Question:

How is Abraham, or Abram, famous? What did Abraham care about most?

Answer:

Many, many years ago God promised a man named Abram, "I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2). The blessing was conditional on Abram's willingness to leave his home country and journey to a land that God would reveal to him later. Abram did so, trusting that God would fulfill His promise. Another portion of God's promise to Abram was, "I will make you a great nation" (Genesis 12:2). This was particularly interesting because Abram was 75 years old at the time of the promise and childless (Genesis 12:4; 11:30). Most elderly folk are looking to settle down for the last few years of their life, but here Abram begins an adventure.

Over a period of 25 years, the promises were reaffirmed twice to Abram. The latter came when Abram was 99 years old (Genesis 17:1-17). At this time, Abram and Sara were still childless, yet when God told him to change his name Abraham, which means "father of a multitude." Imagine the confidence of a man who was willing to change his name, yet at the time the name had no meaning except the hope of future fulfillment. Abraham, "who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform" (Romans 4:18-21).

The promised child does arrive, but years later, when Isaac is perhaps in his late teens, God tells Abraham to offer his beloved son up to God. The request would have conflicted with all that Abraham knew about God. God hates human sacrifices, yet He requested it. God promised descendants through Isaac, yet He is asking him to be killed before he has a chance to have children. Yet Abraham found a resolution in his mind. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Hebrews 11:17-19). God stopped the sacrifice before Abraham actually killed his son; but, because of the great faith in God that Abraham demonstrated, God declared "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son - blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice" (Genesis 22:16-18).

Hence, what Abraham is noted for is his great faith; a faith that was carefully cultured in Abraham through the series of trials that God placed before Abraham. As Paul noted, Abraham, "grew strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Romans 4:20). Look back and notice that each trial (moving in old age to an unknown country, waiting 25 years for a promised son, and being asked to sacrifice his promised son) was successively more difficult. But Abraham rose to the challenge. Hence, he is known as Abraham, the believer (Galatians 3:9) and the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16).

Notice that Abraham's faith was not isolated. He did not claim to trust in God while he continued to live as he wanted. Abraham's faith changed his life and caused him to obey the voice of God. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:21-24). Paul calls it the "obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5; 16:26).

Interestingly, Abraham died without seeing God's promises fulfilled. At the time of his death, his promised son had two boys -- not much progress towards a multitude. It wasn't until hundreds of years later that his descendants conquered the land of Canaan, thus fulfilling another of God's promises. And the promise of a descendant through whom all the world would be blessed, Jesus Christ, did not happen until many more centuries passed. "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude--innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:8-16). Abraham trusted God, but he did not need to see the fulfilment of the promises to maintain his trust. Abraham's focus was on heaven and it was towards that permanent home that Abraham had set his sight.

"Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,'" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest." Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:1-11).

August 9, 2016