A few weeks ago, my friend and I started studying the Gospels. We’re not quite doing it in a traditional way though. First, we’re starting with the lineage of Christ. That means, we’re starting way back to the beginning of the list. Matthew first states Abraham as the first ancestor of Christ, so that’s where we’re starting. I’ve decided to write blog posts about Christ’s lineage as we go through each relative. This post is about Abraham. Abraham’s story can be found in Genesis 11-25. He’s also mentioned in several other passages of the New and Old Testaments.
Abraham is known as a man of faith. He has so much faith that not only is he mentioned in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, but the Lord also “counted him as righteous because of his faith” in Genesis 15:6. Though he was a man of faith, he was also human. He had his struggles. He struggled with lying and doubt. We’ll touch on some of his strong suits now.
Abraham was a man of faith. Several times he can be seen building altars to the Lord. He builds these alters for two reasons. The first reason is as an immediate act of praise and worship. God has said or done something to prove his faithfulness, so Abraham immediately thanks him for His goodness. The second reason is as what we now call an “Ebenezer Stone.” He uses these alters as signs of God’s past faithfulness. He wants to be able to look at them and be reminded that God is faithful to fulfill His promises.
We need to be like Abraham. When something good happens in our lives, we need to remember how and why they have happened. Good only comes to us because God chooses to give it to us. After all, James 1:17 does say, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” Not only does acknowledging the Giver of gifts make us joyful and grateful in the moment, but it also reminds us to be joyful and grateful in the future. In times when it seems like God isn’t listening or that He isn’t even with us, looking back on our Ebenezer stones can help us keep our faith in God’s goodness.
Abraham also demonstrates his faith through his interactions with and for Lot. First, when his and Lot’s herdsman started fighting with each other, Abraham showed grace, faith, and selflessness when he interceded. He offered Lot the pick of the land to avoid further conflict. He could have simply said, “You stay here, and I’ll go over there.” Instead, he let Lot pick where he wanted to go first. Abraham deserved the best land. He was promised the best land and was the one who brought Lot with him, but he gave it up for Lot.
Later, he interceded on Lot’s behalf when God told him He would be destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham cared about his nephew, so he begged God not to destroy the city if He could find ten people who were righteous. God agreed. When he didn’t find ten righteous people, he proceeded to destroy the cities. But, he also saved Lot and his daughters. He did this for Abraham’s sake, but he also did it for Lot’s sake. Lot was a foolish man, but he still held some of Abraham’s wise teaching in his heart. So, the Lord saved him from His wrath.
We could all learn from Abraham’s interactions with Lot. We all have at least one family member who we may not always be on the best terms with. This person may be selfish or arrogant. Prideful or narcissistic. Whatever it may be. As Christians, whether the other person is or isn’t a Christian, we need to respond like Abraham. We need to be selfless and graceful. We need to be the first ones to act in peace and restoration. It’s hard and it may not fix everything, but at the very least it will help us find healing one way or the other.
As faithful as he was though, Abraham also worried and doubted sometimes. Twice he lied to two different powerful kings about Sarah being his wife. While he did tell the truth about her being his sister, they were half-siblings (and that was legal and normal at the time), she was primarily his wife. He feared what might happen to him if he brought his beautiful wife before the kings though, so he lied about her full identity instead of trusting God to protect him.
Later, Abraham doubted God’s faithfulness not once, but twice. First, he doubted that the Lord would give him and Sara a son at all. So, he used Sara’s servant as means to getting the son he was promised. This was a man who had seen God’s faithfulness many times but failed to trust Him this time. He couldn’t believe that in his and Sarah’s human strength they could conceive a child, so they took action into their own hands. Abraham conceived a child with Sarah’s servant. In their culture, that meant the child be considered Sarah’s. Except it wasn’t. The child belonged to Hagar and Sarah resented her for it.
Many years later, the Lord came in person to tell Abraham that Sarah would give him a son. They still didn’t believe Him. Sarah even laughed. How could a couple who had seen God’s faithfulness time and time again not have faith that He would provide a son for them? They were human. No human is perfect and we all have doubts sometimes. Even through our doubts though, God’s promises never fail. Sarah did become pregnant and birthed Abraham a son named Isaac.
Isaac was Abraham greatest pride and joy. His son meant everything to Him. God wanted to make sure this was true, so He tested Abraham’s faith to the ultimate limit. In Genesis 22 He said, “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac whom you love so much—…and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” Abraham did love Isaac very much, but He loved God even more and He also had great faith in the Lord. So, Abraham took Isaac to a mountain as a sacrifice.
As they walked, Isaac asked, “Where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.”
Abraham knew that God would not ask him to kill someone, even for a holy sacrifice, but he obeyed Him anyway. He went to the mountain with everything he needed for a sacrifice, except a lamb. He tied Isaac up and lain him on the alter. Just as he was going to sacrifice his son, God called out to him to stop him. Abraham sighed in relief as God told him not to kill his son.
You see, God didn’t want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in a literal sense. What he wanted was for him to sacrifice his son on the alter of his heart. He wanted to know that, as important as he was to Abraham, Isaac wasn’t becoming an idol for him. Abraham’s faithfulness to go through the motions of sacrificing his son showed God what He wanted to see. Abraham was in fact more faithful to God than his son.
Do you have that kind of faith? Do you have the kind of faith to sacrifice your greatest pride and joy? If God asked you to sacrifice your hopes and dreams for Him, then would you? I ask myself this question a lot, mostly when reading or hearing the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham literally dreamed for one hundred years about having a son. Then, when he finally had his son, God asked him to sacrifice him. Without even blinking, Abraham acted in obedience and then provided another sacrifice for him.
I’ve spent my whole life dreaming of getting married and having kids. I often have to ask myself if I can and will sacrifice those dreams for the Lord. I ask myself if I have. Have I sacrificed and surrendered those dreams to the Lord? Am I willing to give up my dreams of being a wife and mother if God asks me to? I like to think I am. I hope I am. I know I’ve spent a lot of days praying about it, but I won’t really know if it’s true unless it comes to pass. Then, if and when God does give me a husband and family, I’ll have to sacrifice a specific man and any of my children on the alter of my heart to the Lord. I’ll be happy and excited and joyful, but I’ll have to make sure I love the Giver more than the gift. That’s what Abraham had to do.
What we can learn from Abraham is to be men and women of great faith. We can learn that even men and women of great faith struggle with their own sins. But, we must also learn to combat our sin struggle with faith and scripture. As long as we are on this earth, we will not be perfect, but we can strive for perfection. We can accept that we will sin, but that doesn’t mean we accept the sin. It means we accept we are imperfect, but that we ask the Lord to help us through our imperfections. We can also learn how to interact with family. We can learn from Abraham how to be peacemakers in less than peaceful situations. We can also learn not to hold anything in our lives higher than we hold the Lord.