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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 22

 

 

Verses 6-10

DISCOURSE: 34

ISAAC A TYPE OF CHRIST

Genesis 22:6-10. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife: and they went both of them together. 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. 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.

MANY and wonderful are the instances of faith and obedience recorded in the Scriptures. But no action whatever (those only of our Lord himself excepted) has at any time surpassed or equaled that related in the text. It justly obtained for him who performed it, the honourable title of The Father of the Faithful, and, The Friend of God [Note: James 2:21; James 2:23.]. We shall find it profitable to consider,

I. The history itself—

Abraham had often enjoyed intimate and immediate communion with the Deity. But now he heard the command which was of a most singular and afflictive nature—

[God in some way clearly intimated to Abraham his will: nor left him to doubt one moment, whether it were his voice or not. He commanded Abraham to take his only, his beloved son, Isaac, and to offer him up as a burnt-offering in a place that should afterwards be pointed out. How strange the order! How difficult to be complied with! How well might Abraham have said, “Would God I might die for thee, O Isaac, my son, my son!”]

Instantly, however, and without reluctance, he arose to execute the will of God—

[Had he presumed to reason with God, what specious arguments might he have adduced for declining the way of duty! The certainty of his being reproached by Sarah, “A bloody husband art thou to me [Note: Exodus 4:25-26.]:” the offence that would be taken by all the neighbouring nations against him, his religion, and his God: the counteracting and defeating of all the promises which had been made by God himself, and which were to be accomplished solely in and through his son Isaac [Note: Genesis 17:19.]: all this, with much more, might have been offered in excuse for his backwardness, if indeed he had been backward, to accomplish the will of God. But he conferred not with flesh and blood [Note: Galatians 1:16.].]

Nor was he diverted from his purpose during the whole of his journey—

[Having prepared the wood, he proceeded instantly, with Isaac and his servants, towards the place that God had pointed out. Nor did he open his intentions to Sarah, lest she should labour to dissuade him from his purpose. But what must have been his thoughts every time that he looked on Isaac? Yet never for one moment did he relax his determination to execute the divine command. Having come in sight of the mountain, he ordered his servants to abide in their place, lest they should officiously interpose to prevent the intended offering. He put the wood on his son, and carried the fire and the knife in his own hands. Affecting as these preparations must have been to a father’s heart, how must their poignancy have been heightened by that pertinent question, which was put to him by his son ! His answer, like many other prophetical expressions, conveyed more than he himself probably was aware of at the moment. Without giving a premature disclosure of his intention, he declares the advent of Jesus, that Lamb of God, who in due time should come to take away the sin of the world [Note: ; John 1:29.]. Thus for three successive days did he maintain his resolution firm and unshaken.]

Having arrived at the spot determined by God, he with much firmness and composure proceeded to execute his purpose—

[He built the altar, and laid the wood upon it in due order. Then with inexpressible tenderness announced to Isaac the command of God. Doubtless he would remind his son of his preternatural birth; and declare to him God’s right to take away, in any manner he pleased, the gift he bestowed [Note: Job 1:21.]. He would exhort him to confide in God as a faithful and unchangeable God; and to rest assured, that he should, in some way or other, be restored, after he was reduced to ashes, and have every promise fulfilled to him. Having thus gained the consent of his son, he binds him hand and foot, and lays him on the altar; and, with a confidence unshaken, and obedience unparalleled, holds up the knife to slay the victim. Whether shall we more admire the resolution of the father, or the submission of the son? O that there were in all of us a similar determination to sacrifice our dearest interests for God; and a similar readiness to yield up our very lives in obedience to his will!]

Nothing but the interposition of God himself prevented the completion of this extraordinary sacrifice—

[God had sufficiently tried the faith of his servant. He therefore, by a voice from heaven, stopped him from giving the fatal blow; ordered him to substitute a ram in the place of Isaac; renewed to him with an oath his former promises; rendered him a pattern to all succeeding generations; and, no doubt, is at this instant rewarding him with a weight of glory, proportioned to his exalted piety.]

Almost every circumstance in this narrative deserves to be considered in,

II. Its typical reference—

Waving many less important points, we may observe that Isaac was a type of Christ:

1. In his appointment to be a sacrifice—

[Isaac was a child of promise, born in a preternatural way, of a disposition eminently pious; yet him did God require for a burnt-offering: it must not be Abraham’s cattle, or his son Ishmael, but his beloved Isaac. Thus was Jesus also, the promised seed, named, like Isaac, before he was conceived in the womb: he was born, not after the manner of other men, but of a pure virgin: He was that only, that beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased: yet him did God appoint to be a sacrifice. A body was given him for this very purpose [Note: Hebrews 10:4-5.]. He was ordained from eternity to be a propitiation for sin [Note: Romans 3:25.]: nor did the Father recede from his purpose for four thousand years. Having set apart his Son for this end, he changed not: and Jesus, at the appointed time, became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: Philippians 2:8.].”]

2. In the manner of being offered—

[Isaac bore the wood on which he was afterwards to be lifted up; and voluntarily yielded up his body to be bound, and his life to be destroyed in God’s appointed way. Thus did Jesus bear his cross to the place of his crucifixion; and, having been bound, was lifted up upon it. On the very spot where Isaac had been laid upon the altar, was Jesus (most probably) offered in sacrifice to God [Note: Mount Calvary was one of the mountains in that small tract of country called the land of Moriah: and from it can scarcely be doubted, but that it was the very spot pointed out by God. It could not possibly be far from the spot; and therefore, when the place for the sacrifice of Isaac was so accurately marked, it can scarcely he thought to be any other, than the very place where Jesus was offered two thousand years afterwards.]. And by whose hand was Isaac to bleed, but by that of his own Father? By whom too did Jesus suffer, but by Jehovah’s sword [Note: Zechariah 13:7; Isaiah 53:10.] ? It was not man, who made him so to agonize in the garden; nor was it man, that caused that bitter complaint upon the cross [Note: Luke 22:44; Mark 15:34.]. Nevertheless it was with the perfect concurrence of his own will that he died upon the cross; “He gave himself an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savour [Note: Ephesians 5:2.].”]

There is one point, however, wherein the resemblance does not appear—

[For Isaac was found a substitute; for Jesus none. Neither the cattle on a thousand hills, nor all the angels in heaven, could have stood in his place. None but Jesus could have made a full atonement for our sins. He therefore saved not himself, because He was determined to save us.]

Infer—

1. How marvellous is the love of God to man!

[We admire the obedience of Abraham: but God had a right to demand it: and Abraham knew, that he was about to give his son to his best and dearest friend. But what claim had we on God? Yet did he give up his Son for us, for us sinners, rebels, enemies; nor merely to a common death, but to the agonies of crucifixion, and to endure the wrath due to our iniquities [Note: Isaiah 53:6.]. What stupendous love! Shall any soul be affected with a pathetic story, and remain insensible of the love of God? Let every heart praise him, trust him, serve him: and rest assured, that He, who delivered up his Son for us, will never deny us any other thing that we can ask [Note: Romans 8:32.] ]

2. What an admirable grace is faith!

[The faith of Abraham certainly had respect to Christ, the promised seed [Note: Hebrews 11:17-19.]. And, behold how it operated! So will it operate in all who have it. It will keep us from staggering at any promise, however dark or improbable; and will lead us to obey every precept, however difficult or self-denying. Let us seek his faith: and, while we are justified by it from the guilt of sin, let us manifest its excellence by a life of holiness.]


Verse 12

DISCOURSE: 35

IMPORTANCE OF EVIDENCES

Genesis 22:12. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.

THERE are in the Holy Scriptures many expressions, which, if taken in the strictest and most literal sense, would convey to us very erroneous conceptions of the Deity. God is often pleased to speak of himself in terms accommodated to our feeble apprehensions, and properly applicable to man only. For instance; in the passage before us, he speaks as if from Abraham’s conduct he had acquired a knowledge of something which he did not know before: whereas he is omniscient: there is nothing past, present, or future, which is not open before him, and distinctly viewed by him in all its parts. Strictly speaking, he needed not Abraham’s obedience to discover to him the state of Abraham’s mind: he knew that Abraham feared him, before he gave the trial to Abraham: yea, he knew, from all eternity, that Abraham would fear him. But it was for our sakes that he made the discovery of Abraham’s obedience a ground for acknowledging the existence of the hidden principle from which it sprang: for it is in this way that we are to ascertain our own character, and the characters of our fellow-men. And this is the point which it is my intention chiefly to insist upon at this time. I shall not enter upon the circumstances of the history, but confine myself rather to the consideration of two points; namely,

I. The general importance of evidences for ascertaining our state before God—

Many are ready to pour contempt on marks and evidences, as though they were legal. They imagine that the direct agency of the Spirit on the souls of men is quite sufficient to satisfy our minds respecting our real state. Now, though we deny not that there is a direct agency of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men, and that “God’s Spirit does witness with our spirits, that we are his [Note: Romans 8:16.],” yet is this not of itself sufficient; because it may easily be mistaken, and can never, except by its practical effects, be discovered from the workings of our own imagination. Indeed, the greater our confidence is, when independent of evidences, the more questionable it is; because there is the more reason to suspect that Satan has made the impression in order to deceive us. Evidences in confirmation of this persuasion are necessary,

1. For the satisfaction of our own minds—

[The Scriptures suggest innumerable marks whereby to discover our true character. St. John seems to have written his First Epistle almost for the very purpose of informing us on this head, that he might leave us altogether inexcusable if we erred respecting it: “Hereby we do know that we know God, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him: but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him [Note: See 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:6-10; 1 John 3:14-15; 1 John 3:18-21; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:20; 1 John 5:1-4; 1 John 5:10; 1 John 5:18 .].” (Some of the other passages referred to may also be cited.) And St. Paul particularly exhorts us to consult these marks and evidences, just as we would in the assaying of gold: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves.”]

2. For the satisfaction of others—

[What can others know of our state, any farther than it is discoverable in our lives? Our blessed Lord teaches us to bring all, even though they may call themselves prophets, to this test: “Ye shall know them by their fruits: do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them [Note: Matthew 7:15-20.].” And to this test must we ourselves be brought: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another [Note: John 13:35.].”]

3. For the honour of our God—

[Men will judge of our principles by our practice. Now the Gospel is represented as “a doctrine according to godliness.” But how shall men know it to be so? Our mere assertions will carry no conviction with them, if they be not confirmed by manifest and substantial proofs. Men will naturally say to us, “Shew me your faith by your works:” and, if our works be unworthy of our profession, “the name of God and his doctrine will be blasphemed [Note: 1 Timothy 6:1.].” It is by our works that we are to shine as lights in the world: and we are therefore bidden to let our light shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father that is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].”]

From the text we learn,

II. What is that evidence which alone will prove satisfactory to God or our own souls—

Never was there a more glorious act of obedience than that which Abraham performed in offering up his son, his only son, Isaac. But it will be asked, Is any thing like that required of us? I answer,

1. A full equivalent to this is required of us—

[True, indeed, we are not called to that very act of offering up our own son: but we are expressly commanded to “hate father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and our own life also, in comparison of Christ [Note: Luke 14:26.]:” and our blessed Lord declares, that “whosoever cometh not after him, and forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be his disciple [Note: Luke 14:33.].” This may be deemed a hard saying; but so it is; and the declaration is irreversible: and further still, our blessed Lord has decreed, that “he who saveth his life shall lose it; and he only who loseth his life for his sake, shall find it unto life eternal [Note: Matthew 16:25.].” There is no difference between either persons or times: the same is true respecting all his followers, in every age and place. On no lower terms will any human being be acknowledged as a friend of Christ; nor will any child of man that is unwilling to comply with them, find acceptance with him in the day of judgment.]

2. Without a compliance with this, we in vain pretend to have the fear of God—

[”The fear of God” is the lowest of all graces: yet must that, no less than the highest, be tried by this test. The truth is, that the new creature, even in its lowest state, is complete in all its parts. A little infant has all the parts of an adult: there is nothing added to him even to his dying hour: the only difference between him in the different periods of his life is, that his parts are more matured by age, and capable of greater exertion when he arrives at manhood than they were in the earlier stages of his existence. The different rays of light may be separated by a prism, and so be brought under distinct and separate consideration: but it is the assemblage of all the rays that constitutes light. In like manner, we may separate in idea the graces of a Christian: but where there is one truly operative, there is, and must be, all. One particular grace may shine more bright in one person, and another in another; but when “Christ is formed in us [Note: Galatians 4:19.],” not one of his graces can be absent. Hence then I say, that the fear of God, no less than the love of him, must be tried by this test: and by this alone will “God know that you fear him, if you withhold not your son, your only son, from him.”]

Now, let me ASK, What testimony must God bear respecting you?

[He knows every one amongst you, and every secret of your hearts: yet will he not proceed in judgment without adducing the proofs which you had given of your true character. If he say to you, “Come, ye blessed,” or, “Go, ye cursed,” he will assign his reasons for it, and thereby approve the equity of his sentence before the whole universe [Note: Matthew 25:34-43.]. Let me ask, then, What sacrifices have you made for him? and what duties have you performed? Have you “plucked out the right eye, and cut off the right hand, that has offended you?” If not, you know the sad alternative, that “your whole body and soul will be cast into hell fire [Note: Mark 9:43-48.].” Examine yourselves, then, and inquire, whether God can bear this testimony respecting you? Must he not rather, with respect to the greater part of you, say, ‘I know you, that “you have not the fear of God before your eyes [Note: Romans 3:18.] !” You have made no sacrifice for me; nor have you paid any attention to my commands. Abraham consulted not even his own wife, lest she should prove a snare to him: but you have been ready to follow any adviser that would counsel you to disregard me.’ Well, know of a surety that the time is shortly coming, when God will call every one of you into judgment, and when he will put an awful difference between his friends and his enemies; between those who feared his name, and those who feared him not [Note: Malachi 3:18.].]


Verse 14

DISCOURSE: 36

JEHOVAH-JIREH, THE LORD WILL PROVIDE

Genesis 22:14. 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.

THE Saints of old took special care to remember the mercies of their God. Hence they scarcely ever received any remarkable deliverance from evil, or communication of good from him, but they erected some memorial of it, and gave either to the place or to the memorial itself, some name, that should transmit to posterity a remembrance of the blessing vouchsafed unto them. Such was “Beth-el,” where Jacob was favoured with a special vision [Note: Genesis 28:19.] ; and “Peniel,” where he wrestled with the angel [Note: Genesis 32:30.] ; and “Eben-ezer,” the stone erected by Samuel in remembrance of Israel’s victory over the Philistines [Note: 1 Samuel 7:12.]. Frequently the name of Jehovah himself was annexed to some word expressive of the event commemorated; as, “Jehovah-nissi, meaning, The Lord my banner;” a name given to an altar raised by Moses, to commemorate the total discomfiture of the Amalekites [Note: Exodus 17:15.] ; and “Jehovah-shalom, The Lord send peace;” being the name given to another altar, which Gideon erected in remembrance of a special visit which he had received from the Lord in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites [Note: Judges 6:24.]. The Father of the Faithful set an example in this respect. He had been ordered by God to sacrifice his son Isaac; but in the very act of offering him up, God had arrested his uplifted arm, and directed him to offer in the stead of his son a ram caught in the thicket which was close at hand. This was in fact an accomplishment of what Abraham himself had a little before unwittingly predicted. For, in answer to Isaac’s question. “My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” he replied, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering.” By this answer he merely intended to satisfy his son’s mind for the present, till the time should arrive for making known to him the command which he had received from God; in which command that provision was actually made: but through the miraculous intervention of Divine Providence and the substitution of the ram in Isaac’s place, it had now been literally verified in a way which he himself had never contemplated. And it was in reference to this expression which he had used, that he called the name of the place, “Jehovah-jireh,” which means, “The Lord will provide.”

This circumstance, occurring on Mount Moriah at the very instant when Abraham’s hand was lifted up to slay his son, passed immediately into a, proverb, and has been handed down as a proverb through all successive generations even to this very day: the proverb is, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen;” or, as it should rather be translated, “In the mount the Lord shall be seen.” To enter fully into this most instructive proverb, it will be proper to shew,

I. What it supposes—

Much important truth lies concealed in it. It supposes,

1. That God is the same in all ages—

[It may be thought that this is a truth which no one will controvert. I grant that no one will controvert it in theory: but practically it is denied every day. The God who is revealed in the Scriptures is evidently a God of infinite condescension and grace; as appears in all his mercies to the children of men. He is also a God of inflexible justice and holiness; as appears by the awful judgments he has executed on account of sin. But, if we now hold him forth in either of these points of view, and inculcate the necessity of our regarding him with hopes and fears suited to these perfections, we are considered as either derogating from his Majesty on the one hand, or from his goodness on the other hand. The notion, that “the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil,” though not openly avowed, is yet the secret persuasion of almost every heart. But if there were any foundation for this Epicurean sentiment, what room could there be for this proverb? But know assuredly, that “He changeth not;” “with Him is no variableness neither shadow of turning;” “He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”]

2. That the privileges of his people in all ages are the same—

[To imagine this, is thought by many to be the height of presumption. But what privilege had Enoch, or Noah, or Abraham, or Moses, or any other of the children of men, which we have not? No one of them enjoyed any thing which was not contained in the covenant of grace. And what was the great promise in that covenant? Was it not, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people?” Was there any thing that was not comprehended in that? or could any thing whatever be added to it? Yet behold, that covenant is as much in force at this day as it was at any period of the world: and those who lay hold on that covenant are as much entitled to its blessings, as any ever were from the foundation of the world. Were this not so, we should have been injured, rather than benefited, by the coming of Christ. But our interest in it is not only as great as theirs was in the days of old, but, I had almost said, greater: for in the mention of this part of the covenant in the New Testament there is this remarkable difference: in the Old Testament God says, “I will be their God;” but in the New Testament he says, “I will be a God unto them [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” This seems to convey a stronger and more determinate idea to the mind. We all know what it is to be a friend or a father to any person: but oh! what is it to be a God unto him? This none but God can tell: but the least it means is this; that, whatever situation a believer may be in, all that infinite wisdom, unbounded love, and almighty power can effect, shall be effected for him. Of the believer therefore now, no less than in former days, it may be said, “All things are yours: whether: Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.].”]

3. That whatsoever God at any time has done for the most favoured of his saints, may be expected by us now, as far as our necessities call for it—

[Of all the circumstances related in the Old Testament, scarcely any one was so particular and so exclusive as this which we are considering. Who besides him was ever called to sacrifice his own son? Who besides him was ever stopped by a voice from heaven in the execution of such a command, and directed to another offering which God himself had provided? Yet behold, this very event was made the foundation of the proverb before us; and from this, particular and exclusive as it was, all believers are taught to expect, that God will interpose for them in like manner, in the hour of necessity! If then we may expect such an interposition as this, what may we not expect?

But let us take some other events, to which nothing parallel exists. The passage of Israel through the Red Sea; the striking of the rock, in order to supply them with water in the wilderness; and the feeding of them with daily supplies of manna for forty years: can we expect any interpositions like these? Yes: and an express reference is made to these in the Holy Scriptures in order to raise our expectations to the highest, and to assure us that we shall receive from God every thing that our necessities may require. Were “the depths of the sea made a way for the ransomed to pass over?” With similar triumph may all the “redeemed of the Lord hope to return and come to Zion [Note: Isaiah 51:9-11. Cite the whole.].” What was done in the ancient days, in the generations of old,” is there made the very pattern of what shall be done for all the Lord’s people. A similar assurance is given in reference to the water that issued from the rock; and we are told “not even to remember or consider the former things,” since God will repeat them again and again, doing them “anew,” so that “every body shall know” and observe it: “I will give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen [Note: Isaiah 43:18-20. Cite the whole.].” As for the manna, you all are taught by our blessed Lord to pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread [Note: Luke 11:3. See the Greek.].” The matter then is plain: for, if such things as these are to be realized in our experience, there is nothing which was ever clone for mortal man, which we are not authorized to expect, as far as our necessities require it. Miracles indeed we are not to expect: but what was formerly done by visible exercises of a miraculous power, shall now, in effect, be done by the invisible agency of God’s providential care. The mode of effecting our deliverance shall be varied; but the deliverance itself shall be secured.]

Now we come to,

II. What it affirms—

The proverb is express: “In the mount the Lord shall be seen:” that is,

1. He will interpose for his people in the hour of necessity—

[This is its plain import: and to the same effect it is elsewhere promised, “The Lord will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants; when he seeth that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left [Note: Deuteronomy 32:36.].” If it be asked, ‘In what way will he interpose?’ I answer, ‘This must be left to him: he is not limited to any particular means: he can work by means, or without them, as he seeth fit: the whole creation is at his command: the wind shall divide the sea; and the sea shall stand up as a wall on either hand, when he is pleased to make a way through it for his people: and the waters shall resume their wonted state, when he gives them a commission to overwhelm his enemies: and both the one and the other shall be done at the precise moment of Israel’s necessity [Note: Exodus 14:10-14.]. If confederate armies come against his people, his enemies shall defeat their own sanguinary purpose, and be the executioners of God’s vengeance on each other [Note: 2 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Chronicles 20:10-13; 2 Chronicles 20:16-17; 2 Chronicles 20:22-24.]. Is the destruction of a faithful servant menaced and expected by blood-thirsty persecutors? an angel becomes the willing agent of Jehovah for his deliverance [Note: Acts 12:4-10.]. Sometimes he will defeat the enterprises of his enemies by the very means which they use to carry them into effect. This was the case with respect to Joseph, whose exaltation sprang from the very means used by various instruments for his destruction [Note: Genesis 50:20.]. As for means, we may safely leave them to God. Two things we certainly know; namely, that he will interpose seasonably; and that he will interpose effectually: for he is, and ever will be, a very present help in trouble [Note: Psalms 46:1.].’]

2. We may confidently trust in Him in seasons of the greatest darkness and distress—

[God may not come to our help at the moment that our impatient minds may desire. On the contrary, he may tarry, till we are ready to cry, like the Church of old, “The Lord hath forsaken us, and our God hath forgotten us [Note: Isaiah 49:14.].” But he has wise and gracious purposes to answer by such delays. He makes use of them to stir us up to more earnest importunity [Note: Matthew 15:22-27.] ; to render us more simple and humble in our dependence upon him [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.] ; to display more gloriously before our eyes the riches of his power and grace [Note: John 11:6; John 11:15; John 11:40.], and to teach both us and others to wait his time [Note: Psalms 40:1-3; Luke 18:1.]. Sometimes he suffers the enemy so far to prevail as that to all human appearance our case shall be irremediable: whilst yet those very enemies are instruments in his hands to accomplish unwittingly the very ends which they are labouring to defeat; disappointing thus the devices of the crafty, and taking the wise in their own craftiness [Note: Acts 23:12-17.]. The history of Joseph will of necessity occur to every mind in illustration of this point [Note: Genesis 50:20.] ; But what does all this say to us? Its language is precisely that of the prophet: “The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.].”]

Address,

1. Those who have never yet been brought into deep waters—

[Do not imagine that because you have hitherto experienced but little trouble, your path shall always be smooth and easy. No: it is a thorny wilderness that you have to pass through, and a troubled ocean that you have to navigate, ere you can reach the desired haven. The mariner when scarcely launched upon the deep does not expect that the breeze shall be alike gentle to the end of his voyage: he prepares for storms, that he may be ready to meet them when they come. In like manner you also will do well to prepare for seasons of adversity and trial. The seaman takes with him his compass, his chart, his quadrant; and makes his daily observations, that he may know where he is, and not be driven from his course. So likewise do you take with you this proverb; which will ever be of use to you in the most trying hour, and enable you to steer your course with safety to the haven of rest.]

2. Those who are under any great and heavy calamity—

[The Lord’s people are no more exempt from trouble than others. When most in the path of duty, storms and tempests may overtake you, and menace your very existence: yea, and in the midst of all, your Lord and Saviour may seem regardless of your trouble. But remember, that, embarked as you are with him, you can never perish. In the fittest moment, he will arise and rebuke the storm; and both winds and waves shall obey him [Note: Mark 4:37-39.]. Go forward, as Abraham did, in the path of duty, and leave events to God. Do not be impatient because God does not appear for you so soon as you could wish. Perhaps you have not gone above one day’s journey yet in the path assigned you: if so, you have another and another day yet to go. Possibly you may have been long tried, and are got to the very mount: but you are not yet got to the top of that mount: much less have you bound your Isaac, and lifted up your hand to slay him. If not, the time for the Lord’s interposition is not yet come. See how it was with David. He fled from Saul—The Ziphites came and informed Said of the place where he was hid—Saul blessed them for the intelligence they had brought him: and set out immediately and encompassed with his army the very spot where David was. Alas! David, thy God hath forsaken thee! No: not so: in that critical moment, “a messenger comes to Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.” And thus was the snare broken, and the persecuted saint delivered [Note: 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:21; 1 Samuel 23:26-27.]. Thus also shall it be with you. Only stay till the critical moment has arrived, and you shall find the proverb true: “In the mount the Lord shall be found.” “Whatever you may imagine, the Lord is not an inattentive observer of your state. He may suffer you to be cast into the tempestuous ocean, and to be swallowed up by a whale, and yet bring you up again from the very depths of the sea, and advance his own glory the more in proportion to the greatness of your deliverance [Note: Jonah 2:1-9.]. Trust then in the Lord, and let your mind be stayed on him.

This is the direction which he himself gives you: “Who is among you that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God [Note: Isaiah 50:10.].” And if the time for your deliverance seem to be utterly passed, go with the Hebrew youths into the fiery furnace, taking God’s express promise with you [Note: Isaiah 43:2-3.], and say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him [Note: Job 13:15. See the whole subject illustrated in Psalms 30:1-12.].”]


Verse 18

DISCOURSE: 37

ABRAHAM’S PROMISED SEED

Genesis 22:18. In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

THERE is nothing in man which can merit the divine favour: the promises of God to us are altogether free, resulting wholly from his sovereign grace: yet does God frequently manifest his love towards us in consequence of something done by us. Abraham, it should seem, was an idolater, when God first made himself known to him in his native land: and then did the Almighty promise, that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed. But, in the passage before us, Abraham is recorded to have performed the most extraordinary act of obedience that ever was known from the foundation of the world: and God takes occasion from that to renew his promise, and, for his more abundant consolation, to confirm it with an oath. To ascertain the full import of this glorious prophecy, it will be proper to inquire,

I. Who is the seed here spoken of—

It is not to all the natural descendants, or to that part of them that composed the Jewish nation, or even to the spiritual seed of Abraham, that these words refer: they speak of one particular individual, the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. To him all the types direct our attention—

[The temple with all its utensils, the priests with, all their habits and services, the sacrifices and oblations of every kind, all shadowed forth his work and offices. The principal events in the Jewish history, together with the great persons engaged in them, their lawgiver, their commanders, judges, kings, and prophets, prefigured him in different points of view, and, as so many lines, meet in him as their common centre. On this account we have reason to think that the prophecy before us relates to him.]

2. In him all the prophecies receive their accomplishment—

[However some of the prophecies might be partially fulfilled in Solomon or others, it is certain that all of them together were never accomplished in any one but Jesus. They were intended to designate him, that, when he should arrive, there might be no doubt of his being the very person fore-ordained of God to be the Saviour of the world. The minute description of the promised Messiah, together with the marvellous combination of circumstances that marked Jesus as the person foretold, lead us further to believe that the text had particular respect to him.]

3. To him exclusively the text is applied by God himself—

[St. Paul tells us that the blessing of Abraham was to come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ [Note: Galatians 3:14.] ; and that the words of the text related, not to others, but to Christ alone [Note: Galatians 3:16.].]

This point being ascertained, let us inquire,

II. In what respect all nations are blessed in him—

The full accomplishment of the text will not take place till that glorious period when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. Yet, in a limited sense, all nations have experienced the truth of this prophecy already.

1. They are reconciled to God through him—

[Christ died not for one nation only; he was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Many of all nations have already believed in his name, and rejoiced in his salvation: and in every place they who believe in him shall find acceptance with their God [Note: Colossians 1:20-22.].]

2. They are united in one body in him—

[He has broken down the middle wall of partition that divided the Jewish and Gentile world, and, having reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross, he has slain the enmity thereby [Note: Ephesians 2:14-16.]. All mankind are now brought into one family, and are taught to regard each other as brethren: and in proportion as the religion of Jesus gains the ascendant over our hearts, we are united in love to every member of his mystical body.]

3. They are blessed with all spiritual blessings—

[There is not any thing that can conduce to our present or future happiness which Jesus will not bestow on his believing people. Adoption into his family, peace in our consciences, holiness in our hearts, and an eternity of glory in the Father’s presence, are the certain portion of all his faithful followers. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile; all are admitted to the same privileges, and all shall participate the same enjoyments.]

Infer,

1. The antiquity of the Gospel—

[The sum and substance of the Gospel is, that Christ is the only source of all spiritual and eternal blessings. Wherever this truth is strongly urged, men are ready to cry out against it as a new doctrine. But we can trace it, not only to the Reformers of our church, but to the Apostles, yea to Abraham also: for St. Paul declares, that when God spake the words to Abraham, he “preached the Gospel to him” even that very Gospel whereby he and all the nations of the earth must be saved. [Note: Galatians 3:8.] Let this truth then no longer be reviled as novel, but be received as the one ground of all our hopes.]

2. The importance of faith—

[Abraham’s faith in this Gospel was imputed to him for righteousness [Note: Galatians 3:6.] ; and by believing the same divine record we also must be justified [Note: Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9.]. No doctrine whatever is more explicitly declared in Scripture than this. Let us then acknowledge the necessity of faith, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ as that promised seed, through whom alone the blessings of Abraham can flow down upon us.]

3. The connexion between faith and works—

[Faith was that principle which produced in Abraham such exemplary obedience [Note: Hebrews 11:17.]: and the same root will bear similar fruits wheresoever it exists [Note: Acts 15:9.]. Indeed the pardon of past sins would be utterly insufficient to make us happy, if it were not accompanied with the renovation of our natures. To this effect St. Peter expounded, as it were, the very words of the text, declaring to the Jews, that conversion from sin was one of the first blessings which the Lord Jesus was sent to bestow [Note: Acts 3:25-26.]. Let us then not consider faith and works as opposed to each other, but as possessing distinct offices, the one to justify our souls, the other to honour God, and to manifest the sincerity of our faith.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 22:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-22.html. 1832.

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