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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 15

 

 

Verse 1

DISCOURSE: 23

ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE FEARFUL

Genesis 15:1. After these things, the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. [Note: This is only a slight sketch, given extemporaneously to a friend.] WE may here observe,

I. The most eminent saints need encouragement—

They are apt at times to feel discouragement,

1. From a review of past difficulties—

[Persons under the immediate pressure of their trials are often not aware of their greatness. God mercifully conceals it from them, lest their energies should be weakened. But when they see, in their calmer moments, what difficulties they have had to encounter, they are amazed at themselves: I had almost said, They are amazed at God: and they tremble, lest there should be a recurrence of similar trials; apprehending nothing but a failure under them. This was the special case with Abram at this time.]

2. From a prospect of augmented trials—

[Trials in prospect are always formidable; and the imagination often paints them in the deepest colours. A sense of weakness gives rise to fears; and the most eminent saints are apt to be appalled.]

3. From an apprehension of disappointed hopes–

[Confidence in a time of ease is apt to fail when the hour of trial comes: e. g. Peter, on the waves; and Moses [Note: Exodus 5:22-23.] ; and Joshua [Note: Joshua 7:7-9.]. And you too, my brethren, who have hoped that sin should be entirely slain, are apt to be discouraged when you find it still working in you.]

II. The encouragement which God affords them—

God affords them the richest encouragement:

1. He assures them of protection—

[He provides armour for his people: and that armour shall be effectual. But he himself is in the place of armour: and our enemies must break through him, to reach us. He is “a wall of fire,” that devours the assailants. See how this is represented by St. Paul (Colossians 3:3): “Your life is hid with Christ in God.” Who can fear, that has such a protection as this? The weakest may laugh all his enemies to scorn.]

2. He gives himself to them, as their portion—

[Happiness too, as well as protection, will he afford them: happiness here; happiness hereafter. Conceive of all the glory of heaven—how rich a reward! But heaven is nothing in comparison of the reward provided: it is the God of heaven that is our portion. See him in all his perfections, in all his glory, in all his blessedness: he is yours; that is yours, for ever—your eternal portion, your indefeasible inheritance. Say, fearful saint, whether here is not sufficient encouragement?]

And now, is there here a timid saint?

[Come with me, and survey your enemies. Who are they? what are they? They are “crushed before the moth.” And look at your Friend: survey him, his power, his goodness, his fidelity. Have you now any cause for fear? Be strong: fear not. See 1 Timothy 4:10.]

To the careless unbeliever let me also speak—

[Tell me, Have not you cause to fear? Think of the danger to which you are exposed. And where will you find “a shield?” Think of the recompence that awaits you: how different from that of the believing soul! Exceeding bitter will be “thy reward” — — — O that I could awaken you to fear! The world and the devil say, “Fear not.” But I say, “Fear, and tremble.” Yet will I say, that Abram’s God may still be thine: he was once an idolater, as thou art: the sovereign grace that elected him, may fix on thee: the covenant made with him is open to thee; and all the blessings of it will be thine, if, like him, thou wilt be “strong in faith, giving glory to God.” The seed for whom he waited, is come: the blessings, to which he looked forward, are poured out upon all the families of the earth. Look to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they shall all be thine.]


Verse 5-6

DISCOURSE: 24

ABRAM JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

Genesis 15:5-6. 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. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

THE enjoyment of the divine presence is truly satisfying to the soul. In having the light of God’s countenance we have all that we can desire: we are elevated above earthly things; the possession of them cannot add to our happiness; the want of them cannot diminish it. Yet, in another sense, the soul is not satisfied: the more it has of God, the more it desires; nor will it ever be satisfied, till it shall have attained the full, uninterrupted, everlasting fruition of him. Unspeakably blessed was the state of Abram, when God, in return for his active and disinterested zeal in rescuing Lot from captivity, gave him that promise, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” This was sufficient to dissipate all fear with respect to confederacies that might be formed against him, and to confirm that contempt of lucre which he had shewn in refusing to accept even a thread of a shoe-latchet of all the spoil that he had taken. But was Abram contented with this promise? No. God had before promised that he should have a child, from whom in due time the Messiah should spring. He had waited already ten years, and had no child: and as he and his wife were far advanced in years, the prospect of issue became, daily, more dark and discouraging. He therefore could not be completely happy till he could see this great point accomplished. Hence, notwithstanding the declaration which God had just made to him, he expressed his regret at not having an offspring to inherit his substance, and to confirm his expectations of the promised Messiah; “Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” We cannot suppose that it was merely an anxiety to have an heir to his fortune, that produced this reply to God: that, though natural enough, would have been unworthy of so eminent a saint, and especially at the very moment when he was receiving such communications from God. But, if we suppose his anxiety to have respect chiefly to the Messiah, then was it every way worthy of his high character. Indeed the answer which God gave to him in the text, clearly shews that Abram’s views extended not to an immediate progeny, so much as to a remote posterity, who should “be blessed through him.” And in this view the conduct of Abram strongly exemplifies our introductory observation.

We do not apprehend that he doubted whether the promise formerly given him would be fulfilled; but, that he began to be impatient for its accomplishment. The repetition of the promise, however, with all its attendant circumstances, confirmed his faith; in the exercise of which he obtained renewed testimonies of his acceptance with God.

We shall endeavour to set before you,

I. The faith he exercised—

The promise which was now given him, was very extensive—

[It being early in the morning before sun-rise, God “brought him forth abroad, and bade him count, if he could, the stars of heaven;” and then told him that “his seed should be, like them,” innumerable. This doubtless respected, in the first instance, his natural seed: and though he waited fifteen years longer for the birth of that child from whence that numerous progeny was to spring, yet it was accomplished, as Moses repeatedly declared, previous to their taking possession of the promised land [Note: Deuteronomy 1:10; Deuteronomy 10:22.]. But the promise, taken as it must be in connexion with that which had been before given him [Note: Genesis 12:2-3.], and that which was afterwards given [Note: Genesis 17:4-7; Genesis 22:17-18.] (for they were all either different parts, or only repetitions of the same promise), had an ulterior, and more important view. It assured to him, that he should have a spiritual seed; that the Messiah himself should spring from his loins; and that multitudes, both of Jews and Gentiles, should, through faith in the Messiah, become his spiritual children.

That the promise had this extensive meaning, we cannot doubt: for we are told, that the seed promised to Abram, was Christ [Note: Galatians 3:16.] ; and that in this promise the Gospel was preached unto him [Note: Galatians 3:8.]. Now the Gospel includes every thing respecting the work and offices of Christ, and the call of the Gentiles to believe in him: and therefore these were the things to which Abram was taught to look forward when this promise was given him.]

The faith which he exercised, had respect to the promise in all its parts—

[He believed that he should have a numerous progeny: yea, fifteen years afterwards, when it was more plainly declared that he should have a child by Sarah, notwithstanding he was about an hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, and both the deadness of his own body and of Sarah’s womb forbade all hope that a child should be born to him in the natural way, “he, against hope, believed in hope:” God had said to him, “so shall thy seed be;” and “he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded, that what he had promised he was able also to perform [Note: Romans 4:18-21.].” At the same time, in this progeny he beheld the promised seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of this we can have no doubt; for our blessed Lord himself said to the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad [Note: John 8:56.].” What can be the meaning of this? can it mean only that he foresaw that this progeny could continue so many hundred years? In truth, he had no reason to rejoice, if that were all; for the terrible destruction that was speedily to terminate their political existence, had far more in it to make him weep, than the prolongation of it to that period had to make him rejoice. There can be no doubt but that by “the day of Christ” is meant, the whole scheme of Christianity as promulged by the great Founder of it, together with its establishment throughout the world by the ministry of his apostles. In this he might well rejoice, because he himself was to be saved by what Christ should do and suffer; and myriads even to the remotest corners of the earth should be made partakers of the same salvation. That his faith thus terminated on the Lord Jesus, seems intimated even in the very words of our text: for when the promise was given him, it is not said merely that he believed the Lord, but that “he believed in the Lord.” We do not indeed mean to lay any great stress on this; because we are aware that to believe, and to believe in, may be considered as synonymous expressions: but, as agreeing with the universal testimony of Christ and his apostles, it ought not to be overlooked. The faith of our father Abraham is constantly said to be the same with ours [Note: Romans 4:12; Romans 4:16.]: but if his had not respect to Christ, it is essentially different from ours: if it related only to the power of God, it agreed as much with the faith of those who crucified the Lord Jesus, as of those who trusted in him for salvation; and therefore we are sure that, like the faith of all his believing children, his faith terminated upon Christ.]

It is this view alone of Abram’s faith that can account for,

II. The benefit he obtained—

Every exercise of faith on God’s word insures the accomplishment of that word to the believing soul: “God cannot deny himself.” But as the faith of Abram respected in this instance the whole of God’s promises relating to the work of redemption, it brought not merely one single benefit, but all the blessings of redemption into his soul: “it was counted to him for righteousness.” This expression is the foundation of much and important reasoning in the New Testament: we shall endeavour therefore to state to you what we apprehend to be its precise import.

1. It does not mean that the act of faith constituted Abram’s righteousness, or that he was in any way justified by it as an act

[Faith, considered as an act, is the same as any other act of the human mind. As hope, or love, or fear, or any other grace, is a work of man; so faith, considered as an act, is a work of man: and if Abram was justified by it in this view, he was justified by works: but the whole Scripture positively contradicts this, and affirms that he was justified by faith as opposed to works. St. Paul, referring to the words of our text, says, “What saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God; and it was counted unto him for righteousness [Note: Romans 4:3.]:” then explaining himself more fully, he adds, “We say that faith was counted to him for righteousness [Note: Romans 4:9.] ” He afterwards calls it “the righteousness of faith,” as opposed to the works of the law [Note: Romans 4:13.]: and repeats again, respecting his faith, that “it was imputed to him for righteousness [Note: Romans 4:22. See also Galatians 3:6.].”

Moreover if the mere act of faith constituted Abram’s justifying righteousness, he had whereof he might glory before God: he could say, ‘I performed an act which was the true and proper ground of my-salvation; so that my salvation was not altogether a gift of free grace, but, as far at least as respected that act of mine, it was a debt paid to me in consideration of the work which I had performed.’ But this idea also St. Paul expressly controverts; and maintains, in opposition to it, that Abram “had not any thing whereof to glory before God,” but that the reward given him was of grace, and not of debt:” and from thence he deduces this general position, that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness [Note: Romans 4:2-5.].”]

2. The meaning is, that his faith, as laying hold of Christ and of his righteousness, was the mean or instrument whereby he was justified—

[Much has been said on the subject of imputed righteousness; and controversies have been raised about the words, while in substance the same thing has been intended. That we should “contend earnestly for the faith,” is certain; but “strifes of words” we should avoid: and if we hold fast that which we have stated to be the import of the expression, we hold that in which all good men are agreed, without relinquishing one atom of important truth.

We have before shewn, that Christ and his salvation were contained in the promises made to Abram; and that Abram’s faith had respect to them. Now we say that by his faith Abram became interested in all that Christ did and suffered, precisely as we do at this day. The only difference between Abram and us is this: Abram believed in a Saviour that should come; and we believe in a Saviour that is come. As to the efficacy of Christ’s death, there is no difference at all between those who preceded, or those who followed him: he was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The righteousness of Christ also availed as much for the justifying of believers under the Old Testament, as of those who were his more immediate followers. The parallel drawn by St. Paul between the sin of the first Adam and the righteousness of the second Adam, is equally just, whether it be referred to Abram or to us: it designates the way in which Abram was justified, as well as the way in which we are justified: “By one man’s offence death reigned by one: much more they which receive the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift comes upon all men to justification of life.” “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made. righteous [Note: Romans 5:17-19.].” In a word, “Christ, who had no sin of his own, became a sin-offering for” Abram, just as he did for us: and Abram, by believing in Christ, became, as all other believers do, “the righteousness of God in him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:21.].”]

Application—

We intreat you, Brethren,

1. To bear in mind in what way you yourselves are to be saved—

[You have heard how Abram’s faith “was counted to him for righteousness.” But was this only an historical fact; a fact in which you have no personal interest? Far from it: St. Paul assures us, that “it was not recorded for Abram’s sake only, but for ours also, to inform us, in what manner we are to be justified, and to assure us that righteousness shall be imputed to us also, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification [Note: Romans 4:23-25].” Now in this passage there is an express parallel drawn between the manner of Abram’s justification, and of ours. “While therefore it proves on the one hand that Abram had respect to the death. and resurrection of Christ, it shews us, on the other hand, that we must seek for justification, not by our works, but by faith in Christ Jesus. For if so eminent a man as Abram, who had forsaken his country and kindred, and sojourned willingly in a strange land where he had not the smallest possession, and even offered up his own son, at the command of God, if he was not justified by his works, but by his faith in the promised Messiah, then it must be madness indeed for us to dream of justification by works, or to hope for acceptance in any other way than through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

It is worthy of observation also, that as his being justified by his faith before he had performed any of the good works for which he was so eminent, proves that he was justified by faith only; so its being spoken of him after he had performed these acts, proves that he was justified by faith only from first to last. This it is of great importance to notice: for it shews us, that we also must be justified from first to last in the very same way. It is true that God will reward our works; but the reward will be of grace, and not of debt: the only meritorious ground of our acceptance from first to last must be the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. We must exercise the faith of Abram, if we would be numbered amongst his children [Note: Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9.].

It may be objected indeed that St. James says, “Abram was justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar [Note: James 2:21.].” But Abram was justified by faith twenty-five years before Isaac was born [Note: See notes b and c.]: which alone is an absolute demonstration that St. James did not speak of the same justification that St. Paul did, since that mentioned by St. Paul had taken place at least fifty years before. The truth is, St. James speaks of Abram’s works as manifesting the truth and excellence of his faith: for the whole scope of his argument is to shew, that we are not saved by a dead faith, but by a living and operative faith: in confirmation of which he observes, that the perfection of Abram’s faith was displayed by that consummate act of his obedience: and that it was this faith, and not a dead faith, that was imputed to him for righteousness. There is therefore no real opposition between the two apostles, nor any argument to be derived from St. James that can in the smallest degree invalidate the foregoing statement.

We recur then to what we have before said, and urge you to believe in Christ for the salvation of your souls [Note: Hebrews 10:39.].]

2. To be concerned about nothing so much as the manifestation of Christ to your souls—

[Nothing dwelt so much upon the mind of Abram as the promise given to him relating to the Messiah: Nor could any thing that God himself could say to him allay the thirst which he had after that unspeakable gift. His longing after Christ arose, as we should think, even to impatience and ingratitude. But God approved of it; and instantly renewed his promises to him in a more plain and express manner than before. And thus will he do towards us, if we manifest the same holy ardour after the knowledge and enjoyment of Christ. He will permit us to say to him, ‘What are all thy gifts to me, or all thy promises, if I go Christless [Note: See.], or have not assured hopes of an interest in him!’ Yes, he would be pleased with such apparent ingratitude; and would speedily return unto us an answer of peace. Let then every thing which you possess, appear as nothing in your eyes in comparison of Christ: let nothing comfort you while you are destitute of Christ: let it not satisfy you to have embraced the promises which relate to Christ; but endeavour to obtain brighter prospects of their approaching accomplishment. Like the holy Patriarch of old, entreat of God that you may not die till you have embraced Jesus in your arms, and can confidently say, “Mine eyes have seen his salvation [Note: Luke 2:28-30.].” This is the boldness which Jacob exercised when he wrestled with the angel [Note: Genesis 32:26.]: and similar importunity shall surely be crowned with similar success.]


Verse 8

DISCOURSE: 25

COVENANT CONFIRMED TO ABRAM

Genesis 15:8. And lie said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

THE innumerable instances of God’s condescension which occur in the holy Scriptures, familiarize the idea of it so much to our minds, that we cease to wonder at it even on occasions the most stupendous. In the history before us we are ready to conceive of God as if he was a man like ourselves. His appearances to Abram are so frequent, his intercourse with him so intimate, his regard for him so tender and affectionate, that we really lose sight of the Deity in the Friend. Every fresh manifestation of himself seems only introductory to still higher exercises of his condescension and grace. In the preceding verses God had been pleased to allay the fears of Abram, and confirm his hopes of a numerous posterity: but, Abram being still desirous of receiving stronger assurances respecting his possession of the promised land, God graciously complied with his request in this respect also, and confirmed his expectations of it in a manner that deserves particular attention.

Let us consider,

I. The inquiry which Abram made—

We may perhaps be disposed to blame this inquiry, as savouring of vain curiosity, or sinful distrust. To obviate such misconceptions, we shall distinctly state,

1. Its nature—

[The very same act may be good or evil, according to the principle from which it proceeds. Had this inquiry arisen from unbelief, it would have been decidedly sinful. It would have resembled the question which Zacharias asked, when the angel told him from God, that he should have a child; “Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years [Note: Luke 1:18.]:” for which unbelieving question he was immediately struck dumb. If, on the other hand, it expressed a wish to be informed more clearly respecting the divine purposes, or to receive those superabundant testimonies which God himself was willing to communicate, then it was perfectly innocent, and consistent with the strongest faith. It was for the purpose of instruction only that the blessed Virgin inquired of the angel, how she should have a child, since she was a Virgin [Note: Luke 1:34.]. The question did not materially differ from that of Zacharias; but the principle was different; and therefore the one received a gracious answer; the other a severe rebuke. Many instances are recorded where God has been graciously pleased to give signs to his people for the confirmation of their faith, when there was not any doubt upon their minds respecting either his faithfulness or power. When he appeared to Gideon, and told him that he should deliver his country from the yoke of Midian; Gideon said, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me:” in answer to which, God caused fire to come out of the rock, and consume the kid and cakes which Gideon had prepared for him [Note: Judges 6:14; Judges 6:17; Judges 6:21.]: and presently afterwards, he gave him another sign, making the dew to fall alternately on the fleece and on the ground, while the other remained perfectly dry [Note: Judges 6:36-40.]. In the same manner he gave to Hezekiah a choice of signs, offering to make the shadows on the sun-dial to go backward or forward ten degrees, according as he should desire [Note: 2 Kings 20:8-11.]. From hence it appears that the inquiries which proceed from faith, are good and acceptable to God: and that Abram’s was of this nature is manifest; because his faith on this occasion was specially commended by God himself.]

2. Its importance—

[If we were to limit the inquiry to the mere circumstance of Abram’s inheriting Canaan in his own person, it would be indeed of very little importance: for he never did possess (except the burying-ground which he purchased) one single foot of ground in the country [Note: Acts 7:5.], nor, as far as appears, had he any expectation of gaining any permanent settlement in it. But, viewed in its just extent, the inquiry comprised in it nothing less than the happiness of Abram and of all mankind. We are willing to allow that the prospect of having a posterity so numerous and so renowned, must be gratifying to flesh and blood: but that was, at best, but a very small part of Abram’s hope: he regarded the promised land as the scene of all those wonderful transactions, where God should be honoured and enjoyed by his posterity; where the redemption of mankind should be effected by the Messiah; and where the final rest of the redeemed should be typically exhibited: in the possession of that, all his hopes centred; yea, all his happiness in time and in eternity was bound up. If by any means that were prevented from taking place, the day of Christ, which he had foreseen, would never arrive; and consequently all his own prospects of salvation, as also of the salvation of the whole world, would be altogether annihilated. Canaan was in his estimation the pledge and earnest of heaven [Note: Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:16.]: and if he failed of the one, both he and all mankind must fail of the other also. Surely when so much depended on that event, the most reiterated assurances respecting it were no more than what it became him to desire.]

We shall be yet more fully convinced that Abram’s inquiry was proper, if we notice,

II. The way which God took to satisfy him respecting it—

God commanded Abram to take of every animal that was proper to be offered in sacrifice, whether of beasts or birds; each beast was to have attained its full age and perfection (for nothing but an absolutely perfect sacrifice could avail for ratifying of God’s covenant with man), and, after being slain, their parts were to be divided and placed opposite to each other, so that a sufficient space should be left for a man to pass between them. Whether this way of making covenants had obtained before, or whether it was first suggested by God on this occasion, we cannot tell: but we have notices of it in the heathen world, both among the Greeks and Romans; and it was certainly practised by the Jews also [Note: Jeremiah 34:18-19.]. But, whatever was its origin, God appointed it now for the purpose of satisfying Abram’s mind. The sacrifice being prepared, God accompanied it,

1. With significant emblems—

[God designed to give Abram a just conception of the manner in which the desired object should be accomplished; and by various emblems shewed him that it should be against much opposition—after many troubles—and long delays.

The opposition was signified to Abram by “the fowls that came down upon the carcasses,” and that were with difficulty driven away. It is no uncommon thing for the enemies of our salvation, whether men or devils, to be represented by this figure [Note: 1 with Jeremiah 34:20 and Matthew 13:19.]. And it was indeed verified by the efforts which the Egyptians made to detain them in bondage, and the confederacies which the nations of Canaan formed to obstruct their entrance into the land, or to dispossess them of it when they were there.

“The horror of great darkness that fell upon Abram when he was in a deep sleep [Note: 2.],” denoted the heavy troubles that his posterity should endure in Egypt; such troubles as made them groan for anguish of spirit, and made “the soul of God himself to be grieved for the misery of Israel [Note: Judges 10:16.].” Perhaps too the judgments inflicted on them through the various oppressions of the Midianites and Philistines, the Assyrians and Chaldeans, might be represented to his mind.

The long interval of time that passed between the promise and the ratification of it, even from the earliest dawn, while the stars were yet shining bright, to the return of darkness after the setting of the sun—all this time had Abram to wait: and though part of it would be consumed in the preparing of the sacrifices, yet a considerable part was occupied in his endeavours to drive away the fowls, and in the preternatural sleep and horror that came upon him. This lapse of time, I say, intimated the delay that should take place before the promise should be fulfilled, or his wishes receive their final completion.

If in deciphering these emblems we seem to have gone beyond the line of sober interpretation, let us turn to the explanation which God himself gives us of them, and we shall see all these particulars distinctly enumerated;—the opposition they should encounter, the troubles they should endure, and the delay they should experience, even four hundred years [Note: 3.]. And so far from exceeding the limits of sobriety, we are by no means certain that much more is not intended under these emblems, even to designate the trials and conflicts which the children of Abraham shall experience in their way to the promised land.]

2. With demonstrative attestations—

[After the parts of the sacrifice were properly disposed, it was customary for the parties who covenanted with each other, to pass between them [Note: Jeremiah 34:18-19.] ; intimating, if not expressing, their willingness to be cut asunder in like manner, if they should ever violate their engagements. God therefore, assuming the appearance of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, passed visibly between the pieces that were placed opposite to each other; and thereby ratified the covenant on his part, as Abram, in all probability, did on his part. Why God assumed these diversified appearances, we cannot absolutely determine. But at all times, if he did not assume the human or angelic shape, he revealed himself in the likeness of fire. It was in a burning bush that he was seen by Moses [Note: Exodus 3:2.] ; and in a burning mountain by Israel [Note: Exodus 19:18 with Hebrews 12:18.] ; and in a pillar of smoke and fire that he went before his people in the wilderness [Note: Exodus 14:19-20; Exodus 24:17.]: from whence we are disposed to think that, though the appearances were diverse, the intent was one; namely, to represent himself to Abram, as he did to his descendants, as “the Glory and Defence” of all his people [Note: Isaiah 4:5.]. Under this character he shewed himself to Abram, and, passing between the pieces of the sacrifice, pledged himself for the accomplishment of all that he had promised.]

Let us learn from hence,

1. To make a similar inquiry relative to the inheritance which we seek—

[We profess to be looking for heaven and eternal glory. Ought we not then, every one of us, to ask, “Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” Surely the inquiry is as important to us, as Abram’s was to him: and we have more encouragement to ask the question, because God has provided us with such ample means of solving it. As for any thing to confirm the veracity of God, nothing can be added to what he has already done: he has sent his only dear Son into the world to die for us; he has given his Holy Spirit to instruct us; he has already brought myriads, of Gentiles as well as Jews, to the possession of the inheritance; so that nothing remains but to inquire into the marks whereby he has taught us to judge of our own character. Am I “poor in spirit?” Then is the kingdom mine, and I shall surely inherit it [Note: Matthew 5:3.]. Am I living daily upon Christ, as the Israelites did upon the manna? Then I have, and shall have, everlasting life [Note: John 6:53-58.]. Am I “keeping his commandments diligently and without reserve?” Then I may know from hence my interest in his favour [Note: 1 John 3:24 with 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4.]. We are not to expect visions, such as were vouchsafed to Abram: “we have a more sure word of prophecy; and to that it behoves us to take heed [Note: 2 Peter 1:19.].” Let us then “examine ourselves whether we be in the faith:” let us “prove our own selves [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.]:” thus shall we “make our calling and election sure [Note: 2 Peter 1:10.],” and be enabled to say with confidence, “I know that when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, I have an house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1.].”]

2. To look forward to the full possession of our inheritance without regarding any difficulties that we may have to encounter in our way to it—

[Abram was not discouraged either with the difficulties or delays which he was instructed to expect. He never once regretted the losses he had sustained in leaving his native country; nor was he wearied with the inconveniences of a pilgrim’s life. He steadily pursued the path of duty in expectation of the promised blessings [Note: Hebrews 6:15.]. Let us then “walk in the steps of our father Abraham.” Let our prospect of the inheritance reconcile us to the hardships of our pilgrimage; and our view of the prize animate us throughout the whole of our course. If enemies oppose us, and troubles come upon us, and our possession of the inheritance be delayed, it is no more than what God has taught us to expect. But God has said, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” Let us therefore confide in that promise, and expect its accomplishment to our souls. Let us not be weary in well-doing; “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 15:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-15.html. 1832.

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