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…
What did God mean to teach Abraham, by calling him out of his country, and telling him, "I will make of thee a great nation"? I think He meant to show him, for one thing, that that Babel plan of society was utterly absurd and accursed, certain to come to nought, and so to lead him on to hope for a city which had foundations, and to see that its builder and maker must be, not the selfishness or the ambition of men, but the will, and the wisdom, and providence of God. Let us see how God led Abraham on to understand this — to look for a city which had foundations; in short, to understand what a state and a nation means and ought to be. First, God taught him that he was not to cling, coward-like, to the place where he was born, but to go out boldly to colonise and subdue the earth, for the great God of heaven would protect and guide him. Again: God taught him what a nation was: "I will make of thee a great nation." As much as to say, "Never fancy, as those fools at Babel did, that a nation only means a great crowd of people — never fancy that men can make themselves into a nation just by feeding altogether, and breeding altogether, and fighting altogether, as the herds of wild cattle and sheep do, while there is no real union between them." For what brought those Bable men together? Just what keeps a herd of cattle together — selfishness and fear. Each man thought he would be safer forsooth in company. Each man thought that if he was in company he could use his neighbour's wits as well as his own, and have the benefit of his neighbour's strength as well as his own. And that is all true enough; but that does not make a nation. Selfishness can join nothing; it may join a set of men for a time, each for his own ends, just as a joint-stock company is made up; but it will soon split them up again. Each man, in a merely selfish community, will begin, after a time, to play on his own account, as well as work on his own account — to oppress and over-reach for his own ends, as well as to be honest and benevolent for his own ends, for he will find ill-doing far easier and more natural, in one senses and a plan that brings in quicker profits, than well-doing; and so this godless, loveless, every-man-for-himself nation, or sham nation, rather, this joint-stock company, in which fools expect that universal selfishness will do the work of universal benevolence, will quarrel and break up, crumble to dust again, as Babel did. "But," says God to Abraham, "I will make of thee a great nation. I make nations, and not they themselves." So it is: this is the lesson which God taught Abraham, the lesson which we English must learn nowadays over again, or smart for it bitterly — that God makes nations. The Psalms set forth the Son of God as the King of all nations. In Him all the nations of the earth are truly blessed. He the Saviour of a few individual souls only? God forbid! To Him all power is given in heaven and earth; by Him were all things created, whether in heaven or earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers; all national life, all forms of government, whether hero-despotisms, republics, or monarchies, aristocracies of birth, or of wealth, or of talent — all were created by Him, and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist and hold together. Believe me, it takes long years, too, and much training from God and from Christ, the King of kings, to make a nation. Everything which is most precious great is also most slow in growing, and so is a nation. But again: God said to Abraham, when He had led him into this far country, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." This was a great and a new lesson for Abraham, that the earth belonged to that same great invisible God who had promised to guide and protect him, and make him into a nation — that this same God gave the earth to whomsoever He would, and allotted to each people their proper portion of it. How this must have taught Abraham that the rights of property were sacred things — things appointed by God; that it was an awful and heinous sin to make wanton war on other people, to drive them out and take possession of their land; that it was not mere force or mere fancy which gave men a right to a country, but the providence of Almighty God! Now, Abraham needed this warning, for the men of Babel seem from the first to have gone on the plan of driving out and conquering the tribes around them. Now, in Genesis 14. there is an account of Abraham's being called on to put in practice what he had learnt, and, by doing so, learning a fresh lesson. We read of four kings making war against five kings, against Chedorlaomer, king of Elam or Persia, who had been following the nays of Nimrod and the men of Babel, and conquering these foreign kings and making them serve him. We read of Chedorlaomer and four other kings coming down and wantonly destroying other countries, besides the five kings who had rebelled against them, and at last carrying off captive the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot, Abraham's nephew. We read then how Abraham armed his trained servants, both in his own house, three hundred and eighteen men, and pursued after these tyrants and plunderers, and with his small force completely overthrew that great army. Now, that was a sign and a lesson to Abraham, as much as to say, "See the fruits of having the great God of heaven and earth for your protector and your guide; see the fruits of having men round you, not hirelings, keeping in your company just to see what they can get by it, but born in your own house, who love and trust you, whom you can love and trust; see how the favour of God, and reverence for those family ties and duties which He has appointed, make you and your little band of faithful men superior to those great mobs of selfish, godless, unjust robbers; see how hundreds of these slaves ran away before one man, who feels that he is a member of a family, and has a just cause for fighting, and that God and his brethren are with him." Now, as sure as God made Abraham a great nation, so if we English are a great nation, God has made us so; as sure as God gave Abraham the land of Canaan for his possession, so did He give us this land of England, when He brought our Saxon forefathers out of the wild barren north, and drove out before them nations greater and mightier than they, and gave them great and goodly cities which they builded not, and wells digged which they digged not, farms and gardens which they planted not, that we too might fear the Lord our God, and serve Him, and swear by His name; as sure as He commanded Abraham to respect the property of his neighbours, so has He commanded us; as sure as God taught Abraham that the nation which was to grow from him owed a duty to God, and could be only strong by faith in God, so it is with us: we English people owe a duty to God, and are to deal among ourselves, and with foreign countries, by faith in God, and in the fear of God, "seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," sure that then all other things — victory, health, commerce, art, and science — will be added to us.
(C. Kingsley, M. A.)
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.