Abraham was an incredible man. He was a man of unshakable faith. When God called him, he went out not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8). Many of us have been called, but usually we have the advantage of knowing where we are going. Abraham simply believed. He continued to believe even at times when it appeared that all hope was lost. God had promised him an heir, but Sarah his wife had become too old to have children. It was a medical impossibility. Nevertheless, Abraham kept believing, and one day his 90-year-old wife bore a son. So the Bible says: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” (Rom. 4:18).
The faith of Abraham was so strong that he was able to endure a great test given him by God. One day God asked him to offer up that son who had been given so miraculously. Abraham obeyed God without question. He took his son, his servants, the necessary firewood, and began that long sad journey from Beersheva to Mt. Moriah (possibly the Temple Mount). There he prepared to offer up the promise, but before doing so, he said to his servants, “…We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). Even though he was prepared to offer up his son, he believed God had the power to raise him up from the dead in order to keep his word.
Perhaps one of the most astounding things that Abraham ever did was to go to war against several kings from the area of ancient Babylon. He did this in order to rescue his nephew Lot. This amazing story is recorded for us in Gen. 14:1-16. These kings were from one of the most powerful areas of influence in the ancient world. They had already defeated many of the surrounding peoples. They had defeated all the giants, the Horites, the Amalekites, the Amorites, plus all the people who lived in the vale of Siddim. When Abraham heard the news about Lot being captured, he didn’t react as we might have. Lot had been a problem for Abraham, so he could have praised God that his problem was over and offered a little self-righteous prayer for Lot.
Far be it from Abraham to take such an easy way out. He immediately called together his 318 servants and armed them. Probably these servants included the butcher, the baker, the camel drivers, etc. We can imagine that he might have had to teach some of them the most elementary things about the weapons they were to use. Abraham and his servants then went off in hot pursuit of the enemy and overtook them at Dan, later to be the northernmost city of biblical Israel. There Abraham scored one of the most amazing military victories in the annals of history. He routed the Babylonians, recovered all the spoils, and delivered all the captives including his nephew Lot.
Abraham was not only a man of unshakable faith, he was a man of unquestioning obedience. Whether it was a call to sacrifice his only son, or to fight the mighty Babylonian army, his response seems to have always been, “yes sir!” Perhaps for this reason he is known in scripture as the friend of God (Jas. 2:23).
The New Testament instructs us in this matter by saying in John 15:14; “You are my friends if you do what I command.” It is interesting that Abraham did not depend upon feelings, or even so-called facts. He simply did what God commanded. Abraham discovered a great secret about obedience. God says of him that, “…Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). How did he do this, even before the law was given? We will talk about it a little later.
Abraham was also a man of unbroken communion with God. Other great men of the Bible were often on outs with God. In Exodus 4:24, God was so angry with Moses that he thought of killing him. At other times God was also angry with David, and later with Peter. Abraham, however, seemed to have a steady communion with God. On one occasion God said of Abraham, “…Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gen. 18:17). Abraham seemed to be in on the Lord’s plans, as the scripture says, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them” (Ps. 25:14).
ABRAHAM WAS A DEEPLY SPIRITUAL MAN
In addition to being a man of great faith, obedience, and communion with God, Abraham was a deeply spiritual man. We are probably not able to understand just how spiritual this man really was. Wherever Abraham went, he built altars to the one true God. He sanctified the earth around him. This sanctification of the earth was not without effect. Abraham once built an altar at Bethel and called upon the name of the Lord. Three generations later, a discouraged and fearful young man by the name of Jacob laid his head on a stone in that place. When he went to sleep he saw a vision of the ladder to heaven. It changed his life.
Abraham sought after spiritual things. He passed through the area of ancient Jerusalem (Salem) many times. Once he paid homage to its king. He must have recognized the importance this city would play for his people throughout the ages. But it is remarkable that Abraham was not seeking the natural Jerusalem. The Bible says of him: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). The Bible says that for this reason God was not ashamed of him (Heb. 11:16).
How about you and me? Is God ashamed of us today? Are we looking for the spiritual, or are we still clinging to the natural. If we hold to the natural we will become bitter, frustrated, fearful, and disappointed – and God will become disappointed with us. If we focus on to the natural, we will surely lose both the natural and the spiritual.
There are many scriptures that bear this out. Paul says in Colossians: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1-2). In 2 Corinthians 4:18 he says: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Abraham sought the spiritual and gained the natural as a bonus. Isn’t this the very same thing that Jesus says to us in Matthew 6:33? He says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When we do this it is much easier to have peace, joy and love in our souls, since our minds are not burdened by the desire for natural things.
Abraham also sought and received a spiritual heritage, and a spiritual family. God promised Abraham that in his “seed,” (singular in the Hebrew) all nations on earth would be blessed. Abraham may have tried to correct the Lord’s grammar by saying “Lord, you surely mean seeds?” No, the Lord was saying to him that there would only be one seed and he would be the Messiah. In him all nations would be blessed.
Through the Messiah there would arise a great faith family on earth and they would be numerous as the stars of the heavens and as the sand of the seashore. Throughout the coming ages, Abraham would be referred to as “Father Abraham,” not just by the Jewish people, but by believing people the world over. It is interesting that the great blessing of God’s Spirit would also come through this man (Gal. 3:14).
ABRAHAM’S GREAT SPIRITUAL DISCOVERY
Now, we said that Abraham made a great spiritual discovery. What was Abraham’s spiritual discovery? In Genesis 15:6 we read these amazing words, “Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This is how it could be said of him that, “…Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). Remember, this was said of him some four hundred years before the law was given. This righteousness was credited before the law, and even before circumcision. It seems that Abraham, David, and others had this in common. David said, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psa. 32:1-2). That credited or imputed righteousness was a righteousness by faith in the coming Messiah.
From the scripture, we learn that Abraham was allowed to see Messiah’s Day. In John 8:56 we read: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” When did this happen? Perhaps it happened in Gen. 18:22. One day as the old man sat at his tent door he looked up in the noonday heat and saw three figures near him. He must have thought for a moment that his eyes were playing tricks on him. Perhaps he looked again, and realized that these were no ordinary men. Abraham must have especially noticed one of these men. Perhaps he had a royal dignity or a heavenly glow about him. The old man must have trembled as he arose and ran to meet the men. He invited them to be his guests and to dine with them that day. Later, the Bible tells us that two of the men departed and went down to Sodom to bring judgment upon that evil city. The Bible says that one man remained behind, and that Abraham stood there talking with the Lord (Gen. 18:22).
Yes, Abraham was a man of faith and a deeply spiritual man. Perhaps he was one of the most astounding men who has ever lived on earth. Today, those who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (Gal. 3:9). They too, can receive a credited righteousness, a spiritual family, and spiritual blessings just as he did so long ago.
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem, 1990.