The Greatest Compliment Ever Given

The Greatest Compliment Ever Given

Recent studies have shown that taking the time to offer a simple compliment has a great impact on the mood and emotional well-being of both the giver and the receiver. No one should really be surprised by that information. Solomon said long ago “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Pro. 25:11). “The tongue of the wise is health” (Pro. 12:18). Everyone appreciates a good compliment from time to time.

Far greater than a kind word from a friend, however, is a statement of confidence from the Creator. Genesis 18 records the occasion of the Angel of the Lord appearing to Abraham to warn him of Sodom and Gomorrah’s impending destruction. Genesis 18:17-19 chronicles the Lord’s question, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” followed by two answers: Abraham shall become a great nation (v. 18) and I know him (v. 19). The second reason given for the Lord revealing His plans to Abraham is noteworthy. It speaks to the character of Abraham, not just as an individual but also as a father and as a leader. It could be seen as the greatest compliment ever given.

The Lord said of Abraham, “I know him.” The word, “know” is rendered as “chosen” in some translations. It is a very flexible term, with a wide variety of meaning in the Old Testament, and thus context must play a role in translation and understanding. Keil and Delitzsch describe it as an acknowledgment or choosing in anticipated love. One writer described the idea of this passage as, “I have entered into a deep, intimate, daily, personal relationship with him.” Jehovah used the term in Amos 3:2 to say to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” Hosea wrote, “I did know thee in the wilderness” (Hos. 13:5). The Lord knew Moses by name (Ex. 33:17) and Deuteronomy 34:10 says of him, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Of all the people on earth with whom God could have entered a covenant relationship with, He chose Abraham because He knew him intimately. He knew his character, his motives, the decisions that he would make, and even the decisions and direction which his descendants would choose. Such knowledge allowed the Lord to choose Abraham in confidence that he would be the man the Lord needed him to be.

Not only did Jehovah know Abraham’s character generally, He knew what kind of father and leader of his home he would be. “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.” To command is to order or give directives with authority. The “way of the Lord” refers to a lifestyle of obedient confirmation to the will of God (Deu. 8:6; Jer. 5:4-5). The terms “justice” and “judgment” have to do with fulfilling ethical demands. It is a matter of doing what is right generally (Pro. 21:3; Jer. 23:5) but also dealing with one’s fellowman in a way that is right and fair (Deu. 16:19; Amos 5:24; Ps. 106:3; etc.). No doubt Abraham would learn the lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah and pass those along to future generations. But more than that, he would ensure that, like Joshua, he and his house would serve the Lord (Josh. 24:15). As the head of his family, it was incumbent upon Abraham to ensure that those under his domain served God faithfully, and Jehovah was confident that he would do just that. What an incredible statement of confidence.

God’s statement of confidence in Abraham should provoke a very important question: could He say the same about me? Husbands and fathers have the responsibility of leading their homes (Eph. 5:22-23) and teaching their children–bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). It is truly a weighty task that involves character and commitment. It is one that requires a man to submit himself to the Lord, lead by direction and example, admit when he is wrong, put the needs of his wife and family ahead of his own, and so much more. No man could fulfill this role perfectly, of course. Even Abraham fell short from time to time (cf. Gen. 12:10-20). But the man of God is dedicated to His cause and continues fighting and moving forward. So, if the Lord were to discuss you as He did with Abraham so long ago, what would He say? Would He see a man of character who lovingly leads his family with great conviction? Would He see a man who puts his own desires first and shirks his responsibilities as a husband and father? Can He depend on you as He could Abraham?