Learning from Abraham
The very first words of the New Testament begin telling the story of Jesus Christ by tracing his connection to a preeminent man in the history of God’s people: Abraham.
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;” (Matthew 1:1-2)
Abraham’s life demonstrates the faithfulness and mercy of God, and provides a pattern of faith to all those who believe.
Several generations before Abraham was born, mankind rebelled against God (again), this time by undertaking to build a tower to heaven and making a name for themselves, rather than obeying and honoring the name of God. At the Tower of Babel, God confounded their languages and scattered the people across the face of the earth. From there, the nations of the earth were divided.
God in his mercy, however, chose Abraham out of all the families of the earth to be His special vessel through which He would bring salvation to the world. While the nations of the earth walked in spiritual darkness, God shined light into the heart of Abraham and called him to worship the true and living God.
Abraham grew up in a land called Ur of the Chaldees, where his father Terah and the people of that land served other gods. When God revealed himself to Abraham, he called him to leave his homeland and go dwell as a stranger in a strange land:
“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)
In essence, God called Abraham to leave behind the life and people he knew, to go to a place he did not know. Abraham was called to forsake the things he could see (land and kindred) for that which he could not yet see - the fulfillment of the promises of God:
“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.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
A defining characteristic of Abraham’s life is expressed in the next words: “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him.” When called by God, even to something requiring great trust and great sacrifice, Abraham obeyed God.
Abraham’s obedience was the outworking of faith, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Hebrews 11:8)
The Lord delights in obedience. Abraham obeyed God’s word. When the Lord spoke, Abraham listened and did what he was told to do, whether he understood it or not.
Abraham trusted in the promises of God. He believed God would do what he promised, even if it was impossible. God promised Abraham that his seed would be as the stars of heaven. He promised that his descendents would inherit the same land in which Abraham dwelled as a stranger. But Abraham was old. His wife Sarah was old, and also barren. It seemed impossible that they should bear a child.
But, what is impossible with men is possible with God, and Abraham believed in the Lord.
“And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:19-21)
God Fulfills His Promise
When Abraham was one hundred years old, his wife Sarah gave birth for the first time, to their son Isaac. In Hebrew, Isaac can be translated he will laugh. Abraham laughed when God told him his ninety-year-old barren wife would bear a child. Sarah likewise laughed when she heard the news. It must have sounded unbelievable. But a year later, Sarah would laugh again. This time for joy at the fulfillment of God’s promise.
“And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:5-6)
Isaac brought laughter and rejoicing, for through him the promises of God would be carried on and ultimately fulfilled. The hope of not only Abraham, but of the world, rested on Isaac, for it would be through the seed of Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed.
Isaac later had a son Jacob, who God named Israel. Israel became the father of twelve sons, patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the fullness of time, from one of those tribes (Judah), Jesus would be born into the world. At last, through him, the seed of Abraham, God would bless all the families of the earth.
Abraham lived his life by faith. He did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promises: his heirs inheriting the promised land, the coming of the Messiah, the salvation of the world, and the resurrection of the dead. But, he saw those promises from a distance and rejoiced. He died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.
May you likewise walk in faith, trusting in the promises of God, and obeying. You have been blessed to see the accomplishment of many of the things that Abraham did not see during his earthly life. But, you also must trust God for the completion of that which you do not yet see.
Obey God, even when it means giving up what you can see for the sake of what God has promised.
Trust that God does what is impossible with men. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
And Rejoice! Laugh with joy, for God brought a miracle child into the world. A descendent of Abraham. And through him all the families of the earth are blessed!
Andy White is pastor of Southampton Primitive Baptist Church, Southampton, PA.