By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out…
It is an interesting fact, that though Abraham was selected by Providence to be the head of a great nation, and though he had in those days of his much cattle and a great company of dependents, yet he had no special or particular home in the land he traversed. His habitation was a tent, like that of the traveller of the desert; and this he pitched in the " land of promise," as a pilgrim "in a strange country." The reason given by the apostle for this conduct is expressed in the words, "He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Here we have the object of the patriarch's faith; and in considering it briefly, let us notice a few of its peculiar features, as well as the nature of his faith itself.
I. OBSERVE IT IS A CITY OF DIVINE ORIGIN.
1. Abraham may not have had any mysterious vision of this city as St. John had of the heavenly Jerusalem, described in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation. But it is possible that he might have thought of that which is distinguished by the peculiar advantages of a city; such as a central spot of splendour, of security, of unity, in which the tribes of earth could meet together in social harmony and friendship; and, lastly, as the seat of government. It is not impossible but what one of the most beautiful cities of the Canaanites might have suggested the idea to his mind. But be that as it may, he readily drew a distinction between an earthly and a heavenly city. The earthly he well knew would perish. But the heavenly city, having God for its Builder and Creator, its foundations and its glory would be eternal. Thus it would stem that Abraham had a belief in the soul's immortality, by his having an expectation of permanent rest and happiness after death. Hence Christians of the present age are linked to Abraham through centuries long past by this simple faith and hope in the glorious future.
2. As the city is Divine in its origin, so we may rightly conclude that its inhabitants would correspond in character with its Supreme Founder. Abraham no doubt included this view of the city in his expectations. He must have well known that if the character of the heavenly citizens did not differ from that of the earthly ones, he could neither expect within its walls rest, nor security, nor permanency. Consequently, while expecting it he must have disciplined himself in all goodness, and in all obedience to the commands of God, as a qualification for entering it and for associating with its inhabitants.
II. THINK UPON THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM.
1. It induced a purpose worthy of a life like that of Abraham. This purpose was to realise the glory and greatness of the object which faith acknowledged. Can we imagine a purpose of life more inspiriting, more fraught with greatness, and more suited to give an elevation to thought and feeling? The purposes generally for which men live here, when properly considered, are beneath the capacity, the calling, and the destiny of man. They are very limited as to their duration, and very uncertain as to their possession. But the purposes of a Christian life are eternal; and the very certainty of the promise on which they rest leaves no regret or disappointment in the hour of death. What brighter vision can pass before the spirit, when leaving its earthly tabernacle, than the home-city of the faithful, whose Maker and Builder is God?
2. The faith of Abraham, furthermore, induced his co-operation with the Divine purposes and power. No doubt many of his neigh-hours derided him for what they might have thought an act of folly; and it is more than probable that in travelling over wide and lonely deserts he felt the difficulty of his undertaking. But Abraham did not turn back, neither did his faith fairer, nor did the peril of the day or of the night change his purpose. Thus we are taught a lesson of co-operation, by giving a ready obedience to the Divine will in the use of means adapted to meet the ends of Christian faith and worship. We are called upon to come out from the world, from its spirit, and to separate ourselves from its hurtful maxims, and from its dangerous companionship.
3. The faith of Abraham was childlike and humble. A faith which led him in its moral influence to tread only in one path, and that path was Christ. It is not a broad way, giving a wide scope to earthly passions, and favouring the selfish ease which knows not the force of the struggle between the downward tendency of the flesh and the upward strivings of the renewed spirit, but it is a narrow way. Yet withal, though the way is in some places steep and rugged, it is safe, and its end is peace and rest for evermore.
(W. D. Heywood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.