Abraham: A Lesson In Faith
“So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:9). What a wonderful testimony: faithful Abraham! He was a man who trusted God, obeyed God, and was called the friend of God.
To what higher station could one aspire than to be the friend of God?
Abraham was brought up among idolaters. There was nothing in him to attract the favor of God any more than there is in any other human being. When God looked down from heaven he did not see some with humble hearts walking in a godly path. In fact the Bible says, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). But according to his own sovereign purpose, God visited Abraham and called him by his grace.
Called To Follow
“Now the Lord has 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 show thee” (Genesis 12:1).
Being called to leave his homeland had to be a difficult challenge. In ancient time Ur of the Chaldeans was a pleasant place to live. James Boice describes it:
“Ur was a port city that flourished on trade moving back and forth along the coastal waterways. The land itself was luxuriant. It was watered by two great rivers, and its rich soil produced corn and date-palm crops in abundance. There were apples, grapes, pomegranates and tamarisks growing wild.”
To leave such a setting and start out across the desert not knowing where he was going required a strong faith.
Abraham could no doubt have thought of many reasons why making this trip was just not the reasonable thing to do. But the thing that made it right, made it the very thing to do, was that God called him to do it.
Many times today it is objected that the call to follow Christ completely is radical and too demanding. Yet in Jesus' own words we read, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
While the path of self-denial is indeed contrary to human reasoning and the desires of our flesh, it is the only way to find true and everlasting joy. Jesus said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). The person who holds on to pride, self-will, and worldly pleasures is the one who loses; but the one who humbles himself and surrenders to Christ as Lord of his life finds blessing beyond anything the world has to offer.
So we read, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an in heritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). Faith sometimes needs to be strengthened as believers struggle with the difficulties of life’s journey, but genuine faith ultimately moves one to obey. By faith when he was called, Abraham obeyed.
Called to Trust
Martin Luther observed:
“Faith is an active, difficult, and powerful thing. If we want to consider what it really is, it is something that is done to us rather than something that we do; for it changes the heart and mind. And while reason is wont to concern itself with the things that are present, faith apprehends the things that are not present and, contrary to reason, regards them as being present. This is why faith does not belong to all men, as does the sense of hearing; for few believe. The remaining masses prefer to concern themselves with the things that are present, which they can touch and feel, rather than with the Word.”
While the Lord did not provide Abraham with a lot of specific details about why he should leave his home and separate from his family, he did give him great promises and made a covenant with him. He said, “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 the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
In our experience today, we often are unable to see the fullness of God's purpose in the way he leads us and in the unfolding of his providence, but his promise never to leave or forsake us gives us the courage to move on by faith.
The promise that “all the families of the earth would be blessed” looked forward to Jesus Christ. Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see his day. And Paul writes, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made, He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). The apostle was emphasizing the difference between law and grace and declares, “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (11).
God's grace is abundantly displayed in the life of Abraham. He was called out of a family of idolaters, blessed with faith, and enriched by promises. He, as any mortal man, had his failures but Arthur W. Pink makes an interesting observation:
“How beautiful it is to note that when we come to the New Testament Abram's failure is not mentioned--'By faith Abram, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an in heritance, obeyed, and went out, not knowing whither he went' (Hebrews 11:8), his obedience in leaving Ur is thus singled out, but no notice is here taken by the Holy Spirit of his disobedience in taking his ‘kindred' with him--that sin, with all of his others, had been 'blotted out'!”
Called to Sacrifice
One of the great displays of Abraham's faith is also listed in the Hebrew epistle. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (11:17). What a test of faith this was! Isaac was the son of promise born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age; it had to seem contrary to everything God had promised, and was now doing, to offer up this special son as a sacrifice.
But in spite of whatever questions, doubts and fears that may have been stirring in side of him, Abraham starts that trek up the mountain with his son.
When Isaac inquired abut the sacrifice that would be offered, Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” When they reached the place appointed, Abraham took the knife in his hand to slay his son. Then the angel of the Lord called to him and 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).
God provided a ram caught in a thicket, which was then put on the altar, and Isaac went free. In this we can see a beautiful type of Christ laying down his life that the Church might go free. This was a substitutionary death: the ram died and Isaac was delivered. When Christ died, all those given to him by the Father were redeemed and not one of them shall be lost.
Are we sensitive to the commands of God as was Abraham? Dying to self, surrendering to the Lord in every detail of life is always difficult — but it is as we are moved by faith to obey that we find our greatest joy and bring glory to our Savior.