A WARM AND PRESSING WELCOME
A sermon preached at Forest Fold Baptist Chapel, Crowborough, on May 8,1994.
‘And he said. Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without?’ Genesis 24.31.
It is very important when we are reading the Old Testament to think carefully about what kind of literature we are reading, because the Old Testament is very varied. Much of the Old Testament is history; of course, it is a special kind of history, it is God-given history. It is that part of history that God has chosen to record, and it is pre-eminently history that leads us on to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that the central message of the history of the Old Testament is the Person of the Son of God. This is evidently true as you consider Abraham’s life and read of that Covenant and that Seed, who is Christ, through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed. Genesis 22.18.
Sometimes, Old Testament Scripture is poetry as in the Psalms. This is literature that was originally intended to be sung, it was Jewish hymnology. That needs to be remembered when reading the Psalms. Further on in the Old Testament are the prophecies, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the minor prophets that follow. These books have the special purpose of pointing forward to coming events, they point forward, of course, to the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. In history, poetry, and in prophecy the central theme is the coming of the Saviour.
Also in the Old Testament there is what we call ‘typology’. If you read about the priests, the altar, and the sacrifices, you must say to
yourself, “This is not just some strange sort of meaningless religion;
this has a significance, it is pointing forward to the coming of the Saviour. There is something of deep significance. It is not just that in the Old Testament you have the Day of Atonement, other feast days, and the multitude of sacrifices as a mere ceremonial. It has a meaning, and the meaning points us to the coming of the Saviour, to the way of forgiveness, and to the ‘one sacrifice made for sin for ever.
Illustrations of the New Testament in the Old
I am not now going to look at these words of my text in any of those ways this evening. I am going to do something that I do not normally do; I am going to use them as an illustration. Now, I find, as I read the Old Testament, that sometimes I can see things that are beautiful illustrations of what we find in the New Testament. This is a very difficult point in preaching, because I do not want to give the impression that I am making these words mean something other than what they actually and historically mean. Here they are in this chapter, which is historical; they have a historical setting, with Laban welcoming this servant of Abraham, probably Eliezer, and these are historical events. Nothing that follows is intended to suggest that the words are merely allegorical rather than factual.
What, then, can this chapter illustrate? Think of Abraham. Now, he is very concerned, he is an old man, and his son Isaac is about forty years old, and he is not married, and Abraham is very concerned that his special son, Isaac, who had been given to him in such a special way, should have the right wife. That illustrates to us the concern that parents should have for their children when they get to the time when they are going to marry. We do want our children to be married to the right people, people who will be an encouragement and a help to them for the future. We are very worried, if for instance, our children are Christian children, and they seem to be getting interested in non-Christian friends, girlfriends, or boyfriends. We get very worried about them, and rightly so. Well, Abraham is an illustration to us then, of a loving father who is concerned for his son that he shall have the right wife.
I think verse 27 is another lovely verse in this chapter which illustrates something very important about this servant of Abraham’s. Listen to him praising and testifying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.’ Here is a man who sets an example to all servants. He is a faithful servant, an obedient servant, a prayerful servant, a godly servant and, as we are called to serve one another, then we could take many lessons from the life of
this very diligent, faithful servant of Abraham.
Some have even gone so far as to say that in this chapter, they see Isaac as a type of Christ, and Rebekah as a type of the Church, with the servant as the man who is sent by God to win the wife, or the bride for Isaac, but that is not my purpose this evening.
A Warm and Pressing Welcome
So what is my purpose in reading these words, ‘Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?’ I want to use these words simply in this way – as an illustration of a warm and pressing welcome. Whatever Laban’s motives were, and we may well suspect them, it seems as though in this he was being genuine, he really did want this servant of Abraham’s to come in and to share in the good things that he had prepared for him in the house. Of course, he was affected by what he had seen. The earrings, and the bracelets had had a great effect on him I do not doubt, which leads me to say something else about using the Old Testament as an illustration. If you are going to do that, then do not get into a sort of quagmire of trying to make every single little thing fit, because you will not do it. Just take the principal thought. Here is a warm, affectionate welcome, and I believe that as you come to the New Testament, you will find many words expressing a warm and an affectionate welcome. That is the main theme tonight; we have an illustration here of a warm, affectionate welcome, ‘Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?’ We could even say it was a warm affectionate, and persuasive welcome. ‘Come in’. There is an urgency about it. ‘Wherefore standest thou without?’ It is a pressing, persuasive invitation.
Where do you look in the New Testament for warm, affectionate, pressing invitations? My mind immediately went to a sermon I read many years ago now by John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, The Holy War. Well, he has one with this title, Come, and welcome to Jesus Christ. What does he mean? You will find his text in John chapter 6 at verse 37, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.’ He shows that the Lord Jesus is giving a warm, affectionate, persuasive welcome to sinners to come to Him. And so He is! Along with many other of these gracious expressions of our Lord Jesus like, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ It is a warm, affectionate, well-meant invitation. ‘Come unto Me.’ It is persuasive, it is a pressing invitation. ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth.’ ‘He that is athirst, let him come, let him take of the water of life freely.’ So I might go on. There is a whole galaxy of these lovely warm-hearted, pressing invitations, and they are addressed to sinners, to come to the Saviour. One of the Old
Testament prophecies speaks so beautifully of this in Isaiah 55 which is so eminently and so wonderfully fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. I have not the time to read all the way through, but right from the beginning of Isaiah 55, there is this urgent, pressing invitation to the thirsty, and the needy and the hungry to come to Jesus Christ.
Needless Hindrances to Coming Sinners
Perhaps you might be saying to yourself, ‘But I am not sure that I am thirsty enough, or hungry enough. I am not sure I am the right character to come,’ But notice how the prophet goes on, saying in verse 6, ‘Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked’ – now, you will not deny that you are wicked, will you? You cannot deny that you are wicked, not one of us can deny that we are wicked. Now listen- ‘Let the wicked forsake his way.’ Surely that is clear enough. Come out of the sinful way that you have been going in. Leave the evils that you have been delighting in. That is plain enough, is it not? You know in your own conscience what I mean. You know what you did this week that was so wrong. There can be no misunderstanding about it, can there? ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man’ – Do you feel very righteous today when I say things like that? Are you saying. Well, he does not mean me because I am so righteous, he cannot possibly mean me. I am not the wicked person he is talking about? I am sure you are not saying that really. You do not, cannot really mean it even if you are saying it. ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man (or woman, or boy, or girl,) his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ Would you not call that a very warm, affectionate welcome? Let him return unto the Lord. Let him come to the Lord. Let him come, let nothing hinder him, let nothing stand in the way. Let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him.
Think of the prodigal son, and how he came to himself, and returned to his father. He had many doubts and questions in his mind as he went back to his father. What is going to happen when I get home? What sort of welcome? (But he could hardly expect a welcome surely!). What kind of reception shall I get when I get home? And what sort of a reception was it? Why, it was a most warm, affectionate welcome when he came home, and the Lord Jesus uses this as a most powerful lesson to sinners who are hesitating, and feeling so despondent, and feeling so shut out, and so totally and utterly unworthy. He is saying, ‘Now come home, come back to the Father’. The father sees him afar off, and he goes out to welcome him, embraces him, and he says, ‘Bring forth the
best robe and put it on him, and kill the fatted calf. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for this my son was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found’. Notice that the prodigal son brought nothing back, he came empty-handed, and had nothing but shame and confusion of face as he came back to his father. If you are one of these wicked people, and you are, and you have in your heart this desire to come back, and come to the Lord, and you are troubled with all these thoughts, you may be sure of this, that the Lord is saying to you tonight, ‘You do not need to bring anything with you. You do not need to do anything to please Me, you just listen to what I am saying, and you come back to Me’. ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord’. The prodigal said, ‘I will arise, and go to my father, and I will say to my father, that I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.’ He was as empty, as poor, and as needy as that. He had nothing but shame and confusion efface as he came back to his father’s house, and that is how you and I must come if ever we do come. God grant that we may indeed come. That is how sinners come to the Saviour, as empty handed, and as shameful, and ashamed of themselves as that.
‘Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ’
I want to read to you a little of one of Bunyan’s sermons. If you have read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, you know it is written in language which sounds a little quaint today. Well, this is quaint language, but I think you will be able to follow it. It seemed to me so strikingly relevant when I looked at it again because he is talking about all the sorts of problems that people have in their minds about salvation. How am I going to be saved? How can I come to the Lord? How can I come to Jesus Christ? How shall my sins be forgiven? All the hindrances and problems that press in upon their minds. Well, this is how Bunyan puts it as he is addressing a sinner -‘Sinner, coming sinner, art thou for coming to Jesus Christ? Yes, says the sinner. Forsake thy wicked ways then. So I do, says the sinner. Why comest thou so slowly? Because I am hindered. What hinders? Has God forbidden thee? Oh no, says the sinner. Art thou willing to come faster? O yes, yet I cannot. Well, I pray thee, be plain with me and tell me the reason and the ground of thy discouragement. Well, says the sinner, though God forbidst me not, and though I am willing to come faster, yet there naturally arises this and that and the other thought in my heart. That hinders my speed to Jesus Christ. Sometimes (and here are some of the problems you see) I think that I am not chosen. Sometimes I think I am not called. Sometimes, I think I am come too late. Sometimes I think I know not what it is to come. Also, sometimes I think I have no grace, and
then again, that I cannot pray, and then again I think that I am a very hypocrite, and these things keep me from coming to Jesus Christ.’
I wonder if there is any kind of echo in your mind tonight along those lines. I am hindered, there is a problem, or a whole lot of problems in my way. You may have other hindrances. Well, listen, a little later, Bunyan says:
Â‘But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner’. These thoughts are to be forsaken. ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts’. He has lots of thoughts, and some of them are thoughts that hinder him. Well then, forsake those thoughts that are hindering you. Bunyan continues, ‘But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner; and if thou forsake them not, thou transgressest the commands of Christ, and abidest thine own tormentor, and keepest thyself from establishment in grace. ‘If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.’ Isaiah 7.9. Thus you will see how Jesus Christ settled Himself against such thoughts that in any way discourage the coming sinner; and thereby truly vindicates the doctrine we have in hand; to wit, that Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to Him, once to think that He will cast them out. And him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.’*
You see the force of his argument? He is saying, Now, Jesus himself would not have you arguing with yourself like this. You are arguing against the very thing that He is urging upon you. He is urging upon you to come to Himself as the Saviour of sinners, and you are arguing against what He is urging upon you. Well then, says good Bunyan, ‘Let this unrighteous man forsake these thoughts’, and Isaiah says, ‘Let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’
Is not that a warm, pressing, urgent invitation to sinners to come to a Saviour, to come to a Saviour for whatever they feel they need? You say, I cannot pray – then come to Him for a spirit of prayer. I have not strength to resist temptation – come to Him for strength to resist temptation. I feel so confused and bewildered, I hardly know the right way – well then, come to Him that He might teach you the right way. I am totally devoid of spirituality – then come to Him for spirituality. I need the Holy Spirit to guide me – then come to Him and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you. And so I might go on. If we, as human parents, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does your Father in heaven know how to give good gifts even the Holy Spirit, to them that ask Him? Â•
What then, is in the way? What hinders you? This is a warm, pressing, urgent, persuasive welcome to, ‘Come in’. Why are you
outside and not enjoying these blessings of God’s grace? Why do you stand apart from Jesus Christ and His saving love? Oh, if only I knew He loved me, then I could come! Oh, no, that is not the way the Bible puts it! You come to Him to find how much He does love you!
A Welcome into the Church on Earth
The next point I wanted to make this evening is this, that there is a welcome, for sinners who have come to the Saviour, to come into the Church. There is a welcome, a warm, pressing, persuasive welcome for sinners to come into the Church who have come to the Saviour. ‘Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?’ Well, they say, I am not good enough to be a Church member. Ah, but you have been blessed of the Lord; He has opened your eyes to see what your need is. He has shown you something about the Lord Jesus that has drawn you to Him. He has called you. ‘Oh, but I did not realise that!’ Oh, but He has called you because in your praying, you have been praying to Him, in your spirit you have been coming to Him. He has called you by His grace. You are not as you once were. You have felt something of the authority and power and persuasiveness of these words, of His invitation. You have felt a need in your heart, and you have seen in Him, the One who satisfies the deepest need within your heart, and so you have been coming to Him and you have come to Him. Come in, thou blessed of the Lord.
Again, and I look at verse 27 as being something of an illustration:
‘I, being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.’ There is what we might rightly call the leading of the Lord. It was clearly the leading of the Lord. It is so remarkable, in this chapter, that Abraham’s servant had not the slightest doubt in the end, that here was the very woman that God had chosen for Isaac. It is amazing how these things worked together in exactly the way in which this man prayed. He had great encouragement in what he was doing. ‘I, being in the way, the Lord led me’. It is a lovely expression. It is very illustrative of the coming sinner. ‘I, being in the way. I have begun to hear the Master commanding and directing, and pointing out the way for me, and I have been walking in that way, and the Lord has led me to the house of my Master’s brethren, and now I have come and found a welcome.’ I know the circumstances are totally different, but you see the point that I am making. It is, to me anyway, a beautiful illustration of the way in which the sinner approaches the Church, the saved sinner. He knows that he has come to the Lord Jesus for salvation. He may lack assurance as yet, but he knows that is what he wants. This is impressed upon him, that he must do this, he must come to the Church. I, being in the way. You know it is the Gospel way, you
know it is the way of the Lord’s commandments. You know the Lord Jesus has made it very plain that His name is to be confessed openly and publicly. You know that, and you are in the way because you are being compelled to go in this direction, and you are being told that you are not to be ashamed of Jesus Christ, and you are not to be ashamed of His Gospel. You have heard these things and He is leading you into the Church which is the house of the brethren of the Lord Jesus. It is the Lord’s family. If it is a true Church, it is the Lord’s family. There is an intimate relationship already, it is the Lord’s family, and you belong to the Lord’s family. Your place is inside the Christian Church, as a visible part of the Lord’s family. There is a warm welcome into the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember when Saul of Tarsus was converted, and began to preach, he went back to Jerusalem, and the believers in Jerusalem were very worried. How can this man become part of the Church? They were really scared of him, and well might they be. Barnabas has to take him, and Barnabas has to persuade the Church that here is a converted Saul, a changed Saul. They welcomed him, and he went in and out amongst them, preaching the Gospel of the grace of God. They recognised the grace of God in his life. Sometimes, churches need persuading. When they have seen a downright wicked sinner, who has been openly, plainly, a wicked sinner, and yet that sinner is converted, at first they may be saying, Is it real, is the change going to last? There perhaps needs to be a Barnabas who says, Yes, yes, this is real, I am sure this is real. Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without?
A Welcome into Heaven
Finally this evening, there is another wonderful welcome in the Word of God, and it is in the future. Let us turn to Matthew 25. The Lord is speaking about the time when He will come. ‘The Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him. He shall sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from his goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father’ – it is almost as though you can hear an echo of these words, Come in thou blessed of the Lord – ‘inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’. Is not that a warm and pressing welcome? ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’
Let me put it very simply like this. When you come to die, would you not think it a wonderful thing to be welcomed into heaven? Remember, heaven is a holy place. Would you not think it a
wonderful thing to be welcomed into heaven? Would you not think it a wonderful thing that Jesus should be there to welcome you the day you die? It seems so very much to be a wonderful thing that He will come again, and receive me to Himself. You know, I have felt the need to be reassured of that welcome, that when the end comes, the Lord Himself will be saying. Come in. Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without? The time has come;
come in. Oh, there is a welcome, a welcome to those who have come to Jesus, a welcome to those who have come in the way of His commandments, a welcome to those who have come into His Church on earth, a welcome into His Church in glory. Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, wherefore standest thou without? May God assure you, and reassure you of His warm, affectionate, persuasive welcome.
May God bless you. Amen.
* Bunyan’s Works Volume 1. p. 290. Offer Edition, 1862.