Notes of an address
Tonight we will be occupied with the life of Abraham. We find his story in Genesis 12:1 to Genesis 25:10. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus should know this story because Abraham is the father of those that believe. The story also contains many instructions for our practical life of faith.
- In chapter 12 we learn of him obedience because he went out not knowing where he was going, just because God told him to;
- in chapter 16 we learn of him that we might have faith but no patience to wait for God's time;
- and in chapter 24 we learn that as parents we should be concerned about our children marrying in the Lord.
So we find many practical instructions.
Yet this is not the main idea of this story. The main thought of the story of Abraham is prophetic. This is very important to take hold of. The Lord Himself said "Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). This is the aspect that we would like to speak of a little tonight. If we want to see this prophetic side, we cannot see it in individual verses, we have to follow the great outline which the Holy Spirit presents in Abraham's life as a whole.
The history of Abraham falls into three parts and these are distinguished by the words, "after these things." Each of these three parts presents a prophetic picture which is complete in itself, the first part being chapters 12-14, the second part being chapters 15-21 and the third part being chapters 22-25:10. All three parts end in the millennium but each one presents a very special thought.
Israel's Blessing in the Millennium (Gen.12-14)
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (12:3)
"And Melchisedec king of Salem brought out bread and wine. And he was priest of the Most High God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heavens and earth." (14:18,19)
The people of Israel will receive this blessing because of the unconditional promise of God. Without any condition, God says "I will bless thee." Then in chapter 14 we see that this blessing comes through the true Melchisedec. He brings Abraham bread and wine. This will be the blessing in the millennium. It will be spiritual food in its fullness, the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord (the bread). What a wonderful blessing! But this people will also be filled with spiritual joy (the wine). So the first passage speaks about the blessing of God which He has promised to His people, Israel, and which He will shed forth in its fullness at the Lord's coming in glory.
Israel's Possessing of their Land in the Millennium (Gen.15-21)
"On the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates." (15:18)
"And Abraham planted a tamarisk in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Jehovah, the Eternal God." (21:33)
In chapter 15:18 we find that God says to Abraham that he will possess this land, and at the end of chapter 21 something very special happens - Abraham plants a tree. As a farmer I know what that means. If a farmer plants a tree, then what he is saying is, "this land belongs to me." So, figuratively speaking, he takes possession of this land. God will give this land to Israel. If we go back to chapter 15:18 we learn that God made a covenant with Abraham and it is because of this covenant that He gives him this land.
However, as we pursue this second passage, we see, first of all, the story of Hagar and Ishmael, and then the story of Sarah and Isaac. We learn also from the Epistle to the Galatians that these are two covenants: Hagar and Ishmael speak of the covenant of Sinai, whilst Sarah and Isaac speak of the new covenant. The covenant of Sinai was a covenant with conditions. The new covenant is based on the blood of the Lord Jesus which was shed on Calvary. On the basis of this new covenant God will give this land to Israel. Israel will not possess any of this land in the millennium because of its good army, but it will possess it because of the Lord's work on Calvary. This is the great teaching of the second passage.
Israel's Fruitfulness in the Millennium (Gen.22-25:10)
The third part, chapters 22-25, is the most interesting part. The great thought of this part is fruitfulness in the millennium. We read in chapter 22:17 that God would multiply Abraham's seed, and then He speaks of the stars of the heaven and the sand of the sea. The stars of the heaven speak of fruit with a heavenly character, this will be presented in Rebekah; whilst the sand of the seashore speaks of fruit with an earthly character, this is what Keturah, who bears many sons to Abraham, speaks of.
"And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and there offer him up for a burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." (22:2)
Now we would like to look into the last passage in a bit more detail because it is full of prophetic pictures which also concern us directly. In chapter 22 we find three important things represented prophetically. The first we find in verse 2. There we see a special aspect of Calvary, namely, that God gave His Son into death and judgment. I would like to occupy your thoughts with John 3 because there we find what we see in a picture here - God is light and God is love. In John 3:14 we see the divine "must". Because God is light he had to give His Son on Calvary. But now I would like to turn your thoughts to verse 16. There we find that God is love, and the God of love gave His Son on Calvary. There we do not find any "must". There we find that He freely gave Him; He gave Him because He is love. In Genesis 22 we see a very nice picture of Abraham going into the land of Moriah. Sometimes we say that he went to the mount Moriah, but that is not what it says here; He went into the country Moriah and to one of the mountains which God was going to show him, and I for myself believe that this was the hill of Calvary.
"By myself I swear, saith Jehovah, that, because thou hast done this, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, I will richly bless thee, and greatly multiply thy seed, as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." (22:16-17)
"And Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba." (22:19)
The second great fact is that Abraham received his son out of death. Abraham did not have to actually kill Isaac, but in Hebrews 11:17 it says that Abraham offered up Isaac, his only begotten son. Then in verse 19 we read, "whence also he received him in a figure." The second great fact in chapter 22 is the resurrection by the glory of God the Father, of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has glorified God on Calvary in an infinite way, and the Father has said, 'This One who has glorified Me so much, I will manifest all My glory in bringing Him back out of death.' He has been raised through the glory of the Father.
"And Bethuel begot Rebecca." (22:23a)
The third great fact is illustrated by the birth of Rebekah. This is Acts 2, the birthday of the Church, the Church called into life, although Rebekah does not yet know her position as Isaac's wife nor her relationship with Isaac. The church began at Pentecost, but the writings of Paul and John were yet to be written which showed to the church what its position is and what their relationships are respectively. This is very important for the understanding of the book of Acts.
"And Sarah died in Kirjath-Arba: that is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. And Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her." (23:2)
Then we come to chapter 23, and there we see that Sarah died. This corresponds to the putting away of Israel under grace (Acts 7). It is not the putting away of Israel under the law - this happened earlier through the coming of the Son of God on earth and is pictured in Hagar and Ishmael being cast out. "The law was given by Moses: grace and truth subsists through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The Lord Jesus was killed, rose from among the dead and ascended into Heaven; the Spirit of God came to the earth, and then we find the first message of the Spirit of God to Israel as a whole in Acts 2-7. There we find these remarkable addresses of Peter with the eleven where he still addressed the nation as a whole. Finally in chapter 7 Stephen starts his address by saying, "Brethren and fathers." This very long and impressive address was God's last appeal in grace to the people of Israel as a whole. Hearing his message they shut their ears, ran towards him, and stoned him. With this event God ceased to address Israel as a whole. After that, He only addressed individuals in order to save them out of it. This matter of Acts 7 is illustrated by the death of Sarah.
"And Abraham was old, and advanced in age; and Jehovah had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the eldest of his house, who ruled over all that he had, Put thy hand, I pray thee, under my thigh, and I will make thee swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth, that thou take not a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am dwelling; but thou shalt go to my land and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac." (24:1-4)
"And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; now all the treasure of his master was under his hand; and he arose and went to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor." (24:10)
When they stoned Stephen there was a young man standing there, Saul of Tarsus. He became God's instrument to show the church what its position is. This leads us directly into chapter 24 where Rebekah's position as Isaac's wife is shown to her. The relationship we have with the Lord Jesus and the Father is illustrated by the manifold goods which the servant was taking on this journey.
I hope you all understand the difference between position and relationship. It is very important to understand this if we are to understand the writings of Paul and John. I would like to tell you something from my life. Thirty years ago my wife married me; a poor girl by marriage became a rich farmer's wife! This was a change of position which happened in one day. But in this new position into which she was brought, for thirty years now, a relationship has been formed. And about this, I will not say anything here - This is the difference between position and relationship.
Paul shows us our position, while John shows us the relationships that are unfolded in this position. Again and again people ask which is the higher aspect. For me, there is no question. I believe that the relationships that unfold in a position are the highest that we have as believers - our fellowship as children with the Father and our fellowship as believers with the Lord Jesus. I hope that you all know this in practice - this matter of retiring behind a closed door in order to be alone with God the Father and the Lord Jesus.
How wonderful are these Christian relationships. These are shown to us in this wonderful and long chapter 24. There are three persons before us here, Abraham, a type of God the Father, Isaac, a type of the Lord Jesus, the Son, and Abraham's servant, a type of the Holy Spirit. It is a great thing to consider how all of these three persons are occupied with Rebekah. This is a truth which we can know as Christians, that all three Persons of the Godhead care for us and are occupied with us; indeed this was also the case when we were still lost.
I would like now to direct your thoughts to Luke 15. We do not find three parables there, but we find one parable with three stories. It is important for us to realise this. It is one illustration that comes before us in this chapter. We see the shepherd looking for the sheep - the Lord Jesus went after me when I was still in my sins, when I was still running away from Him (vv.3-7). Then we see the woman with the lamp, a picture of the Holy Spirit who was looking for me when I was dead in trespasses and sins (vv.8-10). Then we see the father who takes the younger son in his arms, having first run towards him (vv.11-32). All three Persons of the Godhead cared for us when we were sinners. Now that we belong to God, all three Persons of the Godhead still care for us in order for us to understand our Christian position which is presented to us in Paul's writings, and in order for us to be able to unfold our Christian relationships as John shows us, that our joy might be full. We find this position of the Spirit of God here in a figure. He is here as the servant of Abraham. There is no subjection in the Godhead as such, this is a fundamental Christian truth. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are on the same level. But there came a moment in time when God the Son was willing to be sent to earth as a humble man, yet He always remained God - almighty, omniscient and omnipresent. He accomplished the wonderful work on Calvary. He arose as man in divine power and, as man in divine power He ascended into heaven. Then God the Holy Spirit took upon Him that task of being sent by the Father and the Lord Jesus and He came here on earth in order to indwell the church and to indwell every individual believer. He accompanies us here on our way through the world and He directs our eyes to the Father's house. This is the true Christian hope.
"And Isaac led her into his mother Sarah's tent; and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after the death of his mother." (24:67)
Today there are many believers who are fascinated with Israel. God will fulfil all His promises to Israel, but this is not the characteristic Christian hope. This is that we wait for the Lord Jesus to come for us, that He might fulfil the word that He gave to His disciples in John 14 "In my Father's house there are many abodes.... I go to prepare you a place" (v.2). This He did by going to Calvary and giving Himself as a burnt offering and by arising and entering as a man into the Father's house, the first man to do so. He went in completely alone in order to prepare a way for us to go in likewise. Now we wait for Him to come back. We wait daily. The Spirit of God brings about the yearning in our hearts, "the Spirit and the bride say, Come" (Rev.22:17).
It will be a great thing when the Lord comes at the rapture and introduces us into the Father's House. What can we find in the Father's house? I believe that there is only one verse that shows us directly what there is in the Father's house and this is John 17:24. There our Lord Jesus says, "Father, as to those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me." This is what is in the Father's house. There the Lord Jesus is the 'I am'. There we will see Him as He is - not as He was when He was here on earth, and not as He is as a risen man - no, we will see Him as He is in this house for all eternity; this is why He remains man in all eternity. It is in order for us to see these glories in Him that He says, "that they may behold my glory" and then He goes on to explain them, "for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world". In the Father's house we will see the eternal stream of love that flows out of the Father's heart to the Son.
This is our living Christian hope. We may see a figure of this when Isaac leads Rebekah into the tent of Sarah. However, Abraham's story does not end with this; we read about Keturah.
"And Abraham took another wife named Keturah. And she bore him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan; and the sons of Dedan were the Asshurim, and the Letushim, and the Leummim. And the sons of Midian were Ephah, and Epher, and Enoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were sons of Keturah." (25:1-4)
Many have assumed that Keturah was not only Abraham's wife after Sarah's death, but also before, and I believe that this was the case, that Keturah and Sarah were Abraham's wives simultaneously, but it is related later in chapter 24 in order to show us the fruitfulness in the millennium. In the kingdom there will be fruit of heavenly character in the kingdom of the Father and fruit of earthly character, of whom Keturah's many sons speak, in the kingdom of the Son of Man. Fruit has come from the travail of the Lord Jesus' soul. The whole foundation of this fruit for God in its heavenly character, as well as in its earthly character, is Calvary. This is what chapter 22 shows us. Our Lord Jesus has accomplished this great work. He has given Himself into judgment and death in order to provide the basis for our salvation. Blessed be His Name.