FFF 8:7 (Jul 1962)
Abraham—The Separated Life
In the history of Abraham discipline through separation is exemplified. God called Abraham from the city of Ur in the Chaldees, situated on the banks of the Euphrates. Archeologists have recently brought to light wonderful discoveries there, and have shown that it was a mighty civilization. From a luxurious life, Abraham, at God’s command, left all to become a nomad “dwelling in tents.” The call is described in Acts 7:2-3.
Separation from Kin and Country
“The God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.”
And in Hebrews 11:8 we read the response of faith:
“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.”
In the call of Abraham we learn of the God-planned life. The life of a Christian begins with the call of God. We are called to real sacrifice even if it involves separation from all that is dear. No doubt, if Abraham had not obeyed the voice of God and left the city of his birth, he would have been like the other unknown dead of the City of Ur. Yet the ‘friend of God’ lives in glory on the pages of history because of his separation, and God speaks of Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of the faithful. Such is the path for the child of God; a path of faith and eternal glory.
Though Abraham left his city, he did not completely obey, because he did not leave his kindred or his father’s house. At first he does not fully obey; his father Terah and his nephew Lot went with him. It is always difficult to break the ties of nature. So, in the days of our Lord as He spoke to one, “Follow thou Me,” the answer was, “Suffer me first to go and bury my father.” With Terah Abraham lived for some years on the border of the land to which God had called him. Death finally dissolved the union, and Abraham again rises in the energy of faith to pursue his course. Often the follower of Christ is impeded by natural bonds, and must learn God’s will through self-mortification, which is discipline. In war men are called upon to renounce the usual routine of life for a life of rigour, sacrifice, separation, and even death for the cause of liberty. The Christian who will live devotedly for God and the cause of Christ must tread the path of self-denial and separation from the world. This will bring the sneer of the ungodly, but the smile of the Saviour. It will mean discipline to the soul, but will yield rich fellowship with Christ.
Separation from Egypt
Abraham was tested through famine and made a sad departure from the God-appointed path. He acted without consulting God and went down into Egypt. There he became seriously involved in the toils of his own weaving; he was censured by an idolatrous king and sent out of the country. He had to return to the place of the altar and the tent. The Christian life is at a standstill when out of the will of God. The road to Egypt leads to conformity to the world and the collapse of faith. Yet the way back is to move forward into freedom.
Separation from Lot
In this parting with Lot, Abraham learned further how the path of faith is the path of separation. His nephew, gratifying his ambition, chose the well-watered plains, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. Lot walked the path of sight. Abraham walked by faith and separation unto God, and was rewarded with the blessing of the Lord.
Separation from Ishmael
Abraham was further disciplined in the putting away or separation from Ishmael. When Abraham was in Egypt, he met Hagar and she proved to be a thorn in his side for many years. In Genesis 15 God promised Abraham a son. The promise not being fulfilled immediately, he sought to bring it about through Hagar. Such a course results in contention, strife and sorrow. Abraham even prayed to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before Thee.” Yet, because he was not the promised seed, he must banish him. Why? The purpose of God did not lie in Ishmael, but in Isaac, the promised seed. The day Isaac was weaned, Ishmael the son of Hagar mocked. He is seen as the opposer of the heir and son, and as such he must be cast out. This was a great sorrow to Abraham to part with Ishmael. Isaac was to have the promises, and the affections of Abraham must change from Ishmael to Isaac. How slow we are to give Christ His place, and to be able to say, “Not I, but Christ.” It is only as the Christian learns to enthrone Christ as Lord of his life, that the Holy Spirit will perform His work to glorify God.
The Offering of Isaac
The path of discipline is again trodden by Abraham in his separation from Isaac on the altar of Mount Moriah. This was Abraham’s final and greatest test. He had given up Ishmael; now God demands his only-begotten son Isaac. Abraham was bidden to slay and offer up the child of promise. He did not fail, nor stagger through unbelief, but was fully confident in the faithfulness of God, “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” When one is confident that God is almighty as well as faithful, one can obey any word of His without fear. What faith! What denial! What discipline of speech, of hopes, of plans is exemplified in the illustrious life of Abraham as he walked the path of faith and separation! Truly Abraham is the great pattern of faith, and, being disciplined through separation from his country, his father, his nephew, Ishmael, and Isaac, he passed with honours in the school of God.