The Faith Of Abraham: A Century Of Faithful Service

Bobby L. Graham
Huntsville, Alabama

When mankind disappointed Jehovah in the time of Noah, the Lord destroyed the sinners and began anew to populate the earth through righteous Noah and his family. When mankind again disappointed the Lord at the Tower of Babel, God made another fresh beginning with Abraham.

The outstanding trait in all of Abraham's life was his willingness to believe God. We do not know how he came to believe in God in his idolatrous environment (Josh. 24:2,15), but his, trust had to be deep and abiding for him to do as God said. Romans 4, Hebrews 11, and James 2 are Scripture monuments to Abraham's faith; in fact, whenever the Holy Spirit needed one to cite as an example of justification by faith, it was Abraham that He usually chose.

In this study we examine that faith in three different cases: (1) God's call in Genesis 12, (2) God's promise in Genesis 15, and (3) God's requirement in Genesis 22.

God's Call (Gen. 12)

Abram left a city thought to have had 500,000 people, two-storied houses, some with running water, to become a nomad dwelling in tents (Heb. 11:8). For more than 500 miles he traveled across the desert from Ur in the land of Chaldea to Shechem in Canaan, where God promised the territory to Abram's seed through theophany (Gen. 12:7). This seventy-five year old man, who had begun in faith, built altars where he worshiped and kept his faith strong and his covenant with God firm.

His life was not a sinless one, for his faith apparently weakened occasionally (e.g., his deception in Egypt, for which he was sent out of the country). Let us not forget the monumental faith attributed to Abraham, however, in spite of his waxing and waning faith at times. With little background that would have prepared him for the kind of faith he exemplified, we are especially impressed that he so unhesitatingly heeded God's call to leave home and friends.

For approximately ten years he wandered in Canaan (Gen. 16:16). The period included his separation from Lot (Gen. 13), his rescue of Lot (Gen. 14), and his encounter with Melchizeked (Gen. 14). He did not know where he was heading or what lay before him in that strange and distant land that was to be to him and his descendants a special place, but he believed God and thus obeyed (Heb 11:8).

God's Promise (Gen. 15)

When Jehovah spoke to Abram by vision, His first promise gave assurance that he was Abram's source of defense and blessing (v. 1). God then explained that Abraham's own seed, not Eliezer the servant, would be his heir (vv. 2-4). Using the stars above as an object lesson, God then promised him innumerable descendants (v. 5). Abraham again believed God, and God counted his faith (credited it) to him for righteousness. Twice God has certified his faith to be genuine: (1) in his appearance after the trip from Ur to Shechem and (2) in this case through the covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17; Rom. 4:11,12). First he obeyed the voice of God, and then he believed the promise of God. Faith was essential in both instances, and faith was shown in both cases.

God's Requirement (Gen. 22)

The most severe test of Abraham's reliance upon God came when the man was about 125 years old (according to Josephus), as God required a degree of faith never before called for, after giving him a descendant upon whom all of the divine promises depended. "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and . . . offer him there as a burnt offering. . . " (Gen. 22:2).

Abraham's dilemma was this: obey God and remove all hope of the promises being fulfilled (Isaac was the embodiment of that hope), or disregard the command of God and keep his heir. That faith in God's promises was such that Abraham believed God able to raise Isaac from the dead, if necessary, to keep His promises through Isaac. To this very effect is Abraham's faith memorialized in the inscription of Hebrews 11:17-19. On this very occasion, the faith demonstrated in Genesis 15:6 was again shown and the earlier accreditation of Abram's faith was fulfilled (Jas. 2:21-24). Here his justification is attributed to works of faith, not of merit, for such is always the nature of obedience. In it the spirit of faith is acted out as the suppliant entreats God's blessing without any thought of merit. He simply wants to be acceptable to God; in faith he seeks God's favor. For such faith God called him His friend (Jas. 2:23).

Hear the testimony to his faith in Romans 4:18-25. Hope sustained his faith, so that he was not "weak in faith." Contrary to hope (humanly viewed), he was fully persuaded that God could perform His promise to give Isaac to Sarah at an age far beyond childbearing. In strong faith he glorified God for such power to perform His purpose. This kind of faith - alive, active, trusting - was credited to him unto righteousness (justification).

It is unlikely that the faith of many has been tested to such an extent as Abraham's, but the faith of some has survived similar trials. Whether the test be strong or mild, there is surely encouragement for us to overcome as we consider the monumental trust of Abraham. Faith is simply the willing to trust God, to take Him at His Word, to "do it His way." The evidence that such a course of life is advisable abounds in the life of faithful Abraham. Are you walking in the steps of his faith, thus showing yourself a descendant of his (Gal. 3:29)?

Guardian of Truth XXX: 22, p. 684
November 20, 1986