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…
We can hardly read those words without at once thinking how all this common life around us would be both simplified and made noble if men generally, in laying out their plans and carrying on their ordinary work, were moved and guided in the same Divine way! — i.e., if they inquired first, at every important decision, every new start and every new turn in the road, where their Lord called them to go; and then, leaving all other questions aside, were to go straight on, no matter what comfort, like the familiar country that the patriarch was leaving, they might be obliged to give up, and no matter how untried or bleak the regions before. I suppose one chief hindrance to its having this effect on most of us will be the difficulty of our realising that, with respect to each one of us, in our personal insignificance, God just as truly has a plan and a particular place, both of work and of communion, as He had for Abraham or Moses, for Enoch or Samuel, for St. John or St. Paul, for any hero or any saint. But He has. Ours may not be so high a place or so much honoured with usefulness as theirs. We have no concern with that; but the whole tenor of our Christian religion tells us our place is there; that when He created us God designed each one, in every station of society, of either sex, in all kinds of employment, for a particular service in His Church, in His family on earth, and in His heaven for ever. You may forfeit it by not believing in it, and by trying to live and die for yourself; God may hereafter fill up the vacancy and finish the full harmony of His heavenly multitude by the river of life without you. But in the millions of wayward lives entangled with each other He will never for one instant lose sight of the thread of yours. He formed you with a loving intention, and all His affection and mercy to the rest have not diminished a particle His affection and mercy for you. Next observe the large meaning of one small word — the word "out." This faithful man was "called to go out," and he "went out." We are to draw from that a new inference, viz., that in his journeying one place did not look to him just like another, equally attractive and desirable. On the contrary, between the past and the future there was a contrast. What he must leave behind is familiar; what he must turn toward is strange. What he must leave behind is known, tried and safe and agreeable; what he must encounter is hazardous. Going out implies a giving up of something like a home, with the warm, bright, sheltering, endearing attributes always associated with that beloved name. Within are security and comfort; without are exposure, peril, sacrifice. Here, then, is a new rule for the Christian life. Where that life is regenerate, what a Christian life ought to be, fulfilling the gospel idea, it does not merely run on from one scene to another on the same level, nor does it consist in merely moving about through the routine of aa easy experience without progress, without trying new difficulties, gaining greater heights, or by fresh sacrifices coming into a closer and more spiritual sympathy with Christ. Every step needs faith in God, faith in the better country to come, faith in the end to be reached, or else he would look back and perhaps sink down in the road. Take in, then, with this another strong element in the doctrine of the text — the superiority, in this going forward of the disciple after his Lord, of faith over knowledge. We knew the low country we left by eyesight, by the senses, or the intellect; but what lay before was always unknown, invisible, a land of promise, only believed in. In all our approaches to God, in making up our minds to come out on Christ's side in an open confession, in baptism in maturer years, in coming to be confirmed, in every victory over the evils of the world, we cannot depend merely on the understanding. "He went out, not knowing whither he went." That was the crown and the glory of his obedience. He did know who tailed him, and in whom he believed, and that was enough. It might seem, at first sight, in reading this passage, as if the principal stress were laid on the obedience. And then some of you who are more advanced in the higher privileges of the gospel, and accustomed to> discriminate in spiritual matters, might say: No; obedience is a low and elementary stage; obedience is of the law; we are not under the law, but under grace; we are not Jews; Christ has come, and it is the faith and love which go out to Him for what He is in the beauty of His holiness, and what He has done for us in the atonement of the Cross, that constitute the special advantage of our position in the Christian Church. Nothing can be more true than this. The whole object of this chapter is to celebrate, not the bare keeping of commandments, but faith in the invisible, and the glory of acting freely with reference to the absolute God rather than present profits, or any outward reward. Hence it runs all through the passage that there are two kinds of obedience, not distinguished from each other by the outward appearance of the obedient action — for this may be precisely the same in the two cases — but by the motive which prompts the obedience, or the feeling that impels us to act as we do. Two different kinds of character are produced by these two sorts of obedience. One is the obedience of calculation; the other is the obedience of faith.
(Bp. F. D. Huntington.)
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.