|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:8-19 We are often called to leave worldly connexions, interests, and comforts. If heirs of Abraham's faith, we shall obey and go forth, though not knowing what may befall us; and we shall be found in the way of duty, looking for the performance of God's promises. The trial of Abraham's faith was, that he simply and fully obeyed the call of God. Sarah received the promise as the promise of God; being convinced of that, she truly judged that he both could and would perform it. Many, who have a part in the promises, do not soon receive the things promised. Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance; can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, though strangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims, travelling toward their home. By faith, they overcome the terrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, and to all the comforts and crosses of it. And those once truly and savingly called out of a sinful state, have no mind to return into it. All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; and the stronger faith is, the more fervent those desires will be. Notwithstanding their meanness by nature, their vileness by sin, and the poverty of their outward condition, God is not ashamed to be called the God of all true believers; such is his mercy, such is his love to them. Let them never be ashamed of being called his people, nor of any of those who are truly so, how much soever despised in the world. Above all, let them take care that they are not a shame and reproach to their God. The greatest trial and act of faith upon record is, Abraham's offering up Isaac, Ge 22:2. There, every word shows a trial. It is our duty to reason down our doubts and fears, by looking, as Abraham did, to the Almighty power of God. The best way to enjoy our comforts is, to give them up to God; he will then again give them as shall be the best for us. Let us look how far our faith has caused the like obedience, when we have been called to lesser acts of self-denial, or to make smaller sacrifices to our duty. Have we given up what was called for, fully believing that the Lord would make up all our losses, and even bless us by the most afflicting dispensations?
Verse 8. - By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed (literally, when called, obeyed to go out, etc.); and he went out, not knowing whither he went. The reference is to the first call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1), his obedience to which is the first instance of the faith which the whole life of the father of the faithful so eminently exemplifies. The fact of the place he was to go to being so far unrevealed (intimated only as "a land that I will show thee") enhances the faith displayed, He followed the Divine voice as it were blindly, not seeing whither it was leading him, knowing only that it was right to follow it. So to those who walk by faith now the future may be unknown or dim.
"Lead thou me on.
... I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
By faith, Abraham, when he was called,.... The Alexandrian copy and the Vulgate Latin version read, "by faith he who was called Abraham"; but this call is not to be understood of his name; for though his first name Abram might be given him, in the faith of his being a great man, and his second name Abraham, when he himself was a believer; yet this change was made some years after the call referred to; which is that in Genesis 12:1 when he was called out of his own country, kindred, and father's house; which was an emblem of the call of God's people out from among the men of the world, and from their friends, relations, and acquaintance, and even out of themselves; and as Abraham was called from "Ur" of the Chaldees, so they from darkness, bondage, idolatry, and communion with wicked men; that, as he, they might not perish with idolaters, being chosen vessels, and for whom God has peculiar blessings in store: and so the grace of God is seen in calling them, without any respect to their deserts, as in calling Abraham: and the care and goodness of God may be observed, in raising up fit instruments to propagate his cause and interest. Now Abraham, being called
to go out into a place; from Ur of the Chaldees, to the land of Canna;
which he should afterwards receive for an inheritance; not in his own person, but in his seed and posterity, unless after the resurrection, in the New Jerusalem church state, and which inheritance was typical of heaven;
obeyed the divine call; and which was a fruit and evidence of his faith, and may he called the obedience of faith:
and he went out, not knowing whither he went: for though he went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan he came, Genesis 12:5, yet, when God called him to go forth, and he prepared to obey his call, he knew not what land he was to go into; for it is only said, Genesis 12:1,
unto a land that I will show thee: upon which words a Jewish commentator (r) has this note;
"he (God) did not immediately make known the land unto him, that so it might be lovely in his eyes;''
and it is, elsewhere, said by the Jews (s), that Abraham
"came from Aspamia (i.e. Mesopotamia), and its companions, , "and he knew not where" he was, as a man that is in the dark;''
all which agrees with our apostle: and, from hence, it may be observed, that God sometimes leads his people in ways they have not known, though they are known to him, and are always right; and that it is the property of faith to follow God, when it cannot see its way; and a great mercy it is to have God for a guide. This also shows, that Abraham's faith agrees with the apostle's definition of it, Hebrews 11:1.
(r) Jarchi in Genesis 12.1.((s) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 60. fol. 52. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. From the antediluvian saints he passes to the patriarchs of Israel, to whom "the promises" belonged.
called—by God (Ge 12:1). The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "He that was called Abraham," his name being changed from Abram to Abraham, on the occasion of God's making with him and his seed a covenant sealed by circumcision, many years after his call out of Ur. "By faith, he who was (afterwards) called Abraham (father of nations, Ge 17:5, in order to become which was the design of God's bringing him out of Ur) obeyed (the command of God: to be understood in this reading), so as to go out," &c.
which he should after receive—He had not fully received even this promise when he went out, for it was not explicitly given him till he had reached Canaan (Ge 12:1, 6, 7). When the promise of the land was given him the Canaanite was still in the land, and himself a stranger; it is in the new heaven and new earth that he shall receive his personal inheritance promised him; so believers sojourn on earth as strangers, while the ungodly and Satan lord it over the earth; but at Christ's coming that same earth which was the scene of the believer's conflict shall be the inheritance of Christ and His saints.
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