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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 17–18]

AFTER these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying: “Fear not, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great.” On a certain night, Abram was called by a voice from heaven which said: “Look up to the heaven and number the stars, if thou canst. So shall thy seed be.” Abram believed, and his faith justified him before God. Again, in the 99th year of his age, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him: “I am the Almighty God. Walk before Me and be perfect. Neither shall thy name be called any more Abram [a high father], but Abraham [father of a multitude], because I have made thee a father of many nations. I will establish my covenant between thee and Me. And this is my covenant which you shall observe between me and you and thy seed after thee: All the male kind of you shall be circumcised. Sarai [my princess], thy wife, shall be called Sara [princess], and she shall bear thee a son whose name thou shalt call Isaac.”

Again when Abraham was one day, about noon, sitting at the door of his tent in the vale of Mambre, he saw three men approaching. He ran to meet them, bowed down before them, and invited them to rest in his tent and partake of some refreshment. Calling Sara, his wife, he told her to make some cakes of the finest flour. He caused the best calf of his herds to be killed for the entertainment of the unknown visitors. Butter, milk and honey were also placed before them, Abraham himself waiting upon his guests. After the meal, when they were about to depart, one of the strangers said to Abraham that after a year he would return, and that Sara, his wife, would have a son. Then Abraham understood that the Lord God Himself, accompanied by angels, was his guest.

Faith. At the time that Almighty God told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, he and his wife Sara had no children, and both of them were growing very old. Therefore it seemed almost impossible that Abraham and Sara should have a son. Nevertheless, Abraham believed firmly in God’s promise that He would give him a son, that his descendants would become a great nation, and that of his family would be born the Redeemer. On account of his faith in God’s word, and especially in the promise of the future Saviour, Abraham was justified, i. e. he received sanctifying grace. Without faith no man can be justified, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebr. 11:6). “The just man liveth by faith” (Rom. 1:17).

Hope. With firm confidence Abraham waited for everything that God had promised him, and gave himself over calmly to His guidance. “By faith he abode in the (strange) land”, says St Paul, “dwelling in tents, for he looked for a city that hath foundations (i. e. the heavenly Jerusalem), whose builder and maker is God” (Hebr. 11:9, 10). He therefore regarded himself as a stranger and a pilgrim, and looked forward to his heavenly home and the eternal possession and vision of God.

Charity. Abraham’s faith was living, and active through love. He loved God above all things, as he proved in the story you will hear in Chapt. XIII. In the last chapter we saw how he loved his neighbour, and he again proved this by his behaviour to the three strangers. Abraham, the rich shepherd-prince, to whom Almighty God had made such great promises, ran to meet the three strangers, bowed down before them, and begged them to stay with him. He washed their feet and served them, while they were eating, though he had servants in abundance. Did not this show a great love of his neighbour, and great humility? As a reward of his virtue, God promised him that in a year he should have a son.

Walking in the presence of God. Thinking constantly of God’s presence is a powerful motive for the practice of what is good, and the avoidance of what is evil. Wherever we are, there is God with us, seeing everything we think and do! We ought, therefore, to live with Him, to meditate on His universal presence, and lift up our hearts to Him. By doing this we shall avoid sin and grow in virtue.

The Old Covenant. Almighty God made His covenant first with Abraham, as being the father of His chosen people. Later (on Mount Sinai) He confirmed and renewed it with all the people of Israel. He instituted the rite of circumcision as an outward and visible sign of this covenant, that it might be, as it were, cut into the flesh of His chosen people, so that it could not be forgotten. This sign was to speak to the soul of every man of Israel, saying: “You are a member of the chosen people. You belong to God, and are to serve Him only!”

Circumcision a type of holy Baptism. By circumcision man belonged to the Old Covenant: by Baptism he belongs to the New. By the first he pledged himself to observe the Old Law: in Baptism we pledge ourselves faithfully to observe the Christian Law. Circumcision impressed an indelible mark on the body; Baptism does the same to the soul. The difference lies in this, that circumcision could not, like Baptism, cleanse man from sin, and make him pure and holy of heart.

Heaven. God gives Himself to the blessed as their reward exceeding great. They gaze for ever on His infinite majesty, and are eternally united to Him in love and happiness. Oh, what joy to possess God Himself, who is infinite goodness, beauty and holiness. Could God give us more than Himself?

APPLICATION. Almighty God is near each one of us, and yet how little we think about Him! Do not ever again be so forgetful of God, but put yourself in His presence several times each day. Whenever any one whose opinion you respect is looking at you, you gather yourself together, and are careful to do nothing wrong. Should you not have much more respect for God’s presence?

You were put into this world to love and serve God. How have you served Him hitherto? Could you not serve Him better? Renew your baptismal vows to be faithful to Him unto death.








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