One would have expected that Abram having had such an extraordinary call to Canaan some great event should have followed upon his arrival there, that he should have been introduced with all possible marks of honour and respect, and that the kings of Canaan should immediately have surrendered their crowns to him, and done him homage. But no; he comes not with observation, little notice is taken of him, for still God will have him to live by faith, and to look upon Canaan, even when he was in it, as a land of promise; therefore observe here,
I. How little comfort he had in the land he came to; for, 1. He had it not to himself: The Canaanite was then in the land. He found the country peopled and possessed by Canaanites, who were likely to be but bad neighbours and worse landlords; and, for aught that appears, he could not have ground to pitch his tent on but by their permission. Thus the accursed Canaanites seemed to be in better circumstances than blessed Abram. Note, The children of this world have commonly more of it than God’s children. 2. He had not a settlement in it. He passed through the land, Gen. 12:6. He removed to a mountain, Gen. 12:8. He journeyed, going on still, Gen. 12:9. Observe here, (1.) Sometimes it is the lot of good men to be unsettled, and obliged often to remove their habitation. Holy David had his wanderings, his flittings, Ps. 56:8. (2.) Our removes in this world are often into various conditions. Abram sojourned, first in a plain Gen. 12:6; then in a mountain, Gen. 12:8. God has set the one over-against the other. (3.) All good people must look upon themselves as strangers and sojourners in this world, and by faith sit loose to it as a strange country. So Abram did, Heb. 11:8-14. (4.) While we are here in this present state, we must be journeying, and going on still from strength to strength, as having not yet attained.
II. How much comfort he had in the God he followed; when he could have little satisfaction in converse with the Canaanites whom he found there, he had abundance of pleasure in communion with that God who brought him thither, and did not leave him. Communion with God is kept up by the word and by prayer, and by these, according to the methods of that dispensation, Abram’s communion with God was kept up in the land of his pilgrimage.
1. God appeared to Abram, probably in a vision, and spoke to him good words and comfortable words: Unto thy seed will I give this land. Note, (1.) No place nor condition of life can shut us out from the comfort of God’s gracious visits. Abram is a sojourner, unsettled among Canaanites; and yet here also he meets with him that lives and sees him. Enemies may part us and our tents, us and our altars, but not us and our God. Nay, (2.) With respect to those that faithfully follow God in a way of duty, though he lead them from their friends, he will himself make up that loss by his gracious appearances to them. (3.) God’s promises are sure and satisfying to all those who conscientiously observe and obey his precepts; and those who, in compliance with God’s call, leave or lose any thing that is dear to them, shall be sure of something else abundantly better in lieu of it. Abram had left the land of his nativity: “Well,” says God, “I will give thee this land,” Matt. 19:29. (4.) God reveals himself and his favours to his people by degrees; before he had promised to show him this land, now to give it to him: as grace is growing, so is comfort. (5.) It is comfortable to have land of God’s giving, not by providence only, but by promise. (6.) Mercies to the children are mercies to the parents. “I will give it, not to thee, but to thy seed;” it is a grant in reversion to his seed, which yet, it should seem, Abram understood also as a grant to himself of a better land in reversion, of which this was a type; for he looked for a heavenly country, Heb. 11:16.
2. Abram attended on God in his instituted ordinances. He built an altar unto the Lord who appeared to him, and called on the name of the Lord, Gen. 12:7, 8. Now consider this, (1.) As done upon a special occasion. When God appeared to him, then and there he built an altar, with an eye to the God who appeared to him. Thus he returned God’s visit, and kept up his correspondence with heaven, as one that resolved it should not fail on his side; thus he acknowledged, with thankfulness, God’s kindness to him in making him that gracious visit and promise; and thus he testified his confidence in and dependence upon the word which God had spoken. Note, An active believer can heartily bless God for a promise the performance of which he does not yet see, and build an altar to the honour of God who appears to him, though he does not yet appear for him. (2.) As his constant practice, whithersoever he removed. As soon as Abram had got to Canaan, though he was but a stranger and sojourner there, yet he set up, and kept up, the worship of God in his family; and wherever he had a tent God had an altar, and that an altar sanctified by prayer. For he not only minded the ceremonial part of religion, the offering of sacrifice, but made conscience of the natural duty of seeking to his God, and calling on his name, that spiritual sacrifice with which God is well pleased. He preached concerning the name of the Lord, that is, he instructed his family and neighbours in the knowledge of the true God and his holy religion. The souls he had gotten in Haran, being discipled, must be further taught. Note, Those that would approve themselves the children of faithful Abram, and would inherit the blessing of Abram, must make conscience of keeping up the solemn worship of God, particularly in their families, according to the example of Abram. The way of family worship is a good old way, is no novel invention, but the ancient usage of all the saints. Abram was very rich and had a numerous family, was now unsettled and in the midst of enemies, and yet, wherever he pitched his tent, he built an altar. Wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.