“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.”
For I know him!
That is the very basis for Abraham’s calling!
God knows Abraham!
How often the Scriptures speak of this knowledge of God! Jesus was very conscious of this when He said, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father.” John 10:15. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: the Lord knoweth them that are his . . .” II Timothy 2:19. And again, in Romans 8:29 we read of this knowledge with the added notion of it being a foreknowledge: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed unto the image of his Son.” And, lest we should conclude that this concept is to be found only in the New Testament, we remind ourselves of that beautiful passage in Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” And so it is also in our text, “For I know him,” that is, Abraham.
And always this knowledge must be conceived of as not only pertaining to mere intellectual perception, a knowledge obtainable by coming into contact with the person(s) or thing that is seen; but it is a knowledge that conceives. It is a divine knowledge that creates. It is causal in character. God, we must understand, does not know or foreknow simply because He sees beforehand what a person or thing will be or do. Such a conception of God is not only superficial, but also God-dishonoring. That is the conception of Arminianism. It dethrones God! Accordingly, the creature determines God rather than, as the Scriptures always maintain, God determines the creature! Indeed, the knowledge of God is sovereign, free, causal! That means it is first. Whatever God sees after He knows is the result of His knowledge.
And this means also that of necessity this knowledge of God is eternal! It is the knowledge of His eternal counsel, which is also sovereign and free! He knows with sovereign wisdom the end from the beginning!
Nor should we conceive of this knowledge of God as some hard, tyrannical emotion. It is not a cold conception of His mind, but it is a knowledge that throbs with divine love. It is the knowledge of fellowship, of friendship. So, God knew Abraham, and so, also, He knows all His people, as well as all things!
Abraham is the object of this divine knowledge! And Abraham is the friend of God. Thus the prophet Isaiah speaks of him in Isaiah 41:8, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, my friend.” James writes: “And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” James 2:23. Abraham is also called the father of all believers. In Galatians 3:7 Paul writes: “Know ye therefore that they which are of the faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” And when our text declares, “For I know him,” it also includes all his spiritual children. This means in the first instance: Christ, Who, according to Paul in Galatians 3:16, is the seed of Abraham. And in the last verse of this chapter he says to us: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” All, therefore, who are of Abraham, of his seed, God knows. Them He knows causally, eternally, sovereignly, in love!
This divine, eternal, causal, sovereign knowledge in love is the very foundation of the covenant! The covenant relation of friendship flows out of this divine knowledge. God did not only cause Abraham and his spiritual seed to come into being, but He had eternal purposes of love and friendship with that covenant people. In that covenant relation God willed to glorify them with His own glory. This He would do through the deep way of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. He would so bring them to the state of eternal righteousness and holiness! Unto that He knew them and chose them from before the foundation of the world!
And this relationship brings with it the covenant calling!
The text says: “For I know him that he will . . .” It does not say: “I know him because he will,” but: “I know himin order that, to the end that he will.” There is purpose in God’s knowledge. And the purpose is that Abraham must command his children.
Abraham’s calling is with respect to his children and his household! These are the God-given children to Abraham, which includes not only Isaac, but also Isbmael and the sons of Keturah. It included his entire household, the servants bought with money, and the children born to these servants. As far as the covenant calling of believers is concerned, Scripture never allows them to make distinction in their children. All who are born in the sphere of the covenant must be commanded. And all must receive the sign of the covenant. In Abraham’s day, it was circumcision. Today, it is baptism.
Abraham must command all these to keep the way of Jehovah!
Not their own way may they keep! It lies in the very nature of a child that it wants to go its own way, the way of its sinful nature! They must be instructed not to keep their own ways, but the way of the Lord! That is the way of God’s covenant, the way of faith and obedience! In the final analysis, it is the way of the cross of Christ to glory!
Moreover, Abraham must command them to do righteousness and judgment! Not is it his calling to make them better citizens of their country. This, they will become automatically when they are properly instructed in righteousness and judgment. This righteousness and judgment is not a certain civil righteous and judgment, but it is the righteousness and judgment of the kingdom of heaven. It is the righteousness of God in Christ. It is a judgment that hates sin and flees from it because it loves the righteousness of God and His truth!
For the realization of his calling, Abraham has God-given authority! He is the father of his own home. His word must be heeded and his command must be obeyed. Abraham must do this alone. The text says: “I know he will command.” O, yes, also Sarah will and must command, but even her authority rests in that of her husband, whom she also must and does call her lord. Abraham must command continually! When he lies down, and when he rises up, in the home and by the way! Never may he cease to realize this calling. And as far as Abraham is concerned this implies two things: that Abraham know the way of the Lord himself, and that he instruct his children first of all in the way of the Lord before he can command them to walk in it.
How important it is for us to understand that this Scripture was written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the world have come!
This Scripture implies that the work of instruction and the authority to command rests primarily and ultimately with the parents. It does not rest with the State. The State has authority only to hold the sword, and the right to punish those parents who fail to heed the commandment of our text. It has the right to take those children neglected by their parents and cause them to be instructed as it sees fit. But the State never has the right to take my children by force to instruct them when I am faithful to the Word of God in our text. Christian parents have absolutely no right, according to the Word of God, to entrust their children to the State for their instruction. Also, let it be emphasized, no parent has the right to entrust the instruction of their children to any other teacher than himself. This does not mean that no one else may instruct them, but it does mean that their instruction will always be only that which the parents command them to teach.
It necessarily follows that the instruction our children receive must be only Christian!
But that cannot mean the so-called three R’s: “Readin—’Ritin’—and ‘Rithmetic,” plus a little Bible. No, the instruction must be permeated with the Scriptures. We have not the space here to demonstrate this. But let it be emphasized that so the instruction must be. In the home, in the church, and in the school, Christian parents will see to it that their children receive this through Christian instruction that is in complete harmony with the doctrines of their faith!
The purpose of this instruction is not, as we already suggested, and as it is often claimed to be, that our children be made better Christian citizens, or for making a better Christian America. America is not Christian. America cannot be made Christian, neither is it the business of Christian parents, or of Christian Schools to make it so. The calling of Christian parents, and the purpose of Christian instruction is to command our children to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment. Our calling is to train our children to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Our children must be taught to say: this world is not my home, I have here no abiding place; but I seek the city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. They must be taught that they are strangers and pilgrims here below, that they are not to set their affections on the things below, but on the things above. Positively, they must learn to use the things of this world only as stepping stones to reach the heavenly city. Undoubtedly, the best citizens of our country will be those who are best trained to walk according to the laws of the kingdom of heaven!
Impossible calling, you say?
Impossible to realize this calling in our complex world?
Indeed we may freely grant that the world of Abraham’s day was not nearly as complicated as it is today. We may also grant that Abraham no doubt had much more time and opportunity than parents have today. He did not need a Christian School to aid him in fulfilling his calling. He did not need to hire teachers to instruct his children in those verities he desired them to learn. In our day God has given us institutions of learning that are owned and controlled by groups of Christian parents where we may instruct our children and cause them to be instructed to the utmost of our power according to our calling. Our teachers are those who fear God, and who walk in that fear. Their instruction is exactly what the parents command them to teach: to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. To send our children to these schools and under this instruction requires sacrifice to be sure! It costs time, effort, and money. But Christian parents will not hesitate before any obstacle to fulfill their God-given calling. Out of the assurance that God knows them in love, and calls them in obedience to His covenant, they will to instruct their children unto the utmost of their power. They will gladly sacrifice all to attain to this divine calling, the purpose of which is also expressed in the text.
That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him!
And what did the Lord speak? What did He say concerning Abraham?
His promise! His covenant promise!
All the blessings of His covenant, signed and sealed in the holy sacrament, of circumcision, of baptism! For us, this means all the blessings of salvation merited for us by Jesus Christ, the Seed of God’s covenant!
It is, therefore, in the way of covenant faithfulness that God will bless His people! I know Abraham 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, in order that in that way the Lord may bring upon Abraham all that He hath spoken of him. Exactly in that way, in the way of obedience to our covenant mandate as it is fulfilled by Christ and sanctified unto us, shall we experience what God has laid up in store and promised to them that love Him!
Never take lightly this calling and its obligations!
Blessed is that people whose God is the Lord, and who serve Him faithfully in His covenant. They and their children shall not only see the light of eternal day, but they shall walk in it forever!