The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 12: Abraham in Canaan
< Prev T. of C.
... Next >
Still the patriarch begged for some visible token as a
confirmation of his faith and as an evidence to after-generations that
God's gracious purposes toward them would be accomplished.
The Lord condescended to enter into a covenant with His
servant, employing such forms as were customary among men for
the ratification of a solemn engagement. By divine direction,
Abraham sacrificed a heifer, a she-goat, and a ram, each three
years old, dividing the bodies and laying the pieces a little distance
apart. To these he added a turtledove and a young pigeon,
which, however, were not divided. This being done, he reverently
passed between the parts of the sacrifice, making a solemn
vow to God of perpetual obedience. Watchful and steadfast, he
remained beside the carcasses till the going down of the sun, to
guard them from being defiled or devoured by birds of prey.
About sunset he sank into a deep sleep; and, "lo, a horror of great
darkness fell upon him." And the voice of God was heard, bidding
him not to expect immediate possession of the Promised
Land, and pointing forward to the sufferings of his posterity before
their establishment in Canaan. The plan of redemption was
here opened to him, in the death of Christ, the great sacrifice,
and His coming in glory. Abraham saw also the earth restored to
its Eden beauty, to be given him for an everlasting possession, as
the final and complete fulfillment of the promise.
As a pledge of this covenant of God with men, a smoking
furnace and a burning lamp, symbols of the divine presence,
passed between the severed victims, totally consuming them. And
again a voice was heard by Abraham, confirming the gift of the
land of Canaan to his descendants, "from the river of Egypt unto
the great river, the river Euphrates."
When Abraham had been nearly twenty-five years in Canaan,
the Lord appeared unto him, and said, "I am the Almighty God;
walk before Me, and be thou perfect." In awe, the patriarch fell
upon his face, and the message continued: "Behold, My covenant
is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." In [p. 138] token of the fulfillment of this covenant, his name, heretofore
called Abram, was changed to Abraham, which signifies, "father
of a great multitude." Sarai's name became Sarah—"princess;"
for, said the divine Voice, "she shall be a mother of nations; kings
of people shall be of her."
At this time the rite of circumcision was given to Abraham as
"a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being
uncircumcised." Romans 4:11. It was to be observed by the patriarch
and his descendants as a token that they were devoted to
the service of God and thus separated from idolaters, and that
God accepted them as His peculiar treasure. By this rite they
were pledged to fulfill, on their part, the conditions of the covenant
made with Abraham. They were not to contact marriages
with the heathen; for by so doing they would lose their reverence
for God and His holy law; they would be tempted to engage
in the sinful practices of other nations, and would be seduced
God conferred great honor upon Abraham. Angels of heaven
walked and talked with him as friend with friend. When judgments
were about to be visited upon Sodom, the fact was not
hidden from him, and he became an intercessor with God for
sinners. His interview with the angels presents also a beautiful
example of hospitality.
In the hot summer noontide the patriarch was sitting in his
tent door, looking out over the quiet landscape, when he saw in
the distance three travelers approaching. Before reaching his
tent, the strangers halted, as if consulting as to their course.
Without waiting for them to solicit favors, Abraham rose quickly,
and as they were apparently turning in another direction, he
hastened after them, and with the utmost courtesy urged them
to honor him by tarrying for refreshment. With his own hands
he brought water that they might wash the dust of travel from
their feet. He himself selected their food, and while they were
at rest under the cooling shade, an entertainment was made
ready, and he stood respectfully beside them while they partook
of his hospitality. This act of courtesy God regarded of sufficient
importance to record in His word; and a thousand years later it
was referred to by an inspired apostle: "Be not forgetful to entertain
strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Abraham had seen in his guests only three tired wayfarers, [p. 139] little thinking that among them was One whom he might worship
without sin. But the true character of the heavenly messengers
was now revealed. Though they were on their way as ministers
of wrath, yet to Abraham, the man of faith, they spoke first of
blessings. Though God is strict to mark iniquity and to punish
transgression, He takes no delight in vengeance. The work of
destruction is a "strange work" to Him who is infinite in love.
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Psalm
25:14. Abraham had honored God, and the Lord honored him,
taking him into His counsels, and revealing to him His purposes.
"Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" said the
Lord. "The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because
their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether
they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come
unto me; and if not, I will know." God knew well the measure
of Sodom's guilt; but He expressed Himself after the manner of
men, that the justice of His dealings might be understood. Before
bringing judgment upon the transgressors He would go Himself,
to institute an examination of their course; if they had not
passed the limits of divine mercy, He would still grant them
space for repentance.
Two of the heavenly messengers departed, leaving Abraham
alone with Him whom he now knew to be the Son of God. And
the man of faith pleaded for the inhabitants of Sodom. Once he
had saved them by his sword, now he endeavored to save them
by prayer. Lot and his household were still dwellers there; and
the unselfish love that prompted Abraham to their rescue from
the Elamites, now sought to save them, if it were God's will, from
the storm of divine judgment.
< Prev T. of C.
... Next >