis 5 — but to tell us who were his descendants, as the very next verse goes on to show. “Generations,’’ then, means history, development, and not origin.
As we have stated, chapter five opens a new section of Genesis. Righteous Abel has been slain, and all the descendants of Cain are doomed to destruction by the Flood. It is from Seth that there shall issue Noah, whose children, coming out of the Ark, shall replenish the earth. Hence it is that we are here taken back once more to the beginning. Adam is again brought before us — fallen Adam — to show us the source from which Seth sprang.
Two sentences in the opening verses of this chapter ( Genesis 5) need to be carefully compared and contrasted. “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him,” Genesis 5:1. “And Adam . . . begat a son in his own likeness, after his image,” Genesis 5:3.
By sin Adam lost the image of God and became corrupt in his nature and a fallen parent could do no more than beget a fallen child. Seth was begotten in the likeness of a sinful father! Since Noah was the direct descendant of Seth and is the father of us all, and since he was able to transmit to-us only that which he had, himself, received from Seth, we have here the doctrine of universal depravity. Every man living in the world today is, through Noah and his three sons, a descendant of Seth, hence it is that care is here taken at the beginning of this new section to trace the spring back to its fountain head, and show how all are, by nature, the fallen offspring of a fallen parent — that we have all been begotten in the image and likeness of a corrupt and sinful father.
Until we reach the twenty-first verse of Genesis 5, there is little else in the chapter which calls for comment. The intervening verses trace for us the line of Seth’s seed, and death is writ large across the record. Eight times we read, “And he died.” But in verses 21 to 24 we have a notable exception. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, died not. He was translated without seeing death. And to the consideration of this remarkable man we shall now direct our attention.
Enoch is a striking character. He is one of but two men of whom it is said in Scripture that he “walked with God.” He is one of but two men who lived on this earth and went to heaven without passing through the portals of death. And he is the only one, except our blessed Lord, of whom it is written, “He pleased God.” He is one of the very few who lived before the Flood of whom we know anything at all. The days when Enoch lived on the earth were flagrantly wicked, as the Epistle of Jude plainly shows.
He seems to have stood quite alone in his fearless denunciation of the ungodly and in his faithful testimony for God. Very little is recorded of him, which is another proof of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures — a truth which cannot be overemphasized. Had the Bible been a human production, much would have been written about Enoch and an attempt made to show the cause and explain the method of his mysterious exit from this world. The silence of Holy Scripture attest their Divine origin! But though little is told us about Enoch, a careful examination of what is recorded suggests and supplies a wonderfully complete biography. “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years. And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” ( Genesis 5:21-24).
The first thing implied in Enoch’s walk with God is reconciliation. A pertinent question is asked in Amos 3:3, “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” Thus two walking together supposes agreement, sympathy, harmony. From the nature of the ease, it is implied that one of the two had been at enmity with the other and that there had been a reconciliation. So that when we say of any man that he walks with God, it implies that he has been reconciled to God. God has not conformed to him, but he has conformed to God.
To walk with God implies a correspondency of nature. Light hath no communion with darkness. No sinner can walk with God for he has nothing in common with Him, and more, his mind is at enmity against Him.
It is sin which separates from God. The day that Adam sinned he fled from his Maker and hid himself among the trees of the garden. A walk with God then supposes the judicial putting away of sin and the impartation of the Divine nature to the one who walked with Him.
To walk with God implies a moral fitness. God does not walk out of the way of holiness. Before God would walk through Israel’s camp everything which defiled had to be put away. Before Christ commences His millennial reign all things that offend must be gathered out of His Kingdom. The thrice holy God keeps no company with the unclean. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But, if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:6,7.
The supreme example and illustration is the Lord Jesus. None enjoyed such perfect and intimate communication with the Father as He. And what was the secret of it all? “I delight to do Thy will, O God,” supplies the explanation. If, then, we would walk with the Lord, there must be a willingness and readiness on our part. “Take My yoke upon you.” He does not force it on any!
To walk with God implies spiritual communion. “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” The word “walk” suggests steady progress. It has been quaintly but well said, Enoch “did not take a turn or two with God and then leave His company, but he walked with God for hundreds of years. What a splendid walk! A walk of three hundred years! It was not a run, a leap, a spurt, but a steady walk.” “And Enoch walked with God.” What light that one word casts on the life and character of this manlHow much it reveals to us. Like every other descendant of Adam, Enoch was by nature a child of wrath, alienated from the life of God. But a day came when he was reconciled to his Maker. If it be asked, What was the cause of this reconciliation? Hebrews 11:5 supplies the answer — Enoch “had this testimony, that he pleased God.” If it be further asked, How did he please God? the very next verse informs us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Faith then was the instrumental cause of his reconciliation. Again we say, how much that one sentence tells us about this “seventh from Adam”! Born into this world a lost sinner, he is saved by grace through faith. He is born again and thus made a partaker of the Divine nature. He is brought into agreement with the Most High and fitted to have fellowship with the Holy One.
But from the analogy of other Scriptures, by comparing text with text we may learn still more about this man who “pleased God.” What would be the result of his walk with God? Would not the first consequence of such a walk be a growth in grace? Walking implies progress, and that in a forward direction. Enoch’s life must have been progressive. At the close of three hundred years of communion with God, Enoch could not be morally and spiritually where he was at the beginning. He would have a deeper abhorrence of sin and a humbler estimate of himself. He would be more conscious of his own helplessness and would feel more and more his need of absolute dependency on God. There would be a larger capacity to enjoy God. There would be a going on from strength to strength and from glory to glory.
There would also be a growth in the knowledge of the Lord. It is one thing to talk about God, to reason and speculate about Him, to hear and read about Him, it is quite another to know Him. This is the practical and experimental side of the Christian life. If we would know God we must walk with Him: we must come into living contact with Him, have personal dealings with Him, commune with Him. After such a walk of three hundred years Enoch would have a deeper appreciation of God’s excellency, a greater enjoyment of His perfections and would manifest a more earnest concern for His glory.
Another consequence of Enoch’s walk with God would be a deep settled joy and peace. Enoch’s life must have been supremely happy. How could he be miserable with such a Companion! He could not be gloomy in such company. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” Walking with God ensures protection. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Nothing can harm the man who has the Lord God at his right hand.
A further consequence of Enoch’s walk was his witness for God — see Jude 14 and 15. This is something which needs to be stressed. This order cannot be reversed, it is of Divine appointment. Before we can witness for God, we must walk with God. It is greatly to be feared that much of what passes for “Christian service” in our day is not the product of such a walk, and that it will prove but “wood, hay and stubble” in the day of testing. There is something which must precede service, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” Having considered at some length the character of Enoch’s walk, let us in closing note two other things, the commencement and the culmination of this walk. “And Enoch lived sixty and five years and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God” ( Genesis 5:21,22).
It is not said that Enoch walked with God before his son was born, and the inference seems to be that the coming into his life of this little one God’s gift — may have been the means of leading him into this close fellowship.
The name of his son strongly implies that Enoch had received a revelation from God. Methuselah signifies, “When he is dead it shall be sent,” i.e., the Deluge (Newberry). In all probability then, a Divine revelation is memorialized in this name. It was as though God had said to Enoch, “Do you see that baby? The world will last as long as he lives and no longer!
When that child dies, I shall deal with the world in judgment. The windows of heaven will be opened. The fountains of the great deep will be broken up, and all humanity will perish.” What would be the effect of such a communication upon Enoch? Imagine for a moment a parallel case today.
Suppose God should make known to you, in such a way that you could not question His veracity, that this world would last only as long as the life of some little one in your home. Suppose God should say to you, “The life of that little one is to be the life of the world. When that child dies the world will be destroyed.’’ What would be the effect upon you? Not knowing how soon that child might die, there would come before you the possibility that the world might perish at any time. Every time that child fell sick the world’s doom would stare you in the face! Suppose further, that you were unsaved. Would you not be deeply exercised? Would you not realize as never before your urgent need of preparing to meet God? Would you not at once begin to occupy yourself with spiritual things? May not some such effects have been produced upon Enoch? Be this as it may — and it is difficult to escape such a conclusion it is certainly implied that from the time Methuselah was born, the world lost all its attractiveness for Enoch and from that time on, if never before, he walked with God. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” ( Hebrews 11:5).
God had translated him. After Enoch had lived on earth the great cycle — a year for a day — of three hundred and sixty-five years, God took him to Himself, as if to show that he was an example of a human being, who had fulfilled his destiny, and a type of what the destiny of all mankind might have been had sin never entered the world (Bettex).
God had translated him. We cannot do better than quote here from Dr. B.
H. Carroll’s exposition of Genesis — a work from which many original and excellent suggestions may be gathered: “God translated him.” This is an old Latin word, an irregular verb, and it simply means carried over or carried across. God carried him across. Across what? Across death. Death is the river that divides this world from the world to come, and here was a man that never did go through that river at all. When he got there God carried him across. God transferred him; translated him; God picked him up and carried him over and put him on the other shore. And walking along here in time and communing with God by faith, in an instant he was communing with God by sight in another world. Faith, Oh, precious faith!
Faith had turned to sight, and hope bad turned to fruition in a single moment. The life of faith was thus crowned by entrance into the life of perfect fellowship above, “And they shall walk with Me in white” ( Revelation 3:4).
In conclusion, we would point out the fact that Enoch is a type of those believers who shall be alive on the earth when our Lord shall descend into the air to catch up to Himself His blood bought people “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall be all changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ( 1 Corinthians 15:51,52). Just as Enoch was translated to heaven without seeing death, so also will those of the Lord’s people who remain on the earth till the time of His return. May it be ours to “walk with God” during the short interval that now intervenes, and, if it pleaseth Him, may we be among that number which shall be raptured to glory without having to first pass through the portals of the grave. 10. NOAH <010601> GENESIS Little is told us of the parentage of Noah, yet sufficient is revealed to indicate that he was the descendant of believing ancestors and the child of a God-fearing father. Noah was the grandson of Methuselah, and the great grandson of Enoch who was translated to heaven. The name of his father was Lamech, and on the birth of his son we are told that “he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” ( Genesis 5:29).
That Lamech was a man of faith appears from the fact that he attributed his “toil” and the condition of the ground to the Lord’s “curse.” Further, it seems as though God had revealed to him something of His future purposes in connection with Noah in that he looked on him as one that was to bring “comfort” or “rest.”
The times in which Noah lived and the condition of the world then serve as a dark background to bring out in vivid relief the faith and righteousness of the one who was “perfect in his generations” and “walked with God.” “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made man” ( Genesis 6:5-7).
What a terrible scene was here spread before the all-seeing eye of God, and how startling the contrast between it and the one on which He had looked at the close of the six days’ work! There we are told, “God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” ( Genesis 1:31).
But there is another, and a blessed contrast here, too. After we read of the greatness of man’s wickedness and the consequent grief of God’s heart, we are told, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” ( Genesis 6:8).
There was an oasis in the midst of the dreary desert, an oasis which the grace of God had prepared, and on which His eyes dwelt. When beholding the wicked we read only that God “saw,” but when Noah is in view the “eyes of the Lord” are mentioned. A look at the former was sufficient; but something more definite and protracted greeted the latter. Before we study the Character of Noah, a word first on the one following the last quoted. “These are the generations of Noah” ( Genesis 6:9).
Here a new section of Genesis commences. The Chronology of Genesis having been brought up to Noah’s day in Genesis 5, the opening verses of Genesis 6 look backward not forward, giving us the history of the world and describing the character of mankind in the days which preceded the Flood. Verses 5 to 8 of Genesis 6 close the second main division of the book. Each new division opens with the words “These are the generations of,” see Genesis 2:4; 5:1; 6:9, etc. The thought to which we would now call attention is that each of these divisions ends (we use the word relatively) with a picture that portrays the effects and results of sin.
The first division (the concluding verses of Genesis 4, closes with the record of Abel’s murder by Cain, and of Lamech’s glorying over a young man whom he had slain. The second division closes ( Genesis 6:1-8) with God looking down on the wickedness of the Antediluvians. The third division closes ( Genesis 9:20-29) with the sad scene of Noah’s drunkenness, the curse pronounced on a part of his descendants, and the patriarch’s death. The fourth division closes ( Genesis 11:1-9) by bringing before us the overthrow of the Tower of Babel. The fifth division closes ( Genesis 11:10-26) with the births, ages, and deaths of Shem’s descendants. The sixth division closes ( Genesis 11:31,32) with the death of Terah. The seventh division closes ( Genesis 25:10,11) with the burial of Abraham. The eighth division closes ( Genesis 25:18) with the death of Ishmael. The ninth division closes ( Genesis 35:29) with the death of Isaac. The tenth division closes ( Genesis 36:8) with the departure of Esau from the promised land, the birthright to which he had sold for a mess of pottage. The eleventh division closes ( Genesis 36) with a list of the descendants of Esau, and significantly ends with the words, “He is Esau the father of the Edomites.” While the last division closes ( Genesis 1:26) with the death of Joseph. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” ( Genesis 6:8).
This is the first thing that is told us about Noah. Grace is the foundation of every life that is well-pleasing to God. Grace is the source from which issues every blessing we receive. It was the grace of God and not the graces of Noah which preserved him from a watery grave. Is it not beautiful to note that it is here this precious word “grace” is seen for the first time in God’s Word! It was when the sin of the creature had reached its climax that Grace was exercised and displayed, as if to teach us from the onset, that it is nothing within man which calls forth the bestowment of Divine favors.
When God said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air,” it seemed as if He was about to make an end of the entire race. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He was as a lily among the thorns, whose godly walk would appear the lovelier from contrast with that of the world about him. Humanly speaking it has never been an easy matter for the believer to live that life that brings glory to God, not even when he receives encouragement from fellow-saints. But here was a man living in a world of wickedness, where “all flesh had corrupted his way on the earth.”
The character of Noah is described in Genesis 6:9 where three things are told us about him: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” first, he was “just.” He is the first man so called, though not the first man who was so. The meritorious ground of justification is the Blood of Christ ( Romans 5:9); the instrumental cause is faith ( Romans 5:1). The just shall live by faith, hence we find Noah among the fifteen believers mentioned in the great faith chapter ( Hebrews 11). The faith by which Noah was justified before God was evidenced by him being” moved with fear” and in his obedience to the Divine command to build the ark. Second, he was “perfect in his generations.” Here the reference seems to point to Noah and his family having kept themselves separate from the moral evil around them and preserved themselves from contact with the Nephilim. The Hebrew word is “tamim” and is elsewhere translated in the Old Testament “without blemish” forty-four times. It is probably the word from which our English “contaminated” springs. Noah was uncontaminated in his generations.
The faith of Noah is described in Hebrews 11:7: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
In this remarkable verse, remarkable for its fullness and terseness, seven things are told us about Noah’s faith, each of which we do well to ponder.
The first thing we learn here of Noah’s faith is its ground, namely, God’s Word — “being warned of God.” The ground of all faith which is acceptable to God is that which rests neither on feelings nor fancy, but on the naked Word. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” ( Romans 10:17).
Simon and his partners had fished from sunset to sunrise and their labors had been in vain. The Lord entered their ship and said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught,” and Simon replied, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net” ( Luke 5:4,5).
Once again: for many days the ship in which the apostle was journeying to Italy battled with stormy seas, until all hope that he and his fellow passengers should be saved had disappeared. Then it was, when everything to the outward eye seemed to contradict, that Paul stood forth and said, “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” ( Acts 27:25).
A faith that does not rest upon the written word is mere credulity.
The second thing mentioned in connection with Noah’s faith is its sphere.
His faith laid hold of things “not seen as yet,” that is, of things which pertained to the realm of the unseen. Believers walk by faith and not by sight ( 2 Corinthians 5:7). As Noah labored at the building of the ark, doubtless, the world looked upon him as an enthusiastic fanatic, as one who was putting himself to a great deal of needless trouble. What was there to portend such a calamity as the Deluge? Nothing at all. All things continued as they were from the beginning of creation. History furnished no analogy whatever. Not only had there never been any previous flood, but even rain was then unknown. What then could induce Noah to act in the way he did? Nothing but the testimony of God. Here then is an exemplification and demonstration of the nature of faith. Faith is the eye of the spirit. It is that which visualizes the unseen; it is that which gives tangibility to the invisible; it is that which makes substantial the things hoped for.
In the third place we learn here of the character of Noah’s faith — it was “moved with fear.” Faith not only relies upon the precious promises of God, but it also believes His solemn threatenings. As the beloved Spurgeon said, “He who does not believe that God will punish sin, will not believe that He will pardon it through the atoning blood. He who does not believe that God will cast unbelievers into hell, will not be sure that He will take believers to heaven. If we doubt God’s Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing. Since faith in God must treat all God’s Word alike; for the faith which accepts one word of God, and rejects another, is evidently not faith in God, but faith in our own judgment, faith in our own taste.” Noah had received from God a gracious promise, but he had also been warned of a coming judgment which should destroy all living things with a flood, and his faith believed both the promise and the warning. Again, we need the admonition of Mr. Spurgeon — “I charge you who profess to be the Lord’s, not to be unbelieving with regard to the terrible threatenings of God to the ungodly.
Believe the threat, even though it should chill your blood; believe, though nature shrinks from the overwhelming doom, for, if you do not believe, the act of disbelieving God about one point will drive you to disbelieve Him upon the other parts of revealed truth, and you will never come to that true, childlike faith which God will accept and honor.”
Fourth, we see the evidence of Noah’s faith he “prepared an ark.” “Faith, if it hath not works is dead, being by itself” ( James 2:17), which means, it is a lifeless faith, a merely nominal faith, and not the “faith of God’s elect” ( Titus 1:1). To the same effect: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works” ( James 2:14).
The Apostle Paul writes of the justification of believing sinners; James writes of the justification of faith itself, or rather, the claim to be in possession of faith. I profess to be a believer, how shall I justify my claim?
By my works, my walk, my witness for God. Read through Hebrews and it will be seen that in every case recorded there, faith was evidenced by works. Abel had faith. How did he display it? By presenting to God the Divinely preserved sacrifice. Enoch had faith. How did he manifest it? By walking with God. Noah had faith. How did he evidence it? By preparing the ark. And mark this also — faith expresses itself in that which costs its possessor something! The preparing of the ark was no small undertaking. It was not only a very laborious and protracted task, but it must have been a very expensive one, too. It has ever been thus; Abraham was the father of the faithful, and his faith found expression and resulted in that which meant personal sacrifice. To Abraham it meant leaving home, kindred and country, and subsequently the offering up of his well beloved son on the altar of sacrifice. What is it costing you to express your faith? A faith that does not issue in that which is costly is not worth much.
Fifth, we see the issue of Noah’s faith — Noah “prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” God always honors real faith in Him. The particular issue of Noah’s faith deserves prayerful consideration. While it is true that there is no such thing as salvation by proxy, that no parent can believe to the saving of his child’s soul, yet, Scripture furnishes many examples of God’s blessings coming upon those who exercised no faith themselves on account of the faith of others. Because Abraham exercised faith, God gave to his seed the land of Palestine. Because Rahab believed the report of the spies, her whole household was preserved from destruction. Coming to the New Testament, we remember such cases as the man sick of the palsy, who was brought to the Lord Jesus by others — “And Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy: Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” ( Matthew 8:2).
Because of the nobleman’s faith, his servant was healed. Because of the Canaanitish woman’s faith, her daughter was made whole. Noah’s faith then issued in the temporal salvation of “his house.” Is not this written for our learning? Is there no word of encouragement here for believing parents today who have unsaved children? Do we remember the word spoken to the Philippian jailor — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” — do we appropriate it and plead it before God?
Sixth, we learn of the witness of Noah’s faith — “by which he condemned the world.” In considering this clause we would first inquire into the nature of faith. What is faith? In Romans 14:23, we read, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Faith is the opposite of sin. What then is sin? The divinely inspired answer is found in 1 John 3:4 “Sin is lawlessness” (R. V.). Sin is more than an act, it is an attitude. Sin is rebellion against God’s government, a defiance of His authority. Sin is spiritual anarchy. Sin is the exercise of self-will, self-assertion, self-independency. God says, “Thou shalt,” and I don’t; what is that but me saying “I won’t!” God says “Thou shalt not,” and I do; what is that but me saying, “I will!” But faith is in every respect the antithesis of sin. Faith is also more than an act, it is an attitude. Faith is submission to God’s government, a yielding to His authority, a compliance with His revealed will. Faith in God is a coming to the end of myself. Faith is the spirit of entire dependency on God. There is a great gulf then separating between those who are members of the household of faith and those who are the children of the wicked one. We walk by faith, they by sight; we live for God’s glory, they for selfgratification; we live for eternity, they for time. And every Christian who is walking by faith, necessarily condemns the world. His conduct is a silent rebuke upon the course followed by the ungodly. His life is a witness against their sin.
Finally, we learn here the reward of Noah’s faith — he “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Faith brings a present blessing: it wins God’s smile of approval, fills the heart with peace, oils the machinery of life, and makes “all things” possible. But the grand reward of faith is not received in this life. The inheritance into which faith conducts us is not possessed here and now. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never did anything more than “sojourn in the land of promise.” The children of God are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” but the entering into their inheritance is yet future — we do not say the enjoyment of it, for faith appropriates it and revels in it even now. The Son Himself has been “appointed heir of all things” ( Hebrews 1:2), and it is not until He enters into His possessions that we shall share them with Him. Meanwhile, we are, with Noah, “heirs of the righteousness which is by faith.” 11. THE FLOOD <010601> GENESIS In our article on “Enoch” it was pointed out that the name of his child intimated that God had given warning to him of the coming of the Deluge — “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah” ( Genesis 5:21).
The signification of Methuselah is, “When he is dead it shall be sent,” i.e., the Deluge (Newberry). A divine revelation then was memorialized in this name. The world was to last only as long as this son of Enoch lived. If Peter 3:20 be linked to Genesis 5:21 an interesting and precious thought is brought before us: “Which (the antediluvians now in ‘prison’) some time were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” To what does this “long-suffering” refer which “waited” while the ark was a preparing? How long had God’s patience been exercised? Nine hundred and sixty-nine years seems to be the answer the span of Methuselah’s life. As long as Enoch’s son lived the world was safe; but when he died, then should it (the Deluge) be sent. Is it not a most impressive demonstration of God’s “long-suffering” that the man whose life was to measure the breath of a world’s probation, was permitted to live longer than any one else ever did live! Nine hundred and sixty-nine years — what an exhibition of God’s mercy! How wondrous are the ways of Jehovah! As that child was to live until the time came for mankind to be swept away by the flood; and, as during this interval God’s servants were to warn men from the coming wrath, shall not the mercy of God prolong that day? Shall not this man live longer than any other man ever did live?
Shall not his age be unique, standing out from the ages of all others? — because that from the hour of his birth the Divine decree had gone forth, “When the breath leaves his body the throes of dissolution shall commence; when he departs the thunder clouds of God’s anger shall burst, the windows of heaven shall be opened, the foundations of the great deeps shall give way, and every living thing shall be swept from this earth by the besom of Divine destruction.” And so it was. Methuselah out-lived all his contemporaries and remained on earth almost a thousand years.
Having viewed the postponement of the flood through the long-suffering of God, let us next consider the provocation of it. We have already dwelt upon the fact that the New Testament Scriptures call our attention to the “longsuffering of God (which) waited in the days of Noah” ( 1 Peter 3:20).
These words intimate that God’s longsuffering had already been exercised and that it continued to “wait” even in the days of Noah. This causes us to inquire how and when had God’s “long-suffering” been manifested previously to Noah?
The word “long-suffering” implies that God had dealt in mercy, that His mercy had been slighted, and that His patience (humanly speaking) had been sorely tried. And this leads us to ask another question — a deeply interesting and important one: What Divine light did the antediluvians enjoy? What knowledge of God, of His character and of His ways, did they possess? What was the measure of their responsibility? To answer these questions is to discover the enormity of their sin, is to measure the extent of their wickedness, is to determine the degree of their aggravation of God; and, consequently, is to demonstrate the magnitude of His long-suffering in bearing with them for so long.
While the record is exceedingly brief, sufficient is revealed to show that men in general possessed no small amount of light even in days before the flood. Not only had they, in common with all generations the “light of Nature,” or as Romans 1:19,20 expresses it, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” — which rendered them “without excuse’’; not only had they the testimony of conscience ( Romans 2:14,15), but, in addition, they possessed the light of Divine revelation. In what this latter consisted we shall now endeavor to show.
First , man had the Promise of a Redeemer. Before our first parents were banished from Eden, God declared that the woman’s Seed should bruise the serpent’s head, and for His appearing believers looked and longed (see Genesis 49:18).
Second : There was the institution of expiatory sacrifices as the one means of approach to Jehovah. This was made known by God to Adam and Eve by means of the coats of skins which He provided as a covering for their nakedness. The meaning of His gracious condescension was clearly understood by them, and the significance of it and need of such sacrifice was communicated to their children, as is clear from the acts of Cain and Abel. That such knowledge was handed down from father to son is also seen in the fact that as soon as Noah came out of the ark he “built an altar unto the Lord... and offered burnt offerings on the altar” ( Genesis 8:20).
Third : There was the “mark” which God set upon Cain ( Genesis 4:15), which was a reminder of his disapprobation, a visible memorial of his own sin, and a solemn warning unto those among whom his lot was subsequently cast.
Fourth : As we indicated in our comments on Genesis 4, the institution of the Sabbath was even then established, as may be seen from the fact that there was a set time for worship ( Genesis 4:3, margin).
Fifth : The longevity of the patriarchs must be borne in mind. But two lives spanned the interval from the beginning of human history to the Deluge itself,, namely Adam’s and Methuselah’s. For nine hundred and thirty years the first man lived to tell of his original creation and condition, of his wicked disobedience against God, and of the fearful consequences which followed his sin. A striking illustration of the communication of this knowledge from one generation to another may be seen in the words of Lamech, who lived to within a few years of the flood itself words recorded in Genesis 5:29, where it will be found he makes reference to “the ground which the Lord God hath cursed.” Sixth : There was the preaching of Enoch through whom God warned the world of its approaching doom ( Jude 14, 15).
Seventh : The mysterious and supernatural translation of Enoch, which must have made a profound impression upon those among whom his lot was cast.
Ninth : The ministry of the Holy Spirit ( Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 3:19), striving with men and, as the record implies, this for some considerable time. From these things then it is abundantly clear that the antediluvians fell not through ignorance but by wilfully rejecting a Divine revelation, and from deliberately persisting in their wickedness.
Having considered the Provocation of the Flood, let us now examine the cause of it. Stated in a sentence, this was the awful depravity and wickedness of mankind, or to quote the language of our chapter, “And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” ( Genesis 6:12,13).
God’s saints are the salt of the earth ( Matthew 5:13), and little as the world realizes or appreciates it, the fact remains that it is the presence of God’s people here which prevents the mystery of iniquity coming to a head and preserves mankind from an outpouring of God’s wrath. Ten righteous men in Sodom would have stayed the Divine judgment, but only one could be found.
The salt character of God’s people is due to the Holy Spirit dwelling within and working through them. Let His gracious manifestations be resisted and despised and they will be withdrawn, then the measure of man’s iniquity will be quickly filled up. These two preserving and restraining factors are brought together in 2 Thessalonians 2. Before our Lord shall return to the earth itself, accompanied by the saints (previously translated), there shall come one who is denominated, “the man of sin, the son of perdition.” This superman shall oppose God and blasphemously exalt himself above all that has any reference to God, so that he shall sit in God’s temple (at Jerusalem) claiming to be God, and demanding Divine homage. His coming will be “after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all receivableness of unrighteousness.” But though this “mystery of iniquity” was at work, even in the days of the apostles, two things have prevented it coming to full fruition. The Man of Sin cannot be “revealed” till “his time” because of “what withholdeth” and “he who now letteth (hindereth) until he be taken out of the way” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7).
Undoubtedly the neuter pronoun here has reference to the Church of God, and the masculine one to the Holy Spirit Himself. While they are upon earth Satan’s work is held in check; but let them — the Holy Spirit and the Church be removed, let the salt be taken away and the One who gives it pungency, and the restraining and preserving influences are gone, and then nothing remains to stay corruption or hinder the outworking of Satan’s plans.
From the above premises, established by the analogies furnished in Scripture, we have no difficulty in discovering the immediate cause of the Flood. A Divine revelation had been despised and rejected. Repeated warnings had been flouted. Atonement for sin by an expiatory sacrifice had been spurned. Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. The number of God’s saints had been diminished to such an extent that there was but one family left who feared the Lord and walked by faith. There was not sufficient “salt” left to preserve the carcass. God had forewarned the race that His Spirit would not always strive with man, and now His long-suffering was ended; therefore, His Spirit would be withdrawn, and naught then remained but summary judgment. Though the faithful remnant should be sheltered, yet, the storm of Divine wrath must now burst upon a world filled with iniquity.
We turn now to consider the occasion of the Flood. “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” ( Genesis 6:1,2).
There has been considerable difference of opinion among commentators and expositors in respect to the identity of these “sons of God.” The view which has been most widely promulgated and accepted is, that these marriages between the sons of God and the daughters of men refer to unions between believers and unbelievers. It is supposed that the “sons of God” were the descendants of Seth, while the “daughters of men” are regarded as the offspring of Cain, and that these two lines gradually amalgamated, until the line of distinction between God’s people and the world was obliterated. It is further supposed that the Deluge was a visitation of God’s judgment, resulting from His peoples’ failure to maintain their place of separation. But, it seems to us, there are a number of insuperable objections to this interpretation.
If the above theory were true, then, it would follow that at the time this amalgamation took place God’s people were limited to the male sex, for the “sons of God” were the ones who “married” the “daughters of men.”
Again; if the popular theory were true, if these “sons of God” were believers, then they perished at the Flood, but 2 Peter 2:5 states otherwise — “Bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” Once more; there is no hint in the Divine record (so far as we can discover) that God had yet given any specific command forbidding His people to marry unbelievers. In view of this silence it seems exceedingly strange that this sin should have been visited with such a fearful judgment. In all ages there have been many of God’s people who have united with worldlings, who have been “unequally yoked together,” yet no calamity in anywise comparable with the Deluge has followed. Finally; one wonders why the union of believers with unbelievers should result in “giants” — “there were giants in the earth in those days” ( Genesis 6:4).
If, then, the words “sons of God” do not signify the saints of that age, to whom do they refer? In Job 1:6, Job 2:1, Job 38:7, the same expression is found, and in these passages the reference is clearly to angels.
It is a significant fact that some versions of the Septuagint contain the word “angels” in Genesis 6:2,4. That the “sons of God,” who are here represented as cohabiting with the daughters of men were angels — fallen angels — seems to be taught in Jude 6: “And the angels which kept not their principality but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.”
Before we consider the outcome of this illicit intercourse, let us first enquire into the cause of it. Why did these angels thus “sin” ( 2 Peter 2:4)? The answer to this question leads us into a mysterious subject which we cannot now treat at length: the “why” finds its answer in Satan.
Immediately after that old serpent, the Devil, had brought about the downfall of our first parents, God passed sentence on the “serpent” and declared that the woman’s “Seed” should “bruise his head” ( Genesis 3:15). Hence, in due course, Satan sought to frustrate this purpose of God.
His first effort was an endeavor to prevent his Bruiser entering this world.
This effort is plainly to be seen in his attempts to destroy the channel through which the Lord Jesus was to come.
First, God revealed the fact that the Coming One was to be of human kind, the woman’s Seed, hence, as we shall seek to show, Satan attempted to destroy the human race. Next, God made known to Abraham that the Coming One was to be a descendant of his ( Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:18; Matthew 1:1); hence, four hundred years later, when the descendants of Abraham became numerous in Egypt Satan sought to destroy the Abrahamic stock, by moving Pharaoh to seek the destruction of all the male children ( Exodus 1:15,16). Later, God made known the fact that the Coming One was to be of the offspring of David ( 2 Samuel 7:12,13); hence, the subsequent attack made upon David through Absalom ( 2 Samuel 15). As, then, the Coming One was to be of the seed of David, He must spring from the tribe of Judah, and hence the significance of the divided Kingdom, and the attacks of the Ten Tribes upon the Tribe of Judah!
The reference in Jude 6 to the angels leaving their own habitation, appears to point to and correspond with these “sons of God” (angels) coming in unto the daughters of men. Apparently, by this means, Satan hoped to destroy the human race (the channel through which the woman’s Seed was to come) by producing a race of monstrosities. How nearly he succeeded is evident from the fact, that with the exception of one family, “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” ( Genesis 6:12).
That monstrosities were produced as the result of this unnatural union between the “sons of God” (angels) and the daughters of men, is evident from the words of Genesis 6:4: “There were giants in the earth in those days.” The Hebrew word for “giants” here is nephilim, which means fallen ones, from “naphal” to fall. The term “men of renoun” in Genesis 6:4 probably finds its historical equivalent in the “heroes” of Grecian mythology. Satan’s special object in seeking to prevent the advent of the woman’s “Seed” by destroying the human race was evidently an attempt to avert his threatened doom!
Against the view that “the sons of God” refer to fallen angels Matthew 22:30 is often cited. But when the contents of this verse are closely studied it will be found there is, really, nothing in it which conflicts with what we have said above. Had our Lord said, “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God” and stopped there, the objection would have real force. But the Lord did not stop there. He added a qualifying clause about the angels: He said “as the angels of God in heaven.” The last two words make all the difference. The angels in heaven neither marry nor are they given in marriage. But the angels referred to in Genesis 6 as the “sons of God” were no longer in heaven: as Jude 6 expressly informs us “they left their own principality.” They fell from their celestial position and came down to earth, entering into unlawful alliance with the daughters of men. This, we are assured, is the reason why Christ modified and qualified His assertion in Matthew 22:30. The angels of God in heaven do not marry, but those who left their own principality did.
Ere we close, there is one other passage of Scripture which ought to be considered in this connection, namely, Matthew 24:37 — “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.”
History is to repeat itself. Ere the Lord returns to this earth, the condition which prevailed in the world before the Flood are to be reproduced. The characteristic of the days of Noah may be summarized in the following ten items: 1. Multiplication of mankind ( Genesis 6:1) — note the great increase of earth’s population during the past century. 2. God dealing in long-suffering with a wicked world. 3. God sending His messengers to warn sinners of coming judgment. 4. God’s Spirit striving with men, and the threat that He would not always do so — cf 2 Thessalonians 2, which tells of His Spirit being taken away once more. 5. God’s overtures toward men despised and rejected — such is the condition of the world today. 6. A small remnant who find grace in the sight of the Lord and walk with Him. 7. Enoch miraculously translated — typifying the removal of the saints from the earth caught up to meet the Lord in the air. 8. Descent to the earth of the fallen angels and their union with the daughters of men: how near we have already approached to a repetition of this may be discovered in the demoniacal activities among Spiritists, Theosophists and Christian Scientists. 9. God’s judgments poured forth on the ungodly — of Revelation to 19. 10. Noah and his family miraculously preserved — type of the Jewish remnant preserved through the Tribulation, see Revelation 12. 12. NOAH A TYPE OF CHRIST <010601> GENESIS No study of the person and character of Noah would be complete without viewing him as a type of the Lord Jesus. With one or two notable exceptions it will be beside our purpose to do more than call attention to some of the most striking points of correspondency between the type and the antitype, leaving our readers to develop at greater length these seed thoughts. 1. To begin at the beginning, Noah’s very name foreshadowed the Coming One. In Genesis 5:28,29 we read, “And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son; and he called his name Noah.”
Noah means “rest.” His father regarded him as the one who should be the rest-giver, and as one who should provide comfort from the toil incurred by the Curse. “He called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” Lamech looked upon his son as one who should bring deliverance from the Curse, as one who should provide comfort and rest from the weariness of toil. Our readers will readily see how this ancient prophecy (for prophecy it undoubtedly was) receives its fulfillment in the One of whom it was also written, “And His rest shall be glorious” ( Isaiah 11:10), and who when on earth said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” ( Matthew 11:28).
But further than this, Noah’s name, and the prophecy of his father on the occasion of the bestowment of it upon his son, also looks forward to the time of our Lord’s Second Advent when He shall deliver the earth from its Curse — See Isaiah 9; 35, etc. 2. The first thing which is told us in connection with Noah is that he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” ( Genesis 6:8). In a previous article we have commented upon the setting of these words and have pointed out the contrast which they are designed to emphasize. “All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” The ruinous and ravaging effects of sin were universal. But as God looked down upon the creatures of His hand, now fallen and depraved, there was one who stood out by himself, one who was just and perfect in his generation, one upon whom God’s eye delighted to rest. It is very significant that nothing at all is said about Noah’s family — his “sons and their wives” — in this connection; Noah only is mentioned, as if to show he is the one on whom our attention should be fixed. When we note what a striking type of our Lord Jesus Noah is, the reason for this is obvious; He is the one in whom the heart of the Father delighted, and just as the first thing told us in connection with Noah is that he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” so the first words of the Father after the Lord Jesus had commenced His public ministry were, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” ( Matthew 3:17). 3. The next thing told us about Noah is that he “was a just man” ( Genesis 6:9). As is well known, the word just means “righteous.” Like all other sinners who find acceptance with God, Noah was “justified by faith.” He possessed no inherent righteousness of his own. Righteousness is imputed, imputed to those that believe ( Romans 4:6, 22-25). There was only one man who has ever walked our earth who was inherently and intrinsically righteous and that was He whom Noah foreshadowed, He of whom the centurion testified, “Certainly this was a righteous man” ( Luke 23:47). 4. Next we read that Noah was “perfect in his generations” ( Genesis 6:9). In a previous article we have seen that this expression has reference to the body and not to perfection of character. Noah and his family had not been defiled by contact with the Nephilim. “Perfect in his generations’’ signifies that Noah was uncontaminated physically. “Perfect in his generations” is predicated of Noah alone; of none other is this said. How plain and perfect the type! Does it not point to the immaculate humanity of our Lord? When the Eternal Word was “made flesh” He did not contract the corruptions of our fallen nature. Unlike all of human kind, He was not “shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin.” On the contrary His mother was told, “That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” ( Luke 1:35).
In His humanity our Lord was “separate from sinners” ( Hebrews 7:26).
He was uncontaminated by the virus of sin; He was “perfect in His generation.” 5. Next we read of Noah that he “walked with God” ( Genesis 6:9). In this also he was a type of Him who for thirty-three years lived here in unbroken communion with the Father. All through those years, however varied His circumstances, we find Him enjoying holy and blessed fellowship with the Father. During His early life, in the seclusion of Nazareth we learn that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” ( Luke 2:52).
During the long season of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, we find Him living by “every word of God” ( Luke 4:4). While His disciples slept, our blessed Lord retired to the solitudes of the mountain, there to pour out His soul to God and enjoy fellowship with His Father ( Luke 6:12). At the close of His sufferings on the Cross we hear Him cry, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” ( Luke 23:46).
Truly His walk was ever “with God.” 6. God Gave Noah an Honorous Work to Do “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. With thee will I establish My covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring in the ark, to keep them alive with thee” ( Genesis 6:14,18,19).
Here we find a work is entrusted to Noah by God, a highly important work, a momentous and stupendous work. Never before or since has such a task been allotted to a single man. The task of preserving from God’s judgment representatives of all creation was committed to Noah! The type is so clear and plain that comment is almost needless. To the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, was entrusted the task of effecting the salvation of lost and ruined sinners. It is to this He refers when He says, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” ( John 17:4) — speaking here as though in Glory, where He now is as our great High Priest. 7. Noah, Alone, Did the Work We shall consider separately the typical significance of the ark; for the moment we would direct attention upon Noah and his work. Is it not striking that there is no reference here to any help that Noah received in the executing of his God-given task? There is no hint whatever that any assisted him in the work of building the ark. The record reads as though Noah alone provided the necessary means for securing the lives of those that God had entrusted to his care! Surely the reason is obvious. The truth which is foreshadowed here is parallel with the typology of Leviticus 16:17 — “And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out” when atonement was being made the High Priest must be alone. So it was in the antitype. The work of redemption was accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” ( 1 Peter 2:24), and He needed no assistance in this work, for God had “laid help upon One that is mighty” ( Psalm 89:19, R.V.). In full harmony then with the Leviticus 16 type, and in perfect accord with its fulfillment in our gracious Savior, we find that the record in Genesis reads as though Noah was alone in his task and received no assistance in the work of providing a refuge from the coming storm of Divine wrath. 8. Moreover, is not the perfection of the type further to be seen in the fact that the inspired record passes over the interval of time necessary for Noah to have performed his task? This is very striking, for many months, and probably years, would be required to build an ark of the dimensions given us in Genesis. But not a word is said about this. After God gave instructions to Noah to build the ark, the next thing we read is, “Thus did Noah according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark” ( Genesis 6:22; Genesis 7:1) — as though to show that when he began, his work was speedily accomplished! How much we may learn from the silences of Scripture!
Again we call attention to the parallel type in Leviticus 16 — “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (verse 30).
In Leviticus 23 the Day of Atonement is classed among Israel’s great feasts, and by noting this the point we are now making comes out more clearly by way of contrast. Others of these feasts, e.g., Unleavened Bread, Tabernacles, etc., extended over a period of several days, but Atonement was accomplished in one day. Nothing was left over to be completed on the next day; which reminds us of the blessed words of our triumphant Savior — “It is finished.” There is nothing now for us to do but rest on His Finished Work. In one day, yes, in three hours, on the Cross, our Lord put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. As we have said, this was anticipated in the typical significance of Noah’s work by the silence of Scripture upon the length of time he was engaged in the performance of his task, the record reading as though it was speedily executed. 9. The successful issue of Noah’s work, seen in “the saving of his house” ( Hebrews 11:7) reminds us of the language of Hebrews 3:6, “But Christ as a son over his own house” ( Hebrews 3:6).
Observe how beautifully this is brought out in Genesis 8:1 — “And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark.” So, too, the work of Christ shall yet bring blessing to the beasts of the field. At His return to the earth “the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” ( Romans 8:21). 10. In Genesis 6:19 we have a hint of the animal creation being subject to Noah “And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee.” We have a passing glimpse of the yet future fulfillment of this part of the type in Mark 1:13 — “And He was there in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts.”
Noah’s headship over all creatures comes out even more clearly in Genesis 9:2 — “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.” How this reminds us of Psalm 8, which speaks of the future dominion of the Son of Man. “For Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned Him with glory and honor. For thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under His feet (compare Hebrews 2:8), “But now we see not yet all things put under Him, all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea!” This same thought is repeated in the Genesis narrative again and again as if with deliberate emphasis. When we read of the animals entering the Ark we are told “They went in unto Noah (not unto Noah and his family) into the Ark,” and then we are told “And the Lord shut him (not ‘them’) in” ( Genesis 7:15,16). And again, on leaving the ark we read that God said unto Noah, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” ( Genesis 9:3).
So Christ is “the Heir of all things” ( Hebrews 1:2). 11. In Genesis 6:21 we find Noah presented as the great food-provider: “And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.” We need hardly say that this finds its complement in Christ the Bread of Life. He is God’s Manna for our souls. He is the Shewbread which was eaten by Aaron and his sons ( Leviticus 24:9). He is the Old Corn of the land ( Joshua 5:11). In short, it is only as we feed upon Christ as He is presented unto us in the written Word that our spiritual life is quickened and nourished. 12. In Genesis 6:22 we learn of Noah’s implicit and complete obedience — “Thus did Noah according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”
And again, “And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him” ( Genesis 7:5).
So, too, we read of the perfect obedience of Him whom Noah foreshadowed: “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even so I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” ( John 15:10).
Only, be it noted, the obedience of our blessed Lord went farther than that of Noah, for He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” ( Philippians 2:8) — in all things He has the preeminence. 13. — “And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him; every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds went forth out of the ark” ( Genesis 8:18,19).
However, the fact that the animal creation is here specifically mentioned as sharing in this blessing seems to point to a milennial scene when all creation shall enjoy the benefit of Christ’s reign (cf. Isaiah 11). 14. — “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar ( Genesis 8:20).
Here we see Noah offering a burnt offering unto the Lord: the and-typical parallel is found in Ephesians 5:2 — “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.” 15. “And God blessed Noah and his sons” ( Genesis 9:1). It is beautiful to see Noah and his sons here linked together in the enjoyment of God’s blessing, as though to foreshadow the blessed fact that every mercy we now enjoy is ours for Christ’s sake.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” ( Ephesians 1:3). 16. With Noah and his sons God established His Covenant, “And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you” ( Genesis 9:8,9).
The word “covenant” occurs just seven times in this passage, namely, in verses 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17. Note, the covenant that God made with Noah was “an everlasting covenant” ( Genesis 9:16), and so we read concerning the anti-type — “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” ( Hebrews 13:20). 13. THE TYPOLOGY OF THE ARK <010701> GENESIS The ark which was built by Noah according to divine directions, in which he and his house, together with representatives from the lower creation, found shelter from the storm of God’s wrath, is one of the clearest and most comprehensive types of the believer’s salvation in Christ which is to be found in all the Scriptures. So important do we deem it, we have decided to devote a separate article to its prayerful and careful consideration. 1. The first thing to be noted in connection with the ark is that it was a Divine provision. This is very clear from the words of Genesis 6:13, — “And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before Me.... make thee an ark.” Before the flood came and before the ark was made, a means of escape for His own people existed in the mind of God. The ark was not provided by Him after the waters had begun to descend. Noah was commanded to construct it before a drop had fallen. So, too, the Saviourship of Christ was no afterthought of God when sin had come in and blighted His creation; from all eternity He had purposed to redeem a people unto Himself, and in consequence, Christ, in the counsels of the Godhead, was “a lamb slain from the foundation of the world” ( Revelation 13:8). The ark was God’s provision for Noah as Christ is God’s provision for sinners. 2. Observe now that God revealed to Noah His own designs and ordered him to build a place of refuge into which he could flee from the impending storm of judgment. The ark was no invention of Noah’s; had not God revealed His thoughts to him, he would have perished along with his fellow creatures. In like manner, God has to reveal by His Spirit His thoughts of mercy and grace toward us; otherwise, in our blindness and ignorance we should be eternally lost. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 4:6). 3. In the next place, we note that Noah was commanded to make an ark of gopher-wood ( Genesis 6:14). The material out of which the ark was built teaches an important lesson. The ark was made, not of steel like our modern “dreadnoughts,’’ but out of wood. The typical truth which this fact is designed to teach us lies not on the surface, yet is one that is brought before us again and again both in the Word and in Nature; the truth, that life comes out of death, that life can be secured only by sacrifice. Before the ark could be made, trees must be cut down. That which secured the life of Noah and his house was obtained by the death of the trees. We have a hint here, too, of our Lord’s humanity. The trees from which the wood of the ark was taken were a thing of the earth, reminding us of Isaiah’s description of Christ — “a root out of a dry ground” ( Isaiah 53:2). So Christ, who was the eternal Son of God must become the Son of man — part of that which, originally, was made out of the dust of the earth — and as such be cut down, or, in the language of prophecy, be “cut off” ( Daniel 9:26), before a refuge could be provided for us. 4. The ark was a refuge from Divine judgment. There are three arks mentioned in Scripture and each of them was a shelter and place of safety.
The ark of bulrushes ( Exodus 2:3) protected the young child Moses from the murderous designs of Pharaoh, who was a type of Satan. The ark of the covenant sheltered the two tables of stone on which were inscribed the holy law of God. Each ark speaks of Christ, and putting the three together, we learn that the believer is sheltered from God’s wrath, Satan’s assaults and the condemnation of the law — the only three things in all the universe which can threaten or harm us. The ark of Noah was a place of safety. It was provided by God when death threatened all. It was the only place of deliverance from the wrath to come, and as such it speaks of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior of lost sinners — “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” ( Acts 4:12). 5. Into this ark man was invited to come. He was invited by God Himself, “And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark” ( Genesis 7:1).
This is the first time the word “come” is found in the Scriptures, and it recurs over five hundred times in the remainder of the Bible. Is it not highly significant that we meet with it here as its first occurrence! A number of thoughts are suggested by this connection, for several of which we are indebted to Dr. Thomas’ work on Genesis. Observe that the Lord does not say “Go into the ark,” but “Come.” “Go” would have been a command, “Come” was a gracious invitation; “Go” would have implied that the Lord was bidding Noah depart from Him, “Come” intimated that in the ark the Lord would be present with him. Is it not the same thought as we have in the Gospel — “Come unto Me and I will give you rest!” Observe further that the invitation was a personal one — “Come thou”; God always addresses Himself to the heart and conscience of the individual. Yet, the invitation went further — “Come thou and all thy house into the ark,” and again we find a parallel in the Gospel of grace in our day: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” ( Acts 16:31). 6. The ark was a place of absolute security. This truth is seen from several particulars. First, the ark itself was pitched “within and without with pitch” ( Genesis 6:14), hence it would be thoroughly watertight, and as such, a perfect shelter. No matter how hard it rained or how high the waters rose, all inside the ark were secure. The ark was in this respect also, a type of our salvation in Christ. Speaking to the saints, the apostle said, “Your life is hid (like Noah in the ark) with Christ in God” ( Colossians 3:3).
In the next place, we read concerning Noah after he had entered the ark, “And the Lord shut him in” ( Genesis 7:16). What a blessed word is this! Noah did not have to take care of himself; having entered the ark, God was then responsible for his preservation. So it is with those who have fled to Christ for refuge, they are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” ( 1 Peter 1:5).
Finally, the security of all in the ark is seen in the issuing of them forth one year later on to the destruction-swept earth — “And Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him: every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark” ( Genesis 8:18,19).
All who had entered that ark had been preserved, none had perished by the flood, and none had died a natural death, so perfect is the type. How this reminds us of our Lord’s words, “Of them which thou gavest Me have I lost none” ( John 18:9). 7. Next we would note what has often been pointed out by others, that the ark had only one door to it. There was not one entrance for Noah and his family, another for the animals, and yet another for the birds. One door was all it had. The same was true later of the tabernacle; it, too, had but a single entrance. The spiritual application is apparent. There is only one way of escape from eternal death. There is only one way of deliverance from the wrath to come. There is only one Savior from the Lake of Fire, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ — “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” ( John 14:6).
The language of our type is directly employed by Christ in John 10:9, where we hear Him say, “I am the door.” It is also worthy of attention to note that Noah was ordered by God to set the door “in the side” of the ark ( Genesis 6:16). Surely this pointed forward to the piercing of our Lord’s “side” ( John 19:34) which was the intimation that the way to the heart of God is now open to guilty and ruined sinners. 8. The ark had three stories in it, “with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it” ( Genesis 6:16).
Why are we told this? What difference does it make to God’s saints living four thousand years afterwards how many stories the ark had, whether it had one or a dozen? Every devout student of the Word has learned that everything in the Holy Scriptures has some significance and spiritual value.
Necessarily so, for every word of God is pure. When the Holy Spirit “moved” Moses to write the book of Genesis, He knew that a book was being written which should be read by the Lord’s people thousands of years later, therefore, what He caused to be written must have in every instance, something more than a merely local application. “Whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning.” What then are we to “learn” from the fact that in the ark there were three stories, no less and no more?
We have already seen that the ark itself unmistakably foreshadowed the Lord Jesus. Passing through the waters of judgment, being itself submerged by them; grounding on the seventeenth day of the month — as we shall see, the day of our Lord’s Resurrection; and affording a shelter to all who were within it, the ark was a very clear type of Christ. Therefore the inside of the ark must speak to us of what we have in Christ. Is it not clear then that the ark divided into three stories more than hints at our threefold salvation in Christ? The salvation which we have in Christ is a threefold one, and that in a double sense. It is a salvation which embraces each part of our threefold constitution, making provision for the redemption of our spirit, and soul, and body ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23); and further, our salvation is a three tense salvation — we have been saved from the penalty of sin, are being saved from the power of sin, we shall yet be saved from the presence of sin. 9. Next, we observe that the ark was furnished with a window and this was placed “above” — “A window shalt thou make to the ark and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above” ( Genesis 6:16).
The spiritual application is patent. Noah and his companions were not to be looking down on the scene of destruction beneath and around them, but up toward the living God. The same lesson was taught to Jehovah’s people in the Wilderness. The pillar of cloud to guide them by day and the pillar of fire to protect them by night was provided not only for their guidance, but was furnished for their instruction as well. Israel must look up to the great Jehovah and not be occupied with the difficulties and dangers of the wilderness. So, we, called upon to walk by faith, are to journey with our eyes turned heavenward. Our affection must be set upon” things above, not on things on the earth” ( Colossians 3:2). 10. The ark was furnished with “rooms” or “nests” — “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms (margin “nests”) shalt thou make in the ark” ( Genesis 6:14).
In every other passage in the Old Testament where the Hebrew word “gen” occurs, it is translated “nest.” We hesitate to press the spiritual signification here; yet, we have seen that the ark is such a striking and comprehensive type of our salvation in Christ we must believe that this detail in the picture has some meaning, whether we are able to discern it or no. The thought which is suggested to us is, that in Christ we have something more than a refuge, we have a resting place; we are like birds in their nests, the objects of Another’s loving care. Oh, is it that the “nests” in the ark look forward to the “many mansions” in the Father’s House? which our Lord has gone to prepare for us. It is rather curious that there is some uncertainty about the precise meaning of the Greek word here translated “mansions.’’ Weymouth renders it, “In My Father’s house are many resting places!” 11. In connection with the ark the great truth of Atonement is typically presented. This comes out in several particulars: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” ( Genesis 6:14).
The Hebrew word here is not the common one for “pitch” which is “zetteth,” but is “kapher,” which is translated seventy times in the Old Testament “to make atonement.” The simple meaning of “kapher” is “to cover” and nowhere else is it rendered “pitch.” Atonement was made by the blood which provided a covering for sin. Our readers being familiar with this thought, there is no need for us to develop it. God is holy, and as such He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” ( Habakkuk 1:13), hence sin must be covered — covered by blood. It is therefore remarkable that this word “kapher” should be employed (for the first time in Scripture) in connection with the ark, as though to teach us that a shelter from God’s wrath can be found only beneath the atoning blood! Again we notice that the storm fell upon the ark which provided shelter for Noah and those that were with him. So, too, the clouds of Divine judgment burst upon our adorable Redeemer as He suffered in our stead: “All Thy waves and thy billows are gone over Me” ( Psalm 42:7) was His cry; and may not His words here be language pointing back to the very type we are now considering? 12. As others have pointed out, the typical teaching of the ark reaches beyond the truth of atonement to resurrection itself. We quote here from the writings of the late Mr. William Lincoln: “There seems no reason to doubt that the day the ark rested on the mountain of Ararat is identical with the day on which the Lord rose from the dead. It rested “on the seventeenth day of the seventh month.” But by the commandment of the Lord, given at the time of the institution of the feast of the Passover, the seventh month was changed into the first month. Then three days after the Passover, which was on the fourteenth day of the month, the Lord, having passed quite through the waters of judgment, stood in resurrection in the midst of His disciples, saying, “Peace be unto you.” They, as well as Himself, had reached the haven of everlasting rest.” But not only does our type prefigure our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, it also suggests the truth of His ascension, for we read “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month upon the mountains of Ararat” ( Genesis 8:4).
We lay our pen down with a strengthened conviction that the Holy Scriptures are no mere “cunningly devised fables,” but that they are indeed the inspired Word of the living God. 14. GOD’S COVENANT WITH NOAH <010801> GENESIS The covenants referred to therein constitute one of the principal keys to the interpretation of the Old Testament, denoting, as they do, the dividing lines between the different Dispensations, and indicating the several changes of procedure in God’s dealings with the earth. At various times God condescended to enter into a compact with man, and failure to observe the terms and scope of these compacts necessarily leads to the utmost confusion. The Word of truth can only be rightly divided as due attention is paid to the different covenants recorded therein. The covenants varied in their requirements, in their scope, in their promises and in the seals or signs connected with them. The inspired history growing out of the covenants furnishes a signal demonstration of God’s faithfulness and of man’s faithlessness and failure.
Second , the Noahic which concerned the earth and its seasons, see Genesis 9.
Fifth , the Levitic which concerned the priesthood, promising that it should remain in this tribe, see Numbers 25:12,13; Malachi 2:4,5; Ezekiel 44:15, which proves God’s faithfulness in respect to this covenant in the Millennium.
Seventh , the Messianic or New Covenant which concerns the Millennium, see Isaiah 42:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34. Much might be written concerning these different covenants, but we limit ourselves to the second, the Noahic. We wish to say, however, that a careful study of the above references will richly repay every diligent and prayerful reader. 1. Coming now to the second of these great covenants let us notice the occasion of it. It was as it were the beginning of a new world. There was to he a fresh start. With the exception of those who found shelter in the ark, the flood had completely destroyed both the human family and the lower orders of creation. On to the destruction-swept earth came Noah and his family. Noah’s first act was to build, not a house for himself, but an altar “unto the Lord,” on which he presented burnt offerings. These were, unto the Lord, a “sweet savor,” and after declaring that He would not curse the ground any more for man’s sake, and after promising that while the earth remained its seasons should not cease, we are told “God blessed Noah and his sons” ( Genesis 9:1). This is the first time that we read of God blessing any since He had blessed unfallen man in Eden ( Genesis 1:28). The basis of this “blessing” was the burnt offerings; the design of it to show that the same Divine favor that was extended to Adam and Eve should now rest upon the new progenitors of the human race.
Here then we have the second “beginning” of Genesis, a beginning which, in several respects, resembled the first, particularly in the command to be fruitful and multiply, and in the subjection of the irrational creature to man’s dominion. But there is one difference here which it is important to notice: all now rests upon a covenant of grace based upon shed blood.
Man had forfeited the “blessing” of God and his position as lord of creation, but grace restores and reinstates him. God makes a covenant with Noah which in its scope included the beasts of the field ( Genesis 9:2) who are made to be at peace with him and subject to his authority; and which in its duration would last while the earth remained. Let us now note: 2. The source of this covenant. At least two of the seven covenants referred to above (the first and the fourth) were mutual agreements between God and man, but in the one now before us, God Himself was the initiator and sole compacter. The whole passage emphasizes the fact that it was a covenant of God with Noah, and not of Noah with God. God was the giver, man the receiver. Note “I will establish My covenant with you” (verse 11); “This is the token of the covenant which I make” (verse 12); “And I will remember My covenant” (verse 15). That this was God’s covenant with Noah, and that man had no part in the making or keeping of it is further seen from the following language: “I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth” (verse 13), and, “I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (verse 15).
It is further to be noted that God said to Noah “with thee will I establish My covenant” ( Genesis 6:18). The benefits of it have been enjoyed by Noah’s posterity, yet the covenant was not made with them. Favor has been shown to his descendants for Noah’s sake. Similarly, God made a covenant with Abraham in which He promised to bless his offspring. Thus, at this early period in human history God was revealing the great principle by which redemption should afterwards be effected by His Son, namely, that of representation, the one acting for the many, the many receiving blessing through the one. 3. The basis of this covenant is seen in the closing verses of Genesis 8.
The chapter division here is most unfortunate. Genesis 8 ought to terminate with the nineteenth verse, the remaining three forming the proper commencement of the ninth chapter. “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” ( Genesis 8:20) — the next two verses, and the whole of chapter nine down to the seventeenth verse, contain Jehovah’s response to Noah’s offering. It is in these verses we learn God’s answer to the “sweet savor” that ascended from the altar. This covenant, then, was based upon sacrifice, and being made by God with Noah, and not by Noah with God, is therefore unconditionable and inviolable. How blessed to learn from this type that every temporal blessing which the earth enjoys as well as every spiritual blessing which is the portion of the saints, accrues to us from the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ of whom Noah’s burnt offerings spoke. 4. The contents of this covenant call for careful consideration. A part of these has already engaged our attention. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease” ( Genesis 8:20); “And I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth” ( Genesis 9:11).
These promises were given more than four thousand years ago, and the unfailing annual fulfillment of them all through the centuries forms a striking demonstration of the faithfulness of God. The terms of this covenant refer us to that which is almost universally lost sight of in these days, namely, the fact that behind Nature’s “laws” is Nature’s Lord. Men now seek to shut God out of His own creation. We hear so much of the science of farming and the laws of diet that our daily bread and the health of the body are regarded as something that man produces and controls.
Our daily bread is a gift, for without the recurring seasons and God’s “renewal of the face of the earth” ( <19A430> Psalm 104:30) man could produce no grain at all, and the recurring of the seasons and the renewal of the earth are the fulfillment of the covenant that God made with Noah. A casual observation of Nature’s “laws” reveals the fact that they are not uniform in their operation, hence if a Divine Revelation be eliminated man possesses no guarantee that the seasons may not radically change or that the earth shall not be destroyed again by a flood. Nature’s “laws” did not prevent the Deluge in Noah’s day, why should they prevent a recurrence of it in ours?
How blessed for the child of God to turn to the inerrant Word and hear his Father say, “And I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth!” 5. The design of the covenant is hinted at in the scripture just quoted. The timeliness and blessedness of such a revelation are apparent. Such an awful catastrophe as the Flood would shake violently the confidence of men in the established order of Nature, and distressing apprehensions were likely to obsess their minds for generations to come. They would be filled with terror as they feared a repetition of it. It was therefore a merciful act on the part of God to set their minds at rest and assure His creatures that He would no more destroy the earth with a flood. It was a wondrous display of His grace, for man had fully shown that he was utterly unworthy of the least of heaven’s mercies, yet, despite the fact that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” the Lord said in His heart, “Neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” ( Genesis 8:21). It was also an affirmation of His Creatorship — the varying seasons, the planets that rule them, the influences of climatic conditions, were all beneath the control of Him who upholds “all things by the word of His power” ( Hebrews 1:3). 6. The requirements of the covenant are of deep interest. Though the word itself does not occur till the eleventh verse of the ninth chapter, a careful study of the context makes it clear that the covenant itself is expressed in Genesis 8:22, and that from there on the “covenant” is the one theme of the entire passage. Three things are included among the Divine requirements: first, blood must not be eaten; second, the principle of retributive judgment is clearly enunciated for the first time, capital punishment as the penalty of murder being now commanded; the human race was to multiply and people the earth which had been depopulated by the flood. Let us take a brief look at each of these things. “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” ( Genesis 9:4).
This is the second passage in Scripture in which the word blood occurs.
Here, as everywhere in the Word, the earliest references forecast in outline all that is subsequently said upon the subject. The first seven passages in which the word blood is found contain a complete summary of the teaching of God’s Word upon this fundamental theme. (1) Genesis 4:10,11, gives us the first mention of blood, and here we learn that the blood cries unto God. (2) Genesis 9:4-6, here we learn that the blood is the life, and that blood must be held sacred. (3) Genesis 37:22,26,31, Joseph’s coat is dipped in blood and is brought to Jacob: here we learn, in type, that the blood of the Son is presented to the Father. (4) Genesis 42:22, here we learn that blood is required at the hand of those who shed it. (5) Genesis 49:11, here, in poetic and prophetic language, Judah’s clothes are said to be washed in the blood of grapes.” (6) Exodus 4:9, the waters of the Nile are turned into blood, teaching us that blood is the symbol and expression of God’s judgment upon sin. (7) Exodus 12:13, the blood provides a covering and shelter for Israel from the avenging angel. We say again, that in these passages which are the first seven in the Scriptures in which blood is referred to, we discover a marvellously complete summary of all that is subsequently said about the precious blood. It is deeply significant, then, that in the first requirement in this covenant, which God made with Noah, man should be taught to regard the blood as sacred.
We turn now to the second of God’s requirements mentioned here in connection with His covenant with Noah — “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” ( Genesis 9:6).
Here we have instituted the principle of all human government. The sword of magisterial authority is, for the first time, committed into the hands of man. Before the flood, there does not seem to have been any recognized form of human government designed for the suppression of crime and the punishment of evil doers. Cain murdered his brother, but his own life was spared. Lamech also slew a man, but there is no hint that he had to defend himself before any tribunal that had been ordained by God. But now, after the flood, capital punishment as the penalty of murder is ordained, ordained by God Himself, ordained centuries before the giving of the Mosaic law, and therefore, universally binding until the end of time. It is important to observe that the reason for this law is not here based upon the well-being of man, but is grounded upon the basic fact that man is made “in the image of God.” This expression has at least a twofold significance — a natural and a moral. The moral image of God in man was lost at the Fall, but the natural has been preserved as is clear from 1 Corinthians 11:7, and James 3:9. It is primarily because man is made in the image of God that it is sinful to slay him. “To deface the King’s image is a sort of treason among men, implying a hatred against him, and that if he himself were within reach, he would be served in the same manner. How much more treasonable, then, must it be to destroy, curse, oppress, or in any way abuse the image of the King of kings!” (Andrew Fuller’s Exposition of Genesis).
As we have said above, God’s words to Noah give us the institution of human government in the earth. The sword of magisterial authority has been given into the hands of man by God Himself, hence it is we read, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
This was the renewal of God’s word to Adam ( Genesis 1:28). The human family was starting out afresh. There was a new beginning. Noah stood, like Adam stood, as the head of the human race. The need for this word was obvious. The earth had been depopulated. The human family had been reduced to eight souls ( 1 Peter 3:20). If then the purpose of man’s creation was to be realized, if the earth was to be replenished and subdued, then must man be “fruitful and multiply.” “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered” ( Genesis 9:2) is further proof that Noah stood as the new head of the race, the lower orders of creation being delivered into his hands as they had been into the hands of Adam. 7. “And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud;.... and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” ( Genesis 9:12-16). These verses bring before us the token of the covenant. In the giving of the rainbow God ratified the promise which He had made. The bow in the cloud was not only to assure man that no more would the earth be destroyed by a flood, but it was also the memorial of the new relationship which God had entered into with His creatures. “His eye,” and not man’s only, is upon the bow, and thus He gives them fellowship with Himself in that which speaks of peace in the midst of trouble, of light in the place of darkness; and what this bow speaks of it is ours to realize, who have the reality of which all figures speak. “‘God is light,’ and that which doth make manifest is light.” Science has told us that the colors which everywhere clothe the face of nature are but the manifold beauty of the light itself. The pure ray which to us is colorless is but the harmonious blending of all possible colors. The primary one — a trinity in unity — from which all others are produced, are blue, red, and yellow; and the actual color of any object is the result of its capacity to absorb the rest. If it absorb the red and yellow rays, the thing is blue; if the blue and yellow, it is red; if the red only, it is green; and so on. Thus the light paints all nature; and its beauty (which in the individual ray, we have not eyes for) comes out in partial displays wherein it is broken up for us and made perceptible. “‘ God is light’; He is Father of lights.” The glory, which in its unbroken unity is beyond what we have sight for, He reveals to us as distinct attributes in partial displays which we are more able to take in, and with these He clothes in some way all the works of His hands. The jewels on the High Priest’s breastplate the many-colored gems whereon the names of His people were engraved were thus the “Urim and Thummim” the “Lights and Perfections,” typically, of God Himself; for His people are identified with the display of those perfections, those “lights,” in Him more unchangeable than the typical gems. “In the rainbow the whole array of these lights manifests itself, the solar rays reflecting themselves in the storm; the interpretation of which is simple. “When I bring a cloud over the earth,” says the Lord, “the bow shall be seen in the cloud; and I (not merely you) will look upon it.” How blessed to know that the cloud that comes over our sky is of His bringing! and if so, how sure that some way He will reveal His glory in it! But that is not all, nor the half; for surely but once has been the full display of the whole prism of glow, and that in the blackest storm of judgment that ever was; and it is this in the cross of His Son that God above all looks upon and that He remembers.” (F. W. Grant).
In the rainbow we have more than a hint of grace. As some one has said, “The bow is directed towards heaven, and arrow to it there is none, as if it had already been discharged.” There are many parallels between the rainbow and God’s grace. As the rainbow is the joint product of storm and sunshine, so grace is the unmerited favor of God appearing on the dark background of the creature’s sin. As the rainbow is the effect of the sun shining on the drops of rain in a raincloud, so Divine grace is manifested by God’s love shining through the blood shed by our blessed Redeemer. As the rainbow is the telling out of the varied hues of the white light, so the “manifold grace of God” 1 Peter 4:10) is the ultimate expression of God’s heart. As Nature knows nothing more exquisitely beautiful than the rainbow, so heaven itself knows nothing that equals in loveliness the wonderful grace of our God. As the rainbow is the union of heaven and earth — spanning the sky and reaching down to the ground — so grace in the one Mediator has brought together God and men. As the rainbow is a public sign of God hung out in the heavens that all may see it, so “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” ( Titus 2:11).
Finally, as the rainbow has been displayed throughout all the past forty centuries, so in the ages to come God will shew forth “the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus” ( Ephesians 2:7). 15. NOAH’S FALL AND NOAH’S PROPHECY <010901> GENESIS In our last article we inquired into God’s Covenant with Noah — its basis, its contents, its requirements, etc. We saw, in the emerging out of the ark that from Noah and his sons the human family started out afresh. The new beginning promised well. God entered into a covenant with Noah, declaring that the earth should not again be destroyed by a flood — thus did the Lord set the heart of His creatures at rest. Then, we learned that “God blessed Noah and his sons”; that He caused the fear and dread of man to fall upon every beast of the field, and “delivered” all the lower orders of creation into his hands. Further, we discovered that man was now vested with the sword of magisterial authority, the principle of human government being ordained and instituted by God Himself.
After such a merciful deliverance from the deluge, after witnessing such a solemn demonstration of God’s holy wrath against sin, and after being started out with full provision and Divine assurance, one would have supposed that the human race, ever after, would adhere to the path of righteousness — but, alas! The very next thing we read is that “Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: and he drank of the wine and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent” ( Genesis 9:20,21).
Scholars tell us that the Hebrew word here for “uncovered” clearly indicates a deliberate act and not a mere unconscious effect of drunkenness. The sins of intemperance and impurity are twin sisters! No wonder the Psalmist was constrained to cry, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” What a contrast there is between this section of Genesis and the last that we considered! Who would have imagined such a tragic sequel? How evident it is that truth is stranger than fiction. Genesis 9 brings before us the inauguration of a new beginning and as we study and ponder what is recorded herein our minds revert to the first “beginning” of the human race, and careful comparison of the two reveals the fact that there is a most extraordinary resemblance in the history of Noah with that of Adam. We would here call attention to a tenfold correspondence or likeness. Adam was placed upon an earth which came up out of the “deep and which had previously been dealt with by God in judgment” ( Genesis 1:12); so, also, Noah came forth onto an earth which had just emerged from the waters of the great Deluge sent as a Divine judgment upon sin. Adam was made lord of creation ( Genesis 1:28) and into the hands of Noah God also delivered all things ( Genesis 9:2). Adam was “blessed” by God and told to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” ( Genesis 1:28), and, in like manner, Noah was “blessed” and told to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” ( Genesis 9:1). Adam was placed by God in a garden to “dress and to keep it” ( Genesis 2:15), and Noah “began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard” ( Genesis 9:20).
In this garden Adam transgressed and fell, and the product of the vineyard was the occasion of Noah’s sin and fall. The sin of Adam resulted in the exposure of his nakedness ( Genesis 3:7), and so, too, we read “And he (Noah) was uncovered within his tent” ( Genesis 9:21). Adam’s nakedness was covered by another ( Genesis 3:21); thus also was it with Noah ( Genesis 9:23). Adam’s sin brought a terrible curse upon his posterity ( Romans 5:12), and so did Noah’s too ( Genesis 24:24,25). Adam had three sons — Cain, Abel and Seth, the last of which was the one through whom the promised Seed came; and here again the analogy holds good, for Noah also had three sons — Japheth, Ham and Shem, the last mentioned being the one from whom descended the Messiah and Savior. Almost immediately after Adam’s fall a wonderful prophecy was given containing in outline the history of redemption ( Genesis 3:15); and almost immediately after Noah’s fall, a remarkable prophecy was uttered containing in outline the history of the great races of the earth.
Thus does history repeat itself.
What then are we to “learn” from this narration of Noah’s sad fall?
First , we discover a striking proof of the Divine inspiration of the scriptures. In the Bible human nature is painted in its true colors: the characters of its heroes are faithfully depicted, the sins of its most prominent personages are frankly recorded. It is human to err, but it is also human to conceal the blemishes of those we admire. Had the Bible been a human production, had it been written by uninspired historians, the defects of its leading characters would have been ignored, or if recorded at all, an attempt at extenuation would have been made. Had some human admirer chronicled the history of Noah, his awful fall would have been omitted. The fact that it is recorded and that no effort is made to excuse his sin, is evidence that the characters of the Bible are painted in the colors of truth and nature, that such characters were not sketched by human pens, that Moses and the other historians must have written by Divine inspiration.
Second , we learn from Noah’s fall that man at his best estate is altogether vanity, in other words, we see the utter and total depravity of human nature. Genesis 9 deals with the beginning of a new dispensation, and like those which preceded it and those which followed it, this also opened with failure. Whatever the test may be, man is unable to stand. Placed in an environment which the besom of destruction had swept clean; a solemn warning of the judgment of heaven upon evil-doers only recently spread before him; the blessing of God pronounced upon him, the sword of magisterial authority placed in his hand, Noah, nevertheless, fails to govern himself and falls into open wickedness. Learn then that man is essentially “evil” ( Matthew 7:11) and that naught avails but “a new creation” ( Galatians 6:15).
Third , we learn from Noah’s fall the danger of using wine and the awful evils that attend intemperance. It is surely significant and designed as a solemn warning that the first time wine is referred to in the Scriptures it is found associated with drunkenness, shame and a curse. Solemn are the denunciations of the Word upon drunkenness, a sin which, despite all the efforts of temperance reformers, is, taking the world as a whole, still on the increase. Drunkenness is a sin against God, for it is the abusing of His mercies; it is a sin against our neighbors, for it deprives those who are in want of their necessary supplies and sets before them an evil example; it is a sin against ourself, for it robs of usefulness, self-government and common decency. Moreover, drunkenness commonly leads to other evils.
It did in Noah’s case; Noah’s sin gave occasion for his son to sin.
Fourth , in Noah’s sin we learn our need of watchfulness and prayer. A believer is never immune from falling. The evil nature is still within us and nothing but constant dependency upon God can enable us to withstand the solicitations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” is a word that every saint needs daily to take to heart. Neither age nor character is any security in the hour of testing. Here was a man who had withstood the temptations of an evil world for six hundred years, yet nevertheless, he now succumbs to the lusts of the flesh. And this is one of the things which is written for “our admonition” ( 1 Corinthians 10:11). Then let us not sit in judgment upon Noah with pharisaical complacency, rather let us “consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted” ( Galatians 6:1). No experience of God’s mercies in the past can deliver us from exposure to new temptations in the future.
Finally , Noah’s fall utters a solemn warning to every servant of God. It is deeply significant that following this prophecy, recorded in the closing verses of Genesis 9, nothing whatever save his death is recorded about Noah after his terrible fall. The last three hundred years of his life are a blank! “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27).
Having dwelt at some length upon Noah’s fall and the lessons it is designed to teach us, we turn now to examine the prophecy which he uttered immediately after. Three things will engage our attention: the occasion of this prophecy, the meaning of this prophecy, and the fulfillment of it. 1. The occasion of Noah’s prophecy. The setting of it is a remarkable one.
The terrible fall of the illustrious patriarch and the wonderful prediction he uttered concerning the future history of the three great divisions of the human family are placed in juxtaposition. The fact that the Holy Spirit has thus joined these two together is a striking illustration of the truth that God’s ways are different from ours. The devout student of the Word has learnt that not only are the very words of Scripture inspired of God, but that their arrangement and order also evidence a wisdom that transcends the human. What then are we to learn from this linking together of Noah’s fall and Noah’s prophecy?
In seeking an answer to our last question we need to observe the scope of the prophecy itself. Noah’s prediction contains an outline sketch of the history of the nations of the world. The great races of the earth are here seen in their embryonic condition: they are traced to their common source, through Shem, Ham end Japheth, back to Noah. The nature of the stream is determined by the character of the fountain — a bitter fountain cannot send forth sweet waters. The type of fruit is governed by the order of the tree — a corrupt tree cannot produce wholesome fruit. Noah is the fountain, and what sort of a stream could flow from such a fountain! Read again the sad recital of Noah’s fall and of Ham’s wickedness and then ask, what must be the fruit which springs from such a tree, what must be the harvest that is reaped from such a sowing! What will be the history of the races that spring from Noah’s three sons? What can it be? A history that began by Noah abusing God’s mercies; a history that commenced with the head of the new race failing, completely, to govern himself; a history that started with Ham’s shameful impropriety can have only one course and end. It began with human failure, it has continued thus, and it will end thus.
Here then is the answer to our question: Why is Noah’s prophecy, which sketches the history of the three great races of mankind, linked to Noah’s fall? The two are joined together as cause and effect, as premise and conclusion, as sowing and harvest!
It was written of old that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” A striking illustration of this is discovered today in the wicked writings of the self-termed “Higher Critics.” These blind leaders of the blind aim to degrade God’s Word to the level of human productions and in this remarkable prophecy of Noah regarding his sons they see nothing more than a hasty ejaculation caused by the knowledge of his humiliation and expressed in this curse and blessing. That these words of Noah were not uttered to gratify any feeling of resentment, but were spoken under a Divine impulse is proven by the fulfillment of the prophecy itself. A very superficial acquaintance with the facts of ancient history will evidence the fact that there is far more in Noah’s words than a local expression of indignation and gratitude. A careful comparison of other scriptures shows that this utterance of Noah was a prophecy and its remarkable fulfillment demonstrates that it was a Divine revelation. “And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. “And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.“God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Caanan shall be his servant” ( Genesis 9:25-27). 2. Let us consider now the meaning of Noah’s prophecy. This utterance consists of two parts: a malediction and a benediction. Noah’s prediction concerning his sons corresponds with their conduct on the occasion of their father’s drunkenness. Fearful had been the fall of Noah, but it was a still greater sin for Ham, on discovering the sad condition of his parent, to go out and report with malignant pleasure to his brethren. It is “fools” who “make a mock of sin” ( Proverbs 14:9). For a child to expose and sneer at his parent’s fall was wickedness of the worst kind, and evidenced a heart thoroughly depraved.
In the curse passed upon Canaan we find an exceedingly solemn instance of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children. In this day of human pride and scepticism, when everything is questioned and challenged, men have dared to criticise the ethics of this hereditary law. It has been termed unmerciful and unjust. The humble believer does not attempt to pry into things which are too deep for him, it is enough for him that the thrice holy God has instituted this law and therefore he knows it is a righteous one whether he can see the justice of it or no.
Ham’s sin consisted of an utter failure to honor his father. He was lacking, altogether, in filial love. Had he really cared for his father at all he would have acted as his brothers did; but instead, he manifested a total disrespect for and subjection unto his parent. And mark the fearful consequence: he reaped exactly as he had sown — Ham sinned as a son and was punished in his son! The punishment meted out to Ham was that his son shall be brought into subjection to others, his descendants shall be compelled to honor, yea, “serve” others — “servant of servants” (verse 25) implies the lowest drudgery, slavery.
It is to be noted that the “curse” uttered by Noah did not fall directly on Ham but upon one of his sons, the fourth — “Canaan “ ( Genesis 10:6).
As we shall seek to show, this curse was not confined to Canaan but embraced all the descendants of Ham. It is highly probable that “Canaan” was specifically singled out from the rest of his brethren as a special encouragement to the Israelites who, centuries later, were to go up and occupy the Promised land. Moses would thus be taught by the Holy Spirit that a special curse rested upon the then occupants of the land, i.e., the Canaanites. Yet, as we have said, all of Ham’s children appear to have been included within the scope of this malediction as is evident from the fact that no blessing at all was pronounced upon Ham as was the case with each of his brothers. “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (verse 26).
The reward of Shem was in the sphere of religious privileges. The Divine title employed here supplies the key. In the following verse we read, “God shall enlarge Japheth,” but here “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem,” this being the title expressive of covenant relationship. God was to enter into covenant relationship with the children of Shem. The realization that Jehovah was to be the God of Shem caused Noah to break forth into thanksgiving — “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem.” “God shall enlarge Japheth” (verse 27).
The word Japheth means “enlargement” so that here there was a play upon words. “And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.” This expression is somewhat ambiguous, the obscurity being occasioned by the difficulty to ascertain the antecedent. Scholars and students have differed as to whether the “he” refers to God or to Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem.
Personally, we incline toward the latter alternative, though we believe that each of them has been verified in subsequent history. May it not be that the Holy Spirit has designedly left it uncertain, to show that both interpretations are true? Sure it is that God did dwell in the tents of Shem, and equally sure is it that the descendants of Japheth are now doing so. 3. The fulfillment of Noah’s prophecy. The wonderful prediction uttered by the builder of the Ark gives in a few brief sentences the history of the new world, and shows the positions that were delegated by God to the three great divisions of the human family. In the closing verses of Genesis 9 we have a remarkable unfolding of the future destinies of the new humanity. The various parts which are to be played in human history by its leading characters are now made known. The subjection of one, the religious preeminence of the second, and the enlarging of the third head of the postdiluvian race, is here revealed. “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (verse 25).
Above, we intimated that as no blessing at all was pronounced upon Ham as was the ease with each of his brothers, it would seem that the curse was not intended to be limited to Canaan (there being a particular reason why Canaan should be thus singled out, namely, as an encouragement to the Israelites,) but included all of his children. By tracing the history of Ham’s other sons it becomes evident that the scope of Noah’s prophecy reached beyond Canaan. Nimrod sprang from Ham through Cush ( Genesis 10:6-8), and he founded the city and empire Babylon. Mizraim was another of Ham’s children and he was the father of the Egyptians ( Genesis 10:6 and Psalm 78:51). For a time Babylon and Egypt waxed great, but subsequently both of them were reduced to subjection, first by the Persians who descended from Shem, and later by the Greeks and Romans who were the children of Japheth. And from these early subjugations they have never recovered themselves. The whole of Africa was peopled by the descendants of Ham, and for many centuries the greater part of that continent lay under the dominion of the Romans, Saracens, and Turks.
And, as is well known, the negroes who were for so long the slaves of Europeans and Americans, also claim Ham as their progenitor. “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (verse 26).
Two things are promised here: Jehovah was to be the God of Shem and Canaan was to be his servant. Shem was “the father of all the children of Eber,” that is, the Hebrews ( Genesis 10:21). Thus, in the Hebrews, the knowledge and worship of God was preserved in the family of Shem. The fulfillment of this part of the prophecy is well known to our readers. God was in a peculiar sense the God of the Hebrews — “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God” ( Exodus 29:45).
And again, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” ( Amos 3:2). “And Canaan shall be his (Shem’s) servant.” This received its first fulfillment in the days of Joshua — “And Joshua made them (the Gibeonites) hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation” ( Joshua 9:27).
The following scriptures set forth its further accomplishment: “And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute” ( Judges 1:28). “And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bond service unto this day” ( Kings 9:20, 21). “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem” (verse 27).
Two things were also predicted of Japheth: first, he should be enlarged; second, he should dwell in the tents of Shem or, in other words, should receive blessing from Shem. The accomplishment of this prediction is witnessed to by history both sacred and secular. Those nations which have been most enlarged by God have descended from Japheth. The Greeks and the Romans who in their time dominated practically all of the then known world; and more recently the European Powers who have entered into the rich possessions of Asia (inhabited by the children of Shem); and, today, the Anglo-Saxon race, which occupies more territory than any other people, are all the descendants of Noah’s firstborn! In Genesis 10, where a list of Japheth’s sons is found, we read, “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands.” “And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem” intimates that Japheth was to be Shem’s guest, that he should share the rest and shelter of Shem’s tabernacles. How remarkably has this prophecy been fulfilled spiritually! “The revelation which we prize is that of the God of Israel; the Savior in whom we trust is the seed of Abraham; the Old Testament was written principally for Israel; and the New Testament though written in a Japhetic tongue, and, therefore for us, was penned by Jewish fingers” (Urquhart).
To this may be added the words of our Lord, “Salvation is of the Jews” ( John 4:22); and that remarkable statement of the Apostle Paul’s in Romans 11 where, writing of the Gentiles, he says, “And thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them (Israel), and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (verse 17). Thus do we see Japheth “dwelling in the tents of Shem.”
Who but He who knows the end from the beginning could have outlined the whole course of the three great divisions of the postdiluvian race so tersely and so accurately! 16. NIMROD AND THE TOWER OF BABEL <011001> GENESIS 10, In Genesis 10 and 11 we have the historical links which connect for us the time of Noah with the days of Abraham. Uninteresting as they may appear to the casual reader they furnish most valuable information to the prayerful student. Without these two chapters and the genealogies which they contain, we should be quite unable to trace the fulfillment of Noah’s wonderful prophecy; we should be without any satisfactory solution to the ethnological problem presented by the variety and number of the different nations and tongues; and, we should be left in ignorance concerning the cause (from the human side) which led up to God abandoning His dealings with the nations and singling out Abram to be the father of His chosen people Israel. Genesis 10 and 11 give us the history of the postdiluvian world; they show us the ways of men in this new world — in revolt against God and seeking to glorify and deify themselves; and they set before us the principles and judgments upon which this world is founded. For the understanding of the chapters it is necessary to pay careful attention to their structure and chronology. Chapter eleven historically antedates much of Genesis 10, furnishing us with a commentary upon it. Verses eight to twelve of chapter ten and verses one to nine of chapter eleven should be read as two parentheses. Reading them thus, we find, that outside of these parentheses, these chapters furnish us with the genealogical descent of Abram from Noah. Upon these genealogies and origins of the various nations we shall not now comment, preferring to dwell at some length on the parenthetical portions.
Like everything else in Genesis, the historical events recorded in these brief parentheses are remarkable in their typical significance and reach. In the clearer and fuller light of the New Testament we cannot fail to see that Nimrod foreshadowed the last great World-Ruler before our Lord descends to earth and ushers in His millennial reign It is deeply significant that the person and history of Nimrod are here introduced at the point immediately preceding God calling Abram from among the Gentiles and bringing him into the Promised Land. So will it be again in the near future.
Just before God gathers Abraham’s descendants from out of the lands of the Gentiles (many, perhaps the majority of whom will be found dwelling at that very time in Assyria, — see Isaiah 11:11), there will arise one who will fill out the picture here typically outlined by Nimrod. We refer of course to the Antichrist. As the Antichrist is a subject of such interest and importance — his manifestation being now so near at hand — we digress for a moment to say one or two things about him.
To begin at the beginning. We need not remind our readers that Satan is the avowed and age-long enemy of God and that all through the course of human history he has been opposing his Maker and seeking to secure the scepter of earth’s sovereignty. Further, we need not dwell upon the fact, so plainly revealed in Scripture, that Satan is an imitator, parodying and counterfeiting the ways and things of the Lord. But the climax of all Satan’s schemes has not yet become history, though the inspired Word shows us clearly what form this climax will assume. God’s purposes for this earth are to be realized and consummated in a man, “the man Christ Jesus” who will yet reign over it as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Satan’s designs will also head up in a man, “the man of Sin” who will for a short season reign over the earth as its acknowledged King. This man will be, preeminently, energized by Satan himself ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9). He will assume the right to enforce his autocratic dictates on all alike — “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” ( Revelation 13:16,17).
He was the one pictured by the prophet when he wrote — “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people,” etc., see Habakkuk 2:1-8. This Man of Sin ( Thessalonians 2:3) will be the super-man of whom the world is even now talking about, and for whom it is so rapidly being prepared. He will be the “Lord of Light” — the great Mahatma — for whom Theosophists and Bahaists are looking.
The Antichrist is not only the subject of Old Testament prophecy, but he is also the subject of Old Testament typology. Most of the characters brought before us in Old Testament history are types of one of two men — the Christ or the Antichrist. Much attention has been paid to the study of and much has been written about those personages which foreshadowed our blessed Lord, but much less thought has been devoted to the consideration of those who prefigured the Man of Sin. A wide field here lies open for investigation, and we doubt not that as his appearing draws nigh the Holy Spirit will furnish additional light on this little-studied subject.
One of those who foreshadowed the Antichrist was Nimrod. In at least seven particulars can the analogy be clearly traced.
First : his very name describes that which will be the most prominent characteristic of all in the one whom he typifies. “Nimrod” means “the Rebel,” reminding us of one of the titles of the Antichrist, found in Thessalonians 2:8 — “The Lawless One” R.V.
Second : the form which Nimrod’s rebellion assumed was to head a great confederacy in open revolt against God. This confederacy is described in Genesis eleven and that it was an organized revolt against Jehovah is clear from the language of Genesis 10:9 — “Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord ,” which (as we shall see) means that he pushed his own designs in brazen defiance of his Maker. Thus it will be with the Antichrist; of him it is written, “And the King shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god (ruler), and shall speak marvellous things against the God of Gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, for he shall magnify himself above all” ( Daniel 11:36,37).
Sixth : Nimrod’s headquarters were in Babylon, see Genesis 10:10 and 11:1-9; so also, we find the Man of Sin is called “the king of Babylon” ( Isaiah 14:4), and in the Apocalypse he is connected with “mystery Babylon” ( Revelation 17:3-5).
Seventh : Nimrod’s supreme ambition and desire was to make to himself a name. He had an inordinate desire for fame. Here, too the antitype agrees with the type. “Pride” is spoken of as the condemnation of the Devil: it was an impious ambition which brought about his downfall. The Man of Sin will be fully possessed by Satan, hence, an insatiable pride will possess him.
It is this Satanic egotism which will cause him to oppose and “exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4).
We have now prepared the way for a more detailed, yet brief, exposition of the two parenthetical portions of Genesis 10 and 11. “And Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth” ( Genesis 10:8).
The first thing we note here is that Nimrod was a descendant of Ham, through Cush; in other words, he sprang from that branch of Noah’s family on which rested the “curse.” Next, we observe that it is said, “he began to be mighty,” which seems to suggest the idea that he struggled for the preeminence, and by mere force of will obtained it. Finally, we observe that he “began to be mighty in the earth.” The intimation appears to be that of conquest or subjugation, as though he became a leader and ruler over men, as indeed he did. “He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord” ( Genesis 10:9).
In so brief a description the repetition of these words, “mighty hunter before the Lord” are significant. Three times in Genesis 10 and again in 1 Chronicles 1:10 the word “mighty” is applied to Nimrod. The Hebrew word is “gibbor,” and is translated in the Old Testament “chief” and “chieftain.” The verse in Chronicles is in perfect agreement with these in Genesis — “And Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be mighty upon the earth.” The Chaldee paraphrase of this verse says, “Cush begat Nimrod who began to prevail in wickedness, for he slew innocent blood and rebelled against Jehovah.” Observe, “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” If we compare this expression with a similar one in Genesis 6:11 — “The earth also (in the days of Noah) was corrupt before God,” the impression conveyed is that this “Rebel” pursued his own impious and ambitious designs in brazen and open defiance of the Almighty. As we shall see, the contents of Genesis eleven confirm this interpretation. “And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel” ( Genesis 10:10).
Here is the key to the first nine verses of the eleventh chapter. Here we have the first mention of Babel, and like the first mention of anything in Scripture this one demands careful consideration. In the language of that time Babel meant “the gate of God” but afterwards, because of the judgments which God inflicted there, it came to mean “Confusion,” and from here onwards this is its force or meaning. By coupling together the various hints which the Holy Spirit has here given us we learn that Nimrod organized not only an imperial government over which he presided as king, but that he instituted a new and idolatrous worship. If the type is perfect, and we believe it is, then like the Lawless One will yet do, Nimrod demanded and received Divine honors; in all probability it is just here that we have the introduction of idolatry. Here, again, we learn how wonderfully the first mention of anything in Scripture defines its future scope; from this point Babylon in Scripture stands for that which is in opposition to God and His people — it was a Babylonish garment ( Joshua 7:21) which led to the first sin in the promised land, while from Revelation 17 we learn that Romanism, which will gather into itself the whole of apostate Christendom, is termed “Mystery Babylon.”
Out of that land he went forth into Assyria (marginal rendering) and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah; the same is a great city” ( Genesis 10:11,12). From these statements we gather the impression that Nimrod’s ambition was to establish a world-empire. But we must turn now to the next chapter, asking our readers to study carefully the first nine verses in the light of what we have said above. “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” ( Genesis 11:1,2).
These geographical and topographical references have a moral force, just as we read of “going down to Egypt,” but “up to Jerusalem.” Here we are told that men journeyed “from the east,” i.e. , turned their backs upon the sunrise. Note further, “a plain (not a “mountain”) in the land of Shinar.”
Nimrod is not mentioned at all in Genesis 11, but from the statements made in the previous chapter we learn that he was the “chief” and “king” which organized and headed the movement and rebellion here described. “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” ( Genesis 11:4).
Here we discover a most blatant defiance of God, a deliberate refusal to obey His command given through Noah. He had said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” ( Genesis 9:1); but they said, “Let us make us a name lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
As we have seen, Nimrod’s ambition was to establish a world-empire. To accomplish this two things were necessary. First, a center of unity, a city headquarters; and second, a motive for the encouragement and inspiration of his followers. This latter was supplied in the “let us make us a name.” It was an inordinate desire for fame. Nimrod’s aim was to keep mankind all together under his own leadership “lest we be scattered.” The idea of the “tower” (considered in the light of its setting) seems to be that of strength — a stronghold — rather than eminence. “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel (Confusion); because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth, and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” ( Genesis 11:6-9).
Another crisis had arrived in the history of the world. Once again the human race was guilty of the sin of apostasy. Therefore did God intervene, brought Nimrod’s schemes to naught by confounding the speech of his subjects and scattered them throughout the earth. Here was one of the mightiest and most far-reaching miracles of history. It finds no parallel until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost when another miracle of “tongues” was performed. The effect of God’s intervention was the origination of the different nations and after the destruction of the Tower of Babel we get the formation of the “world” as we now have it. At this point the nations were abandoned to their own devices — “God gave them up” ( Romans 1) — but not until the race had twice enjoyed a revelation of God’s mercy (first to Adam and then to Noah) and had twice forsaken Him before and now, after the Deluge.
To sum up. In Nimrod and his schemes we see Satan’s initial attempt to raise up a universal ruler of men. In his inordinate desire for fame, in the mighty power which he wielded, in his ruthless and brutal methodssuggested by the word “hunter”; in his blatant defiance of the Creator, (seen in his utter disregard for His command to replenish the earth,) by determining to prevent his subjects from being scattered abroad; in his founding of the kingdom of Babylon — the Gate of God — thus arrogating to himself Divine honors; inasmuch as the Holy Spirit has placed the record of these things immediately before the inspired account of God’s bringing Abram into Canaan — pointing forward to the re-gathering of Israel in Palestine immediately after the overthrow of the Lawless One; and finally, in the fact that the destruction of his kingdom is described in the words, “Let us go down and there confound their language” ( Genesis 11:7 — foreshadowing so marvellously the descent of Christ from Heaven to vanquish His impious Rival, we cannot fail to see that there is here, beneath the historical narrative, something deeper than that which appears on the surface; yea, that there is here a complete typical picture of the person, work and destruction of the Anti-christ.
Much more might have been written upon this interesting and suggestive incident, but we trust sufficient has been said to indicate the broad outlines of its typical teaching and to stimulate others to further study for the filling in of the details. 17. THE CALL OF ABRAHAM <011201> GENESIS We have now reached a section of this book which is of surpassing interest and one that is full of important lessons for those who are members of the household of faith. The passage for our present consideration introduces us to the third great section of Genesis. As its name intimates, Genesis is the book of Beginnings. Its literary structure is true to its title for the whole of its contents center around three beginnings.
First there is the beginning of the human race in Adam; Second , there is the new beginning on the post-diluvian earth in Noah and his sons; Third , there is the beginning of the Chosen Nation in Abram. Thus in Genesis we have three great “beginnings,” and therefore as three is the number of the Godhead, we see how in this first book of the Divine Library, the very autograph of Deity is stamped on the opening pages of Holy Writ as though anticipating and rebuking the modern assaults on this book by the Evolutionists and Higher Critics.
The relative importance (we do not say “value”) of the three main divisions of Genesis is indicated by their respective dimensions. The first two divisions cover a period of not less than two thousand years, yet, but eleven chapters are devoted to this section of human history; whereas the third division, covering scarcely four hundred years, contains no less than thirty-nine chapters. More than three-fourths of the book is occupied with narrating the lives of Abram and the first three generations of his descendants.
While it is true that the first two divisions of the book are embraced by the first eleven chapters in Genesis, yet, from a literary viewpoint, it would really be more correct to regard these chapters as a preface, not only to the remaining twenty-nine chapters of Genesis, but also to the entire Old Testament, and, we may add, of the Bible as a whole. This Divine “preface” is given to explain that which is made known in all that follows.
The first eleven chapters of Genesis are really the foundation on which rests the remainder of the Old Testament. They trace in rapid review the line of descent from Adam to Abram. It has been well said concerning the book of Genesis that “as the root to the stem so are chapters 1-11 to 12- 50, and as the stem to the tree so is Genesis to the rest of the Bible.” One of the main purposes of Genesis is to reveal to us the origin and beginnings of the Nation of Israel, and in the first eleven chapters we are shown the different steps by which Israel became a separate and Divinely chosen nation. In Genesis 10 and 11 the entire human race is before us, but from Genesis 12 onwards attention is directed to one man and his descendants. Genesis 12 brings before us Abram — “the father of all them that believe.” Abram whose name was subsequently changed to Abraham the most illustrious personage in ancient history. Abraham! venerated by Jews, Christians and Mohammedans. Abraham! the progenitor of the nation of Israel. Abraham! termed “the friend of God.” Abraham! from whom, according to the flesh, our Lord came. Surely we shall be richly repaid if we devote our most diligent attention to the prayerful study of the life of such a man. The present article will serve to introduce a short series of papers which will be given to the consideration of the history of one who, in several respects, was the most eminent of all the patriarchs. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” ( Genesis 12:1).
The tense of the verb here looks back to an incident which was referred to by Stephen and which is recorded in Acts 7:2,3 — “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and come into the land which I shall show thee.”
The Divine title which is used here is found in only one other scripture, namely, Psalm 29, which is one of the Millennial Psalms “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters, the God of Glory thundereth” (verse 3). That this is a Millennial Psalm is clear from verse 10 — “The Lord sitteth upon the flood yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever.” Closely connected with the above Divine title is the one by which the Lord Jesus is designated in Psalm 24 (another Millennial Psalm) — “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in” (verse 7). Thus we see that this title is peculiarly a Kingdom title, and therefore, when Jehovah appeared to the father of the Kingdom people, it was as “The God of Glory.” The appropriateness of this title is further evident from the religious state of Abram and his fathers at the time that God appeared to him, namely, a state of Idolatry. The “God of Glory” was in vivid contrast from the “other gods” mentioned in Joshua 24:2. “The God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia.” This is the first recorded “appearing” of God after the banishment of our parents from Eden. It was probably the earliest of all the theo-phanic manifestations that we read of in the Old Testament and which anticipated the Incarnation as well as marked the successive revelations of God to men. We do not hear of God appearing to Abel or Noah. Great then was the privilege thus conferred upon the one who afterwards was termed the “friend of God.” We turn now to consider the terms of the Divine communication received by Abram.
And God said unto him “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.” This command from God came to Abram in Mesopotamia, in the city of Ur of the Chaldees, which was situated near to the Persian Gulf. The time of Abram’s call is significant. It occurred shortly after the destruction of Babel and dispersion of the nations. As we endeavored to show in our last paper, even in that early day, men had added to their other offenses against God, the sin of idolatry. A scripture which throws considerable light upon the religious conditions that prevailed throughout the earth in the days immediately preceding the Call of Abram is to be found in Romans 1 — “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever” (verses 21-25, and read to end of Genesis 5:28).
Three times over in this solemn passage we read “God gave them up,” that is, He turned away from those who had first turned from Him. We believe the historical reference here is to Genesis 11. It was at that time God abandoned the nations, suffering them all to “walk in their own ways” ( Acts 14:16, and compare Amos 3:3). The family from which Abram sprang was no exception to the general rule, his progenitors were idolaters too as we learn from Joshua 24:2 — “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time even Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nachor and they served other gods.” Here then is the setting of the incident now before us. Having abandoned (temporarily) the nations, God now singles out a man from whom the Chosen Nation was to spring. Having dealt in judgment (at Babel) God now deals in grace. This has been, and will ever be, true of all God’s dealings. According to His infinite wisdom, judgment (which is His “strange” work) only serves to prepare the way for greater manifestations of His redeeming love. God’s judgment upon Israel resulted in the enriching of the Gentiles. The outpouring of Divine wrath in the Tribulation period will be but the precursor of Millennial blessedness. And, we may add, the judgment of the great white throne will be followed by the new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness shall “dwell” and upon which the tabernacle of God shall be with men. Thus it was of old. The overthrow of Babel and the scattering of the nations was followed by the call of Abraham to be the father of a divinely governed nation which was to be a witness for God, the depository of His revelation, and ultimately, the channel through which His blessing should flow to all the families of the earth.
The lesson to be learned here is a deeply important one. The connection between Genesis eleven and twelve is highly significant. The Lord God determined to have a people of His own by the calling of grace, but it was not until all the claims of the natural man had been repudiated by his own wickedness that Divine clemency was free to flow forth. In other words, it was not until the utter depravity of man had been fully demonstrated by the antediluvians, and again at Babel, that God dealt with Abram in sovereign grace. That it was grace and grace alone, sovereign grace, which called Abram is seen in his natural state when God first appeared to him. There was nothing whatever in the object of His choice which commended him to God. There was nothing whatever in Abram which merited God’s esteem.
The cause of election must always be traced to God’s will. Election itself is “of grace” ( Romans 11:5), therefore it depends in no wise upon any worthiness in the object — either actual or foreseen. If it did, it would not be “of grace.” That it was not a question of worthiness in Abram is clear from the language of Isaiah 51:1,2 — “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. LOOK UNTO ABRAHAM your father, and unto Sarah that bare you.”
While God’s dealings are never arbitrary, yet their raison d’etre must ever be found in His own sovereign pleasure. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house unto a land that I will show thee” ( Genesis 12:1).
As we have seen from Acts 7:3 this call from God came to Abram at his home in Mesopotamia. It was a call which demanded absolute confidence in and obedience to the word of Jehovah. It was a call of separation from the ties of the natural man. This is a marked advance upon that which we studied in connection with our previous patriarch. The connection between the histories and experiences of Noah and Abraham is most instructive.
Noah passing through the judgment of the old world and coming forth upon a new earth, represents the acceptance of the believer in Christ, with a new standing ground before God. Abram called upon to separate himself from his home and kindred and bidden to go out into a place which afterwards God would give him for an inheritance, typifies the one whose citizenship is in heaven but who is still in the world, and in consequence, called upon to walk by faith and live as a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.
In Abram we have exhibited the life of faith which is just what we shall expect, seeing that he is termed “the father of all them that believe.” The call of Abram shows us the starting-point of the life of faith. The first requirement is separation from the world and from our place in it by nature. Abram was called upon to leave his “kindred” as well as his “country.” Terah was an idolater, whereas Abram had become a believer in the living God, therefore it was expedient that Terah should be left behind for “how can two walk together except they be agreed.” Even the closest ties of human affection cannot unite souls which are sundered by opposite motives, the one possessing treasure in heaven and the other having nought save that which moth and rust doth corrupt and which thieves may steal.
In order to learn what response Abram made to God’s call it is necessary to revert again to the previous chapter — “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan and they came unto Haran and dwelt there” ( Genesis 11:31).
From these words we discover a two-fold failure on Abram’s part. Three things were commanded him by God; he was to leave his own country, he was to separate himself from his kindred, and he was to go forth unto a land which Jehovah had promised to show him. In respect to the first requirement Abram obeyed, but with reference to the last two he failed. He left Chaldea, but instead of separating himself from his kindred, Terah his father and Lot his nephew accompanied him. Terah means “delay,” and thus it proved. Terah’s accompanying Abram resulted in a delay of at least five years in Haran, which word means “parched”! Abram’s response to God’s call then, was partial and slow, for observe that in Isaiah 51:2 we are expressly told that God called Abram “alone,” yet in the end he “obeyed.” How beautiful it is to note that when we come to the New Testament Abram’s failure is not mentioned — “By faith Abram, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went” ( Hebrews 11:8), his obedience in leaving Ur is thus singled out, but no notice is here taken by the Holy Spirit of his disobedience in taking his “kindred” with him — that sin, with all of his others, had been “blotted out”! “Get thee out” was Jehovah’s command, and His commands are not grievous. The Lord’s commands are rarely accompanied with reasons but they are always accompanied with promises, either exprest or understood.
In the first place it is to be observed, however, that this promise was couched in very general terms and in a manner calculated to test Abram’s faith. “Get thee out..... unto a land,” not unto “a land flowing with milk and honey.” And again, “unto a land that I will show thee” as yet there was no assurance that God was going to give it to him and his seed. In the second place it is to be noted that the promise corresponds closely with the command. The command included a threefold requirement and the promise embraced a threefold blessing.” “And I will make of thee a great nation,” this was compensation for the loss of country. The nation from which he sprang had fallen into gross idolatry and ultimately perished beneath God’s judgments; but from Abram God would make a great nation.” “And I will bless thee,” the blessing of Jehovah would more than make up for any loss of carnal joys he would lose by leaving his “kindred.” “And make thy name great.” He was to leave his father’s house, but God would make of him the head of a new house, even the house of Israel, on account of which he would be known and venerated the world over. In the third place, it should be pointed out that this promise included within its scope the call and blessing of the Gentiles. Abram’s response to God’s demand was to be the first link in a series of Divine interpositions by which God’s mercy might be extended to the whole earth. “And thou shalt be a blessing.” Abraham was not merely the subject of Divine blessing, but a medium of blessing to others. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Here we see Jehovah identifying the cause of Abram with His own. “And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This part of the promise received a partial fulfillment in the birth of Him who was according to the flesh, “the son of Abraham” ( Matthew 1:1), but its complete and ultimate fulfillment looks forward to the Millennium, for then it will be that all families of the earth shall receive blessing through Abram and his seed. “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran” ( Genesis 12:4).
As we have seen, instead of journeying unto Canaan, Abram tarried at Haran. It was not until after Terah’s death that Abram left Haran and came into Canaan. It was death which broke the link which bound Abram to Haran — “Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran (Greek for “Haran”) and from thence, when his father was dead he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell” ( Acts 7:4).
So it is with all his spiritual children. It is death which separates the believer from that which by nature unites him with the old creation — “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world” ( Galatians 6:14). “And they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, and unto the place (oak) of Moreh” ( Genesis 12:5,6).
Abram did not enter into occupation of Canaan, he merely” passed through the land.” As we read in Acts 7:5 — “the (God) gave him none inheritance in it, not so much as to set his foot on: Yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.”
Abram first halted at Sichem (Shecham) which signifies “shoulder” — the place of strength, unto the oak of Moreh which means “instruction.” How significant! What a lesson for us! It is only as we separate ourselves from the world and walk in the path marked out for us by God that we reach the place where strength is to be found, and, it is only thus that we can enter into fellowship with and learn from Him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. “And the Canaanite was then in the land” (verse 6) — to challenge and contest the occupation of it, just as the hosts of wickedness are in present occupancy of the heavenlies to wrestle with those who are partakers of the heavenly calling. “And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land, and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him” ( Genesis 12:7).
There is no record of Abram receiving any further revelation from God until His call had been fully obeyed, but now that he had left Ur and Haran behind him and had actually arrived in the land, Jehovah appeared once more unto him. At the first appearing God called him to go unto a land that He would show him, and now He rewards Abram’s faith and obedience by promising to give this land unto his seed. Thus does the Lord lead His children step by step. At the first appearing the God of Glory called upon Abram to separate himself from his place by nature; but at this second appearing He reveals Himself to Abram for communion, and the result is that Abram erects an altar. There was no “altar” for Abram in Ur or Haran. It is not until there is real separation from the world that fellowship with God is possible. First the obedience of faith and then communion and worship. “And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hat on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord” ( Genesis 12:8).
How significant! Bethel means “the house of God” while Hat signifies “a heap of ruin,” and it was between them that Abram pitched his tent — typical of the sphere of the believer’s present path, with the old creation (a ruin) on the one side and the house of God (on high) on the other. Observe the two objects here: “tent” and the “altar” — symbols of that which characterizes a walk in separation with God, the one speaking of the pilgrim life and the other of dependency upon and worship of God. Note, too, the order of mention: we must first be strangers and pilgrims on the earth before acceptable worship is possible.
And now we come to the second failure of Abram, namely, his leaving Canaan and going down into Egypt. Concerning this incident we can here say only a few words. First it is to be noted that, “Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south” (verse 9). This geographical reference is deeply significant: southward was Egyptward! When the “famine” overtook Abram his face was already toward Egypt. “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land” (verse 10). This is the first mention in Scripture of Egypt, and like all its subsequent references, so here, it stands for that which is a constant menace to the people of God symbolizing, as it does, alliance with the world and reliance upon the arm of flesh — “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” ( Isaiah 31:1).
The famine was sent as a trial of Abram’s faith. A famine in the Land of Promise. What a test of faith! “God would see whether he had such confidence in His goodness that even famine could not shake it. Alas, Abram did as we are all prone to do, he sought relief from all his difficulties, rather than profit by the trial” (Ridout).
Observe that when this famine came there was no seeking counsel from the Lord. Abram was prompted by the wisdom of the flesh which ever suggests relief in means and human help, in fact, anything rather than in the living God. O, the inconsistencies of God’s children! Faith in God with regard to our eternal interest, but afraid to confide in Him for the supply of our temporal needs. Here was a man who had journeyed all the way from Chaldea to Canaan on the bare word of Jehovah and yet was now afraid to trust Him in the time of famine. Sad that it should be so, but how like us today!
One sin leads to another. Failure in our love to God always results in failure in our love to our neighbor. Down in Egypt Abram practices deception and denies that Sarai is his wife, thus endangering the honor of the one who was nearest and should have been dearest to him. Alas! What is man? But Jehovah would not allow His purposes to be frustrated — “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” ( 2 Timothy 2:13).
So it was here. The Lord interposed — “And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife” (verse 17).
The sequel is found in the next chapter. “And Abram went up out of Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had..... and he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord” ( Genesis 13:1,3,4).
We cannot close this paper without first seeking to gather up in a few words the practical and deeply important lessons here recorded for our learning. 1. The call which came to Abram comes to each one of his believing children — the call for absolute confidence in God; the call to take Him at His word and step out in simple and unquestioning faith; the call to separate ourselves from the world to a life of pilgrimage in dependency upon Jehovah. 2. The trial of Abram’s faith is also the lot of all his children. Profession must be tested and at times the meal in the barrel will run very low. The failure of Abram is a solemn warning against being occupied with circumstances instead of with God. Look not at the famine but unto God’s faithfulness. 3. Beware of going down to Egypt. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Time spent in Egypt is wasted. Days lived out of communion with God produce nought but “wood, hay and stubble.” 4. As you see in the failures of Abram the sad record of your own history, marvel anew at the long sufferance of God which deals in such infinite patience and grace with His erring and ungrateful children. 18. ABRAHAM AND LOT <011301> GENESIS In our last article we followed Abraham from Ur of Chaldea to Haran, and from Haran to Canaan. We saw that after he had arrived in the land to which God called him, a famine arose, and his faith failing him in the hour of crisis, Abraham, accompanied by Lot, sought refuge in Egypt. Our present study reveals some of the results of the patriarch’s backsliding.
While God, in faithfulness and grace, restored His wandering child, yet the effects of his departure from the path of faith were manifested soon afterwards and continued to harass him the remainder of his days. The principle of sowing and reaping is of universal application and is true of believers equally as much as unbelievers. Two things Abraham obtained from his sojourn in Egypt, each of which proved a hindrance and curse, though in the end both were overruled by God for His own glory. We refer to them here in the inverse order of their mention in Genesis. “And Sara, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband, Abram, to be his wife” ( Genesis 16:3).
During their stay in Egypt, Sarah took unto her the maid, Hagar. The strife, the jealousy, the trouble which Hagar introduced into the patriarch’s household is well known, the climax of it all being seen in Ishmael (Hagar’s son) “mocking Isaac” ( Genesis 21:9) and his subsequent expulsion from Abram’s tent.
The second thing which Abraham seems to have obtained in Egypt was great earthly possessions — “And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” ( Genesis 13:1,2).
This is the first time we read of Abram’s “cattle,” and it is deeply significant that shortly afterwards these very flocks and herds became the occasion of strife between him and his nephew. It also deserves to be noticed that this is the first mention of “riches” in Scripture, and, as now, so then, they pierced their possessor through with “many sorrows” ( Timothy 6:10). “And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents” ( Genesis 13:5).
Till now we hear nothing of Lot since he left Haran, but he appears to have been one of Abram’s family and to have gone with him wherever he went.
The characters and careers of Abram and Lot present a series of sharp antitheses. Throughout the biographical portions of Scripture we find the Holy Spirit frequently brings together two men of widely different character and placing them in juxtaposition so that we might the better learn the salutary lessons He would teach us. Abel and Cain, Moses and Aaron, Samuel and Saul, David and Solomon, are well known examples of this principle. In almost every respect Lot compares unfavorably with Abram. Abram walked by faith, Lot by sight. Abram was generous and magnanimous; Lot greedy and worldly. Abram looked for a city whose builder and maker was God; Lot made his home in a city that was built by man and destroyed by God. Abram was the father of all who believe; Lot was father of those whose name is a perpetual infamy. Abram was made “heir of the world” ( Romans 4:3), while the curtain falls upon Lot with all his possessions destroyed in Sodom, and himself dwelling in a “cave” ( Genesis 19:30).
The history of Lot is a peculiarly tragic one and for that reason full of “admonition” for us upon whom the ends of the ages have come. We attempt nothing more than a rapid sketch of it, considering: 1. LOT’S DEPARTURE FROM ABRAM.
This is described in Genesis 13: “And 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. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle” (verses 6 and 7).
How often “strife” between kinsmen has been brought about by earthly possessions and wealth! The record is very terse, but there can be little doubt as to who was to blame. The subsequent conduct of Lot and the Lord’s rewarding of Abram indicate plainly that it was Lot who was in the wrong. Nor is the cause far to seek. Lot had brought with him out of Egypt something else besides “herds and flocks” — he had contracted its spirit and acquired a taste for its “fleshpots.” “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or, if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left” (verses 8, 9).
Abram foresaw there was danger of a falling out between himself and his nephew, that what had begun with the servants would probably end with the masters. Deprecating the thought of friction between brethren, he proposed that they should separate. The wisdom which is from above is first pure and then peaceable. In spirit, Abram carried out the letter of the Divine admonition: “As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
The proposal made by Abram to his nephew was exceedingly generous, and in his greed, Lot took full advantage of it. Instead of leaving the choice to Abram, we read: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east, and they separated themselves the one from the other” (verses 10, 11).
Observe, that Lot “Lifted up his eyes and beheld.” In other words, he preferred to walk by sight, rather than by faith. How impossible then for Lot to remain with Abram! How can two walk together except they be agreed? Abram “endured as seeing him who is invisible,” while Lot’s heart was set upon the things of time and sense. Hence, we are told, “they could not dwell together” (verse 6) — it was a moral impossibility.
Lot “lifted up his eyes.” This was the commencement, outwardly, at least, of a decline which ended in the utmost shame. Eye-gate is one of the avenues through which temptations assail the soul: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” ( 1 John 2:16).
Walking by sight is the cause of most of our failures and sorrows. So it was at the beginning: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof” ( Genesis 3:6).
Mark, too, the confession of Achan: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them and took them” ( Joshua 7:21).
How significant the order here I saw, I coveted, I took! So it was with Lot: first he lifted up his eyes and beheld, and then he “chose him.” How significant are the closing words of Genesis 13:10: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere.... Even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt,” which shows us that Lot was still attached to “Egypt” in heart. But how true it is that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth” ( 1 Samuel 16:7)! To the worldly eye of Lot all the plain appeared “well watered and as the garden of the Lord,” but to the holy eye of Jehovah the cities of the plain were peopled by those who were “wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (verse 13); “before the Lord,” shows us what it was that His eyes dwelt upon. We consider next, 2. LOT’S SOJOURN IN SODOM “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed eastward: and they separated themselves the one from the other.
The various steps in the downward course of Lot are plainly marked out.
First , he “lifted up his eyes and beheld.”
Second , he “chose him all the plain of Jordan.”
Fourth , he “dwelt in the cities of the plain.”
Sixth , he “dwelt in Sodom” ( Genesis 14:12).
Behold how great a fire a little matter kindleth. From a lifting up of the eyes to behold the land and seek pasturage for his flocks, to becoming an official in the city of wickedness! Like leprosy, sin has often a seemingly small beginning, but how rapid its spread, how loathsome its issue, how dreadful its end! Similar was the course of the Apostle Peter: the denial of his Lord was no sudden, isolated act, but the sequel and climax of an antecedent chain. There was first the boasting self-confidence, “Though all shall be offended, yet will not I” ( Mark 14:29). Then there was the “sleeping” in the garden when he should have been watching and praying ( Mark 14:37). Then there was the following Christ “afar off” ( Matthew 26:58). Then there was the seating of himself at the fire in the presence of his Lord’s enemies ( Matthew 26:69). And then, amid these evil associates, came the awful denial and cursing.
And what did Lot gain by his separation from Abram and sojourn in Sodom? Nothing at all. Instead of gaining, he was the loser. The men of Sodom were “wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” and Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” ( 2 Peter 2:7,8). Consider now, 3. LOT’S DELIVERANCE FROM SODOM In the first place notice how, in His faithfulness and grace, God had given Lot a very definite warning. From Genesis 14 we learn that in the battle between the four kings with the five, “they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed” (verses 11, 12).
Yet though Lot lost all his goods and seems to have been in imminent danger of losing his life but for the timely intervention of Abram with his armed servants, nevertheless, this experience failed to teach Lot the evil of being associated with the world, but he recovered his freedom and his property only to return unto Sodom. Alas! what is man? Even God’s providential dealings are insufficient to move his heart.
The contents of Genesis 18 and 19 are so familiar to our readers that no lengthy exposition is needed. The Lord Himself makes known to His “friend” what He is about to do; but no such revelation was vouchsafed Lot who was altogether out of communion with Jehovah. The “secret of the Lord” is only with them that “fear Him.” The two angels who accompanied the Lord to Abram’s tent, go forward to Sodom, the Lord Himself remaining behind, and with Him Abram intercedes on behalf of the righteous who may be in the doomed city.
The two angels found Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom and in response to his request that they partake of his hospitality, said, “Nay, but we will abide in the street all night.” Their reluctance to enter Lot’s dwelling — in marked contrast with their fellowship with Abram — intimates the condition of Lot’s soul. Observe, too, that it was “in the heat of the day” ( Genesis 18:1) that they visited Abram; whereas, it was “even” ( Genesis 19:1) when they appeared to his nephew. The utter meanness and selfishness of Lot’s character was quickly exhibited in the contemptible proposal to sacrifice his daughters to the men of Sodom in order to secure his own preservation and peace ( Genesis 19:8). The powerlessness of his testimony appeared in the response made by his “sons-in-law” when he warned them that the Lord was about to destroy the city — “he seemed as one that mocked” ( Genesis 19:14); his words had now no weight because of his previous ways. The words “while he lingered, the men (the angels) laid hold upon his hand” ( Genesis 19:16) show plainly where his heart was. The summary judgment which overtook his wife and the fearful crime of his daughters was a terrible harvest from his sowing to the flesh.
The deliverance of Lot was a remarkable instance of God’s care for His own. Lot was living far below his privileges, and manifestly was out of communion with the Lord, yet he was a “righteous man” ( 2 Peter 2:7,8) and therefore was he snatched as a brand from the burning. Blessed be His name, “He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself” ( 2 Timothy 2:13).
Just as a shelter was provided for Noah, just as Israel was protected from the avenging angel, so with Lot. Said the angel to him, “I cannot do anything till thou be come thither” ( Genesis 19:22).
We cannot leave this section without noticing the obvious connection between Lot’s deliverance from Sodom and Abram’s intercession for him.
The particular word employed by Abram in his supplications was deeply significant. Said he, “Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” ( Genesis 18:23, and compare verses 24, 25, 26, 28), which is the very word which the Holy Spirit employs in 2 Peter 2:8! May we not also see in Abram here a type of our blessed Lord? Lot was delivered from the kings by Abram’s sword and from God’s judgment upon Sodom by Abram’s supplications. And are not these the instruments (if we may so speak) employed by our Savior! He delivers His own from the (defilements of) the world by the Word — the sword — see John 13, and when they sin He acts as their Advocate with the Father ( 1 John 2:1).
Mysterious are the ways of Him with whom we have to do. The “strife” which God permitted to arise between the herdmen of Abram and Lot was designed for the carrying out of His own counsel. The declared purpose of God was to separate Abram from the land of his birth and from his own kinsmen, in order to educate him and his in the knowledge and obedience of Jehovah. God called Abram “alone” ( Isaiah 51:2), yet at least two of his relatives accompanied him when he left Ur of the Chaldees. But, in the end, God’s purpose was realized. Terah, Abram’s father, died at Haran.
Lot accompanied him into the land of Canaan, but it is obvious that a worldly spirit like his, together with his own separate and large encampment imbued, no doubt, with the spirit of its chief and over which it would be difficult if not impossible for Abram to exercise authority, could not help forward the Divine purpose. In the separation of Lot from Abram, then, we see the departure of the last of his kinsfolk, and now Abram is left “alone” with God! Verily, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord that shall stand” ( Proverbs 19:21).
Let us consider, 2. THE MAGNANIMITY OF ABRAM.
The proposal which Abram made to his nephew was exceedingly gracious and beautiful. Abram was the senior, and the one to whom God had promised to give the land ( Genesis 12:7), yet, he generously waived his rights, and “with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering,” he forebore with Lot in love. Note carefully his words, “Is not the whole land before thee” ( Genesis 13:9). Gladly did Abram surrender every claim and forego every right to put a stop to this strife between “brethren.”
In the waiving of his rights Abram foreshadowed that One who was made, according to the flesh, “the son of Abraham” ( Matthew 1:1). He who was in the form of God and thought it not robbery to be equal with God voluntarily waived His rights and took upon Him the form of a servant. All power in heaven and earth was His, yet He suffered Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and though He had the right to summon twelve legions of angels to come and do His bidding, He waived it and refused to give the command. Though He did no sin, had no sin, was without sin, and as such death had no claim upon Him, yet was He “made sin for us” and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Yes, He “waived His rights” and He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. 3. THE WARNINGS POINTED BY LOT’S FAILURES.
We mention three without dwelling upon them at any length:
First , his choice of residence. Surely this needed lesson is writ large across the story of Lot’s life. He preferred the “well-watered” plains above Abram’s “altar.” He regarded temporal advantages only, and had no regard for his spiritual welfare. Alas! how many believers are there now who, when seeking a location for themselves and family follow his evil example. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ought to regulate our every decision.
Second , his yielding to the spirit of worldliness. Lot seems to be a type of that class of Christians who aim to make the best of both worlds, who are really occupied more with the things of earth than the things of heaven. Lot was a man who sowed to the flesh, and of the flesh he reaped corruption.
Temporal prosperity was what he sought, but in the end he lost even his worldly possessions. His life on earth was a wretched failure, made up entirely of “wood, hay, stubble.” There was no witnessing for God and no blessing of God upon his family. Lot is a concrete warning, a danger signal, for all Christians who feel a tendency to be carried away by the things of the world.
Third , his miserable end. Wretched, indeed, must have been the closing days of Lot — cowering in a cave, stript of all his earthly possessions, his sons-in-law destroyed in Sodom, his wife turned to a pillar of salt, and he left face to face with the fruit of his own awful sin. 19. ABRAHAM AND MELCHIZEDEK <011401> GENESIS Our last chapter was concerned with Abraham and Lot. We touched upon the first part of Genesis 13, which records the strife that came between their herdmen, the prompt measures taken by the patriarch to put an end to the friction, the generous offer which he made his nephew, and Lot’s leaving Abram and journeying to Sodom. In this present paper we continue our study of the career of the father of all that believe, resuming at the point where we left him in our last. “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. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” ( Genesis 13:14-17).
Abraham was now alone, and yet not alone, for the Lord was with him and gracious was the revelation that He made of Himself. It was with a true concern for God’s glory that Abram had suggested Lot’s separating from him. “There was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land” (verse 7). Abram could not endure the thought of “strife” between brethren in the presence of the Lord’s enemies — would that God’s children today were equally reluctant to bring reproach upon the holy name they bear.
God did not allow His child to lose by his magnanimous offer to Lot, made, as we have said, out of consideration for God’s glory. To Lot Abram had said, “Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right hand; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan,” etc. (verses 9, 10); and now Jehovah appears to Abram and says, “Lift up now thine eyes and look” (verse 14). O, what a contrast! Lot “lifted up his eyes” at the dictate of worldly interests; Abram lifted up his to behold the gift of God. Thus does our ever faithful God delight to honor those who honor Him. The student will note there are three passages in Genesis where it is said that Abram “lifted up his eyes.”
First , here in Genesis 13:14, when he beheld “the land”; Second , in Genesis 18:2, when he beheld “three men,” one of whom was the Lord Himself; Third , in Genesis 22:13, when he beheld the substitute — “a ram caught in a thicket.”
Above we have said that Abram was now alone. At last the purpose of God is realized. God “called him alone” ( Isaiah 51:2). He had said “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee” ( Acts 7:3), but to this command Abram had rendered but a tardy and partial obedience. Both his father and nephew accompanied him as he left Chaldea, and instead of journeying straight to Canaan, he stopped short at Haran where he “dwelt” until the death of Terah ( Genesis 11:31,32).
Yet even now the Divine command was not fully obeyed — into the land of God’s call Abram came, Lot still with him. But now, at the point we have reached, Lot has taken his departure and Abram (with Sarai) is left alone with God. And is it not deeply significant that not until now did the Lord say, “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (verse 15); Observe carefully the ascending scale in God’s promises to Abram. In Chaldea God promised to “shew” Abram the land ( Genesis 12:1). Then, when Abram had actually entered it and arrived at Sichem the Lord promised to “give” the land unto his seed — “And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land ( Genesis 12:7). But now — now that he is at last separated from the last of his “ kindred “ — God promises to give “all the land” unto Abram himself. Furthermore, it is to be noted that not until now does God say to Abram, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it” (verse 17), which intimated that God would have Abram appropriate His gift. Abram was to “feel at home” in the land as though the title deeds of it were already in his hands. Do we not discover in all this a striking illustration of an all important principle in God’s dealings with His own people. How often our unbelief limits the outflow of Divine grace! An imperfect and circumscribed obedience prevents our enjoying much that God has for us.
In the words “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it” (verse 17) another important truth is suggested — appropriation. It was as though God had said to Abram,! have called you into this land, I have given it to you and your seed, now enjoy it. He was to travel through it, to look upon it as already his — his by faith, for he had God’s word for it. As another has said, “He was to act towards it as if he were already in absolute possession.” And is not this what God invites His people to do today? We, too, have received a call to separate ourselves from the world. We, too, have been begotten unto an inheritance, an inheritance which is “incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven.” And now we, too, are bidden to “walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it.” In other words, we are called to the exercise of faith; to look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are unseen; to set our affection upon things above, and not upon things below. In brief, we are to make our own, to appropriate and enjoy the things which God has promised us. It is unbelief which hinders us from enjoying to the full what is already ours in the purpose of God. Mark that word through the prophet Obadiah, “But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions” (verse 17).
In the Millennium Israel will fully “possess their possessions.” We say “fully possess” for they have never done so in the past. And why? Because of unbelief. Then let us fear, lest there be in us also an evil heart of unbelief. “Then 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” ( Genesis 13:18).
The connection between this statement and the immediate context is also full of instruction. “Mamre” signifies fatness and “Hebron” means fellowship. Notice the opening word “then”: it was not until Lot had left him and Abram was fully in the will of the Lord that Hebron — fellowship — is now mentioned for the first time! It is disobedience that hinders full fellowship with Jehovah. And, note, too, that Abram “built there an altar unto the Lord.” Fellowship resulted in worship! This is ever the order: obedience, fatness of soul, fellowship, worship. Confirmatory of these remarks, is it not significant that this very “Hebron” became the inheritance and portion of Caleb who “followed the Lord fully! — “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day; because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel” ( Joshua 14:14). Genesis 14 opens with a brief account of the first war mentioned in Scripture. It would be beside our purpose to pause and examine in detail what is here recorded of the four and five kings, our present purpose is to note Abram’s connection and dealings with them. The outcome of the conflict was the capture of Lot and his possessions (verse 12). As another has said, “He had laid up treasures for himself on earth, and the thieves had broken through.”
It is beautiful to observe the effect of this intelligence upon our patriarch.
Abram was not indifferent to his nephew’s well-being. There was no root of bitterness in him. There was no callous, “Well, this is none of my doing: he must reap what he has sown.” Promptly he goes to the aid of the one in distress. But note it was not in the energy of the flesh that he acted. It was no mere tie of nature that prompted Abram here — “When Abram heard that his brother (not his ‘nephew’) was taken captive.’’ A brother — a spiritual brother — was in need, and so he “armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan” ( Genesis 14:14).
And has this no voice for us today? Surely the spiritual application is obvious. How often is a “brother” taken captive by the enemy, and the word comes, “Ye, which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted ( Galatians 6:1).
But only too often the call falls upon ears that are dull of hearing. Only too often, our prided separation from evil leads to independence and indifference. Alas! that it should be so. How different from our blessed Lord, who leaves the ninety and nine and goes after the sheep that has strayed, and rests not until it is found and restored! “The righteous are bold as a lion” ( Proverbs 28:1).
When the news came that Lot was a prisoner in the hands of a mighty warrior, Abram showed no hesitation but immediately set out in pursuit of the victorious army, and taking the initiative was quickly successful in rescuing his nephew. “And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the kings’ dale” ( Genesis 14:15-17).
It is just at this point that a very remarkable personage is brought before us, namely, Melchizedek. Much has been said and written about him. Some have thought he was Shem who was a contemporary of Abram’s for a hundred years; but this cannot be, for we are distinctly informed concerning Melchizedek that he was “without father, without mother” ( Hebrews 7:3), which, as we shall see, means that Scripture is absolutely silent concerning his genealogy. This then disposes of the Shem theory, for we do know who his father was. Others have concluded that he was Christ Himself, but this supposition is equally unscriptural for we are told that Melchizedek is “made like unto the Son of God” and that Christ’s priesthood is “after the similitude of Melchizedek” ( Hebrews 7:3,15), which could not be said if Melchizedek were Christ Himself. Still others have supposed that he was some mysterious celestial being, but that is emphatically negatived by Hebrews 7:4, where Melchizedek is expressly called a “man.”
In the words “made like unto the Son of God” ( Hebrews 7:3) we have the key to the mystery which centers around Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, and particularly a type of our Lord’s priesthood.
There are other points of resemblance which we shall consider below, but the first point of analogy between Melchizedek and the Son of God singled out by the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 7 is that he is “without father, without mother, without descendant, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” This does not mean that Melehizedek was a supernatural, a divine being, but that he is presented to us in the Old Testament as without father or mother, etc. In other words, the silence of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning his parentage has a designed significance. The entire omission of any reference to Melchizedek’s ancestry, birth or death, was ordered by the Holy Spirit (who “moved” Moses both in what he inserted and what he left out of the Genesis narrative) in order to present a perfect type of the Lord Jesus. No information concerning the genealogy of Melchizedek is recorded in Genesis, which is a book that abounds in genealogies. This is an instance where speech is silvern and silence golden.
The silence was in order that there might be a nearer approximation between the type and the glorious antitype.
Not only was Melehizedek a type of our Lord in the fact that he is presented to us in Genesis as being “without father, without mother,” but also in a number of other important particulars. Melchizedek was a priest — “the priest of the Most High God” ( Genesis 14:18). But not only so, he was a king — “King of Salem “ — and therefore a royal priest. In the person of Melchizedek the offices of priest and king were combined, and thus was he a notable type of our great High Priest who according to the flesh was not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe (see Hebrews 7:14). Not only was Melchizedek a type of the royal priesthood of Christ by virtue of his office as King of Salem (which means “peace”) but his name also had a typical significance. “Melehizedek” means “king of righteousness.” Here again there is a wonderful and blessed bringing together of things which out of Christ are divorced. Not only did Melchizedek combine in his person the offices of king and priest, but in his titles he united righteousness and peace. Melchizedek was both king of righteousness and king of peace and thus did he foreshadow the blessed result of the cross work of our adorable Lord, for it was at the Cross that “mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other” ( Psalm 85:10).
Observe the order of mention in Hebrews 7:2, “to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace.”
This is ever God’s order. God cannot be at peace with guilty rebels until the claims of His throne have been met. Only upon a righteous basis can peace be established. “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever” ( Isaiah 32:17).
This is unfolded at length in the Epistle to the Romans, and particularly in Romans 3:21-26, God’s righteousness was “declared” at the Cross where the Lord Jesus made propitiation and fully satisfied every demand of the thrice holy God. There it is that the great “work of righteousness” was accomplished, the effect of which is peace. As it is written, “Having made peace through the blood of His Cross” ( Colossians 1:20).
In Hebrews 7:4 attention is called to the greatness of this man Melchizedek, his “greatness” being recognized and acknowledged by Abraham who “gave him tithes.” In this also he is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, our “great High Priest” — the only Priest so denominated in the Scriptures. The greatness of our Lord’s priesthood inheres in His intrinsic glory which is in contrast with the feebleness of the perishable priests of the Levitical order who could not save. Two things prominently characterized the Levitical priests: first, they were personally unclean, and therefore needed to “offer for their own sins” ( Hebrews 7:27); and second, they were mortal, and therefore death put an end to their ministrations. Now in contradistinction, not only is our great High Priest sinless, but He is made “after the power of an endless life” ( Hebrews 7:16), and hence it is written concerning Christ, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” ( Hebrews 7:21).
It is important to remark here that it is as risen and ascended that the Lord Jesus has received the eternal excellency of the Melchizedek title. His never-ending ministry of blessing dates its effectual beginning from the finished work of the Cross. Here again we note the accuracy of our type, for not only is the Genesis narrative silent concerning the origin of Melchizedek, but it makes no mention of his death.
Finally, it is to be noted that Melchizedek is termed “priest of the Most High God” ( Genesis 14:18), a title which looks beyond all national relationships. Here is the final contrast between the two orders of priesthood the Melchizedekian and the Aaronic. Aaron’s priestly ministry never transcended the limits of Israel, and he was ever the priest of Jehovah as the God of Israel. But Melchizedek was priest of Jehovah under His more comprehensive title of the Most High God, “Possessor of heaven and earth” ( Genesis 14:19), and therefore Melchizedek foreshadowed the millennial glory of Christ when “He shall be a priest upon His throne” ( Zechariah 6:13) and reign in righteousness and peace. As it is written, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be calledTHE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” ( Jeremiah 23:5,6).
Then shall the Divine Melehizedek rule as King of Righteousness and King of Peace. As it is written again, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice (righteousness) from henceforth even for ever” ( Isaiah 9:6,7).
That Melchizedek foreshadowed the millennial glory of Christ is further to be seen from the occasion when he appeared before Abram. The typical picture is wonderfully complete. Melchizedek met Abram as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings, having rescued from them his nephew Lot who foreshadows the Jewish remnant in the tribulation period. Then it was that Melehizedek met Abram and blessed him ( Genesis 14:19). Thus it will be when our Lord returns to usher in the Millennium.
He will overthrow the Beast and his forces in this same “King’s dale,” deliver Israel out of their hands and bless the descendants of Abraham, and just as Abram acknowledged the superiority of Melchizedek by paying him tithes, so will Israel acknowledge their Divine Melchizedek and own Him as their Priest and King.
It now only remains for us to consider here the immediate effects upon Abram of the appearing of Melchizedek before him and the blessing he had received from him. “And the King of Sodom said unto Abram, give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” ( Genesis 14:21).
In the King of Sodom’s offer we may discover one of the “wiles” of the devil for we are not ignorant of his “devices.” The world is only too ready to offer God’s children its subsidies so as to bring them under obligation to itself. But Abram was preeminently a man of faith and faith is “the victory that overcometh the world” ( 1 John 5:4). “And Abram said to the King of Sodom, I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the Possessor of heaven and earth. That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say I have made Abram rich. Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion” ( Genesis 14:22-24).
What noble words were these! With quiet dignity our patriarch refuses to be dependent in anywise upon the King of Sodom — what a contrast was Balaam and the offer made him by Balak! Abram knew that in heaven he had a “better and an enduring substance” ( Hebrews 10:34). The words, “I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord” (compare Deuteronomy 32:40) signify a vow or solemn oath, and seem to show that when he started out in pursuit of Lot’s captors he promised the Lord that if He would give him success he would not enrich himself by his campaign; but it is beautiful to note that he did not forget or overlook the claims of those who had accompanied him and shared his perils. In the giving of tithes to Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, Abram acknowledged God’s grace in giving him the victory. 20. ABRAHAM’S VISION <011501> GENESIS The connecting link between our present portion of Scripture and the one which we took for the basis of meditation in our last chapter is found in the opening words of Genesis 15 — “After these things the Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision.” Chedorlaomer, the King of Elam, had united his forces to those of three other kings in a league of conquest.
Their military prowess seemed irresistible. The Rephaim, the Zuzim, the Emim, the Horites, the Amalekites and the Amorites were each defeated in turn ( Genesis 14:5-7). Five kings with their forces now combined and went forth to engage the armies of Chedorlaomer, but they also were overthrown, and in consequence the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were sacked and Lot was taken prisoner. Then it was that Abram went forth at the head of his three hundred and eighteen armed servants and by a surprise night attack gained a signal victory. Chedorla-omer was slain, Lot was delivered, and the booty taken from Sodom and Gomorrah was recovered.
And now came the reaction, mental and physical. Abram had good reason to conclude that the remaining followers of the powerful King of Elam would not abandon the enterprise which had only been frustrated by a surprise attack at night — made by an insignificant force — but instead, would return and avenge their reverse. In defeating Chedorlaomer and his allies, Abram had made some bitter and influential foes. It was not likely that they would rest content until the memory of their reverse had been wiped out with blood. They who had been strong enough to capture the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were too powerful to be set at defiance by Abram and his little colony. Thus alarmed and apprehensive Abram now receives a special word of reassurance: “After these things the Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield.” Thus in tender grace did Jehovah quiet the troubled heart of the one whom He was pleased to call His “friend.”
But further. In the remaining part of this opening verse — “I am.... thy exceeding great Reward” — we have another word which looks back to the previous chapter; and a precious word it is. After Abram had defeated Chedorlaomer, and after he had been blessed and refreshed by Melehizedek, the King of Sodom offered to reward Abram by suggesting he take the recovered “goods” unto himself ( Genesis 14:21). But he who “looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God” declined to accept anything from this worldling, saying, “I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatehet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” ( Genesis 14:22,23).
Noble reply! And now we behold the sequel. God never permits His own to lose for honoring Him and seeking His glory. Abram had refused the spoil of Sodom, but God more than makes it up to him. Just as when our patriarch had shown his magnanimity to Lot by saying: “Is not the whole land before thee.... if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand then I will go to the left,” and the Lord appeared unto Abram and said, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” ( Genesis 13:9,14,15); so it was here. The refusal to be enriched by the king of Sodom is now compensated, more than compensated by a revelation from God which would greatly increase the joy of His servant. How important is the principle which here receives such lovely exemplification! How much are the Lord’s people losing today because of their acceptance of the world’s favors! Unto how few can the Lord now reveal Himself as He did here to Abram! “I am thy shield and thy exceeding great Reward.” We would fain tarry and extract some of the sweetness of these words. This is a special promise applicable to those who are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” It is God’s word to those who “choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” for they have “respect unto the recompense of the reward” ( Hebrews 11:25,26). Unto such, God promises to be their Shield, their Defense, the One behind whom faith shelters and trusts; as well as their Reward, their exceeding great Reward. So it was with our blessed Lord Himself.
Refusing to accept from Satan the kingdoms of the world and their glory, He could say, “The Lord is the portion of Mine inheritance, and of My cup” ( Psalm 16:5). “And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
And Abram said, Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed; and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir” (verses 2, 3).
In hearing the words, “I am thy Shield and thy exceeding great Reward,” Abram’s mind seems to have turned toward his inheritance and the fact that he had no seed of his own to enter into the promises of God. What Abram longed for was a son, for he rightly judged that to go childless was to lose the inheritance. In other words, the patriarch here recognizes that heirship is based upon sonship, and thus we have foreshadowed a truth of vital importance, a truth which is fully revealed in the Scriptures of the New Testament. There we read, “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” ( Romans 8:16,17).
And again: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself.... in whom also we have obtained an inheritance” ( Ephesians 1:5,11).
We do not consider that in asking “What wilt thou give me,” etc., that Abram was giving expression to unbelief. On the contrary we regard his words as the language of faith. Observe there was no rebuke given him by the Lord; instead, we are told, “And, behold, the Word of the Lord came unto him saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them; and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (verses 4, 5).
It is to be noted that in Genesis 13:15 God compared Abram’s seed to the dust of the earth, but here, where Christ is contemplated (as well as a numerous offspring), the word is, “Look now toward heaven,” and his seed is likened to the “stars.”
And now we come to those words which have been so precious unto multitudes: “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (verse 6).
Literally rendered our verse reads, “And he stayed himself upon the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” At the time God promised Abram that his heir should be one who came forth from his own bowels Abram’s body was “as good as dead” ( Hebrews 11:12), nevertheless, he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform” ( Romans 4:20,21). Abram reasoned not about the natural impossibility that lay in the way of the realization of the promise, but believed that God would act just as He had said. God had spoken and that was enough. His own body might be dead and Sarah long past the age of child-bearing, nevertheless he was fully assured that God had power even to quicken the dead. And this faith was reckoned or counted unto him for righteousness; not that faith is accepted by God in lieu of righteousness as an equivalent for righteousness, else would faith be a meritorious thing, but that faith is the recipient of that righteousness by which we are justified. The force of the preposition is “unto” rather than “instead of” — it was “counted to him unto righteousness.” Abram’s case was a representative one. Today justification (to be declared righteous) is by faith, but with this important difference that whereas Abram believed God would give him a son through the quickening of his body, we believe that God has given us His Son, and through His death and quickening from the dead a Savior is ours through faith.
Just here we would pause to consider what seems to have proven a real difficulty to expositors and commentators. Was not Abram a “believer” years before the point of time contemplated in Genesis 15:6? Not a few have suggested that prior to this incident Abram was in a condition similar to that of Cornelius before Peter preached to him. But are we not expressly told that it was “By faith” ( Hebrews 11:8) he had left Ur of the Chaldees and went out “not knowing whither he went”! Yet. why are we here told that “he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness”? Surely the answer is not far to seek. It is true that in the New Testament the Holy Spirit informs us that Abram was a believer when he left Chaldea, but his faith is not there (i.e., Hebrews 11:8) mentioned in connection with his justification. Instead, in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians the incident which the Holy Spirit singles out as the occasion when Abram’s faith was counted for righteousness is the one in Genesis 15 now before us. And why? Because in Genesis 15 Abram’s faith is directly connected with God’s promise respecting his “seed,” which “seed” was Christ (see Galatians 3:16)! The faith which was “counted for righteousness” was the faith which believed what God had said concerning the promised Seed. It was this instance of Abram’s faith which the Holy Spirit was pleased to select as the model for believing unto justification.
There is no justification apart from Christ — “Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.
And by Him all that believe are justified from all things” ( Acts 13:38,39).
Therefore we say it was not that Abram here” believed God” for the first time, but that here God was pleased to openly attest his righteousness for the first time, and that for the reason stated above. Though Christians may believe God with respect to the common concerns of this life, such faith, while it evidences they have been justified is not the faith by which they were justified — the faith which justifies has to do directly with the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the character of Abram’s faith in Genesis 15; he believed the promise of God which pointed to Christ.
Hence it is in Genesis 15 and not in Genesis 12 we read, “And He counted it to him for righteousness.” How perfect are the ways of God! “And He said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it” (verse 7).
We do not regard this question from Abram as arising from unbelief, but that having just been granted (verse 5) a sign or view of a numerous offspring he now desires a further sign or pledge by way of explanation.
And now the Lord answers by putting Christ, in type, before him. “And He said unto him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another, but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away” (verses 9-11).
The typical picture is wonderfully complete. “Take Me,” observe, for the sacrifice belongs to, is for God. It has been pointed out by another that each of the three animals named here were tame ones, not wild and needing to be captured by Abram; instead, they were the willing servants of man’s need. Each one foreshadowed a distinctive aspect of Christ’s perfections and work. The heifer of three years seems to have pointed to the freshness of His vigor; the goat, gave the sin-offering aspect; the ram is the animal that in the Levitical offerings was connected specially with consecration.
The birds told of One from Heaven. The “three years,” thrice repeated, suggested perhaps the time of our Lord’s sacrifice, offered after “three years” of service! Note that death passed upon them all, for without shedding of blood is no remission and where no remission is there can be no inheritance. The “dividing” of the animals indicated that this sacrifice was to form the basis for a covenant (cf. Jeremiah 34:18,19). The “driving away” of the fowls seems to have shown forth the energy of faith. “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (verses 12, 13).
A profound truth is here taught us in type. Abram now learns that the inheritance can be reached only through suffering! His heirs would have to pass through the furnace before they entered into that which God had prepared for them. In the “deep sleep” and the “horror of great darkness” Abram, as it were, entered in spirit into death, as that through which all his seed would have to pass ere they experienced God’s deliverance after the death of the Paschal Lamb. First the suffering, the four hundred years’ “affliction.” and then the inheritance. How this reminds us again of Romans 8:17! “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” And again: “We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God” ( Acts 14:22).
Thus it was with our blessed Lord — first the “sufferings” and then “the glory.” We call attention to the wonderful and perfect order of the typical teaching here: first the sacrifice (verse 9); second, “thy seed “ — sons (verse 13); third, suffering — “affliction “ (verse 13); fourth, entering into the inheritance — “come hither again” (verse 16). How complete the typical picture! “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him” (verse 12).
By this deep sleep we learn how God was showing the patriarch, symbolically, that not during his natural life would he inherit the land; instead, he must go down into the grave and inherit it together with the Promised Seed. In his awaking from this “deep sleep” Abram received a veiled promise of resurrection from the dead and the horror of great darkness as of the grave (cf. Hebrews 2:15) from which he was recalled again to the light of day. In a word, the way to blessing, to the inheritance, was through death and resurrection. “And He said unto Abram, know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (verses 13-16).
These verses contain a sevenfold prophecy which received a literal and complete fulfillment. It had reference to the sojourn of Abram’s descendants in the land of Egypt, their bondage there, and their deliverance and return to Canaan. We can do little more now than outline the divisions of this compound prophecy.
First , Abram’s descendants were to be strangers in a land not theirs (verse 13).
Second , in that strange land they were to “serve” (verse 13).
Third , they were to be “afflicted” four hundred years (verse 13) — note that Exodus 12:40 views the entire “sojourning” of the children of Israel in Egypt. They “dwelt” in Egypt four hundred and thirty years, but were “afflicted” for only four hundred years of that time.
Fourth , the nation whom Abram’s descendants “served” God would “judge” (verse 14).
Seventh , in the “fourth generation” Abram’s descendants would return again to Canaan (verse 16).
We take it that our readers are sufficiently well acquainted with the book of Exodus to know how wonderfully this prophecy was fulfilled, but we would point out here how accurately the seventh item was realized. By comparing Exodus 6:16-26 we find that it was exactly in the “fourth generation” that the children of Israel left Egypt and returned to Canaan. In this particular example the first generation was Levi, the son of Jacob, who entered Egypt at the time his father and brethren did ( Exodus 6:16).
And the fourth generation brings us to Moses and Aaron, who were the sons of Amram ( Exodus 6:20), and these were the ones who led Israel out of Egypt! “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces” (verse 17).
Much is suggested here which we have to pass by. The “smoking furnace’’ and the “burning lamp” symbolized the two leading features of the history of Abram’s descendants. For the “furnace” see Jeremiah 11:3,4, etc.; for the “burning lamp” see 2 Samuel 22:29; <19B9105> Psalm 119:105; Isaiah 62:1, etc. Note a “smoking furnace and a burning lamp.” Did not this teach Abram that in Israel’s sufferings God would be with them; and that in all their afflictions, He would be afflicted, too? “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (verse 18).
The covenant which God here made with Abram was based upon death, typically, the death of Christ. This covenant, based on sacrifice, was made by the Lord Himself; it concerned the land; and was absolutely unconditional. It has never yet been completely fulfilled. Note carefully its wording — “Unto thy seed have I given this land.” Contrast these words with Genesis 13:15 — “For all the land which thou seest to thee wilt I give it.” But now a sacrifice had been offered, blood had been shed, the purchase price had been paid, and hence the change from “I will” to “I have.”
In these articles we are not attempting complete expositions. They are little more than “Notes” — “Gleanings” — and our prime endeavor is to indicate some of the broad outlines of truth in the hope that our readers will be led to fill in the details by their own personal studies. In concluding this paper it deserves to be noted that Genesis 15 is a chapter in which quite a number of important terms and expressions occur for the first time.
The following is not a complete list, but includes some of the more important examples. Here for the first time we find that notable expression, “The word of the Lord came unto” (verse 1). Here is the first reference to a “vision” (verse 1). Here for the first time we read the words “Fear not” (verse 1), which, with their equivalent, “Be not afraid,” occur in Scriptures almost one hundred and eighty times. Here is the first mention of God as a “Shield” (verse 1). Here is the first occurrence of the Divine title “Adonai Jehovah” — Lord God (verse 2). Here for the first time we find the words “Believed,” “counted” or reckoned, and “righteousness.” May writer and reader search the Scriptures daily and diligently so that each shall say, “I rejoice at Thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil” ( <19B9162> Psalm 119:162). 21. ABRAHAM AND HAGAR <011601> GENESIS It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast than what is presented in our present chapter from the one reviewed in our last article. In Genesis Abram is seen as the man of faith, in chapter 16 as the man of unbelief. In Genesis 15 he “believed in the Lord,” in Genesis 16 he “hearkened to the voice of Sarai.” There he walks after the Spirit, here he acts in the energy of the flesh. Sad inconsistency! But One could say, “I do always these things that please Him” ( John 8:29). “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bare him no children; and she had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing. I pray thee, go in unto my maid, it may be that I may obtain children by her” ( Genesis 16:1,2).
First, his faith had to overcome the ties of nature: God’s call was for him to leave his country and his kindred. Then, shortly after he had actually arrived in Canaan, his faith was tried by stress of circumstances — there was a famine in the land. Next, he had to meet a trial respecting a brother: Abram feared that the friction between his herdsmen and the herdsmen of his nephew might lead to “strife” between brethren, and how he met this by his magnanimous offer to Lot we have already seen in an earlier chapter.
Later, there was a testing of Abram’s courage, as well as his love for his nephew. Lot had been captured by a powerful warrior, but Abram hastens to his rescue and delivers him. Subsequently, there was a testing of his cupidity. The King of Sodom offered to “reward” him for overcoming Chedorlaomer. And now he is tested by a suggestion from his wife. Would he take matters out of the hand of God and act in the energy of the flesh with reference to the obtaining of a son and heir. Thus, at six different points (to this stage in his history) was the character of Abram tested. We might summarize them thus: There was the trying of the fervor of his faith — did he love God more than home and kindred. There was the trying of the sufficiency of his faith was he looking to the living God to supply all his need, or was he depending on propitious circumstances? There was the trying of the humility of his faith — would he assert his “rights,” or yield to Lot? There was the trying of the boldness of his faith — would he dare attempt the rescue of his nephew from the hands of a powerful warrior?
There was the trying of the dignity of his faith — would he bemean himself by accepting honors from the King of Sodom? There was the trying of the patience of his faith — would he wait for God to fulfill His word in His own good time and way, or would he take matters into his own hand?
It is most instructive to note the setting of these various trials and temptations. Arrived in the land Abram was faced with a famine, and Egypt was at hand to lure the patriarch with its promise of relief from his anxiety.
After his departure from Egypt and return to the path of God’s will, the very next thing we read of is the strife between the herdsmen. Again: no sooner had Abram rescued Lot from his captors and been blessed by Melehizedek than he was tempted to dishonor God and bemean himself by a reward from the King of Sodom. And, immediately after Abram had received the wonderful revelation and promise of God recorded in Genesis 15, we read of this subtle temptation emanating from his wife.
It seems to be a general principle in the ways of God with His own to first bless and enrich and then to test the recipient. Elisha ardently, desired to receive Elijah’s mantle. His wish was granted; and the next thing we read of him is the facing of Jordan — the mantle had to be used at once!
Solomon prayed for wisdom, and his prayer was heard, and at once his gift was called into exercise by the case of the two mothers each claiming the living child as hers. Thus it was, too, with our blessed Lord; no sooner had the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove than we read, “And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness” ( Mark 1:12), where He was tempted of the devil. It is highly necessary for us to take the lesson to heart — it is when we have received some special mark of the Lord’s favor, or immediately after we have enjoyed some unusual season of communion with him, that we need most to be on our guard!
The evil suggestion that Sari made to Abram was a testing of the patience of his faith. God had said to Abram, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great” ( Genesis 12:2).
He had said, further, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them; and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be” ( Genesis 15:5), yet ten years had passed since the first of these promises and still Abram was childless. When the Lord repeated His promise “Abram believed in the Lord” ( Genesis 15:6), and now he was left to wait for the fulfillment of it. But waiting is just what the natural heart finds it so hard to endure.
Rather than wait man prefers to take the management of his affairs into his own hands and use human expediencies to give effect to the Divine promise. It was thus with Jacob; the portion of the firstborn had been given to him and not to Esau, but instead of waiting for God to secure the inheritance for him, he sought to obtain it himself by his own dishonorable scheming. It was the same with Moses; God had declared that the descendants of Abram should be afflicted for 400 years in a strange country, and but 360 years had passed when Moses saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, and taking matters into his own hands he smote and slew the Egyptian. It is one thing to “commit’’ our way unto the Lord, but it is quite another to trust also in Him,” and wait till He brings it to pass. “And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (verse 2).
The father of mankind sinned by hearkening to his wife, and here the father of the faithful follows his example. These things are recorded for our learning. How often it is that a man’s foes are those of his own household!
How often those who are nearest to us by nature are snares and hindrances in the spiritual life! Hence, how deeply important to heed the Divine admonition and “Be not unequally yoked together.” “And Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife” (verse 3). Galatians 4:22-26 is the inspired commentary upon the doctrinal principles involved in this act and in Abram’s response to it. The dispensational significance of Abram’s fall has often been expounded by others so that it is unnecessary for us to dwell upon it here at any length. In refusing to wait upon the Lord, and in summoning to his aid this Egyptian maid for the fulfilling of the Divine promise, Abram took a step which only “gendered to bondage,” just as now the believer does, if having begun in the Spirit he seeks to be made perfect by the flesh.
The outcome of Abram’s yielding to the specious temptation from his wife was quickly evidenced. “And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes” (verse 4).
The consequence was just what might have been expected. The Egyptian maid was elated at the honor (?) conferred upon her, and Sarai falls in her estimation. And now, when it is too late, Sarai repents and complains to her husband — “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee. I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes; the Lord judge between me and thee” (verse 5).
How true to human nature (fallen human nature) — to throw the blame of wrong-doing upon another! Man ever seeks to shelve his responsibility and charge either God or Satan with what he terms his “misfortunes.” “But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee” (verse 6).
Abram refuses to accept the responsibility of Sarai’s “wrong” and leaves her to deal with the evil which was the fruitage of her own sowing. But observe how one evil leads to another; in wronging his wife, Abram now surrenders to her his position as head of the household. “And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face” (verse 6).
What grace was this, Divine grace, for we need not stop to prove that the “Angel of the Lord” (mentioned here for the first time) was God Himself in theophanic manifestation. The place where He found this poor Egyptian maid attracts our attention. It was “by a fountain of water in the wilderness,” termed in verse 14 “the well.” This is the first time we read of the “well” in Scripture. We pause to look at several other passages in the Old Testament where the “well” is mentioned, for the purpose of noting how beautifully they pointed to the One Who giveth the living water, “that water of which those who drink shall never thirst” and which is in them a well of water springing up into “everlasting life” ( John 4).
First , it was located in the “wilderness.”
Second , the well itself was “by the fountain” — mark the repetition of these words in verse 7.
Surely the symbols are easily interpreted. It is not amid the gaieties or the luxuries of the world that Christ is to be found. It is not while the soul is enjoying “the pleasures of sin for a season” that the Savior is met with. It is in the wilderness, that is, it is as we withdraw from the attractions of earth and are in that state of soul which answers to the “wilderness” that the Lord meets with the sinner, and where is it that the needy one finds the Savior? Where, but “by the fountain of water” — type of the written Word! Should these lines catch the eye of some sin-sick and troubled heart that is earnestly seeking the Lord Jesus, turn, we beseech thee, away from man, and “search the Scriptures,” for they are they which testify of Him.
Finally, note that it was here at the “well” that God was revealed — “and she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me; for she said, Have I also here looked after Him that seeth me? Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi — the well of Him that liveth and seeth me” (verses 13, 14).
So Christ — of whom the “well” speaks — “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” It is in Him that God is fully revealed.
The next Scripture in which the “well” is found is Genesis 21:19, again in connection with Hagar. “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.” How plain is the type! “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” ( John 6:44).
And not only so, but none can see Christ with the eyes of the heart until they are opened by God. “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee (i.e., that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God), but My Father which is in heaven” ( Matthew 16:17).
As it was here with Hagar — “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well” — so also was it with Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” ( Acts 16:14), and as it was with Lydia so is it with all who believe. “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks” ( Genesis 29:1,2).
Comment here is needless. The “well” is the place where the sheep were watered and refreshed. So, again, with the antitype. Not only does our Lord give life — His own life — but He refreshes our parched souls day by day. “And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well: sing ye unto it” ( Numbers 21:16,17).
What a word is this! It reminds us of Genesis 22:8 compared with Isaiah 53:7. In the former passage the promise is that “God will provide Himself a lamb,” and in the latter, the Lamb is definitely identified “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” And so here. The “well” is personified — “Sing ye unto it”! Note, too, that the well was here made the gathering center of Israel. O, may we, as we gather around our blessed Lord, “sing” unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. “Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by En-rogel, for they might not be seen to come into the city; and a wench went and told them; and they went and told King David. Nevertheless, a lad saw them, and told Absalom; but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court; whither they went down. And the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known” ( 2 Samuel 17:17-19).
Thus the “well” was a place of protection for Jonathan and his servant.
Summarizing the typical teaching of the Scriptures we have little more than glanced at, we learn:
First , that the “well” is to be found “by the fountain of water,” which, to interpret, signifies, that Christ is to be found in the written Word.
Third , it was not until God opened the eyes of Hagar, that she “saw” the well. So it is not until the eyes of our heart are opened by God the Spirit that we are enabled to see Christ as the One we need and as the Fairest among ten thousand.
Fourth , that it is at the well the “sheep” are “watered.” So it is in communion with Christ our souls are refreshed.
Seventh , the well was the place where Jonathan and his servant found protection from their enemies. So in Christ we find shelter from every foe and refuge from every storm. “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands” (verses 7-9). “Grace reigns through righteousness.’’ It was grace that sought her, it was righteousness that thus counselled her. Grace is never exercised at the expense of righteousness. Grace upholds rather than ignores our responsibilities toward God and toward our neighbor. The grace of God that bringeth salvation, teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ( Titus 2:12). Note two things here in connection with Hagar. First, the angel of the Lord addresses her as “Sarai’s maid,” thus disallowing her marriage (?) with Abram; and second, she is bidden to “return” to her mistress. The day would come when God Himself would open the door, and send Hagar out of Abram’s house ( Genesis 21:12-14), but till then she must “submit” herself to the authority of Sarai. For another thirteen years she must patiently endure her lot and perform her duty. In the meantime, the Lord cheers Hagar’s heart with a promise (see Genesis 5:10). Is there a word here for any of our readers? Is there one who has fled from the post of duty? Then to such the Lord’s word is, “Return. ... submit.” If we have done wrong, no matter what the temptation or provocation may have been, the only way to Divine blessing, to peace and happiness, is to retrace our footsteps (as far as this is possible), in repentance and submission. “And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him” (verses 11, 12).
This prophecy seems to have had reference more to his posterity than to Ishmael himself. It is well known how accurately its terms have been fulfilled in the Arabs who, in all ages, have been a wild and warlike people, and who, though surrounded by nations that have each been conquered in turn, yet have themselves been unsubdued by the great Powers unto this day. “And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me; for she said, Have I also here looked after Him that seeth me. Wherefore, the well was called, The well of Him that liveth and seeth me” (verses 13, 14).
May the Lord Himself find us at the “well” as He did Hagar of old, and may it be ours as it was hers to hear and see Him. 22. ABRAHAM AT NINETY AND NINE <011701> GENESIS We have reached another of the important crises in the history of our patriarch and are to behold again the matchless grace of Jehovah in His dealings with the father of all them that believe. Thirteen years had elapsed (see Genesis 17:25) since Abram, in his impatient unbelief had “hearkened to the voice of Sarah.” Significant number this! In Scripture thirteen is invariably found in an evil connection signifying, as it does in the language of numerics, unbelief, rebellion, apostasy. The first time this numeral is met with in the Word is Genesis 14:4, where we read, “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.” How closely Abram’s own experience resembled this! Abram was seventy-five years of age when God’s call had come to leave home and kindred and to tread the highway of faith, and for practically twelve years he had endured as seeing Him who is invisible. But at the age of eighty-six ( Genesis 17:1, ninety-nine, less the thirteen years for the age of Ishmael, Genesis 17:25) Abram turned aside from the path of faith and resorted to the devices of the flesh, hearkening to the suggestion of Sarah to obtain a son by Hagar her Egyptian maid. And now another thirteen years pass, during which time there is no mention of any appearing of the Lord unto him. This interval is passed over in silence; it is a blank, a period of spiritual barrenness; apparently a season which brought forth nothing but wood, hay and stubble. Thus we find that the first two mention-ings of this numeral thirteen are associated, respectively, with rebellion and impatient unbelief in resorting to carnal efforts instead of waiting upon God. And it will be found that thirteen is an evil number right through the Scriptures (see 1 Kings 7:1 and contrast Genesis 6:38; Esther 3:12,13, etc.). The same is true of instances where the numeral is not specifically mentioned as, for example, the marching of Israel thirteen times around the defiant Jericho; also the thirteen “judges” enumerated in Judges, which is the book of apostasy (see Genesis 21:25); so, too, of Mark 7:21-23, where the Lord specifies just thirteen of the evil characteristics and products of the depraved heart of man; other exam-pies might be added such as the fact that the term “Dragon” is found exactly thirteen times in the apocalypse. Again, the same uniform evil significance of this numeral is discovered in eases where multiples of thirteen occur in Scripture: thus Jacob says to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years (13 x 10): few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” ( Genesis 47:9). In Numbers 16, which records the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and the visitation of God’s wrath upon them and their followers, we find there perished 250 ( Numbers 16:35) plus 14,700 ( Numbers 16:49) or 14,950 in all, which is 13 x 1,150. In Deuteronomy 14 there is a list of the unclean animals and birds which the Israelites were forbidden to eat, and a careful count shows there were just 26 or 13 x 2, which were prohibited (see verses 7-19). At the hands of his unbelieving countrymen the Apostle Paul received “forty stripes save one” ( 2 Corinthians 11:24), or 39, that is 13 x 3. The Epistle of Jude which treats of the apostasy of Christendom is the twentysixth book of the New Testament. And so on. In the light of these examples it is surely not without deep meaning that we learn there was an interval of just thirteen years between the incident mentioned in Genesis 16 and that recorded in Genesis 17, between Abram hearkening to the voice of Sarah and the Lord’s appearing to him anew, and that this interval is one of spiritual barrenness and is passed over in silence. Ere we turn and consider the gracious revelation which the Lord made to Abram at the close of this interval let us first ask and ponder an important question: Why had Abram to wait all this while before the Lord appeared to him again? Why must so many years drag their weary course before Jehovah reveals Himself once more and makes promise of giving him Isaac? Is not the answer to be found in Romans 4:19? “And being not weak in faith; he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”
God was about to act in grace, but ere grace can be displayed the creature has first to come to the end of himself: ere divine power is put forth man must learn his own impotency. Not till Israel were driven to desperation and despair at the Red Sea did the word come, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” So here. Not till Abram’s body was “dead” would God fulfill His word and give him a son. God’s opportunity does not come until man’s extremity is reached. This is a lesson we sorely need to take to heart, for it is of great practical importance. It might be tersely expressed thus: the Lord has a reason for all His delays. God not only does that which is right and best but He always acts at the right and best time. Mark, it was not until “the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” ( Galatians 4:4).
Is not this the explanation of what is a sore problem to many hearts? We mean, God’s delay in sending back His Son the second time. Like one of old, we are often tempted to ask, “Why is His chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of His chariots?” ( Judges 5:28).
Ah! here is the answer — the “fulness of time” has not yet arrived. God has a wise and good reason for the delay. What that is we learn from Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (to send back His Son — see verse 4), as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
God’s delay in sending back His Son is due to His long-sufferance, not willing that any should perish.
Let us repeat what we have said above and apply it to another perplexing problem. God has a reason for His delays. Not until man comes to the end of himself will God put forth His power. Not until man’s extremity is reached does God’s opportunity arrive. Not until our own powers are “dead” will God act in grace. What is the great lesson of <19A701> Psalm but this? “They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in: Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.... Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.... They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses” ( <19A704> Psalm 107:4-6,12,13, 23-28).
Ah! it is when we are at our “wit’s end,” when all our own devices have failed and all our own efforts come to nought, that we “cry unto the Lord in our trouble,” and “then” He bringeth us out of our distresses.
Beloved reader, apply now this principle to your own individual life. Are you anxiously exercised over God’s delay? He has some wise purpose for it. He had with Abram, and He has with you. From seventy-five — his age when he left Haran — to one hundred — when Isaac was born — was a long time to wait, but the sequel evidenced the Lord’s wisdom. God has more than one reason for His delays. Often it is to test the faith of His children, to develop their patience, to bring them to the end of themselves.
His delays are in order that when He does act His delivering power may be more plainly evident, that what He does may be more deeply appreciated, and that in consequence He may be more illustriously glorified. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect” ( Genesis 17:1).
These words are to be regarded first as a reproof. It was as though the Lord had said, “Have recourse no more to unbelieving expedients; keep now to the path of uprightness, and leave Me to fulfill My promise in My own good time and way.” This opening verse of Genesis 17 needs to be read in the light of God’s original promise to Abram to give him a “seed” ( Genesis 13:15,16) and the attempt made by our patriarch to obtain fulfillment by his own efforts. What Abram needed to be reminded of was God’s Almightiness. It was for want of considering this that he had had recourse to crooked devices. Another lesson this which we do well to mark — never to employ unlawful means in seeking to promote the cause of God. How much the Lord’s servants need to heed this truth! Like Abram, they are longing for seed, spiritual seed, but it comes not; and only too often they resort to unworthy methods to produce seed of themselves, arguing that the end justifies the means. Here is the effectual cure for all inpatient Anxiety — to reckon on One who is all-gracious, all-powerful, all-sufficient. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect” ( Genesis 17:1).
But again. These words must be regarded as a blessed exhibition of Divine Love. It is written that “Love suffereth long, and is kind.” How this was exemplified in God’s dealings with the patriarchs of old! How they tried that love! How often they grieved it! How often they acted unworthily of it! Yet, notwithstanding, as it was with the apostles so it was with the patriarchs — “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end” ( John 13:1).
How patiently God bore with Abram! It was love that “suffered long” with Abram’s failings! It was love that persisted with him in spite of every check and drawback. It was love that now met him and promised to grant the desire of his heart, and in old age give him a son. And, Christian readers, is it not Divine Love that still “suffers long” with each of us! Would we not have perished long ago were it not that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Ah, note the last three words. It is the love of God in Christ Jesus. That love is a righteous love and not a sickly sentimentality at the expense of holiness. In the epistle which tells us that God is Love, we first read that “God is Light” (see 1 John 1:5; 4:8).
But to return to Genesis 17:1. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty God.” The revelation which God here made of Himself was well suited to the occasion. This was the first time that He revealed Himself as “the Almighty.” None but One who possessed all power could meet Abram’s need at this time. Ninety and nine years of age, his body dead; Sarah barren and long past the age of childbearing — how could they hope to have a son? But with God all things are possible. And why? Because He is El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One. The “Almighty” is a title which strikes terror into the hearts of the wicked, but to the righteous it is a haven of rest. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” ( Proverbs 18:10).
The second time that the Lord revealed Himself as El Shaddai was under circumstances very similar to those found in Genesis 17:1 and context. “And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padam aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name; and He called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins” ( Genesis 35:9-11).
It will be noted that when God revealed Himself as the Almighty to Abram, He changed his name from Abram to Abraham; so here, He changes the name of his grandson from Jacob to Israel. To Abram God said, “And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.... and thou shalt be a father of many nations” ( Genesis 17:2,4); to Jacob He said, “Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee” ( Genesis 35:11).
Again, we are told that God “appeared” to Abram ( Genesis 17:1), literally “was seen to Abram,” and here in Genesis 35:9 the same word is used — this is the more striking for, excepting Genesis 12:7, these are the only occasions in Genesis where we read of God “appearing” to the patriarchs, as though to emphasize the importance of this Divine title.
Finally, in noting the parallelisms between Genesis 17 and 35, we may observe that at the close of this Divine interview we read “And He left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham” ( Genesis 17:22) and in Genesis 35:13 we are told, “And God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.”
It is blessed to remember that this same divine title is found in the Church epistles: “Wherefore come out from among them (as Abram did from Chaldea), and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing (as Abram did with Hagar); and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” ( 2 Corinthians 6:17,18).
It is because our God and Father is the “Almighty” that “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” — Christ ( Hebrews 7:25). It is because our God and Father is the “Almighty” that “He is able to succor them that are tempted” ( Hebrews 2:18).
It is because our Savior is “Almighty” that He shall “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” ( Philippians 3:21).
It is because our Lord is “Almighty” that He “is able to keep us from failing, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy ( Jude 24). “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect” ( Genesis 17:1).
We would call attention to four passages which refer to the walk of the Lord’s people in which a different preposition is used. Here in Genesis 17:1 Abram is bidden to “walk before” Almighty God. The children of Israel were exhorted to “walk after” the Lord: “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments” ( Deuteronomy 13:4).
Of Enoch and Noah it is witnessed that they “walked with God” ( Genesis 5:24; 6:9). But of those who are members of the Body of Christ the word is, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” ( Colossians 2:6).
To walk before is suggestive of a child running ahead and playing in the presence of his father, conscious of his perfect security because he is just behind. To walk after becomes a servant following his master. To walk with indicates fellowship and friendship. To walk in denotes union. As to how we are to walk in Christ, the Holy Spirit tells us in the words which immediately follow the exhortation: “Rooted and built up in Him” ( Colossians 2:7). We might summarize these varied aspects of the believer’s walk as intimated by the four different prepositions thus: we walk “before” God as children; we walk “after” Him as servants; we walk “with” Him as His friends; we walk “in” Him as members of His body. “Be thou perfect.” The careful reader will notice that the words “upright” and “sincere” are supplied in the margin as alternatives for “perfect,” but it seems to us there is no need for this, that the word in the text is a legitimate rendering of the Hebrew “tamin.” The same word occurs in Psalm 19:7: “The Law (Word) of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” It is the same word which is translated forty-four times “without blemish.” Then, did God really say to Abram, “Be thou perfect?’ He certainly did. And how could He say anything less? What lower standard than that of perfection can the Perfect One set before His creatures? Only too often men whittle down the Word to make it square with their own conceptions. All through the Scriptures, the standard of perfection is set before us. The law required that Israel should love the Lord their God with all their hearts. The Lord Jesus bade His disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” ( Matthew 5:48).
Is not that the standard of perfection? Brethren, such is the standard set before us. This is that which we are constantly to strive after. With nothing short may we be satisfied. It is because such is the standard that none in the flesh have ever realized it, that each and all must say with the apostle, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am aprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 3:12-14).
Then remember that it was El Shaddai who gave it. Who dares to talk of “impossibilities” when the Almighty is our God? Has He not said “My grace is sufficient for thee”? Then, do not charge Him with setting before us an unattainable standard: rather let us charge ourselves with failure to rest upon His Almighty arm, and confess with shame that the blame is ours through not appropriating His all-sufficient grace. “And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him” ( Genesis 17:3).
It seems to us that this act of Abram in prostrating himself before the Lord must be looked at in the light of his ways as recorded in the previous chapter — his taking of matters into his own hands instead of leaving them with God; his resorting to fleshly expediences instead of patiently waiting for Him to act. And now that Jehovah condescends to reveal Himself again to Abram, he is overwhelmed at such grace. Thus we regard Abram’s falling on his face not so much due to confusion as to wonderment at the divine favor shown him notwithstanding his unbelief.
We cannot now comment upon the remaining verses of the chapter, but in closing would call attention to one other feature. It is to be noted that in connection with the revelation of Himself as the “Almighty” the Lord God made Abram a composite promise in which seven times He said “I will” — “And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God....
And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed: and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.... But My covenant will I establish with Isaac” (verses 6, 7, 8, 19, 21).
The relationship between this compound promise and the title of Deity used on the occasion of its utterance is the pledge of its fulfillment. It is because all power is at His disposal, it is because He is sufficient in Himself, that the performing of all He has said is sure. What God says He will do. So sure is the fulfillment that in verse 5 the Lord says, “for a father of many nations have I made thee” (not “will I make thee”), just as in Romans 8:30 it is “whom He justified them He also glorified,” and yet in experience the glorification is yet future.
With the above seven “I wills” of God should be compared the seven “I wills” of Exodus 6:6-8, “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: and I will take you to be a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did sware to give it to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; and I will give it you for a heritage: I am the Lord.”
Our purpose in calling attention to this latter passage is that in Genesis 16 the Lord revealed Himself to Abram as the Almighty and followed the revelation with a sevenfold promise, and here in Exodus 6 He reveals Himself as Jehovah (verse 3) and follows this revelation with another sevenfold promise. Perfect are the ways and perfect is the Word of Him with whom we have to do. 23. ABRAHAM AT GERAR <012001> GENESIS In our last chapter we considered at some length the revelation which God made of Himself to Abraham as the Almighty, together with the sevenfold promise which accompanied this revelation, including, as it did, that Abraham and Sarah should be given Isaac in their old age. In Genesis 18 we behold the Lord in full fellowship with the one He thrice terms His “friend,” eating at his table, and making known his purpose concerning Sodom; while at the close of the chapter Abraham is seen as an intercessor before God. And now, in Genesis 20, we are to witness a sad and dramatic change. There is a return to the miserable policy which he followed down in Egypt. Afraid that his life may be taken from him on account of his wife, he causes her to pose as his sister, and only through a direct interposition by God is she delivered from the effects of his sin. “And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech, King of Gerar, sent and took Sarah” ( Genesis 20:1,2).
The contents of Genesis 20 furnish a striking proof of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. No fictitious historian would have recorded this dark blot on the life of such an illustrious personage as Abraham. The tendency of the human heart is ever toward hero worship, and the common custom of biographers is to conceal the defects and blemishes in the careers of the characters which they delineate, and this, had it been followed, would naturally forbid the mention of such a sad fall in the life of one of the most venerated names on the scroll of history. Ah! but herein the Bible differs from all other books. The Holy Spirit has painted the portraits of Scripture characters in the colors of nature and truth. He has given a faithful picture of the human heart such as is common to all mankind.
At first sight it seems incredible that Abraham should have acted as recorded here in Genesis 20, but further reflection will convince any honest Christian that the picture here drawn is only too true to life: “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” ( Proverbs 27:19).
The remaining of the old nature in the believer, the occasional manifestations of it in God-dishonoring activities, the awful backslidings which God’s children have been subject to in all ages, and the reviewing of our own sad departures from the path of faith and righteousness, are quite enough to explain the deplorable and seemingly unaccountable conduct of the father of all who believe. And if the reader knows nothing of such departures and backslidings let him not boast of his faithfulness and superior piety, rather let him ascribe all glory to the matchless grace of Him that is able to keep us from falling.
Sad indeed, inexpressibly sad, was Abraham’s conduct. It was not the fall of a young and inexperienced disciple, but the lapse of one who had long walked the path of faith that here shows himself ready to sacrifice the honor of his wife, and what is worse, give up the one who was the depositary of all the promises. “What then is man, and what hope for him except in God None, surely. And it is to ground us well in this that we are given to see the sad and terrible failures of these honored servants of God. Not to discourage but to lead us to the Source of all comfort and strength. Only in realized weakness do we find this. Only when unable to do without God for a moment do we find what He is for us moment by moment” (F. W. Grant).
What made the matter so much worse in Abraham’s ease was that it was not a question of being surprised into a sudden fault. It was the recurrence of an old sin. Long ago he had followed the same wicked course in Egypt, where his duplicity had been discovered and from whence he was banished in disgrace. But the experience profited him not. Some twenty or twentyfive years had passed since then, and in the interval he had built an altar unto the Lord, had vanquished Chedorlaomer, had been blessed by Melchizedek the priest of the Most High God, had repulsed the offer of the King of Sodom to be enriched at his hands, and had received wondrous revelations and promises from God; yet now we see him leaving God out of his reckoning, and ensnared by the fear of man, resorting to the most shameful deception. How then shall we account for this? The explanation is obvious: until the time referred to in Genesis 20 Abraham had not been in circumstances to call into exercise the evil that was in his heart. “The evil was not fully brought out — not confessed, not got rid of — and the proof of this is, that the moment he again finds himself in circumstances which could act upon his weak point, it is at once made manifest that the weak point is there. The temptation through which he passed in the matter of the King of Sodom was not by any means calculated to touch this peculiar point; nor was anything that occurred to him from the time that he came up out of Egypt until he went down to Gerar calculated to touch it, for had it been touched it would no doubt have exhibited itself. “We can never know what is in our hearts until circumstances arise to draw it out. Peter did not imagine he could deny his Lord, but when he got into circumstances which were calculated to act upon his peculiar weakness, he showed that his weakness was there. “It required the protracted period of forty years in the wilderness to teach the children of Israel ‘what was in their hearts’ ( Deuteronomy 8:2); and it is one of the grand results of the course of discipline through which each child of God passes, to lead him into a more profound knowledge of his own weakness and nothingness. ‘We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God which raiseth the dead’ ( 2 Corinthians 1:9). The more we are growing in the sense of our infirmities, the more shall we see our need of clinging more closely to Christ — drawing more largely upon His grace, and entering more fully into the cleansing virtue and value of His atoning blood. The Christian, at the opening of his course never knows his own heart; indeed, he could not bear the full knowledge of it; he would be overwhelmed thereby. ‘The Lord leads us not by the way of the Philistines lest we should see war,’ and so be plunged into despair. But He graciously leads us by a circuitous route, in order that our apprehension of His grace may keep pace with our growing self-knowledge” (C. H. M.).
As we have seen, it was stress of circumstances which revealed the state of Abraham’s heart, as it is of ours. Though the wording of it might be improved, we thoroughly agree with the sentiment of a preacher who long ago said, “We possess no more religion than what we have in the time of trouble.” It is comparatively easy to trust God while everything goes along pleasantly, but the time of disappointment, of loss, of persecution, of bereavement, is the time of testing; and then how often we fail! Here is where the Lord Jesus is in such striking contrast from all others. Stress of circumstances only served to display the perfections of His heart. When He was a hungered, and tempted by Satan to make bread to supply His own need, He lived by every word of God. When He sat by the well, worn with His journey, He was not too weary to speak words of grace and life to the poor Samaritan woman. When the cities in which His mightiest works had been done rejected His message, He meekly submitted, saying “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight” ( Matthew 11:23-26).
When He was reviled, He reviled not again. And in the supreme crisis, on the cross, His perfections were fully displayed — praying for the forgiveness of His enemies, speaking the word of acceptance to the repentant thief, making provision for His widowed mother, yielding up His spirit into the hands of the Father. Ah! our garments (symbols of conduct, habits, ways) are at best, so much patchwork, but His were “without seam, woven from the top throughout” ( John 19:23). Yes, in all things He has the preeminence.
Light is thrown upon Abraham’s fall by the thirteenth verse of our chapter — “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.” It is to be noted that this arrangement entered into by Abraham with his wife, was made before they left Chaldea. It was therefore something which they brought with them from the place of their birth! In other words, it was that which was attached to the old man and, as we have seen, something which had never been judged. Let us learn then from this, the vileness of the flesh, the utter corruption of the old nature, the hideousness of the old man.
Truly there is need for us to “mortify” our members which are on the earth.
Plainly, the evil compact which Abraham made with Sarah was due to the feebleness of his faith in God’s power to take care of them. And once more, let not writer or reader sit in pharisaic judgment upon Abraham, but see a picture of himself. Abraham did but illustrate what is all too sadly common among the Lord’s people — that which might be termed the inconsistency of faith. How often those who are not afraid to trust God with their souls, are afraid to trust Him with regard to their bodies! How often those who have the full assurance of faith in regard to eternal things, are full of unbelief and fear when it comes to temporal things! We have believed in the Lord and it has been counted unto us for righteousness; yet, how often, like Abraham, in the matter of the practical concerns of our daily life, we too, have more confidence in our own wisdom and scheming than we have in the sufficiency of God.
And how did God act? Did He lose patience with Abraham, and cast off one so fickle and inconsistent? Manifestly Abraham had dishonored the Lord in acting as he did, in setting such an evil example before these heathen (Philistines). Yet, behold the grace of Him with whom we have to do. Instead of casting him off, God interposed and delivered Abraham and his wife from the peril which menaced them. Not only did God not forsake Abraham, but He would not abandon him to his foes. Ah! the gifts and calling of God are “without repentance.” And why? Because they are bestowed altogether without respect to any worthiness in the recipient, and hence, because God’s gifts are free and we do nothing to merit them, we can do nothing to demerit them. “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife” ( Genesis 20:3).
This statement may appear very commonplace to the casual reader the mere narration of a detail lacking in importance. But the meditative mind discovers here an exemplification of a truth of profound importance and high value, though one that is now generally lost sight of. We refer to the universality of God’s rule; the absolute control which he has over His creatures; the ease with which He can move men to accomplish His will.
God has access to all minds and can impress them by a dream, an affliction, or in any way He thinks proper. In the above case God used a dream to instruct Abimelech, to show him the wrong he had unconsciously done, and to point out to him his immediate duty. Abimelech was a Philistine, and, so far as we know to the contrary, a heathen. He knew nothing of the fact that Sarah was the one chosen to be the mother of the Jewish race, and the one from whom, according to the flesh, the Messiah was to come. Appearances seemed to show that Jehovah’s purpose was in immediate danger of being foiled. But how simply God dealt with the situation! By means of a dream, nothing more, Sarah is delivered, the seeming hindrances to God’s purpose is removed, the situation is saved!
What we here desire to emphasize is the perfect ease with which God can move men when He pleases. All this modern talk about man’s “freedom” and man’s going his own way in defiance of God’s secret counsels leaves God out entirely. To say that God wants to influence men but that men will not let Him is to reduce the Almighty to a helpless spectator, full of gracious intentions but lacking in power to make them good. But what saith the Scriptures? Hear them: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” ( Proverbs 21:1). Yes, and so easily can He turn the king’s heart, that when He pleases He needs employ nothing more than a “dream”! “And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against Me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” ( Genesis 20:6).
In these words we have (as so often in Scripture) an apparently incidental statement which throws great light upon a difficult problem and which positively refutes the proud reasoning of the philosophic theologians. How often it has been said that in endowing Adam with the power of choice God was unable to prevent his fall. But how untenable are such theorizings in the face of the above passage! If God could “withhold” Abimelech from sinning against Him, then had He pleased He could have done the same with our first parents. Should it be asked why He did not “withhold” Adam from sinning, the answer must be that He permitted sin to enter that opportunity might be given to display His grace. “Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears and the men were sore afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done” ( Genesis 20:8,9).
It is important to note that Abimelech recognized fornication as a “great sin.” Unquestionably the heathen are aware of the criminality of many of the sinful acts which they commit — “their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another” ( Romans 2:15).
A brief consideration of one other thought and our space is exhausted.
Notice how differently God looked at and spoke of Abraham from Abimelech’s words concerning him — “Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee and thou shalt live.” All that Abimelech saw in our patriarch was a man guilty of barefaced deception. But God looked at Abraham in Christ, and therefore speaks of him as a “prophet” (one who has His mind), and makes Abimelech debtor to his prayers! This is how God ever vindicates His own before the unbelieving. It was a similar case to what He said through Balaam concerning Israel at a later date “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” ( Numbers 23:21).
In some such way as this is now being answered on high the charges of the enemy who accuses the brethren before God day and night. Oh! blessed fact, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Will this encourage careless living? God forbid, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” 24. ABRAHAM “THE FATHER OF US ALL” It is to be feared that many who read the Old Testament, particularly its earlier books, look upon these Scriptures as little more than historical narratives, as simply containing a description of certain events that happened in the far distant past, and that when they come to the record of the lives of the patriarchs they discover nothing beyond a piece of ancient biography. But surely this is very dishonoring to God. Is it not obvious that when we relegate to a remote date in the past what we are told about Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, etc., and see in the inspired record little or nothing applicable to ourselves today, that we virtually and practically reduce Genesis to a dead book? Suppose we express this in another way: If Genesis is a part of “The Word of Life” ( Philippians 2:16), then it is a living book, charged with vitality; a book which must have about it a freshness which no other book, outside of the Sacred Canon, possesses; a book which speaks to our day, which is pertinent and applicable to our own times.
One truth which Scripture reveals about God is, that He changes not, for He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Therefore, it follows that, fundamentally, His ways are ever the same; that is to say, He deals through all time with men, especially His own people, upon the same principles. It is this which explains the well-known fact that so often history repeats itself. Having stated the broad principle, let us now apply it.
If what we have just said is correct, should we not expect to find that God’s dealings with Abraham forecast and foreshadow His dealings with us? That, stripped of their incidental details, the experiences of Abraham illustrate our experiences? Grant this, and we reach a similar conclusion (as we anticipated) to the one expressed at the close of the preceding paragraph. Let us now combine the two conceptions.
Because the Bible is a living book no portion of it is obsolete, and though much that is recorded in it is ancient, yet none of it is antiquated. Because the Bible is a living book, every portion of it has some message which is applicable and appropriate to our own times. Because God changes not, His ways of old are, fundamentally, His ways today. Hence, God’s dealings with Abraham, in the general, foreshadow His dealings with us. Therefore, to read most profitably the record of Abraham’s life, we must see in it a portrayal of our own spiritual history. Before we attempt to particularize, let us take one other starting point and lead up to the place where we here leave off. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” ( Romans 4:16). How is Abraham the “father” of us all? In what sense is he such? Not, of course, literally, by procreation, but figuratively, by typification. Just as naturally the son inherits certain traits from his father, just as there is a resemblance between them, just as Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image” ( Genesis 5:3), so there is a resemblance and likeness between Abraham and those who are “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” ( Galatians 3:29). In a word, Abraham is to be regarded as a sample believer. Thus there will be a close correspondence, in the broad outline, between Abraham’s history and ours. And here, once more, we reach the same point as at the close of each of the above paragraphs.
I read, then, the life of Abraham as recorded in Genesis, not merely as a piece of inspired history (though truly it is such), not as an obsolete narrative of something which happened in the far distant past, but also, and specially, as a portrayal of the experiences of Abraham’s children in all ages, and as a description of God’s dealings with HIS own in all time. To particularize: What was Abraham at the beginning? A lost sinner; one who knew not God; an idolator. So were we: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles.... that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, haying no hope, and without God in the world” ( Ephesians 2:11,12).
What happened? The God of glory appeared unto him ( Acts 7:2). So it was with us. He revealed Himself to us. What was the next thing? God’s call to Abraham to separate himself from everything which pertained to his old life. Such is God’s call to us — to separate ourselves from the world and everything of it. Did Abraham obey? At first only imperfectly. Instead of leaving his kindred as commanded, Terah his father and Lot his nephew accompanied him as he left Chaldea. Has this no voice for us? Does it not solemnly condemn Abraham’s “children”? Has not our response to God’s call of separation been tardy and partial? To proceed: Soon after Abraham arrived in Canaan painful circumstances try his faith — a “famine” arose.
How did this affect him? Did he make known his need to God and look to Him to meet it? Ah, can we not supply the answer from our own sad experience? Have we not turned to the world for help and deliverance in the hour of emergency, as Abraham turned to Egypt? See Abraham again in Genesis 16. He is childless. God has promised that his seed should inherit the land. But years have passed and Sarah is still barren. What does Abraham do? Does he patiently wait upon God and go on waiting?
Suppose the Bible had not told us, could not our own experience supply the answer once more? Abraham has recourse to fleshly means, and drags in Hagar to assist God (?) in the furtherance of His purpose. And what was the outcome? Did God lose patience? Well He might. But did He cast off His erring child? Has He dealt thus with us? No, indeed, “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful” ( 2 Timothy 2:13). We need not review Abraham’s life any further. Do you not see now, dear reader, why Abraham is termed the “father of us all”? Is not the saying of the world — “Like father, like son” true here? But let us look at one other line in the picture ere we leave it. Look at Abraham in Genesis 22, offering up Isaac.
Surely, but note when this occurred — not at the beginning, but near the close of Abraham’s pilgrimage. Ah! life’s discipline had not been in vain: the fire had done its work, the gold had been refined. At the last Abraham had reached the place where he is not only willing to give up Terah and Lot at the call of God, but where he is ready to lay his Isaac upon the altar! In other words, he resigns all to God, and places at His feet the dearest idol of his heart. Grace had triumphed, for grace alone can bring the human heart into entire submission to the Divine will. So will grace triumph with us in the end. See, then, in Abraham’s up and down experiences, his trials, his failures, a representation of yours. See in God’s patient dealings with Abraham a portrayal of His dealings with you. See in the final triumph of grace in Abraham the promise of its ultimate triumph in you, and thus will Genesis be a living book by translating it into the present.
Deeply important are the lessons to be learned from the life of Abraham, and many are the precious truths which are seen illustrated in his character and career. Having looked at him as a simple believer, let us next consider him as a Man of Faith. In Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter, Abraham is given striking prominence. Only once do we read “By faith Isaac,” and only once do we read “By faith Jacob”; but three times the faith of Abraham is mentioned (see verses 8, 9, 17). Probably it is no exaggeration to say that Abraham’s faith was tried more severely, more repeatedly, and more varisomely than that of any other human being. First, he was called upon to leave the land of his birth, to separate himself from home and kindred, and to set out on a long journey unto a land which God promised to “show” him, and, we are told, “he went out not knowing whither he went.” After his arrival in the new land he did not enter into occupation of it, but instead, sojourned there as a stranger and pilgrim. All that he ever owned in it was a burying-place. Dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, he remained there well-nigh a century. Again, his faith was tested in connection with God’s promise to give him a son by Sarah. His own body “dead,” and his wife long past the age of child-bearing, nevertheless “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform” ( Romans 4:20,21).
Finally, the supreme test came when he was bidden to offer up his son Isaac, but, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.... accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” ( Hebrews 11:17,19).
But did Abraham’s faith never waiver? Alas, it did. He was a man of like passions to ourselves, and in him, too, there was an evil heart of unbelief.
The Spirit of God has faithfully portrayed the dark as well as the fair side, and were it not that we are painfully conscious of the tragic history of our own spiritual lives, we might well marvel at the strange mingling of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. By faith Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave Chaldea; yes, but by unbelief he disobeyed in that his father and nephew accompanied him in direct contravention of Jehovah’s express command. By faith he left Chaldea, but by unbelief he stopped short at Haran ( Genesis 11:31). By faith he entered the land of promise, but as soon as a famine arose he forsook it and went down to Egypt ( Genesis 12:10). By faith he returned and sojourned in the land of promise, but by unbelief he took to himself the maid Hagar rather than wait for God to put forth His power and give him a son by Sarah. By faith he went forth against Chedorlaomer and his armies to rescue Lot, but later, by unbelief he lied to Abimelech about his wife ( Genesis 20:21). What a sad exemplification is all this of the two natures in the believer!
How terribly inconsistent are the lives of God’s saints! By faith Israel crossed the Red Sea, but a little later, in unbelief, they feared they had been brought into the wilderness to perish from hunger. With heart stayed upon the Lord, David feared not to engage the mighty Goliath, yet the time came when he fled from Saul. Filled with confidence in Jehovah, Elijah, singlehanded, faced the four hundred prophets of Baal, but within a few hours he ran in terror from an angry woman. Peter was not afraid to step out on to the sea, nor was he intimated in the presence of the Roman soldiers, but drew his sword and smote off the ear of the high priest’s servant; yet, the same night, he trembled before a maid and dared not to confess his Lord.
Oh! the God dishonoring ways of unbelief! Unbelief! Surely this is the sin which doth so easily beset us.
Do not the above histories and their sequels bring out the marvelous and gracious long-suffering of Him with whom we have to do? How patiently God deals with His people! Israel did not perish with hunger in the wilderness, even though they murmured against God; instead, they were fed with “angel’s food” ( Psalm 78:25)! David was not slain by Saul, even though he did flee from him; instead, he was afterwards exalted to the throne of Israel! Elijah did not fall a victim to the wrath of Jezebel, though his faith did fail him; instead, he was afterwards taken to heaven without seeing death at all! Peter was not disowned because he denied his Lord, nay, after his restoration, he had the signal honor of opening the door of the kingdom both to the Jews and to the Gentiles! So it was with Abraham.
God did not abandon him when his faith faltered, but dealt gently and patiently with him, leading him on step by step, disciplining him in the school of experience, until by wondrous grace He enabled him to do by faith on Mount Moriah that which was a type of Calvary itself!
The divine dealings with Abraham wonderfully demonstrated God’s Sovereignty. A unique honor was conferred upon our patriarch, for he was chosen by God to be the father of the chosen nation, that nation from which, according to the flesh, Christ was to come. And mark how God’s Sovereignty was displayed in the character of the one selected by Him.
There was nothing in Abraham by nature to commend him to Jehovah. By descent he belonged to a family of idolaters. Ere he left Chaldea, in response to God’s call, he entered into an evil compact with his wife ( Genesis 12:7). As though to give special emphasis to their unworthiness, God said to Israel, “Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah that bore you: for I called him alone — look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” ( Isaiah 51:2,).
And Abraham, the father of us all, was a pattern or sample case. God’s choice before the foundation of the world was not determined by any good or merit foreseen in ourselves. Election itself is of “grace” ( Romans 11:5). It is all of grace from beginning to end, sovereign grace, gratuitous grace, matchless grace.
Consider next Abraham as an object of God’s Love. The history of our patriarch was one of strange vicissitudes. On no flowery beds of ease was he permitted to luxuriate. Painful were the trials he was called upon to endure. Again and again he passed through the waters and the fire, but there was ever One by him that forsook him not. As the father of them that believe, Abraham was, as we have seen, a representative believer. In kind though not in character the experiences of Abraham are the same we meet with. Faith has to be tried that it may work patience: the gold has to be put in the crucible that it may be refined. God had one Son without sin, but none without suffering and sorrow. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. First, Abraham had to endure the severance of nature’s ties; at the call of God he had to leave home and kindred. And the word comes to us, too, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me” ( Matthew 10:37).
Called to leave the land of his birth, to be a stranger and pilgrim in a foreign land, he was taught, as we are, that “Our citizenship is in heaven’’ ( Philippians 3:20). The “strife” which arose between the herdmen of Abraham and Lot, necessitating the separation between our patriarch and his nephew, illustrates the fact that the path of faith is ofttimes a lonesome one, and that frequently we are obliged to walk apart from those loved by the flesh. The years of waiting that Abraham experienced ere the longing of his heart was gratified and a son was given him, exemplified that lesson, so hard to learn, that we must wait only upon Him with our expectation from Him. Finally, as Abraham was called upon to relinquish his Isaac and offer to God his only son, so we are required to place our all at His disposal, and in doing this we shall not be the losers any more than Abraham was. See, then, the love of God exercised toward the father of all who believe; love displayed in faithful chastening, and issuing in the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
There are many facets to this precious jewel. We have noted how God’s long-sufferance, His sovereignty, His love were manifested toward Abraham; now observe His matchless grace. Is not this the only appropriate word to use here? Was it not grace that made Abraham the “friend of God”? Oh, wondrous condescension that should stoop so low as to lay hold of a worm of the earth! Oh, matchless benignity that should bring one of His own creatures into such intimate relationship with Himself! Oh, undeserved and unmerited favor that made him “the friend of God”! And mark how this friendship was exhibited. See how the Lord makes known to His “friend” what shall happen to his descendants for a long time ( Genesis 15:13-16). Mark, again, how He takes him into His confidence and counsels respecting what He was about to do with Sodom ( Genesis 18:17). Observe the Lord in intimate fellowship with Abraham, eating and drinking at his board ( Genesis 18:8). Finally, consider how marvelously God took him into the fellowship of His heart ( Genesis 22). Probably no other human being ever entered so deeply into the meaning and movements of the Father’s heart at Calvary as did Abraham on Mount Moriah.
In the last place, let us look upon Abraham as a typical character. We do not know of any Old Testament personage who was such a multifarious type as was Abraham. First, he was a type of the Father. This is seen in his desire for children (compare Ephesians 1:5); in his making a “feast” at the weaning of Isaac (compare Matthew 22:2-4); in the offering up of his only son Isaac (compare John 3:16); in his sending for a bride for his son (compare Revelation 21:9); in appointing his son heir of all things ( Genesis 25:5). Second, Abraham was a type of Christ. This is seen in him leaving his father’s house at the call of God; in that he is the one in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed; in that he is the kinsman — redeemer of Israel; in that he is the holder of headship of the nations. Third, he is a type of the Church. This is seen, particularly, in that he was a stranger and pilgrim in the earth. Observe that though he left his home in Chaldea he did not find another in Canaan; instead, he was the man of the tent. Note how this comes out toward the end of his life. When he needed a burying-place he purchased it of the children of Heth ( Genesis 23:3,4). He preferred to buy it rather than receive it as a gift from these worldlings. He would not be enriched by them any more than he would be a debtor to and accept favors from the king of Sodom. The stranger-ship of Abraham was also displayed in the seeking of a wife for Isaac. He was a stranger in Canaan, so he sent to Haran! Thus, though he tabernacled in Canaan, he was sharply distinguished from the people of the land he was among them but not of them. Fourth, Abraham was a type of Israel. This is seen in that he was the one to whom God gave Palestine; the one with whom God entered into a covenant; the one who was divinely preserved while dwelling in a strange country ( Genesis 20); the one who, after a checkered career, was supernaturally quickened in old age, and the one who was ultimately joined to the Gentiles ( Genesis 23).
May divine grace enable writer and reader to walk by faith and not by sight, to live in complete separation from the world as strangers and pilgrims, to render unto God a more prompt and unreserved obedience, to submit to His will and hold all at His disposal, and then shall we find with Abraham that the path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day. 25. THE BIRTH OF ISAAC <012101> GENESIS The birth of Isaac marked a pivotal point in the outworking of God’s eternal purpose. The coming of this son to Abraham and Sarah was the second great step toward the fulfillment of Jehovah’s plan. This purpose and plan was to have a people of His own, separate from the surrounding nations; a people to whom should be entrusted the Holy Oracles, a people of whom as concerning the flesh the Savior was to be born; a people who should ultimately become the medium of blessing to all the earth. In the realization of this plan and purpose the first great step was the selection of Abram to be the father of the chosen nation, the call which separated him from the idolatrous people among whom he lived, and the migration unto the land which Jehovah promised to give him.
Some twenty-five years had now passed since Abram had left Ur of the Chaldees, and during these years he had received promise from the Lord that He would make of him a great nation ( Genesis 12:2) and that He would make his seed as the dust of the earth ( Genesis 13:16). But years went by and Abram remained childless: the promised seed had not been given and Abram was exercised and perplexed. “And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezar of Damascus?
To these questions the Lord returned answer, “This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” ( Genesis 15:4).
Another interval passed and yet no child appeared, and “Sarai said unto Abram, Behold, now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai, and he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived” ( Genesis 16:2,4).
A further thirteen years dragged their weary course and “God said unto Abraham, as for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations: Kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before Thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac” ( Genesis 17:15-19).
Shortly after this the Lord, accompanied by two angels, appeared unto His servant in the plains of Mamre and, “they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And He said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” ( Genesis 18:9-14).
And now the appointed hour for the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah had struck, and we read, “And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him” ( Genesis 21:12).
Thus we reach, as we have said, the second stage in the accomplishment of Jehovah’s purpose. The birth of Isaac marked an important crisis in connection with the history of the chosen line, for not in Ishmael but in Isaac was Abraham’s seed to be called ( Genesis 21:12).
Many are the important truths illustrated in the above Scriptures, and many are the profitable lessons to be learned therefrom. We name a few of them without attempting to enlarge. We see from the above that God is in no hurry in the working out of His plans. Man may fret and fume, hurry and bustle, but Jehovah has all eternity at His disposal and works leisurely and with deliberation. Well for us to mark this attentively — “he that believeth shall not make haste” ( Isaiah 28:16). Again, we note here God’s Almightiness. Nothing can hinder or thwart the outworking of His purpose. Abraham may be old, Sarah may be barren, but such trifles present no difficulty to Him who is infinite in power. Abraham may seek to obtain an heir through Hagar, but Jehovah’s plan cannot be foiled: Sarah’s son shall be his heir, not Ishmael. Behold, too, the faithfulness of God.
The Lord had said Sarah shall have a son, and what He promised He performed. His promise may seem unreasonable and impossible to the carnal mind, but His word is sure. Learn, also, how faith is tried and tested. This is in order to display its genuineness. A faith that is incapable of enduring trial is no faith at all. A hard thing was promised to Abraham but, “he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” ( Romans 4:19,20).
Finally, note that God has a set time for the accomplishing of His will and the fulfilling of His word. Nothing is left to chance. Nothing is contingent on the creature. Everything is definitely fixed beforehand by God. “For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him” ( Genesis 21:2).
Mark how this is emphasized by repetition — “But my covenant will! establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year” ( Genesis 17:21); “At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” ( Genesis 18:14).
Compare Galatians 4:4.
Isaac was the child of promise. The Lord took great interest in the birth of this boy. More was said about him before his birth than about any other, excepting only Abraham’s greater Son. God first made promise to Abraham; “As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her” ( Genesis 17:15,16).
The response of the aged patriarch is recorded in the next verse — “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed.” Later, the promise was renewed in the hearing of Sarah, “And He said I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son” ( Genesis 18:10).
Then we are told, “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” How reason ever opposes the promises of God. The “laughter” of Abraham was the laughter of worshipful joy, that of Sarah was credulous unbelief. There is a laughter which the Lord fills the mouth with, when, at some crisis, He comes to our relief. “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them” ( <19C601> Psalm 126:112).
But there is also the laughter of cynicism and unbelief. The former we are not afraid to avow; the latter makes us, like Sarah, cowards and liars. But are we not told “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised” ( Hebrews 11:11).
How shall we harmonize this with her laugh of unbelief? To the infidel this would appear a contradiction, but the believer has no difficulty in reconciling these two, for he knows from experience there is a continual struggle going on in his heart between faith and unbelief, sometimes the one and sometimes the other being uppermost. But is it not beautiful and blessed to note that in the New Testament Sarah’s unbelief is passed over, just as nothing is said there of Rahab’s deception ( Hebrews 11:31), or of Job’s impatience ( James 5:11).
Isaac was the child of miracle. Sarah’s womb was “dead” ( Romans 4:19) and ere she could conceive a supernatural “strength” must be given her ( Hebrews 11:11). In this, of course, we discover a foreshadowment of the miraculous birth of the Lord Jesus — now, alas, so generally denied.
We are tempted to digress here but must refrain. Certain it is that the vital importance of the virgin birth of our Savior cannot be overestimated. Well did Sir Robert Anderson say, “The whole Christian system depends upon the truth of the last verse of Matthew one” (“The Coming Prince”).
Returning to the miraculous birth of Isaac, do we not see in it, as also in the somewhat similar cases of Rachel, the mother of Samson, Hannah, and Elisabeth, not only a foreshadowing of the supernatural birth of Christ, but also the gracious way of God in preparing Israel to believe in it, facilitating faith in the Divine incarnation. If God quickened a dead womb and caused it to bear, why should it be thought a thing incredible if He made the virgin give birth to the Child!
The birth of Christ was markedly foreshadowed by that of Isaac and this in seven ways at least.
Second , a lengthy interval occurred between God’s first promise to Abraham and its realization. When we are told, “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said” ( Genesis 21:1), the immediate reference is to Genesis 17:16 and Genesis 18:14, but the remote reference was to the original promise of Genesis 12:7. So also was there a lengthy interval between God’s promise to send Christ and the actual fulfillment of it.
Third , when Isaac’s birth was announced, his mother asked, “Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” ( Genesis 18:13), to which the answer was returned, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” and the striking analogy is seen in the fact that when the angel of the Lord made known unto Mary that she was to be the mother of the Savior, she asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” ( Luke 1:34), to which query the answer was returned, “With God nothing shall be impossible’’ ( Luke 1:37): so that in each case God’s omnipotency was affirmed following the annunciation of the birth of the child.
Fourth , Isaac’s name was specified before he was born — “And thou shalt call his name Isaac” ( Genesis 17:19); compare with this the words of the angel to Joseph before Christ was born — “And thou shalt call his name Jesus” ( Matthew 1:21)!
Fifth , Isaac’s birth occurred at God’s appointed time ( Genesis 21:2) “at the set time”; so also in connection with the Lord Jesus we read “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” ( Galatians 4:4). Sixth, as we have seen above, Isaac’s birth required a miracle to bring it about; so also was it with the incarnation of Immanuel.
Seventh , the name Isaac (given unto him by Abraham and not Sarah, Genesis 21:3), which means laughter, declared him to be his father’s delight; so also was the one born at Bethlehem — “this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Need we remark how strikingly this sevenfold type evidences the Divine inspiration of Scripture, and demonstrates that the book of Genesis — so much attacked by the critics — was written by one” moved by the Holy Spirit.”
It has been noticed by others that in Abraham we have a striking illustration of election, while in Isaac we get, typically, the precious truth of sonship. Abraham was the one chosen and called by God; Isaac was the one promised and born of God’s power. The historical order of Genesis is thus the doctrinal order of the New Testament. Thus we read in Ephesians 1:4,5, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him: in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
Isaac brings before us in type regeneration, and it is this which will now engage our attention.
The first point we would here dwell upon is that before Isaac was born the power and activities of nature were made an end of. Abraham and Sarah had come to the end of themselves. Abraham’s body was “dead,” and so too was Sarah’s womb ( Romans 4:19). And in order for Isaac to be born that which was dead must be quickened, quickened by God. This is a very humbling truth; one which is thoroughly distasteful to man; one which nothing but the grace of God will enable us to receive. The state of the natural man is far worse than he imagines. It is not only that man is a sinner, a sinner both by nature and by practice, but that he is “alienated from the life of God” ( Ephesians 4:18). In a word the sinner is dead — dead in trespasses and sins. As the father said of the prodigal, “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” ( Luke 15:24).
That the natural man is dead in trespasses and sins is no mere figure of speech; it is a solemn reality, an awful fact. It is ignorance and the denial of this fact which lies at the root of so much of the false teaching of our day.
What the natural man needs first and foremost is not education or reformation, but life. It is because the sinner is dead that he needs to be born again. But how little this is pressed today! The unspeakably dreadful state of the natural man is glossed over where it is not directly repudiated.
For the most part our preachers seem afraid to insist upon the utter ruin and total depravity of human nature. This is a fatal defect in any preaching: sinners will never be brought to see their need of a Savior until they realize their lost condition, and they will never discover their lost condition until they learn that they are dead in sin.
But what does Scripture mean when it says the sinner is “dead”? This is something which seems absurd to the natural man. And to him it is absurd. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” ( 1 Corinthians 2:14).
To the natural man it seems that he is very much alive. Yes, and Scripture itself speaks of one that lives in pleasure as being “dead while she liveth” ( 1 Timothy 5:6). Herein lies the key to the meaning of that expression employed by our Lord in His teaching upon the Good Samaritan.
Describing the condition of the natural man under the figure of one who had fallen among thieves, who had stripped him of his raiment and left him wounded by the wayside, the Savior termed him “half dead” ( Luke 10:30). Mark then the absolute accuracy of Christ’s words. The sinner is “half dead”: he is alive manward, worldward, sinward, but he is dead Godward! The sinner is alive naturally — physically, mentally, morally — but he is dead spiritually. That is why the new birth is termed a “passing from death unto life” ( John 5:24). And just as the deadness of Abraham and Sarah — in their case natural deadness, for they but foreshadowed spiritual truths had to be quickened by God before Isaac could be born, so has the sinner to be quickened by God into newness of life before he can become a son of God. And this leads us to say.
Second , before Isaac could be born God had to perform a miracle. As we have said, Abraham’s body was “dead” and Sarah was long past the age of child-bearing. How then could they have a son? Sarah laughed at the mention of such a thing. But what was beyond the reach of nature’s capacity was fully within the scope of Divine power. “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” ( Genesis 18:14).
As it was with Isaac so it is with every Christian. Before any of us could be born again God had to work a miracle. Make no mistake on this point; regeneration is the direct result of the supernatural operation of God. This needs to be stressed today, for regeneration has been so misrepresented by modern evangelists that to the popular mind the “new birth” signifies nothing more than a process of reformation. But the new birth is no mere turning over of a new leaf and the endeavor to live a better life. The new birth is very much more than going forward in a religious meeting and taking the preacher’s hand; very much more than signing a card and “joining the church.” The new birth is an act of God’s creative power, the impartation of spiritual life, the communication to us of the Divine nature itself.
Abraham and his wife — each of them nearly a hundred years old — desiring a son — what could they do? Nothing! absolutely nothing. God had to come in and work a miracle. And thus nature had nothing to glory in. So it is with us. The natural man is not only a sinner, a lost sinner, but he is a helpless sinner impotent, unable to do anything of himself. If help comes it must come from outside of himself. He is, like Abraham and Sarah, shut up to God.
Third , the coming of Isaac into Abraham’s household aroused opposition and produced a conflict. “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham, mocking” ( Genesis 21:9).
In the epistle to the Galatians we are shown the dispensational meaning and application of this, and there we read, “But as then he that was born after the flesh (Ishmael) persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now” ( Galatians 4:29); but it is with the individual application of this type that we are now concerned. Ishmael exemplifies the one born after the flesh: Isaac the one born after the Spirit. When Isaac was born the true character of Ishmael was manifested; and so when we are born again and receive the new nature, the old nature, the flesh, then comes out in its true colors.
Just as there were two sons in Abraham’s household, the one the product of nature, the other the gift of God and the outworking of Divine power, each standing for a totally different principle, so in the believer there are two natures which are distinct and diverse. And just as there was a conflict between Ishmael and Isaac, so the flesh in us lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh ( Galatians 5:17).
It is of first importance that the Christian, especially the young Christian, should be clear upon the two natures in the believer. The new birth is not the improving of the old nature, but the receiving of a new; and the receiving of the new nature does not in any wise improve the old. Not only so, the old and the new natures within the believer are in open antagonism the one to the other. We quote now from the works of one deeply respected and to which we are much indebted: “Some there are who think that regeneration is a certain change which the old nature undergoes; and, moreover, that this change is gradual in its operation until, at length, the whole man becomes transformed. That this idea is unsound, can be proved by various quotations from the New Testament. For example: The carnal mind is enmity against God. How can that which is thus spoken of ever undergo any improvement? The apostle goes on to say, “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” If it cannot be subject to the law of God, how can it be improved? How can it undergo any change? Do what you will with flesh, and it is flesh all the while. As Solomon says, “Though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him” ( Proverbs 27:22). “There is no use seeking to make foolishness wise. You must introduce heavenly wisdom into the heart that has been hitherto only governed by folly” (C. H. M.).
Fourth , it is to be noted that it was the birth of Isaac which revealed the true character of Ishmael. We know practically nothing of Ishmael’s life before the birth of Isaac, but as soon as this child of promise made his appearance the real nature of Hagar’s son was made manifest. He may have been very quiet and orderly before, but as soon as the child of God’s quickening-power came on the scene, Ishmael showed what he was by persecuting and mocking him. Here again the type holds good. It is not until the believer receives the new nature that he discovers the real character of the old. It is not until we are born again we learn what a horrible and vile thing the flesh is. And the discovery is a painful one: to many it is quite unsettling. To those who have supposed that regeneration is an improving of the old nature, the recognition of the awful depravity of the flesh comes as a shock and often destroys all peace of soul, for the young convert quickly concludes that, after all, he has not been born again.
The truth is that the recognition of the true character of the flesh and a corresponding abhorrence of it, is one of the plainest evidences of our regeneration, for the unregenerate man is blind to the vileness of the flesh.
The fact that I have within me a conflict between the natural and the spiritual is the proof there are two natures present, and that I find the Ishmael-nature “persecuting” the Isaac-nature is only to be expected. That the Ishmael-nature appears to me to be growing worse only goes to prove that I now have capacity to see its real character, just as the real character of Ishmael was not revealed until Isaac was born.
Our space is exhausted and we must be very brief on these last points. The circumcising of Isaac, and later of the Israelites, was a foreshadowing of our spiritual circumcision: “And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” ( Colossians 2:10,11). Judicially we have been circumcised and God no longer looks at us in the flesh but in Christ, for circumcision — typically and spiritually — is separation from the flesh, and the eighth day brings us on to resurrection ground in Christ. Compare Colossians 3:9, etc.
Here again the type holds good. Isaac “grew” by feeding on his mother’s milk. Thus, too, is it with the believer. By the new birth we are but spiritual babes, and our growth is brought about by feeding on the milk of the Word. “As new-born babes, desires the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” ( 1 Peter 2:2).
We cannot now touch upon the significance of the “great feast” above.
Seventh , “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had borne unto Abraham mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away” ( Genesis 21:9-14).
At last the conflict is over. He who “persecuted” Isaac is now “cast out” ( Galatians 4:29). So it will yet be with us. Judicially the life of the flesh is already ended for us, but practically it is still here with us and in us. But blessed be God what is true now judicially shall soon be true experimentally also. When Christ returns for us, the flesh shall be put off for ever, just as Elijah left behind him his earthly mantle. But mark how accurate our type is: not till Isaac “grew” and was “weaned” was the persecuting Ishmael cast out! Let this be our closing thought. Soon our Ishmael shall be east out. Soon shall this vile body of ours be made like unto the body of Christ’s glory ( Philippians 3:21). Soon shall the Savior return and we shall be “like Him,” for we shall see Him as He is ( John 3:2). Blessed promise! Glorious prospect! Does not the presence of the vile flesh within us now only serve to intensify the longing for our blessed Lord’s return? Then let us continue to cry daily, “Come quickly. Even so, come Lord Jesus.” 26. THE OFFERING UP OF ISAAC <012201> GENESIS “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (try) Abraham” ( Genesis 20:1).
These words refer us back to the context, a context that is rich in typical significance. The immediate context is the twenty-first chapter, where we have recorded the Birth of Isaac — a remarkable type which, with what follows it, needs to be viewed from two standpoints: its individual application, and its dispensational application. In our last paper we considered the former, here we shall deal briefly with the latter.
The birth of Isaac awakened the enmity of Ishmael, and in consequence Sarah came to Abraham saying, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” ( Genesis 21:10).
From the Epistle to the Galatians ( Galatians 4:22-31) we learn there was a profound meaning to the act here requested by Sarah, that it possessed a dispensational significance. It is to be noted first that Sarah refers to the “inheritance” — the son of Hagar should not be “heir with Isaac.” Now Isaac, as we have shown in our last, not only foreshadowed the Lord Jesus in His miraculous birth, but also pointed forward to those who now become the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. In a word, Isaac stands for Divine sonship. Only the spiritual family of promise answers to Isaac, and takes the title of “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Israel, nationally, does not inherit with the church. Hence, as Isaac in Genesis 21 foreshadowed those who are members of the Body of Christ, Ishmael stands for the Nation of Israel which is now “cast out” during the time that God is visiting the Gentiles and taking from among them a people for His name ( Acts 15:14). With this key in hand let us turn to the second part of Genesis 21 and note how the course of Israel as a nation is pursued in the type. 1. “And Abraham rose up early in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away, and she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba” ( Genesis 21:14).
First we note (and we shall be as brief as possible) that Hagar and her son became wanderers in the wilderness. How true the picture. Such has been Israel’s portion ever since she rejected Abraham’s greater Son, the Lord of Glory. Throughout all these centuries, during which God has been building the Church, the Jews have dwelt in the wilderness, and “wanderers” well describes “the nation of the weary foot!” 2. “And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs” ( Genesis 21:15).
In type, the Holy Spirit is here taken from Israel — the water was spent.
This it is which explains the tragic “veil” which is over the heart of the Jews as they read the Scriptures ( 2 Corinthians 3:15), for without the Spirit none can understand or draw refreshment from the Word of God. 3. “And she went and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him and lifted up her voice and wept” ( Genesis 21:16).
We see here a foreshadowment of Jerusalem bemoaning her desolations, and at this point the lamentations of Jeremiah are most appropriate to her condition. O, how the above type anticipated the poor Jews “wailing” before the gates of Jerusalem! 4. “And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is” ( Genesis 21:17).
And here is where hope begins. It is not until the Jew bewails his sins (see Hosea 5:15, etc.), confesses his dreadful crime of crucifying the Son of God, not until after much bitter humiliation they shall cry, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” ( Matthew 23:39), that Jehovah will take up again His covenant people. 5. “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water and gave the lad drink” ( Genesis 21:19).
In type the Spirit is given once more to Israel. Just as God here “opened the eyes of Hagar,” so in a near-coming day will He open the eyes of the Jews, and even during the days of the now rapidly approaching tribulation, a pious remnant shall keep the testimony of God and wash their garments in the blood of the Lamb ( Revelation 14:3,4; 20:4). 6. “And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer” ( Genesis 21:20).
Couple with this the promise of verse 18, “For I will make him a great nation.” How accurate the type! Thus it will be with Israel in the Millennium after God has taken into favor again the chosen race. 7. “And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran” ( Genesis 21:21).
Paran means “Beauty or Glory,” speaking in type of Palestine, the dwelling place of Israel in the Millennium, when the wilderness shall be made to blossom as the rose, for the curse now resting on the material creation shall then be removed; and then the Shekinah Glory shall once more be in their midst. 8. “And his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt” ( Genesis 21:21).
In type this allies Israel with Egypt, and thus will it be during the Millennium — “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance” ( Isaiah 19:24,25). 9. “And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spoke unto Abraham saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest” ( Genesis 21:22).
How this reminds us that in the Millennium the Gentile will seek out the Jew, because conscious that Jehovah is once more in their midst! As it is written, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” ( Zechariah 8:23). 10. Note the close of this chapter: “And Abraham planted a grove in Beer- Sheba” ( Genesis 21:33). This action of the patriarch was deeply significant when viewed typically. It marked the change from strangership to possession. Abraham, who stands figuratively as the federal head of the nation plants a “grove” in Beer-Sheba, which means, “Well of the oath,” for all is founded upon the Covenant, and thus takes possession of the land, for the planting of a tree emblemizes settled and long continuance — “They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of My people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands” ( Isaiah 64:22). 11. “And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-Sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” ( Genesis 21:33).
Here Abraham calls not on Jehovah, nor on the Almighty, but on the Lord, “the Everlasting God.” So will it be when the Kingdom comes in power and glory. Instead of ceaseless change and decay in all around we see, as now, there shall be fixity, permanence, peace and blessing, Then shall Israel say, “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before Thee” ( <19A227> Psalm 102:27,28). 12. One more notice is given to this type and it completes the picture — “These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations” ( Genesis 25:16).
In the Millennium the whole of the twelve tribes of Israel will be restored and raised to princely dignity among the nations.
And now what follows this marvellous sketch of Israel’s course? — for marvellous it surely is to the anointed eye. What follows? why, that unparalleled foreshadowing of the Savior’s Death and Resurrection. And why this linking of the two together? To show us, and later the Jews, that Israel owes her Millennial blessedness, as we do our present and eternal blessings, to the precious Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. But we must leave the dispensational application of the type, and turn and consider once more its individual application.
In our last article we pointed out how that in seven particulars the birth of Isaac was a type of the Birth of the Lord Jesus. Now, we are to see how the offering up of Isaac upon the altar pointed forward to the Cross of Calvary.
This twenty-second chapter of Genesis has ever been a favorite one with the saints of God, and our difficulty now is to single out for mention that in it which will be most precious to our hearts and most profitable for our walk. Ere examining it in detail it should be said that this is, we believe, the only type in the Old Testament which distinctly intimated that God required a human sacrifice. Here it was that God first revealed the necessity for a human victim to expiate sin, for as it was man that had sinned, it must be by man, and not by sacrifice of beasts, that Divine justice would be satisfied. 1. “And He said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” ( Genesis 22:2).
This is one of the very few Old Testament types that brings before us not only God the Son but also God the Father. Here, as nowhere else, are we shown the Father’s heart. Here it is that we get such a wonderful foreshadowment of the Divine side of Calvary. Oh! how the Spirit of God lingers on the offering and the offerer, as if there must be a thorough similitude in the type of the antitype — “thy son — thine only son — whom thou lovest”! Here it is we learn, in type how that God “spared not His own Son” ( Romans 8:32). Really, this is central in Genesis 22. In this chapter Abraham figures much more prominently than Isaac — Isaac is shown simply (and yet how sweetly!) obeying his father’s will. It is the affections of the father’s heart which are here displayed most conspicuously. 2. “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” ( Genesis 22:3).
Here we see in type the Father setting apart the Son for sacrifice. Just as we find the passover-lamb was separated from the flock four days before it was to be killed ( Exodus 12:3), so here Isaac is taken by Abraham three days before he is to be offered upon the altar. This brings before us an aspect of truth exceedingly precious, albeit deeply solemn. The seizure and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus was something more than the frenzied act of those who hated Him without a cause. The cross of Christ was according to “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” ( Acts 2:23).
Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and Jews only did “whatsoever” God’s hand and counsel “determined before to be done” ( Acts 4:28). Christ was the Lamb “without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” ( 1 Peter 1:20).
Yes, the Lord Jesus was marked out for sacrifice from all eternity. He was, in the purpose of God, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” ( Revelation 13:8). And note how this is suggested by our type, “And Abraham rose up early in the morning” ( Genesis 22:3). 3. “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” ( Genesis 22:5).
Here we see in type that what took place on that mount of sacrifice was a transaction between the Father and the Son ONLY. How jealously God guarded these types! Nothing whatever is said of Sarah in this chapter though she figures prominently in the one before and is mentioned in the one succeeding. Abraham and Isaac must be alone. Up to the time the appointed place enters their range of vision “two young men” ( Genesis 22:3) accompany Isaac; but as they near the scene of sacrifice they are left behind ( Genesis 22:5). Is it without a reason we are told of these two men journeying with Abraham and Isaac just so far? We think not. Two is the number of witness, but there is more in it than this. These two men witnessed Isaac carrying the wood on his shoulder up the mountain, but what took place between him and his father at the altar they were not permitted to see. No; no human eye was to behold that. Look now at the Anti-type. Do you not also see there “two men,” the two thieves who followed Abraham’s greater son so far but who, like all the spectators of that scene, were not permitted to behold what transpired between the Father and the Son on the altar itself — the three hours of darkness concealing from every human eye the Divine Transaction. 4. “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son” ( Genesis 22:6).
This was no half grown boy (as pictures so often represent Isaac), but a full-grown man who is here brought before us, one who could, had he so wished, have easily resisted the aged patriarch. But instead of resisting, Isaac quietly follows his father. There is no voice of protest raised to mar the scene, but he acquiesces fully by carrying the wood on his own shoulder. How this brings before us the Peerless One, gladly performing the Father’s pleasure. There was no alienated will in Him that needed to be brought into subjection: “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” was His gladsome cry. “I delight to do Thy will” revealed the perfections of His heart. Christ and the Father were of one accord. Note how beautifully this is brought out in the type — “And they went both of them together:” twice repeated. We need hardly say that Isaac carrying “the wood” foreshadowed Christ bearing His cross. 5. “And he took the fire in his hand and a knife; and they went both of them together” ( Genesis 22:6).
And he (Abraham) took the fire in his hand. Here, as everywhere in Scripture, “fire” emblemizes Divine judgment. It expresses the energy of Divine Holiness which ever burns against sin. It is the perfection of the Divine nature which cannot tolerate that which is, evil. This was first manifested by the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life ( Genesis 3:24). And it will be finally and eternally exhibited in the Lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. But here in our type it pointed forward to that awful storm of Divine judgment which burst upon the head of the Sin-Bearer as He hung upon the Cross, for there it was that sin, our sin, Christian reader, was being dealt with. Just as Isaac’s father took in his hand the fire and the knife, so the beloved Son was “smitten of God, and afflicted” ( Isaiah 53:4). 6. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering:
So they went both of them together” ( Genesis 22:7,8).
These words of Abraham have a double meaning. They tell us that God was the One who should “provide” the “lamb,” and they also make known the fact that the lamb was for Himself. God alone could supply that which would satisfy Himself. Nothing of man could meet the Divine requirements. If sacrifice for sin was ever to be found God Himself must supply it. And mark, the “lamb” was not only provided by God but it was also for God. Before blessing could flow forth to men the claims of Divine holiness and justice must be met. It is true, blessedly true, that Christ died for sinners, but He first died (and this is what we are in danger of forgetting) for God, i.e. , as the Holy Spirit expresses it through the apostle. “to declare His righteousness.... that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” ( Romans 3:26).
Note how this comes out in our passage: it is not “God Himself will provide a lamb,” but “God will provide Himself a lamb” — put this way, abstractly, so as to take in both of these truths. 7. “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the Angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham, and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not Thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and beheld behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh: as it is said to this day. In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” ( Genesis 22:9-14).
Here the type passes from Isaac to the ram offered up — “offered up in his stead” — a beautiful fore-shadowment of Christ dying in the stead of sinners who are, as Isaac was, already in the place of Death, “bound,” unable to help themselves, with the knife of Divine justice suspended over them. Here it was that the Gospel was “preached unto Abraham” ( Galatians 3:8). Similarly in other scriptures we find this double type (both Isaac and the ram) as in the sweet savor and the sin offerings, the two goats on the Day of Atonement, the two birds at the cleansing of the leper. 8. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called, accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure” ( Hebrews 11:17-19).
From this scripture we learn that Genesis 22 presents to us in type not only Christ offered upon the altar, but Christ raised again from the dead, and that on the third day, too, for it was on “the third day” Abraham received Isaac back again, for during the three days that elapsed from the time Abraham received command from God to offer him up as a burnt offering, his son was as good as dead to him. And now to complete this wonderful picture, observe how Genesis 22 anticipated, in type, the Ascension of Christi It is very striking to note that after we read of Isaac being laid upon the altar (from which Abraham received him back) nothing further is said of him in Genesis 22. Mark carefully the wording of verse 19 — “So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-Sheba.” Our type leaves Isaac up in the mount!
The spiritual history of Abraham was marked by four great crises, each of which involved the surrender of something which was naturally dear to him.
First , he was called on to separate himself from his native land and kindred ( Genesis 12:1); Second , he was called on to give up Lot ( Genesis 13:1-18); Third , he had to abandon his cherished plan about Ishmael ( Genesis 17:17,18); Fourth , God bade him offer up Isaac as a burnt offering.
The life of the believer is a series of tests, for only by discipline can Christian character be developed. Frequently there is one supreme test, in view of which all others are preparatory. So it was with Abraham. He had been tested again and again, but never as here. God’s demand is, “Son, give Me thine heart ( Proverbs 23:26). It is not our intellect, our talents, our money, but our heart, God asks for first. When we have responded to God’s requirement, He lays His hand on something especially near and dear to us, to prove the genuineness of our response, for God requireth truth in the inward parts and not merely on the lips. Thus He dealt with Abraham. Let us consider now, The Time of Abraham’s Trial.
It was “after these things” that God did try Abraham; that is, it was after the twenty-five years of waiting, after the promise of a seed had been frequently repeated, after hope had been raised to the highest point, yea, after it had been turned to enjoyment and Isaac had reached man’s estate.
Abraham was bidden to take his son — and what? Deliver him to some other hand to sacrifice? No: be thou thyself the priest; go, offer him up for a burnt offering. This was a staggering request! When Ishmael was thirteen years old, Abraham could have been well contented to have gone without another son, but when Isaac was born and had entwined himself around the father’s heart, to part with him thus must have been a fearful wrench. Add to this, the three days’ journey, Isaac having to carry the wood and Abraham the knife and fire up the mountainside, and above all, the cutting question of the son asked in the simplicity of his heart, without knowing he himself was to be the victim — “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” ( Genesis 22:8) — this would seem to be more than the human heart could bear. Yet, this shock to Abraham’s natural affection was not the severest part of the trial.
What must it have been to his faith. It was not only that Isaac was his son, but the promised seed, the one in whom all the great things spoken of the seed were to be fulfilled. When he was called to give up his other son God condescended to give him a reason for it, but here no reason was given. In the former case, though Ishmael must go, it was because he was not the child of promise (“in Isaac shall thy seed be called”), but if Isaac goes who shall substitute for him? To offer up Isaac was to sacrifice the very object of faith! Turn now and consider, Abraham’s Response.
Mark his promptitude. There was no doubt or delay, and no reluctance or hesitation; instead, he “rose up early in the morning.” There was no opposition either from natural affection or unbelief, rather did he bow in absolute submission to the will of God. Faith triumphed over natural affection, over reason, and over self-will. Here was a most striking demonstration of the efficacy of Divine grace which can subdue every passion of the human heart and every imagination of the carnal mind, bringing all into unrepining acquiescence to God. And what was the effect of this trial upon Abraham? He was amply rewarded, for he discovered something in God he never knew before, or at most knew imperfectly, namely, that God was Jehovah-Jireh — the Lord who would provide. It is only by passing through trials that we learn what God is — His grace, His faithfulness, His sufficiency. May the Lord grant both writer and reader more of that power of faith which, with open hand, takes every blessing which God gives us, and with open hand gives back to Him, in the spirit of worship. 27. THE MAN ISAAC < 012601 > GENESIS In our last two articles we have been occupied more particularly with the person of Isaac, now we are to review his history. It is noticeable that though Isaac lived the longest of the four great patriarchs yet less is recorded of him than of the others: some twelve chapters are devoted to the biography of Abraham, and a similar number each to Jacob and Joseph, but excepting for one or two brief mentionings, before and after, the history of Isaac is condensed into a single chapter. Contrasting his character with those of his father and son, we may remark that of Isaac there is noted less of Abraham’s triumphs of faith and less of Jacob’s failures.
As we have seen in our previous studies Isaac, typically, represents sonship. In perfect consonance with this we may note how he was appointed heir of all things. Said Eliazer to Bethuel, “And Sarah my master’s wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath” ( Genesis 24:36).
Observe how this is repeated for sake of emphasis in Genesis 25:5 — “And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.” In the type this pointed first to Abraham’s greater Son, “Whom He (God) hath appointed Heir of all things” ( Hebrews 1:2).
As with Isaac, so with us: all the wealth of the Father’s house is ours! But Isaac not only represented the believer’s sonship and heirship, but he also foreshadowed our heavenly calling. As is well known to most of our readers, the land of Canaan typified the Heavenlies where is our citizenship ( Philippians 3:20) and our spiritual warfare ( Ephesians 6:12). Hence it was that Isaac alone of the patriarchs is never seen outside the Land.
Having looked at Isaac mystically we shall now consider him morally. The first thing we read about him after the remarkable scene pictured in Genesis 22 is that “Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi; for he dwelt in the south country. And Isaac went out to meditate (or pray) in the field at the eventide” ( Genesis 24:62,63).
This gives us a good insight into Isaac’s character. He was of the quiet and retiring order. He had not the positive, active, aggressive disposition of his eminent father, but was gentle and retiring and unresisting. In One only do we find all the Divine graces and perfections.
Isaac was essentially the man of the well. Abraham was markedly the man of the altar, Jacob specially the man of the tent but that which was most prominent in connection with Isaac was the “well.” The first thing said of Isaac after he was bound to the altar ( Genesis 22) is, “Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi” ( Genesis 24:62). This is very striking coming as the next mention of Isaac after we have seen Christ typically slain, resurrected and ascended (compare our last article on Genesis 22). Hence that which follows here in the type is the figure of the Holy Spirit’s operations as succeeding Christ’s Ascension! But returning to Isaac and the well. The next time he is referred to we are told, “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi” ( Genesis 25:11).
And again we read, “And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac digged again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them” ( Genesis 26:18,19).
For further references see Genesis 26:20,21,22,25. It is very striking and significant that the name of Isaac is associated with “wells” just seven times, not less, not more. Undoubtedly there is some important lesson to be gathered from this.
A well differs from a cistern, in that it is the place of running water. What a marvelous hint of the typical meaning of Isaac’s well is that found in Genesis 26:19! — “And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water,” the margin gives, “of living water”!
Water is imperative for the maintenance of the natural life; so, too, is it with the spiritual. The first need of the believer is the “living water,” that is, the Spirit acting through the Word. “The way that water ministers to life and growth is indeed a beautiful type of the Spirit’s action. Without water a plant will die in the midst of abundance of food in actual contact with its roots.
Its office is to make food to be assimilated by the organism, and to give power to the system itself to take it up” (F. W. G) The first well by which Isaac is seen is that of Lahai-roi ( Genesis 24:62; Genesis 25:11), the meaning of which is, “Him that liveth and seeth me” (See Genesis 16:14). It told of the unfailing care of the ever-living and ever-present God. And where is such a “well” to be found to-day? Where is it we are brought to realize the presence of this One? Where but in the Holy Scriptures! The Word of God ministered to us by the power and blessing of the Spirit is that which reveals to us the presence of God. The “well,” then, typifies the place to which the son is brought — into the presence of God. His remaining there, practically, depends upon his use of and obedience to the Word.
We have just looked at Isaac by the Well of Lahai-roi; did he remain there?
What do you suppose is the answer, reader? Could you not supply it from your own experience! “And there was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech, king of the Philistines unto Gerar” ( Genesis 26:1).
Isaac’s departure from the well Lahai-roi to Gerar typifies the failure of the son (the believer) to maintain his standing in the presence of God and his enjoyment of Divine fellowship. But is it not blessed to read next, “And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee, for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father” ( Genesis 26:2,3).
Apparently, Isaac was on his way to Egypt, like his father before him in time of famine, and would have gone there had not the Lord appeared to him and arrested his steps. In passing, we would remark that here we have a striking illustration of the sovereign ways of God. To Isaac the Lord appeared and stayed him from going down to Egypt, yet under precisely similar circumstances He appeared not unto Abraham! “And Isaac dwelt in Gerar” ( Genesis 26:6).
Gerar was the borderland midway between Canaan and Egypt. Note that God had said to Isaac, “Sojourn in this land” (verse 3), but Isaac “dwelt” there (verse 6), and that “a long time” (verse 8). Mark now the consequence of Isaac settling down in Gerar — type of the believer out of communion. He sinned there! “And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon” ( Genesis 26:7).