The Faith Of Abraham
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Abraham is described as the "father of all them that believe" (Rom. 4:11). Paul admonished all men to "walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham" (Rom. 4:12). Let us examine the nature of the faith of Abraham.
A Faith Of Trusting Obedience
The Lord called Abraham to leave his kindred saying, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee" (Gen. 12:1). The Scriptures record, "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him" (Gen. 12:4).
In a concise narrative, his personal sacrifice might be overlooked. Abraham left his family, friends, any business opportunities, etc. in order to obey the Lord. He did not put off into the indefinite future his obedience, as some do who say, "One of these days, I am going to start back to church." Rather, he immediately obeyed the Lord at great personal sacrifice.
Abraham was no young man when the Lord called him. He was seventy-five years old. When in my twenties, we made a move from Florida to Indiana to preach the gospel. We loaded everything we owned in the back seat of a Volkswagen and set out to do the Lord's will. As I grow older, I find the moves harder to make. I cannot imagine pulling up all of my roots and moving when I am seventy-five, not even to retire in Florida, much less to move to a foreign country to obey the will of God.
Furthermore, Abraham's obedience was based on his trust in God's promise. The Lord said to go to a "land that I will shew thee." If Abraham had looked on a map to find that land, where would he have looked? He obeyed the Lord by going out, although he did not even know where he was going. His traveling would be different than our travels in America. As we move from state to state, we are protected by the laws of our land. One who moved from one country to another in Abraham's day was a vulnerable stranger. His move would be comparable to one of us moving to a Muslim society. Yet, Abraham had enough trusting faith in the Lord's promise to go.
A Faith Which Worshiped
When some people move, they leave their faith behind. As they move from one city to another, they seemingly forget to take their faith with them. Members of the body of Christ who worship the Lord regularly in one area move into another area and never begin to attend worship.
Abraham was not that way. Wherever he moved, he worshiped. He built altars at Bethel (Gen. 12:8) and Hebron (Gen. 13:18); he paid tithes to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20). Indeed, Abraham was a man who worshiped the Lord wherever he went.
A Faith Which Put The Needs Of Others First
Abraham was not a selfish man who thought only of his own needs. When conflict developed between his herdsmen and those of Lot, he said, "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; and if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Gen. 13:8-9). When Lot chose the better land, Abraham did not become bitter and resentful.
A Faith Which Laid Down His Life For Others ,
Rather than becoming bitter toward his nephew, Abraham continued to love him. When the northern kings invaded the south, plundering the region and taking many captive as slaves, Lot was among those enslaved. Abraham could have said, "Now there is plenty of room for me to expand my operations without Lot getting in the way." Instead, Abraham risked life and limb to save his nephew, Gathering 318 trained servants, he led a night raid against the invading kings and rescued his nephew Lot. Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). ". . . and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 Jn. 3:16). Abraham was willing to lay down his life for his brethren.
A Faith Which Practiced Hospitality
More and more Christians are neglecting the practice of hospitality. In some congregations of more than 100 members, churches have trouble filling the meal list for a visiting preacher who is in town for a seven-day gospel meeting. Strangers visit the services and are not made welcome because the membership makes no effort to invite them into their homes. Abraham was so different from this.
Abraham "sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lift up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant" (Gen. 18:1-5). The example of Abraham is cited for our emulation. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. 13:2).
Congregations began to have so-called "fellowship dinners" partly because brethren saw the need for members to be together. What individuals would not do on their own, congregations sought to accomplish with "fellowship halls," but one wrong cannot be righted by another wrong. Do we have the hospitality of Abraham?
A Persistent Faith
Abraham's faith did not wane through the years. When God called him, he was seventy-five years old (Gen. 12:4). When Isaac, the promised son, was born, Abraham was one hundred years old (Gen. 21:5). He had looked to the gift and the Giver for twenty-five years. Many who are baptized give up or give out long before twenty-five years have passed. Abraham, by contrast, persevered in his faithfulness to God.
A Faith Which Put God Above Everything Else
We have already seen how Abraham loved God enough to leave his father's house, his kindred, his friends, and his stable home. We have noticed that his faith caused him to put Lot's needs above his own. His faith caused him to give up his association with Ishmael. (Though Sarah was jealous of Ishmael and asked that he be cast out, Abraham did not act until God revealed His will in the matter. Then Abraham reluctantly sent Ishmael away [Gen. 21:9-12]. This must have been a heart-rending experience.)
In his later years, Abraham showed that his love for God excelled his love for the son of promise. God told Abraham to offer Isaac in sacrifice to Him on an altar. By faith Abraham went to Mount Moriah and proceeded to obey God. The Lord intervened, preventing Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. He said, ". . . for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me" (Gen. 22:12).
Abraham demonstrated obedience to what Jesus described as the greatest commandment - "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37).
A Faith Which Hoped
When the Lord appeared to Abraham, He promised him a land (Gen. 12:7). Later the Lord explained His promise:
Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their's, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age (Gen. 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 his lifetime. He wandered about in the land of promise as a stranger and sojourner. "And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on. . . " (Acts 7:5). 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 home grave plot in Ur to bury her; instead, he buried her in the promised land.
Abraham never ceased to have faith in the promise of God, although he knew he would never see the promise fulfilled during his lifetime.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. . . . These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city (Heb. 11:9-10,13-16).
May the Lord give us strength to walk in the steps of the faithful Abraham. May he protect us from the temptations of youth, give us the wisdom to devote the strength of our manhood to His service, and walk with us to our graves with the hope of the promise of Heaven to sustain us.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 10, pp. 290, 309-310