Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 037. Hope

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Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 037. Hope

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1. Here then, as elsewhere, a clear hope sprang from faith. Recognizing God, Abraham knew that there was for men a great future. He looked forward to a time when all men should believe as he did, and in him all families of the earth be blessed. No doubt in these early days when all men were on the move and striving to make a name and place for themselves, an onward look might be common. But the far-reaching extent, the certainty, and the definiteness of Abraham's view of the future were unexampled. There far back in the hazy dawn he stood while the morning mists hid the horizon from every other eye, and he alone discerns what is to be.

With regard to the country, it was represented to him somewhat vaguely as “a place,” or, a little more clearly, as “a land”; and he probably conceived it as something not very unlike what he was leaving. It was at least a human life and abode; and though his imagination might rear a grand enough fabric of expectation, there was but one certainty in it-that whatever it should turn out, it was given by God, and God was in it.1 [Note: A. B. Davidson, The Called of God, 62.]

2. God's commands are not always accompanied by reasons, but always by promises, expressed or understood. To give reasons would excite discussion; but to give a promise shows that the reason, though hidden, is all-sufficient. We can understand the promise, though the reason might baffle and confuse us. The reason is intellectual, metaphysical, spiritual; but a promise is practical, positive, literal. As a shell encloses a kernel, so do the Divine commands hide promises in their heart. If this is the command: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”; this is the promise: “And thou shalt be saved.” If this is the command: “Sell that thou hast and give to the poor”; this is the promise: “Thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” If this is the command: “Leave father and mother, houses and lands”; this is the promise: “Thou shalt have an hundredfold here, and everlasting life beyond.” If this is the command: “Be ye separate”; this is the promise: “I will receive you and be a Father unto you.” So in this case: Though thou art childless, I will make of thee a great nation; though thou art to be torn from thine own family, in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And each of those promises has been literally fulfilled.

As soon as a man finds God, and consecrates his life to Him, his blessedness begins. God purposes the highest good of His servants in every task and trial to which He summons them. His calls are always upward to a better, richer, fuller life; and Divine promises come trooping in the footsteps of self-denial. God's commandments are not grievous, and His promises are exceedingly great and precious. “God calls no man to a life of self-denial for its own sake.” If we only let His sweet, stern spirit have its way with us, we shall always find how gracious His will is. What looks like the rigour of law quickly turns out to be the tenderness of gospel. God's will has reference, first and last, to our best estate and most assured happiness, and for what He takes away, He never fails to give a superabundant recompense. He never requires us to do anything which it is not for our highest advantage to do. He so governs the world that sin is always loss, godliness is great gain.1 [Note: J. Strachan, Hebrew Ideals, i. 25.]