Abraham, Model of Faith

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.

                                                                                                           -Jim Gerrish

 

This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem, 1990.