For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
The Lord, accompanied by two angels, appeared to Abraham on the plains of Mamre. His purpose was to reveal two matters of importance to Abraham.
First, He revealed that now at long last Sarah would bring forth a son in her old age.
Secondly, the Lord revealed that He would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah on account of their sin. Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah was great, and because their sin was very grievous, the Lord would go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it.
Abraham knew immediately that this meant Sodom’s destruction. But what about Lot and his family, who lived in Sodom? Abraham pleaded with the Lord to spare the city if there were 50 righteous in the city. After Abraham ‘whittled’ the Lord down to 10 righteous, Abraham understood that the Lord would not destroy righteous Lot with Sodom.
But before revealing to Abraham his intentions to destroy Sodom, the Lord explained His rationale for revealing these things to Abraham.
The Lord had promised to make of Abraham a great nation, in whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. But for that to happen it was necessary for Abraham’s children and household after him to “keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” That in turn required that Abraham instruct and command his children. What the Lord was about to reveal to Abraham concerning Sodom’s destruction was an important part of the instruction Abraham must give to his household.
Abraham would command his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. Notice that this is given as the fruit of Abraham’s instruction. But if it is to be the fruit, it must necessarily form the content of that instruction as well.
The way of the Lord!
The “way of the Lord” is the way that the Lord would have us live. The name “Lord” is really “Jehovah,” which is God’s covenant name. The way of the Lord is the way of God’s covenant, the way that the Lord has determined for us to live in His covenant as His friend servants. If we will live as God’s covenant people, as His friends, there is a certain way we must behave in marriage, in the home, at school, at work, in our recreation.
This way of the Lord is further explained as doing justice and judgment.
The word “justice” is really the word righteousness, which has the idea of obedience to God’s law. God has given His law to regulate our lives in the covenant. To do justice, or righteousness, is to live in harmony with God’s covenant law. This is the way of the Lord.
But there is also the doing of judgment. “Judgment” has the idea of righteous administration. We must bear in mind that in the patriarchal age the family, church, and state were one and the same, not divided, as today. Abraham, as the head of his house, ruled as father, elder, and king over his family. Judgment points to the rules God set forth for the proper running of the home/church/state. To do judgment was to order the family/church/state according to God’s rules. Today the home, church, and state are all separate. We do judgment, when we order these institutions according to the rules God has set for them. This is the way of the Lord.
All this Abraham would command his children. This means that Abraham would instruct his children in the ways of the Lord, how to practice justice and judgment. He would do this, of course, by both word and example. He would also insist that his children walk in the ways of the Lord. This is the emphasis of the fact that he would command his children.
This is the calling of all covenant parents.
Repeatedly the Bible calls covenant parents to instruct and train their children. Here we find the substance of proper training. Parents must teach their children the way of the Lord. They must show from Scripture, by both word and example, what the way of the Lord is. They must also command their children to walk in the way of this instruction, and they must enforce that command through discipline. And when they send their children off to school, it is imperative that these schools have the same covenant perspective as the parents cultivate in the home.
In this connection we must bear in mind the context in which this passage appears.
The Lord revealed to Abraham how He deals with both the righteous and the wicked. Even though the wicked prosper in this world, as did Sodom, the Lord will destroy them when they fill the cup of iniquity. And He will also rescue the righteous, sparing them from destruction, even though they deserve to perish with the wicked.
The Lord wanted Abraham to know this, so that he would instruct his children in these things.
Covenant parents of all ages must do the same. Covenant children must be taught how their covenant God deals with both the righteous and the wicked, as illustrated in His dealings with sinful Sodom and righteous Lot.
The fruit of this instruction is that the children of the covenant will in fact keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. This is the emphasis of the text. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.”
How must we explain this?
Covenant parents soon learn that they cannot control their children’s behavior, especially when their children reach their teenage years. This is true in spite of diligent training in the ways of the covenant. The reason is that parents cannot control their children’s hearts.
What is beyond parental control is in God’s control. He controls both the heart and the behavior of all men. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” ().
And within the covenant, God sanctifies the instruction of godly parents to the hearts and lives of their children so that they walk in the way of that instruction. This is due to the very nature of the covenant. God’s covenant is with believing parents and their children. The grace of God that leads believing parents to keep God’s covenant to do justice and judgment will also sanctify the instruction they give to their children in these things so that they join their parents in keeping God’s covenant. There are exceptions to this. This is due to the fact that God’s election and reprobation cut across the line of the covenant. Not all born of covenant parents are the elect of God in whom God graciously works His salvation. Abraham found that in his own family. There was an unbelieving, ungodly Esau, with whom he and Isaac had to deal. But for the most part the Lord blesses covenant homes with the true seed of the covenant. Being born again, even as children, these will receive and embrace the training they receive to keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. It was this great covenant reality that stood behind the statement of our Lord that “he [Abraham] will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.”
May this covenant reality be an encouragement to believing parents today to be faithful in the covenant training of their children.
But there is more!
The Lord emphasized that it was necessary that Abraham’s children keep God’s covenant to do justice and judgment so that the Lord might bring upon Abraham that which He had spoken to him.
The Lord had spoken to Abraham, giving him many wonderful promises. He would give to Abraham a seed that would number as many as the stars in heaven, so that Abraham would become a great nation. This great nation would one day inherit the land of Canaan. The Lord had just informed Abraham that Sarah would have a son in her old age to realize all this.
Abraham understood that the things that God had promised were types and shadows of greater things to come. The great seed that the Lord had promised Abraham was really the Christ, who would one day come forth from his loins. In that seed Abraham and all his true spiritual children who possessed his faith would one day inherit not the earthly but the heavenly Canaan.
That is also the promise to us and our children as members of God’s covenant. The types and shadows of the Old Testament have been fulfilled. The earthly Canaan promised to Abraham and his seed is no longer of any significance. There remains, however, the greater Canaan, the heavenly Canaan, sealed in the blood of the cross. And all the true seed of Abraham, those that possess the faith of Abraham, are heirs of this heavenly country.
And now here is the point!
The way to the Promised Land is not the way of the world but the way of the Lord, doing justice and judgment.
And so it is imperative that covenant parents instruct their children in this all important way.
God graciously sanctifies this instruction to covenant children to keep the way of the Lord, so that He may bring to them that which He has promised to them.
The cause of Abraham instructing his children after him was that the Lord knew him.
The Lord knew Abraham! This does not mean simply that the Lord knew who Abraham was and what he would do. When Scripture speaks of God’s knowledge of His people, it is speaking of an intimate knowledge of love. It is the knowledge that a father and a mother have for their children. It is a knowledge that leads parents to seek the welfare of their children, even making huge sacrifices for their children’s welfare.
This knowledge God has for His people from all eternity.
In His eternal foreknowledge of His people He determines their salvation in Jesus Christ. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” ().
As the Lord, in this eternal knowledge of love, carries out His glorious salvation, He draws near to His people, renews them spiritually, and establishes with them a close covenant bond of friendship and fellowship. The result will be that they keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment.
And they will command their children to do the same.
This is God’s intent and purpose.
Are you known of the Lord? You will show that by keeping the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. And you will command your children to do the same!
Be faithful in this!
This is the way to Canaan—for you and your children!