<<the father of the Jews>>

From him all Jews and Arabs trace their descent so he is known as a patriarch (father of a clan or family). He was the husband of Sarah, the father of Isaac, and grandfather of Jacob and Esau. He was called Abram until God changed his name to Abraham (Gen 17:5). He was also called the friend of God (Jas 2:23). Through Abraham’s family line Jesus was born and so the promise of his descendants being “a blessing to many peoples” who would be as countless as the stars began to be fulfilled (Gen 12:3, 15:5, 26:4; Mt 1:2-17).  His life was one of outstanding faith, and shows us that to experience the blessing it is necessary to have ongoing obedience to God's revelation (Heb 11:8-19). The blessings given to Abraham come to us through Christ whose mother was a Jew (Gal 3:14,28,29). The real children of Abraham are those who have faith in Jesus (believers), not those who are Jews outwardly (Rom 4:11,12).

His story is told in Genesis 11 to 25, Acts 7:2-8. He lived for 175 years, about 2000 years BC. Although he spent most of his life in the desert area (Negev) of South Canaan, it was the whole land of Canaan (Israel) that God promised would belong to his descendants (Gen 17:8).

Lessons from his life: * God told Abraham to leave his country and people, and go to the land He would show him. God continued, “I will bless you...” (Gen 12:1-3). In effect, God said, ‘if you would do this, I will...’ We too may be required to make costly choices to fulfill God’s call upon our lives and experience His blessing. Being continually confronted with choices, we can go our selfish, futile way or God’s way of ultimate success and fulfillment. In faith Abraham moved. He was prepared to enter into a greater dimension of life rather than settle comfortably in the present situation. In a similar way, God will challenge us to do things outside our comfort zone. He may or may not indicate the blessing that will result from such steps of faith. If He does, these become promises.  Be assured that whatever we do or give up in obedience to God’s directive we will ultimately be richly rewarded, whether it is “giving a cup of cold water”, “leaving houses...or lands for my sake...” or ministering to those in need  (Mt 10:42, 19:29, 25:34-46). In meeting the tangible needs of others, motivated by His love, we are in reality doing it unto Jesus. If we do our part, God will fulfill His promise in His appointed time. We sometimes think that as soon as we have completed our part, God should instantly honour His promise, however there is the patience test between the sowing and reaping of any crop.

* God had declared that Abraham would have a son (Gen 15:4, 17:19). However, through impatience and presumption he tried to bring about God’s promise by his own reasoning and effort. It was a common practice in this period, to have a child by a substitute wife if their own was barren or unable to have children and God tolerated this. The result was Sarah’s maid bore him a son (Ishmael) from whom the Arab nations descended. The consequences of our actions have long-term results as is evidenced by the continuing Arab/Israeli conflict. The pressure to act, to make things happen is characteristic of human activity but it does not produce the results God intended. It will create problems for others too, and have long-term unwelcome consequences. There is a time to act but He must direct this. We are told, “To get rid of the offspring of the flesh” – that which we have tried to produce independently of God (Gal 4:21-31). It is impossible to enter into all that God has for us in the Spirit if we associate closely with what has been ‘conceived’ by the carnal flesh. Abraham would say to us, ‘Don’t do what I did and live to regret it. Let God sort things out and bring to pass what He has promised’.

* God repeated His promise and gave further insight saying, “Sarah will be the child’s mother” (Gen 17:16, 18:10). God may appear to take a while honouring His agreement. Waiting patiently in faith for a promise to be fulfilled is hard for humans. In Abraham’s case, the out-working of the divine plan didn’t eventuate till some 25 years later, when Isaac was born. “God did as He promised” – as He always does (Gen 21:1; Num 23:19). Divine timing is often so much different to ours. When God makes promises, it can be years before that promise is fulfilled! Through the period of waiting, we must patiently walk in faithfulness, obedience and close relationship with Him holding on to the promises.

* Abraham was the ‘original’ person from whom God’s chosen race came (Gen 12:2, 18:18,19; Deut 7:6, 14:2; Ps 135:4). Up to this time various individuals had walked with God (Enoch and his descendants, for several generations) but this was the beginning of a mighty nation, which has affected the world like no other and continues to be pivotal in the world scene. This highlights the sovereignty of God to choose people, but also the human responsibility to respond in obedience. One of the conditions of the covenant (agreement) was that all male Jews were to be circumcised (Gen 17:9-14,23-27). As Christians, we have been graciously picked by God to be part of His family. This position has enormous benefits but there are expectations He requires of us. We are to love Him above all else, love others and walk as He walked, actively living out the great commandment (Mk 12:30,31; 1 Pet 1:15; 1 Jn 2:6). We show our love for God by doing as He says (Jn 14:21).

* After the Lord had given the message, “To your offspring I will give this land, Abraham built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him” (Gen 12:6,7). An altar was a place of surrender and worship. When God speaks to me, do I let it affect my life altering the way I live or just carry on as if nothing had happened without any change in behaviour or lifestyle? This was a significant life-defining moment in Abraham’s life. At strategic ‘God encounters’ in your walk with God do you make tangible reminders of the occasion that will be a reference point for the future when your faith maybe weak or you may doubt His hand on your life.

* God told Abraham the city of Sodom would be destroyed because of its wickedness. Abraham pleaded with God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” He appealed to God to spare the whole city on the behalf of 50 righteous people he thought would be in the city, saying, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  The Lord’s response was He would not bring destruction if there were that many righteous people. Five times Abraham revised his request, until he said, “What if only ten can be found there?” God answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it” (Gen 18:22-33). Abraham interceded on behalf of others, pleading for their lives and appealing to God’s own nature. Am I concerned about the plight of others who maybe unaware of the pending doom that maybe is about to befall them? As you ‘stand in the gap’ for others affirm God’s character and promises to do as He says.

* God did not want the physical death of Isaac (He condemned human sacrifice), but through this test He wanted Abraham to ‘sacrifice’ Isaac in his heart, proving he loved God more than his own son (Gen 22:2; Lev 20:1-5). Obedience is a test of character, an opportunity to develop our relationship and commitment especially when we don’t understand. Obeying God is often a struggle as it involves giving up what is precious to us. However, Isaac was spared. Sometimes God steps in and rescues our ‘Isaac’ from death at the last minute, but most times from that terminal act of sacrifice of what we think we ‘can’t live without’ comes great blessing – a deeper relationship with God and also a better ‘son’  to replace the one we gave up in response to His challenge. “God honours those who honour Him” (1 Sam 2:30).  What is the ‘Isaac’ that God is asking me to surrender and sacrifice? He is to be first in my life – always (Ex 20:3).

See also: Arab, circumcision, covenant, faith, great commandment, Isaac, Ishmael, Jews, patriarch, Sarah, sovereignty of God.