Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Ms 19, 1886

Sermon/Lessons From the Life of Abraham


March 13, 1886

Portions of this manuscript are published in HP 112; CTr 73, 75; 10MR 118-121.

March 13, 1886

(Sermon, Mrs. E. G. White,)

Genesis 12:1-4; Hebrews 11:8-10. It was not a small trial to Abraham to be called to leave his home and acquaintances and go into a land that he knew not. When he came into that land, he found that the Canaanites were there, and he would have all their idolatry to meet. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 1

This was a severe trial to Abraham’s faith. He could not see any possession that he could claim as his own. But in his perplexity the God of heaven condescended to preach the gospel to him and show him the possession that he should have for an eternal inheritance. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 2

Abraham moved from place to place, as it seemed advisable for him, in order to obtain a support for his family, and his family was not small. His trained servants numbered more than 400. At every place where he pitched his tent, close beside it he erected an altar, so he worshiped God in every place where he was called to be. In thus doing he was training his family to love and fear God. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 3

When he had another trial in a severe famine that came in the land, and he moved down into Egypt, God gave him favor with the Egyptians, so that when he left there, he had more than when he went in. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 4

Now when God bade Abraham to leave his country and friends, he might have reasoned and questioned the purposes of God in this. But he showed that he had perfect confidence that God was leading him; he did not question whether it was a fertile, pleasant country, or whether or not he should have ease. He went at God’s bidding. This is a lesson to every one of us. When duty seems to lead us contrary to our inclinations, we are to have faith in God. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 5

There are those who may be in favorable positions, as far as business is concerned, and in all the things of this life, but God may have a work for them to do elsewhere, a work that they could not do among their relatives and friends. The very position of ease, and the relatives who surround them, may prevent them from developing the very traits of character which God would have them develop. But God sees that to change their position, and to send them where their surroundings will be entirely different, will be the very best place for them to develop a character which will glorify Him. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 6

Every one, wherever he shall go, should carry the true principles of his religion with him. If sin, and forgetfulness of God, and idolatry exist in the places where he shall go, then is the time for him to show their true principles. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 7

When we set ourselves where all is convenience and ease, we do not feel so much the necessity of depending moment by moment upon God. God in His providence brings us into positions where we shall feel our necessity of His help and strength, and He loves to reveal Himself to us. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 8

We see the marked traits in Abraham’s character when the strife commenced between the herdsmen, and Abraham said, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee. ... Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” [Genesis 13:8, 9.] Lot saw the country near Sodom was most favorable for his worldly and temporal prosperity, and he chose that location. [Genesis 13:10-12 quoted.] 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 9

If Lot had manifested the same courtesy that Abraham had, he would have given him the choice. But Abraham did not take the position that he was superior to every one around him; he took a humble position. It was the right of Abraham to make his choice, and to be first, but he chose to be courteous in this matter. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 10

Lot, instead of inquiring whether this would be the most favorable for his morality and godliness, thought only of his worldly prosperity. But the time came when Lot was placed in a most trying position because of the wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom. When Lot and his family were taken by those who came in to conquer Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham went to deliver him from his captors. When the king of Sodom would have Abraham take some gifts of the spoils, he there again showed the true nobility of his character. He said he would not take so much as a thread or a shoe tie lest they should say, “I have made Abraham rich.” [Genesis 14:23.] God had given to Abraham the promise that he should have great riches, and he would not have any one say that the wicked had given him the treasures he possessed. We see that every step with Abraham was one of faith. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 11

We read of visitors coming to Abraham as he was sitting in the door of his tent, and how did he receive them? These were angels of God, and one of them was no less than the Son of God. When these guests came up to his tent, they were strangers; but he observed the rules of true courtesy towards them. The Word of God tells us to “be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” [Hebrews 13:2.] Abraham did this. And when the heavenly guests made this known to Abraham, then they told him what was their purpose in regard to Sodom. The cry of distress and suffering had come up to the God of heaven, and He had come down to see if they had done altogether according to the cry of it, which was come up unto Him. And while Abraham was not in Sodom, was not connected with Sodom, yet we see that he had an intense interest that Sodom should not be destroyed if God could spare it. Genesis 18:20-22. In the next verse we are told that Abraham drew near and said (quote verse 23). 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 12

While Abraham had a true sense of humility which every child of God should possess, yet he had an intense interest in the souls of sinners. He is represented as drawing near. He steps close to those heavenly messengers and pleads with them as a child would plead with his parents. He remembers that Lot has made his home there in Sodom and that Lot has connections all through Sodom by marriage. Therefore Abraham commences at 50, and the Lord tells him that he will spare it for 50; and he goes down to ten, and the Lord tells him that He will spare it for ten’s sake. [Verses 26, 32.] He does not make any further appeal, but he does hope that there will be found ten righteous men in Sodom. Well, when the angels came in Sodom, they could not find even five righteous ones in the splendid city so that we may reason that there may be the most splendid cities, having the greatest wealth, and yet there not be found five righteous in them. Every one of us, as we are seeking for the future immortal life, should have everything connected with us as favorable as we can make it for the development of Christian character. God frequently calls us to break every tie that binds us to unholy influences and to come out from among them. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 13

Here is Abraham standing as one that is a representative for God, and his history is brought down along the line to our time. Abraham’s interest and anxiety for Sodom is a lesson to us that we shall have an intense interest for those around us. Although we should hate the sin, we should love the souls of those for whom Christ died. And then we should feel the most grateful to God that we have One who is pleading in the heavens above in our behalf. Jesus knows the worth of every soul because it is He that has paid the price for every one. When He was in His agony at the crucifixion, He prays there for His enemies (murderers); He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34.] And here as we see in the case of Abraham that he pleads for the guilty as one man pleads for another. We should put up that earnest prayer for those who are in darkness. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 14

But there is still another test that Abraham is to bear. There is a message that comes from God in the season: “Take thy son, thy only son, whom thou lovest, and offer him up as a sacrifice to God.” [Genesis 22:2.] We can have some little idea of this test required of God. As Abraham walked with Isaac to Mount Moriah, he had at every step to look away from things that are seen to things that are unseen. As Isaac walked by his side, he had the whole three days with him by his side for the temptations of the enemy to pour in upon him in regard to this test. We can imagine the feelings of that father when Isaac said, “Father, here is the fire, here is the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?” [Verse 7.] Up to that time Isaac did not know that he was to be offered. Every day the eyes of Abraham had been directed towards heaven, hoping that some command would come countermanding that order. But he comes to the very place of which God has said, “I will show thee,” and there he sees the very place where he is to offer up his darling son. He had answered the question of Isaac, “God will provide the offering” [Verse 8], but now the father sees that he has come to the last point, and he opens the whole matter to Isaac, and Isaac consents to the sacrifice. It was God who had required it, and he would even offer up himself as a sacrifice to God. And Isaac is bound and placed upon the wood, and there as Abraham draws the sword to slay his son, there comes a voice from heaven to say it is enough. He is commanded to stay his hand and do no harm to his son. Genesis 22:10, 11. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 15

There are sermons preached in order to excuse God and make it all right on His side that He should require this offering of Abraham. Now all these discourses imply a question whether God should require this of Abraham. God has a right to every one of us, and it is not for any one to question whether it is right, whether God should take this course or that course with us. Those that have perfect confidence in the Lord God of heaven will never question any of His dealing with His children. He has important experiences to give His children, and He gives them this experience in His own way. Now Abraham verily believed and made the sacrifice to all intents and purposes in his heart. And that very faith is counted to him for righteousness. He thought and taught to Isaac that God was able to raise him up from the dead and could see the end from the beginning. This is the very faith that we should have, every one of us, in the Lord God of heaven. We have the history of Abraham, and the ground the Lord brought him over, in order to give us strength and courage and faith. The Lord wants every one of us to believe that He is the very best friend we have. Here was Abraham that trusted God at every step, and his faith was perfect. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 16

Now the Lord has a controversy with His people, and He wants every one of us to come into obedience to His requirements. We are none of us, when duty is laid out before us, to question, “Is it convenient, or will it please me to do this?” If God says it, it is enough. We are to take our Bibles, we are to study and see what the will of God is concerning us, and then to follow as Abraham did in faith and confidence. Now you see the first test was a very close test for Abraham, to leave everything and go into a land of strangers. He suffered poverty and he suffered hunger when the famine came, and his whole household suffered. He had an opportunity there to question and distrust God in thus leading him out from his home and land and kindred. And there were adverse circumstances that followed Abraham for a time, which brought him into positions of trial and where he was proved of God. But Abraham’s faith and confidence in God at last began to bring him returns. He had great riches, he had great possessions, and he had above everything else the blessing of God. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 17

What should we do if it were not for these representative men that are presented before us, and the dealing of God with them? Our lines are not to be always cast in pleasant places. We shall be brought where we shall feel the test and proof of God. If we could know the history of everyone that is here in this house today, there would be some valuable experiences brought out where they followed the leadings of God irrespective of inclination. The God of heaven will test us to see if we appreciate the favor of God and believe His promises and will rely upon them irrespective of consequences. Here is where the trial will come with many who accept the unpopular truth for this time. If God should call any of us to leave positions where it is for our interest to retain them, and we go according to the light God gives us, why, the Lord knows all about that. Although Abraham was promised that he should have the whole of Canaan, God said, “Walk through the land in the length of it and the breadth of it” [Genesis 13:17], yet he had not a foot of it in his possession. If we do not realize any very wonderful prosperity in this life, yet we have the claim of the future immortal life. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 18

It is stated of Abraham that he looked for a city whose builder and maker was God. When he buried his dead, he had not so much land that he could put his dead there. He had to buy it. But when the Lord opened before him the view of immortal life, and this earth purified, and here to be his home, he was satisfied. So with every one of us. We are only pilgrims and strangers in this world. We are seeking the city which Abraham looked for, whose builder and maker is God. We do not expect all the reward here in possessions, in land, in gold, or in silver, but we expect an eternal weight of glory. I will give you further points of this subject when I shall speak to you next. 4LtMs, Ms 19, 1886, par. 19