the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh
unto his friend" (Exodus 33:11).
"Didst not thou, O our God, drive out the
inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and
gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for
ever?" (2 Chronicles 20:7).
"But thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have
chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend" (Isaiah
"By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac:
yea, he that had gladly received the promises was
offering up his only begotten son; even he to whom it was
said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that
God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence
he did also in a parable receive him back"
"And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And
Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for
righteousness; and he was called the friend of God"
There are many astonishing things in the Bible. Few of
them, however, are more so than this - that God should
desire a friend.
We would think that of all things God would be able to
get on quite well without having men in that relationship
with Himself. I say it is an astonishing thought that
God, in all His self-sufficiency, His fullness, His
creative power, should want a friend, but here it is -
"Abraham my friend" ... "the friend of
This, dear friends, is the one thing in the mind of God
behind all His strange ways. Probably in all the Bible
there was no one who had greater reason than did Abraham
to think of God's ways as being very strange. How strange
those ways were! And very rarely were they easy. Almost
every step, if not every step, was fraught with
perplexity. But God was governed in all His dealings with
Abraham by this one idea and thought: to have a friend,
and to bring a man into such a relationship with Himself
as to be able to speak of him as "My friend".
You know, of course, that that title and that
relationship are peculiarly and especially connected with
Abraham. There are some wonderful things said about other
men - Moses, Daniel ("O man greatly beloved") -
but "My friend" is uniquely Abraham's title. To
understand that we have to look again at the way by which
Abraham was led and how at last he arrived in the heart
While the whole life of Abraham is required to make up
the full inclusiveness of this sublime fellowship, there
is little doubt, I think, that comsummately it was bound
up with that one incident of which we have just read: the
call to offer his son Isaac. Just think what that really
meant where Abraham was concerned! Did God call him from
Ur of the Chaldees, to leave all and come out, without
telling him anything more than that He would lead him to
a land? If we knew everything we would see that that was
no small step, for there is every reason to believe that
Abraham was a prosperous and great man in Ur. Did God
lead him out? Did God promise him a son, and then go away
and leave him without fulfilling His promise? Did God
bind up the whole of his life with that promise and with
that son? The very justification of his move from that
old country, leaving everything, was focused and centred
in that son. Abraham's whole life, the justification of
his living at all, and everything in his life, was
centred in that son. All the commands and all the
guidance of God to Abraham ended in Isaac. Did God so
call, so lead, so promise? Did He make Isaac the
exclusive vessel of His Divine purpose and the
explanation and meaning of all His promises to Abraham,
so that Abraham had no alternative to Isaac? Abraham
tried an alternative and found that God was not in that.
He tried through Ishmael, but found that that was no way
through. There was no alternative for his life for God,
his knowledge of God, his history with God, but Isaac.
Should Isaac not exist his faith would have been in vain,
for he had nothing else. God would have failed him, and
his life would have been a failure.
Naturally, if Isaac did not exist, or if he died, there
would be some tremendous implications. The obvious
implication would have been that Abraham had been misled,
deceived, and followed a false line; that God had mocked
him and brought him into a trap. He had followed God in a
way which he had believed with all his heart to be God's
way for him, and he had committed himself without reserve
to what he believed to be the way of God for his life.
And all that centred in Isaac.
Then came: "Take thou thy son, thine only son, whom
thou lovest... and offer him" (Genesis 22:2). Dear
friends, we cannot make too much of the seriousness of
the crisis to which Abraham had now come. It was a
tremendous thing for him! It might have raised the
question of what kind of a God his God was, or who this
God was to whom he had given his life, and there are many
other questions and implications. All his guidance, his
consecration, his long years of waiting and travailing,
his faithful obedience - and now, at one blow, it looked
as though it was all shattered. To survive that, and,
more than that, to go through it triumphantly, is to
explain what God means by friendship. Yes, that is the
meaning of friendship - but what is it?
Well, if this is the Divine explanation of friendship,
and we are called to be partakers of the Divine nature,
and God is working with us to bring about such a
relationship, it is going to be along that same road. If
you and I want even to approximate to this relationship,
this supreme relationship to God, if our hearts do
respond to this suggestion and proposition that God
should be able to speak of us as His friends (and, on the
face of it, no doubt everyone would say: 'Yes. There is
nothing that I would covet more than that God should be
able to speak of me as "My friend"'), then see
what it means.
Firstly, it means absolute and unreserved committal for
life and with life to God, without reserves and without
alternatives. Abraham had no alternative. This
relationship, this going on with God, was everything or
nothing for it was sealed in a blood covenant. You will
remember the occasion when that covenant was made. The
sacrifice was cut in two. The one half was put on one
side and the second half was put on the other side. One
side was God's and the other was Abraham's. Blood was
shed and they together, in the true figure, joined hands
and moved between the two halves. In the blood of that
sacrifice each committed himself to the other in terms of
blood, or life, for ever - God's "covenant for
ever" (Psalm 105:8). Abraham's covenant with God was
in terms of life. At Mount Moriah God was taking the very
life-blood out of Abraham, but Abraham was standing to
it. He was standing to the very basis of his relationship
with God. It was a committal for ever with life itself to
God, and the end of that was: "Abraham, my
These are hard things that I am saying, and beyond our
present attainment, I know. Not one of us would claim to
have reached this point. Nevertheless, this is what God
is working towards.
Friendship, further, means this: confidence in the other,
when He neither explains His way, nor can we understand
what He is doing. Of course, that is friendship at its
best in human terms. If there is true friendship, a
friend may not always explain to you why he or she takes
a certain course, but you have come to trust that one so
much that you do not want an explanation. You are ready
to believe, without an explanation, that that one knows
what he or she is doing, and you have perfect confidence
in that one. It is friendship, even when the other one is
silent and saying nothing.
There is a slight reflection of this in the life of Mr.
Hudson Taylor. After having been in China, away from this
country and from his wife, for a long time, he came home
and his wife met him at the ship. They got into a
conveyance together, and, of course, you would have
thought that at once he or she would engage in voluminous
conversation on all that had happened during the years
they were apart. But they took that journey in absolute
silence - and neither was offended! Not one word
passed between them, but that was the deep, deep
understanding of true fellowship. Oh, for something like
that with the Lord! He is silent, and that silence is a
most testing thing to us. Why does He not speak? Why does
He not act? Why does He not do something? He is silent
and inactive, and seems to be indifferent. Ah, to believe
Him then is the stuff of friendship, a constituent of
"Abraham believed God." You notice that that is
connected with this very thing, the offering of Isaac. To
have confidence in a friend when the friend seems to be
mysterious, strange, inexplicable, un-understandable,
reserved, silent, is a constituent indeed of true
But Abraham looked beyond the present and the immediate,
and said in his heart: 'This is not everything. This is
not the whole story. This is not the end, because it is
not the end of God. Even if it is death' - oh, wonderful
triumph of faith! - 'even if I have to slay that son in
whom everything for me is centred, nevertheless, God is
God, and He can raise the dead. Even if Isaac is there,
dead, God can raise him. I look beyond death, beyond the
present situation which may seem to have shattered all
hope, and I see God as reaching further on. I believe
God. I do not understand, and am not able to explain, but
I believe God.'
That is very testing, and I say that it is beyond every
one of us, but this is the basis of the ultimate
relationship with God. Surely this is the gold of the new
But what about Isaac? He was the new hope, the link in
the chain of God's whole dispensational movements, and
the embodiment of this friendship.
Young brothers and sisters, you are the next link in the
chain of God's gifts and God's testimony on this earth.
Do put your feet down on the ground of the link before.
Take up the testimony of Abraham and take this position:
'I, not as something in myself, not beginning nor ending
with me, but just as a link in this mighty chain of the
ages, commit myself without reserve to my God, for life
and with my life.' If you will do that you are the new
hope of the next phase.
Of course, behind Abraham we are seeing God the Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ, and we all know so well that
any hope we have today is because God raised His Son from
the dead. But that is not only a truth concerning Christ.
It is a law of God's ways all through history - that
something is baptized into death, and in that baptism the
testing of heart relationship with God goes on. And that
is the point. When Jesus was baptized into death on the
Cross, it was the ultimate test of His heart relationship
with His Father. His heart broke on that - but, oh! we
are all so glad that the very last utterance was:
"Father, into thy hands..." (Luke 23:46). That
is triumph! He is through! Earlier He had cried: "My
God, my God!", but now He is saying:
"Father". It was a test, the ultimate, final
test of His heart relationship with His Father - and,
mark you, every baptism into death is that.
We are being found out, dear friends, by deep and
terrible testings on the cross of baptism into death as
to where our hearts are; whether they are in things, or
in God; whether our life is bound up in some thing,
or whether it is with God.
You see, that was the point with Isaac. After all, it was
proved that Abraham was bound up with much more than
Isaac, for he was bound up with God. 'All right!', said
Abraham. 'Everything seemed to have been centred in
Isaac, but if Isaac goes, I still have God.'
What is our life bound up with? Is it things? Is it life
work? What is it? We shall be tested as to whether it is
the Lord who has our hearts. If He has, we are not going
to fight for our own ways, our own ends, our own
interests or our own ideas, even in the work of God. It
is the Lord who has to take preeminence over all things,
and over us. Isaac embodied that position with Abraham.
Oh, dear friends, see to it that your heart is like that
toward your Lord! If it is, you have the basis of this
glorious end: 'My friend, My friend'. Is that worth
having? Surely it is, and that He should say at the last:
'Come in, My friend!'
"A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, May-Jun 1971, Vol. 49-3.