Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house…
I have seen in an African desert a beautiful patch of green, a luxurious blending of graceful palm waving grass, rippling spring, pendent fruits, and tropic flowers — an island of verdure, refreshment, and comfort, in the midst of a sea of sand, of dreary brushwood, and of stunted thorn. Hither came both man and beast, hot with travel, scorched with heat, oppressed with hunger, faint with thirst, and found food and drink, shelter and repose. Those who dwelt in the surrounding region called the weary tract around "The Torment," because it was hard, dry, difficult, inhospitable. The patch of natural garden ground in the centre they called by an African word which means a god or a spirit in a good temper, or rather, the smile of God. The smile of God! Verily a good name and a beautiful; a smile that lightens the heart and cheers the lot of every drooping traveller that passes that way. As he gazes with hand-shaded eyes through the haze of the desert heat, and catches a glimpse of the green isle upon the border line, that smile of God begets a smile on his own tired and weary face, and with quickened step and hopeful eye he presses thitherward and rejoices in its cool and grateful shade! It may well be called "The Smile of God!" Just what that green oasis is to the tribes of Ham, the God-trusting, God-fearing man is to his fellow men, a centre of blessing, a precious possession, nothing other, nothing less than the "Smile of God." It is not enough that you carry your light in a dark lantern, and flash it out on a Sunday, or on some occasion of special feeling, and then withdraw it as suddenly, to leave blinking spectators rather more uncertain as to your moral whereabouts than before; but rather like the electric flame, which is only toned down by the medium in which it burns, your humanity should exhibit the veiled but glowing light of life and love Divine that dwells behind. I remember seeing, on a certain festive occasion, nearly a thousand men marching through the streets of a northern city when the clock in the minster steeple was tolling out the midnight hour. Neither moon nor star appeared in the sombre sky, and the lamps along the streets were but as twinkling beads of light which vainly tried to lighten the gloom of the dull November air. But wherever the procession went, wherever the tramping of their feet was heard, the light, clear, full, and brilliant, lit up the streets and houses, illumined statues, and was flashed back from every window and every gilded sign. Every face shone bright, every form stood clear, and the dull, dark night, right up into the gloom above, glowed and gleamed as with the light of morn. How was this? Every man carried a pitch pine torch; each flashed its little measure of light upon the sombre gloom, and altogether they conquered darkness and created day! As a disciple of Christ, it is given to the Christian, not so much to carry a torch as to be a torch. He himself is to be set alight, and is to move in and out through the world's sad shadow land, a peripatetic illumination, showing the beauty of goodness — dispensing the knowledge of God. Yours, O Christian, be it to exhibit all holy virtues, all kindly charities, all manly attributes, all Christly compassions, all godly speech and deed; and remember that if you are to be a true Christian, an Israelite indeed, the friend of God, the disciple of Christ, the heritor of heaven — you are to be — must be — a blessing! It is not enough that you are not a curse, that you do no ill and work no harm. The poisonous upas tree and the barren fig tree shall both be east into the fire. The captured rebel, caught red-handed, and the sentinel asleep at his post, alike are doomed. To cease to do evil is only the lesser half of the Christian's code of law — he must learn to do well. Note, again, that just in proportion as a Christian is a blessing, he has a blessing. Kind words, they say, have kind echoes, but that is not all the truth. The echoes are more musical than the original, because God mingles a benediction in the tone. It is hard to say whether the sea or the land is the greater gainer by the race for giving: the sea into which the silver streams are rolled, or the land on which the jewels of the clouds are scattered, like the largess of a king.And the more thou spendest
From thy little store,
With a double bounty,
God will give thee more.I have said that the Christian is to be a blessing; that according as he is a blessing he has a blessing; but before all this comes something else. It is said of Abram, "Thou shalt be a blessing"; but there are vital words before that. Hark! "I will bless thee." That's how it is. Neither Abram nor you can either be a blessing or have a blessing, in the full, clear, and joyous sense, unless it be imparted from above. If this stream of blessing is to rise in your own soul, ripple along your pathway and cool the lips of others in its flow, then all your springs must be in God. He must be all in all — He, the God from whom all blessings flow.
(J. J. Wray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: