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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, December 12, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him" (Isaiah 51:2).

Does this seem like a strange text to preach from at Christmas time? I don't think so. I think it speaks to the very heart of the true Christmas story.

An angel spoke to a young woman when she was alone, and said

"Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS" (Luke 1:30-31).

Joseph, too, was alone when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said,

"Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins"
      (Matthew 1:20-21).

Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem. They do not appear to have had any close relatives there, no one to stay with, when it came time for the baby to be born.

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7).

Mary and Joseph were quite alone, in a cowstall, when Christ was born. So this theme of God coming to a person alone is all through the Christmas story.

It should be no surprise, then, when we hear God tell us,

"Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him"
    (Isaiah 51:2).

"Look unto Abraham your father." Doesn't this mean that the patriarch Abraham was the father of Israel? Yes, it does mean that. But it means more than that. In the New Testament, in the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul called him,

"Abraham; who is the father of us all" (Romans 4:16).

Since Abraham is "the father of us all," it is perfectly correct for a Gentile Christian to look back at the example of Abraham. It is perfectly correct for you who are seeking Christ to take this verse as a command of God.

"Look unto Abraham your father…for I called him alone"
     (Isaiah 51:2).

John Peter Lange translates it, "he was alone when I called him" (John Peter Lange, D.D., Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Zondervan Publishing House, n.d., Isaiah, p. 550). Lange says, "the Lord called him as standing alone, as it were a solitary tree" (ibid., page 551).

Thus, we see that Abraham was alone when God called him. God did not call his father Terah. So his father went with him only as far as Haran, but he died there (Genesis 11:32). It was Abraham alone who was called by God.

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

In this sermon I cannot go into detail concerning Abraham's call. For the sake of time, I can only go into one aspect of it. In Isaiah 51:2, God tells us to "Look unto Abraham" as our example. And then God says,

"I called him alone."

Since we are told to look at Abraham as our example, I think there are several things we can learn from his call.

I. First, he was the only one called.

In Genesis 12:1, we get the full picture of his solitary call.

"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" (Genesis 12:1).

This verse makes it clear that he was the only one called. He was called out from his country, from his family, and from his father's household. Dr. Gill said, "He was called out of Chaldea into another country, and also the only one of the family" (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, vol. I, p. 298). That has a strong application for those who are born in a non-Christian home. Those with families that are Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, or some other religion, are called out from that religious background to faith in Jesus Christ alone. They well understand the words of our text,

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

It may be more difficult for those raised in a Christian home to understand the full impact of this, but it is also true of you. Salvation does not come to families, but to individuals alone. I pointed this out last Sunday night in my sermon, "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Raised in Church," when I spoke of the unconverted state of Eli's sons. Perhaps you remember the quotation I gave from Matthew Henry, who said,

Eli himself was a very good man, and no doubt had educated his sons well, giving them good instructions… [but] they lived as if they knew nothing at all of God. Note, parents cannot give grace to their children, nor does it run in the blood (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1996 reprint, volume 2, p. 226).

Perhaps you will also remember that I said there is no difference between someone raised in the church and someone raised in a worldly environment.

"There is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22-23).

There is no difference regarding sin. And there is no difference regarding the need for the new birth.

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

It is true that those raised in the church have many advantages, but there is no difference when it comes to sin and when it comes to the need for conversion.

"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

Then I gave the story of a man and his wife who were raised in church, but they came to church merely "from custom." It was not until they heard a sermon by William McCulloch that "they were in turmoil of soul" (Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 284). This man and his wife were typical of many others who were converted out of strict religious formality in the First Great Awakening - and in many subsequent revivals.

And it may be true of you as well. You may have brothers and sisters raised in the church with you who remain unconverted. You may have friends in the church who remain unconverted. God may say to you,

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

God may call you "from thy kindred, and from thy father's house" to Christ - while the others remain lost. Yes, it can happen today, and often does happen. You may be the only one who comes to Christ and is saved. Like Abraham, you may be the only one called to salvation.

II. Second, he was alone when he was called.

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

Abraham was alone when God said to him,

"Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house…" (Genesis 12:1).

Think of how many times the Bible tells us about people who were called by God when they were alone.

Abraham left the young men behind when he went up Mount Moriah with his little boy (Genesis 22:5). Alone with the child on the top of that mountain,

"Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son" (Genesis 22:10).

And it was to him alone that the Lord said,

"Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me" (Genesis 22:12).

Jacob, too, was alone when he struggled with God. The Bible says,

"Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (Genesis 32:24).

And Jacob said,

"I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved"
    (Genesis 32:30).

He was alone when he encountered Christ!

Moses also was alone when God called him.

"Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and…God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I"
    (Exodus 3:1-4).

My wife and I were there at that spot several years ago. It is far out in the deserted wastes of the Sinai Peninsula. I have never been in a more desolate place. We walked out into the desert as the sun set. It was so quiet you could hear your heart beating! Moses was alone there when God called him.

Gideon, too, was alone when God called him.

"Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites" (Judges 6:11).

"And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee…"
    (Judges 6:16).

It was alone, in the darkness of the tabernacle,

"That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I"
    (I Samuel 3:4).

Saul was alone, praying, in a house on the street called Straight when Ananias came to him and he received sight from the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:8-18). So also the woman taken in adultery was alone with Christ.

"And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst… And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (John 8:9, 11).

The theme of God calling when you are alone appears again and again throughout the Bible. Surely there is a reason for this. Surely it illustrates our text,

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

Paul was alone in a house when God called him to Christ. Augustine was alone in a garden when the call came to him. George Whitefield was alone in his room when he was called. John Wesley was in a preaching service, surrounded by people, but he alone was called that night. Spurgeon went alone to a small Primitive Methodist chapel, where he alone was called to look to Christ. Hudson Taylor, the "apostle to China," was alone when Christ called him. R. A. Torrey was alone in his college room when he was called. I was seated in an auditorium full of people when God called me, alone out of that large crowd. I know of no one else who was called to Christ that morning.

Now, let me ask you pointedly, do you think about Christ when you are alone? Do you take time alone to think about what you hear in these sermons? Or do you keep yourself so occupied with other things that there is no quiet moment for God to speak to you?

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

III. Third, he was called inwardly.

I know we usually think that God spoke to people in Bible times with a loud voice. I think we get that idea from old movies, like The Ten Commandments. Yes, sometimes God did speak audibly. But it seems to me that the usual way God called people was just the way He calls people today.

Elijah ran for his life from the wicked queen. He ran deep into the wilderness until, strangely, he was at the very place where Moses heard God call to him. Elijah hid in a cave in the side of that mountain. He was standing at the mouth of the cave when

"a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice…What doest thou here, Elijah?" (I Kings 19:11-13).

"A still small voice" - the voice of God, speaking to his heart, calling him to do His will.

God speaks to people inwardly by His Spirit.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

You hear the sermons - outwardly. You hear the hymns - outwardly. You hear the people talking during the fellowship time - outwardly. But God's Spirit speaks inwardly.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

Do these thoughts come to your heart? Does the still small voice of God fill you with thoughts of your sins, your unrighteousness, and the coming judgment?

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

The others hear nothing. They are laughing and talking. They have already forgotten the sermon. They rush on to the conversations and refreshments and fellowship. Paul said,

"They heard not the voice of him that spake to me"
      (Acts 22:9).

They hurried on about their business. Only Paul heard the voice of Christ. And only Paul was saved. The rest went on their way untouched, unchanged, unconverted.

"They heard not the voice of him that spake to me"
      (Acts 22:9).

And so they remained unconvicted of their sin, unconcerned about their need for Christ, unmoved by thoughts of eternal torment.

"They heard not the voice of him that spake to me"
      (Acts 22:9).

For, you see, God calls people to Christ secretly and inwardly. And He never calls anyone who fails to hear the still small voice speaking to his conscience, in his soul.

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

The Hebrew word translated "alone," Dr. Delitzsch tells us, "relates the single call of divine grace, which removed Abraham from the midst of idolaters into the fellowship of [God]" (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, volume VII, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973 reprint, p. 282).

God calls you out of sin to Christ. You may be the only one in your circle of friends and family that He calls. He calls you when you are alone. He calls you inwardly.

"I called him alone" (Isaiah 51:2).

Only those who are "pricked" in their heart and say, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) are called savingly to Christ. Let us stand for prayer.

"Heavenly Father, I pray that Thou wilt call someone this morning to turn from the world and come to Thy Son. Father, please make this sermon a means of calling some lost person to Jesus, for cleansing in His Blood and salvation through His life. In His name, Amen."

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan:

Genesis 11:31-12:1; Isaiah 51:1-2.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" (by Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him" (Isaiah 51:2).

(Luke 1:30-31; Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 2:6-7;
Romans 4:16; Genesis 11:32)

I.   He was the only one called, Genesis 12:1; Romans 3:22-23;
John 3:3, 7.

II.  He was alone when he was called, Isaiah 51:2; Genesis 22:5,10,12;
Genesis 32:24, 30; Exodus 3:1-4; Judges 6:11, 16;
I Samuel 3:4; Acts 9:8-18; John 8:9, 11.

III. He was called inwardly, I Kings 19:11-13; John 16:8; Acts 22:9;
Acts 2:37.