Reading: Rom. 4:13-35; Heb. 11:12,17-19.
We have been occupied with the Lord's purpose to have a heavenly people, a
spiritual seed, and we have been seeking to see something of the nature of such
a people and what is required for their constitution and seeing all this being
worked out in the life of Abraham. We have seen him as setting forth this
heavenly people. We have mainly been concerned with how such a people are made -
that is, by the deep inworking into the heart of circumcision. Now we want to
look over on to the other side.
On the other side, we find the passages we have read have definitely given
us not the death side, but the resurrection side of Abraham's life. You notice
that connection in Romans 4. Abraham is brought into view, and by a swift
transition, we are carried to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It says here
in these passages that all that Abraham apprehended and came into, and all that
was secured in Abraham, was on the ground of resurrection; he believed in God Who
raises the dead. A tremendous amount is made of this whole matter of the
necessity for resurrection if there is going to be anything at all. See how much
there is about this in the background of Abraham's life. He is really the
embodiment of the law of resurrection as over against the necessity for it, and
so, at a certain point, Isaac becomes the dominating figure. It is interesting
to note what that point is. Do remember that Isaac stands for the full,
comprehensive embodiment of Abraham's life. All the meaning and all the
significance of Abraham's life becomes embodied in Isaac. That is the marvel of
things, that if Abraham had really slain Isaac and God had not raised him from
the dead, the very meaning of Abraham's life and faith would have been snuffed
out. The marvel is that, seeing that all his life, his vindication, his
justification, and everything of his hope and God's promise was centred in
Isaac, Abraham was ready to slay him, because he believed God would raise him
from the dead. And he received him back, as in a parable, from the dead, so
definite and strong was his faith in the resurrection. Isaac, as we have said,
therefore becomes the full embodiment of all that Abraham represents, and that
I said just now that it is interesting to note the point at which Isaac came
fully into view. Of course he has been there in the background from the
beginning in the very promise to Abraham about his seed. Isaac was there, but
not mentioned; that is, not defined, but at a point he comes right into view.
The point is that Abram is out of Ur, he is out of that realm; he is out of
Haran and what that means; he is out of Egypt and what that means; he is out of
Lot and what he means, as we saw in our previous meditation. When he is out of
these four things, then the Lord appeared to him and brought Isaac fully into
view. It is interesting and full of significance to note the point at which
Isaac, so to speak, came right on the scene in clear definition.
Natural Incapacity Sovereignly Ordained by God
But there are one or two things that we must take account of, certain factors
which lie behind this. First of all, you have to take account of Sarai. It is
not just a matter of detail that there, in Gen.
11:30 where the children of Terah are
mentioned, it is said that Sarai, Abraham's wife, was barren. It is just put in
amongst the genealogies, amongst the descendants of Terah. That is included. It
is not just a detail included, it is there by Divine direction. And then you
know all that is said about that in Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 about Sarai's
condition. Here you have the sovereignty of natural impossibility, so far as
heavenly things are concerned, the sovereignty of natural deadness. God has had
a hand in this. This is not an accident, not just a chance occurrence. Our
incapacitation for heavenly things is not just our misfortune, not just our
disadvantage, not just something that happens to be. God has ordained it, has
fixed it. It is something settled by the sovereignty of God that heavenly things
cannot be born out of earthly.
Heavenly things cannot arise out of the natural, it just cannot be. God has
settled it; and we may struggle for years in our Christian life to try to
produce something of God by natural energies and natural resources of brain and
will and organization and all that sort of thing, and nothing will come. We may
build up something externally, we may make a big thing, but so far as it being
of heaven is concerned, there is nothing. It is ordained of God. Sarai is not
accidentally as she is, it is not just a misfortune. It is ordained of God. You
know that that principle is made to hold good of a number of others in the Old
Testament, showing how God is in this thing. There would have been no Samuel but
for the Divine sovereignty in this matter, and so of others. But here it is. You
have to take that into account. It is the background of the sovereignty
established background of resurrection, where nothing can be unless heaven
intervenes. We can have nothing of this heavenly Life unless heaven intervenes;
it is quite impossible.
But we are keeping on the positive side. God intends it to be, but it cannot
be until we come fully face to face with the fact that it cannot be unless God
does it. There is no resource whatever for this but God Himself. A heavenly
thing is wholly of God. Then you take, alongside of that, Abraham's own age.
Here he says, "What wilt thou give me, seeing I go hence childless?"
(Gen. 15:2). He was, we are told, about a hundred years old, actually
ninety-nine years old, and he thought his time had come to die, he was taking it
that his demise was arriving, he was now ready to pass on, that life was at an
end for him. "I go hence childless." Much
is made of that in the New Testament, "...his
own body now as good as dead" (Rom. 4:19), and so on. But it is marvellous
that God held on to that point, just as the Lord Jesus held on to the point
where naturally Lazarus ought to be in corruption, so God has held on and will
not intervene until the thing has gone beyond all natural hope. Oh, this is the
realm of hope. It is not so hopeless as that, only in its own realm. God does
this: He ordains that we shall get beyond hope when He wants to do His heavenly
thing. Things have not gone wrong when they become apparently hopeless. From
God's standpoint they are very often just as right as they can be when we are
there. Remember that!
Then the third thing - Melchizedek in Chapter 14 of Genesis. You have only a
couple of verses, three at most, about Melchizedek in the Old Testament. You
have something over thirty verses about him in the New Testament. He has a very
much larger place in the thought of God than you would think. What is the upshot
of Melchizedek? The object of bringing in this man (as Hebrews makes clear, it
being the letter of heavenly things) is to say that Melchizedek is the figure of
the heavenly Man. The transition in Hebrews is with one bound
from Melchizedek to Christ, leaping clean over Aaron and all the Aaronic
priesthood, all that system which is earthly, which is temporal and temporary,
leaping right over all the earthly as represented by Aaron. Where does this man
Melchizedek come from? You do not know who he is; he has come out of oblivion, "Without
father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor
end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually"
(Heb. 7:3). Melchizedek, Christ, the heavenly Man, and in connection with
Melchizedek in Hebrews, "Having then a great high priest, who hath passed
through the heavens..." (Heb. 4:14). That is the conclusion of the matter.
It is this heavenly Man that is in view, and so Melchizedek is introduced here
as showing that all this is not possible, is not intended on an earthly level or
along an earthly line. That will not get you anywhere at all, it is only
heavenly, it must be heaven.
So the birth of Isaac became the focal point of all faith, and it was here
that all the main testings of Abraham took place, and it was here that Abraham's
greatest lapses took place.
The Test of Patience
Even when the Lord promised Isaac, and Abraham embraced the promise and
believed God, it was not so easy as that. He was tested on it. First of all,
tested on the matter of patience. It was necessary to come into a heart union
with God's waiting, God's patience, to be conformed to Christ in the matter of
patience. He was tested while nothing seemed to be happening at all.
If we went closely into details there, you would see how very exacting was
that form of test, but we dare not go into the detail. Although the promise was
given and the date fixed, nothing seemed to be happening, and in that
'nothing-seemed-to-be-happening' gap, Abram made his great lapse over Hagar,
with Ishmael consequent - a seeking to realise heavenly things along earthly
lines. What a terrible consequence that had! What a lapse it was! What sorrow,
what complications it introduced!
It was about Isaac that all the testings were going on in the matter of the
possibility of this thing, the realisation of this thing. It was a test as to
the God of resurrection. Yes, the point is that when God purposes a purely
heavenly thing, a purely spiritual thing, He takes infinite pains to undercut
all natural ground, and while He is doing that, almost anything can happen to
us. We are going through that test. God is showing that there is no natural
ground, and anything that we think is good natural ground and we may be using,
turning to any alternatives, any substitutes, any seeming useful things to
realise the purpose of God, we are discovering that as we turn to them, they
only create greater complications.
must do this,
must bring us through, it must be all of Himself, and He takes infinite pains to
make it like that with a heavenly people. They will be a heavenly people, a
spiritual people, there will be no doubt about it. There will be no ground
whatever for arguing otherwise, that this, that and the other thing can account
for it. No, it has to be attributed to the Lord. Whether it be in our life, our
very survival, or in the work of the Lord to which we may be called, it is going
to be like this. It is going to be heavenly, it is going to be eternal, it is
going to be impossible, but for the Lord.
But what I want to emphasize is that that is what God has ordained; it shall
be, and it is positive with the Lord. That is what He is after. Every fresh
cutting with this knife deep down into the heart is not unto destruction and
loss, it is unto increase. Every fresh pressing of the law that it cannot be
except from heaven, is heaven saying, it is going to
be from heaven. It is positive -
it will be,
and that is the focal point for faith.