Abraham, Father of the Faithful
Abraham is mentioned seventy-four times in the New Testament; more than any other Old Testament character. He is called the “Father of all them that believe” (Rom 4:11). There were many times in the life of Abraham when his faith was put to the test. He passed these trials, because he was willing to “take God at His word” or trust His Commands no matter how difficult or unreasonable they sounded.
Abraham lived in Ur when God called him to pack up his family and leave. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned 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” (Heb. 11:8-10). Now, Ur in the land of the Chaldeans was dedicated to Nannar, the moon god. The whole city was laid out like a medieval castle. Its inner fortress was the temple of the moon god. The ziggurat was Ur’s chief splendor. Nannar was considered the king and landlord of the people. Unger states in his Archaeology and the Old Testament, that the moon god “owned their farms, their shops and their wealth. Their gifts and payments were in kind…” There were temples and shrines dedicated to other deities throughout the city. Abrahams’ family had not escaped the corruptions of idolatry. Terah, the father of Abraham, was an idolater (Josh. 24:2).
Abraham was no young man when the Lord called him. He was seventy-five years old. He obeyed the Lord by going out of Ur, although he did not even know where he was going. Wherever he moved, he worshiped. He built altars at Bethel (Gen. 12;8) and Hebron (13:18); he paid tithes to Melchizedek (14:20). Indeed, Abraham was a man who worshiped the Lord wherever he went.
He promised him a land (12:7; 15:13-15). In these words, the Lord explained to Abraham that the land which had been promised to him would not be given in this lifetime. He wandered about the land of promise as a stranger and sojourner (Acts 7:45). When his wife died, he had to purchase a place to bury her. Even then he manifested faith in the promise of God, for he did not take his wife to the family grave plot in Ur to bury her. “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” (Heb. 11:13-16).
When Isaac, the promised son, was born, Abraham was 100 (Gen. 21:5). He had looked to the gift and the Giver for 25 years.
One day the Lord returned to put him to the ultimate test of faith. He was to sacrifice his son at a specified location. “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,’’ accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Heb. 11:17-19). For a long time Abraham had awaited his promised son. The severity of the command did not destroy Abraham’s confidence in Jehovah. What do you do? Do you tell God that He is not being consistent? After all, how could the promise be fulfilled if you kill the one through whom it was the fulfilled? He might have argued that the sacrifice is too burdensome.
There is no hint that he argued with the Lord about this matter. God had spoken. The affair was settled. God knew what he was doing. Abraham saddled an ass, packed the wood for the offering, took two of his young men with him, took Isaac, and set out for the land of Moriah. The journey was long. On the third day he lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder the worship, and come again to you”.
The father took the wood for the burning of the offering and laid it upon Isaac, and he took the fire and a knife, and they went both of them together. Suddenly, it occurred to Isaac that they had no lamb. The silence was broken when Isaac said, “My father.” Abraham calmly replied, “here am I, my son.” “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering”. In the heart of Abraham, despite his attachment to his son, God was first.
Arriving at the designated spot, Abraham built an altar, laid the wood in order. Abruptly the Lord called out of heaven through an angel. Before the knife could be plunged into the body of Isaac, God said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”
Having passed the test, Abraham looked behind him and there was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. He understood that God had provided a substitute for Isaac. He took the ram and offered it for a burnt offering.
Abraham was faithful, and today we are to imitate his faithfulness in our daily life (Neh. 9:8; Gal. 3:9; Js. 2:21-23). Trust God no matter what isn’t as easily done but it is desired by God just has He desired it of Abraham.