Sproulie Denio - "Abraham" - Parma, ID - 1960

I am very glad for the opportunity and privilege of being here at Parma today. I have heard of your convention since it began, and I have often felt I wanted to share with you in the privileges of this convention, and now that is my privilege.

This morning as I thought of having a little part in this meeting, there was a man's life came to my mind. It is a man who was called the friend of God. I don't think I need to tell any of you who that man is. It is the man Abraham. I know that you have heard of this man's life, most of you for many years, and I feel there isn't very much perhaps that I could tell you that might be new about him. It is my responsibility and the responsibility of my fellow labourers to bring these precious truths to the remembrance of God's people even though they know them. It is a wonderful thing that the sweet story of the Gospel never grows old, it is always new.

This man was called the friend of God. I asked myself the question this morning:  what is a friend? A man once in trying to answer that question said this: A friend is one soul abiding in two bodies. I believe that is what constitutes a friend. A friend is one before whom we can think aloud. He is one with whom we can be sincere. I felt today I should like to be that kind of a friend. Jesus said to His disciples that He would call them no more servants, but friends. There is something about a friendship that is very sacred. I believe I could almost count on the fingers of my hands the true friends that I have. I have many friends, but I mean those before whom I can think aloud, those with whom I can be sincere and say what I want. Abraham was this kind of a man with God. I have felt today that I should like to know a little more of this kind of friendship.

Proverbs 18:24:  "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."  Another proverb says, "A friend loveth at all times, constantly."  Friendship to me is something that is constant, not up today and down tomorrow. I feel today I want to know more about this kind of friendship, find it with God, constancy. As I have read the life of Abraham, it seems to me his relationship with God was constant. A friend is one that loveth always.

If you would like to turn with me for a little while, I would like to speak to you from a few verses in the 12th chapter of Genesis. I am going to try to divide this man's life into several different parts this morning. The first part of his life is the call of Abraham. We read here of God calling him. Every one of us in this meeting perhaps has heard that call and we have done one of two things when we heard that call. We either obeyed the call or we disobeyed. Abraham obeyed the call of God. Genesis 12:1-4:  "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.'  So Abraham departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him."  I love those verses. I see two things in the call of Abraham. I see a command and I see a blessing. I see that God called him to be a separated people. He said get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house. I believe the call of God still requires this separation. Abraham was an old man when he heard this call. He was no longer young, and I'm sure that it wasn't easy for him to leave his country and his kindred, but he obeyed the voice of God. There is something in all of us that rebels at this separation. God wants a separated people. It seems to me that I have seen the tendency in the Lord's children to shun the separation. God wants a separated people. He will be satisfied with nothing less. What would have happened had Abraham continued in that old land? He would never have received this blessing of God. God wants to separate His people from the world. I know that sometimes the Lord's children are unwilling for this separation.

I thought this morning of that wonderful chapter in the beginning of the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis, you remember it speaks of the earth being without form and void and darkness being upon the face of the deep. Isn't this the condition God found every one of us in? Then it says the spirit began to move upon the face of the waters. There were several things that began to take place. Whenever the Spirit of God begins to move in the hearts of men and women, there are always six things that take place. This Spirit of God first of all enlightens; then it separates; then it begins to produce; then it begins to unify; it begins to multiply; and it conforms. This is the work that took place in the creation of the world.

I want to speak about that second day's work. God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God saw that it was good."  I wonder today if we are going to be willing to be a separated people. We see the tendency to want to cling to that old life. I know that it isn't easy to separate oneself from the world. It isn't easy to leave that which we have once loved. Even when people leave that, we see them going back sometimes. The reason is because they were never really willing to separate themselves from the old life. I would encourage all of God's little children here to be willing to be a separated people. Remember the call of God means this; it means nothing less.

I was thinking this morning of that lamb that we read of in the 12th chapter of Exodus. Remember how the lamb was taken on the tenth day and it was kept until the fourteenth day. Do you know why? It was so that little lamb could become weaned. Can you imagine on the tenth day when the lamb was taken from its mother how it would cry for that old nature, for the old thing it had always enjoyed. On the 11th day, the cry would be a little less; on the 12th day, it was lessened still; and on the 13th day people could hardly hear the cry; and on the 14th day it was weaned. That is what God wants. He wants people weaned from this old thing that we have once loved and lived for.

The next thing that it says in this chapter is, "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."  I love that verse. I love to read of the life of Abraham becoming such a great blessing to men and women in the world. I am sure when God called Abraham he little knew how far into the future his life was going to influence men and women. I am sure that he little dreamed of how far reaching it was going to be the effect of his sacrifice, and it was a sacrifice to leave the land of his nativity. Some of you people in this meeting have made your choice to serve God; some of you may still not have obeyed that call. If you were to make that choice in these meetings, you little understand how far out into the future your choice is going to reach.

I sometimes tell people a little of my own testimony. My mother, at only the age of twenty, listened to the Gospel of Christ. She was a young woman who loved life as any young person could love it. She loved the pleasures of life, she loved the world; she loved her friends, but she sat under the sound of the Gospel and her young heart was deeply moved and one night my young mother stood to her feet to become a Christian. She held a little baby in her arms, three months old. That little baby was me. That was 50 years ago. I am sure that my mother could not have realized that night how far reaching was going to be the affect of her obeying the call of God. I am sure she could not have known that it would take ten long years of walking alone, my father going one way and she going another. She went home that night and told my father with joy what she had done. He said, "If you want to be a Christian, that is all right with me but don't trouble me with it."  This was a grief to my mother because she loved my father, but she made up her mind to be true to that choice. Ten years later my father entered by the same door. My father told me years later that if mother had not kept the faith, if she had not made that choice, he would never have done so either. Mother could not have known that night that her life would influence him ten long years later. At the age of 12, I made my choice and one by one my brothers and sisters entered into the family of God, excepting one sister. I don't think mother could have realized that night that her choice, her sacrifice, was going to reach so far out into the future. I am sure she didn't know that night that one day I would go out into the work to preach the Gospel. I am sure she could not have known that night that my brother, Truman, would go out to give his life as the corn of wheat. She could not have known that he would one day go to the Philippine Islands and that his life would be a great blessing to many there. I just visited the P.I. recently and was in Truman's field. I was among his friends, and some of those people expressed to me their gratitude for the choice that my mother made so long ago. She could not have known that her sacrifice was going to be a blessing to people half way across the world. She could not have known I would go out to the land of Korea to preach the Gospel. Several people in Korea have expressed time and time again their gratitude to my mother for that choice over 50 years ago.

There are young fathers and mothers in this meeting today, and I would encourage you to be faithful because your faith will mean more to those little children God has entrusted to you than you can ever know. Someday as in Abraham's case, these children will rise up and call you blessed. The thing I feel more grateful for today than anything else is that my young mother had the courage to stand alone those fifty years ago, the courage to face a divided home, the courage to face her friends she had loved. What would have happened if she had not had that courage? Maybe those in the meeting still outside this family of God may have God-given children, but I say today your responsibility is great. Remember that these little children God has given to you have been given only for a little while and the way those little children someday stand before God, you will be largely responsible for. In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. This choice, this sacrifice you make today will reach down through the years affecting the lives of children yet unborn. I will tell you a great responsibility rested upon Abraham. He obeyed that call. He believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.

Let us turn to verse 6 for a few minutes. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. Verses 7-8:  "And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, 'Unto thy seed will I give this land;' and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord."  I suppose most of you in this meeting know the meaning of Hai. The meaning of that word is a heap of ruin. On the one hand there was a heap of ruin, and on the other hand was the house of God. He had a choice to make. Perhaps some in this meeting stand in the same place: on one hand is a heap of ruin, and on the other the house of God. I can well understand how difficult it is to make the choice of life. I thought of two or three people who stood in that place, people whom you know well. It says of Moses that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. When Moses made that choice, he was comparatively a young man. On the one hand were the pleasures of Egypt, and on the other hand were the pleasures of God. How glad we are to see Moses having the courage to make that choice wisely. We sometimes say that choices are vitally important in all our lives from the beginning to the end of life. We have choices to make every day we live.

I think of some of you young people in the meeting today, and perhaps you stand there, too. The reason I think so is because it hasn't been so long since I was young. On the one hand there were the pleasures of the world, on the other hand were the pleasures of God. I knew in my heart that the pleasures of the world would end only in a heap of ruin someday. But, oh, the awful struggle to make that choice! Abraham stood there. He stood between the house of God and a heap of ruin. You notice that Abraham did something here that wasn't very good. I'm glad that the Spirit of God records the mistakes of this great man. He stood there; on the east was Hai and on the west, Bethel. He knew what he ought to have done. He continued on toward the south. Abraham was trying to do what I tried to do one time. He was trying to be neutral. He was trying not to choose the house of God or that heap of ruin. Every step that Abraham took was taking him farther and farther from God, and was making the road back more and more difficult. Reconciliation was getting more difficult with every step that he took. Every evening that the sun went down, Abraham was farther from the house of God. He had not chosen a heap of ruin, but he had not yet chosen the house of God. Maybe in this meeting there are young people who are doing the same thing. I will give you a little of my own testimony.

I took my stand to be a Christian when only 12 years of age. I loved the way of God as I am sure all of you young people love it today. I loved the meetings. Those first two or three years for me, walking in the way of God, were wonderful. There wasn't much of a battle. But we always say the battle comes sooner or later. If it doesn't come sooner, it comes later. In going on to high school, I began to face that battle. I remember one of my bosom friends coming to me one day and he said, "Let's go to a show, a movie."  This young man had taken his stand the same night I had. I said, "I don't think we better do that because we profess to be Christians."  He didn't say anymore to me that night. A week later he came again and spoke about this matter and we talked about it, but still we decided not to go. The third time he came he said, "Let us go just once."  I thought it would not hurt to go once, so I went once and I enjoyed it, and I went again and again and again, and this went along for six months. The time came when I could no longer read my Bible and get anything out of it. I tried to speak in meetings, but could not seem to enjoy that either. I quit speaking in Sunday morning meetings, and I remember one Saturday night I took my Bible and tried to read, and threw it on the floor and said, "I will never read it again."  I walked out into the night. Just as I walked out into the yard, my friends drove into the yard. They asked me to get into the car with them and we went off to a movie. Somehow that night I knew that I had reached the end of the rope. For six months I had been going south and every step of the way had taken me farther and farther away from God. I told my friends to go in and I would be in later; but I felt in my heart that night I must make my decision in this matter. I felt if I went in that night I never again would go to another meeting, so for fifteen minutes I walked up and down the street, fighting one of the hardest battles I have ever fought in my life. On the one hand was a heap of ruins, and on the other hand was the house of God. What should I do? I went into my friends and told them I was going home. They were very angry with me and that night our paths separated. They went one way and I went another. Today those young people are farther from God than ever before and there has been great sorrow and unhappiness come into their lives. I would not trade my part for theirs. I went home that night; picked up my Bible on the floor where I had thrown it, and for the first time in many weeks I got something out of it. The next morning I went to the meeting and had a little word. I was trying to do what Abraham did. I didn't want to give up the truth of God; I didn't want to go in for the world because I knew it would only end in a heap of ruin, but I was trying to be neutral. I was going toward the south. We can't do that. We are either for God, or we are against God. What is it going to be? Abraham continued on toward the south, and every step he took was taking him farther and farther away from God.

Let us look at the 13th chapter for just a moment. Verse 3:  "And he went on his journey from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai."  Verse 4:  "Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abraham called on the name of the Lord."  Isn't that a beautiful verse? Abraham finally came to himself. Every step he had taken was deeper and deeper into Egypt and was taking him deeper and deeper into trouble, making his return more and more difficult. Here we see Abraham coming to himself, and it says that he turned about. When I read these verses, I thought about that prodigal son. Remember how he had journeyed into a far country? Then it says when he came to himself he began to think about his father and his father's house. Then he said, "I will return and I will say, 'Father, I have sinned.'"  Some of the most difficult words to speak are those words which admit that we have been wrong. This is one thing that made Abraham the friend of God. He was willing to say, so to speak, I have sinned. He was willing to make a right-about face and go back to the place where he had begun. He was willing to confess his wrong, and make it right. I tell you today that takes a man; it takes a woman to do that. I have seen men and women who have failed, who have fallen, but they have risen up again. We have seen them rising up from their awful defeat to become stronger men and women than they ever were before. There may be people in this meeting today and you have been journeying toward the south. Maybe you have been going in the wrong direction. Maybe you have fallen and you have failed, but we would like to hold out hope to you today. We would like to tell you that you can be forgiven. The Bible says that a righteous man falls seven times, but he rises up again. He rises up a better man than he ever was before. He rises up to be a man that God can love. Abraham returned again to the place where he had been at the beginning. He started over again. We would like to say to some of you who have failed that it is possible to start over again. You might have journeyed far, you might have been defeated, but God wants to see you starting over again. It takes a lot of courage. I was speaking at Chelan about Gad, one of the sons of Jacob. It says that a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last. It is the end of the thing that counts. We sometimes say to people that victory is not final and defeat is not fatal. Some of you in this meeting this morning that may have been defeated, we would encourage you by saying that your defeat need not be fatal. In speaking of this defeat and failure, I thought of the prayer of a man. It is in the form of a little poem and I shall like to give it to you this morning:

 

Undefeated

Out of the shame of my coward heart,

Out of my night of defeat,

Lift me, oh Lord to the battle again

Cover my bitter retreat.

 

Out of despising my weakness and rout,

Out of the love of the soul,

Purge me; oh purge me with hyssop, dear Lord,

Give me my spirit made whole.

 

Beaten, but still undefeated I pray,

Thou the unconquerable Hand,

Reach me my poor broken saber again,

I pledge me to die or to stand.

 

By the wonder of Heaven's forgiveness,

By the lovely lure of the light,

By the spirit of victory eternal---

God fling me again to the flight.

 

I would like to say a little regarding Abraham as a parent. We will not have time to tell you all we would like to about this wonderful man. Chapter 18:1:  "And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day."  I like to think of this man sitting there in the tent door. I am sure after many years that Isaac was grateful for his father. I can see Abraham sitting there in his tent door, watching that home, guarding what was inside and keeping out what was on the outside. My father decided to be a Christian when I was ten years old, and this was very fortunate for me. I sometimes say that my mother influenced my life most the first ten years of my life, but the second ten years it was my father that guided me and counseled me. I can see Dad sitting there in the tent door, keeping the world out of that home and keeping us in that home. Some of you young people in this meeting, and children, might feel that your fathers and mothers are a little bit hard on you because they will not let you do things you would like to do. They will not let you go to places you would like to go. You feel they don't love you. I can tell you the reason is because they do love you. I can still see my father sitting in the tent door. It would have been much easier to have sat other places, but he sat there and he jealously guarded what was in that home. He would not let many things come into our home that we wanted to bring there. He was keeping the world out, and he would not let us sometimes go where we wanted to go. He kept us in the home. He kept us under his control. I wish there were more fathers and mothers in the world like that. I sometimes am appalled when I see young people going here and there, doing things we know is going to bring them sorrow and regret later on. If you young people are chafing under the fact that your father and mother are keeping you in, just remember that they know and understand a lot better than you the awful danger in the world, the awful pitfalls for young people. Abraham sat in his tent door. Do you remember where Lot sat? He sat in the gate of Sodom among the elders of the land. He had a place of prestige and honor, but what about his home? What happened to his sons-in-law when he came to tell them about what was going to happen to Sodom? It says that he was to them as one that mocked. His word meant nothing to them. Why? It was because Lot's children were running the streets while he was sitting in the gate of Sodom. If Lot had been sitting where Abraham sat, I think his children would have been a little different, about the time to flee the destruction. Lot only seemed as one that mocked. If you parents want the respect of your children, sit in your tent door in the heat of the day and keep them there. Years later they will rise up and call you blessed. That is what happened in the case of Abraham. It is a wonderful thing to see fathers and mothers like Abraham who are sitting in their tent door, guarding that home, looking after that home, and caring for those children and keeping the world out of that home.

Let us turn over to the 22nd chapter of Genesis, verse 4.  You remember this story of God calling Abraham to sacrifice his only son. It says in the third verse:  "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him."  Verse 4:  "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off."  Do you know what he was going to do? He was going to offer to God his only son. Abraham was an old man now. It was still a three day's journey to that place, and he had plenty of time to turn back, but he didn't do it. He saw the place afar off. Whenever I read this, I think of that little mother of mine. When she professed, she was talking with a lady one day, one of God's handmaidens, and she said, "Oh, if I had heard these things before I was married, I could have gone out to preach the Gospel. Now I can't because I have a husband and a baby."  And she said, "Maybe I can raise this little boy to go out into the work and take my place."  Do you know what she was doing? She was looking at Mount Moriah, this place of sacrifice and for 21 years she never lost sight of that vision. My mother never put pressure on us, my brother and I, she never tried to urge us with regard to the work of God, but she kept before us every day of our lives the great privilege of spending our lives in the harvest field. I wish there were more parents like that. Sometimes I have been appalled when I have seen mothers and fathers in the family of God and they have told their children very little about this great work. Maybe that is the reason there are so few going out these days. Mother saw that place of sacrifice afar off, and during those years, she never took her eyes off that place. It isn't an easy thing to see a son or daughter go out into the work to become a homeless stranger. I remember the time when mother told Truman goodbye. I was there. I saw him leave that day. My mother took his hand and she kissed him, and there was a smile on her face as she told him goodbye. After that car drove away, we saw her go into her room and shut the door, and she didn't come out again for over two hours. We knew what she was doing there. She was weeping, not that she didn't want her son to go, but she knew that he was going out to face a cold and hard world, and my mother would weep for her son. She knew he was going to be a homeless stranger. She knew when he laid his head down to sleep that it would be under somebody else's roof. It was a sacrifice, but she never lost sight of that sacrifice. The last letter I had from my mother before she died I could hardly read that letter because she was nearly blind when she wrote it. In that letter she was urging me to continue laying down my life for others. I wish there were more people like Abraham that would see this place of sacrifice afar off.

Verse 7:  "And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father and said, 'My father;' and he said, 'Here am I, my son.' And he said, 'Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'" This speaks to me that this young lad knew all about the burnt offering. Abraham had often taken him on his knee and pointed out to him about the service of God. Isaac saw the wood and the fire, but he didn't see the lamb. It would be a wonderful thing if you fathers and mothers in this meeting could take your children around you often and tell them about the service of God. Isaac knew all about it and that tells me that little Isaac often sat at his father's knee. He had often seen sacrifice in his father's life; he had often seen his father offer that lamb to the Lord. If some of you parents would put more of this into your children, there would be more young men and women willing for the work of God. Verse 8:  "And both of them together. They came to the place God told them of and Abraham built an altar there."  They both went together. It is a wonderful thing to see a father and son relationship. Out in Korea this father and son relationship is very close, and I have always been thrilled to see it, to see how fathers love their sons and they love to talk with them and be with them. I love to think of that parent walking with his son to the place of sacrifice. It is wonderful to see parents walking with their children. There is nothing like a walk to speak to your children. You might talk a lot, but it is the walk that really counts. The two went together to the place of sacrifice. Sometimes we have been saddened to see parents leaving their children at home when they go to a meeting. Take your children along with you, and if your child is walking with you, the time will come when your child will realize themselves the need of making the sacrifice. I hope that more of you will be parents like Abraham was.

I would like to be able to tell you more about this great man. We read of his relationship with his brother. It was a wonderful relationship. We read of his vision as a young man and his vision as an old man. I would encourage all of you to make a study of this man's life. If you would like to be the friend of God, follow the example of this man. We, too, can become God's friend. These things have spoken much to my heart and I hope you might have gotten a little out of it too.