Going Deeper

Going Deeper

Abraham (11.2.19)

Grab your Bibles, and let’s go deeper into the testimony of Abraham.

The life of Abraham takes up a good portion of the Genesis narrative from his first mention in Genesis 11:26 all the way to his death in Genesis 25:8. We started our reading of Abraham’s story where it really picks up in Genesis 12. In the first three verses, we see the call of Abraham by God and one of the greatest and most critical promises of God in all of Scripture.

The Abrahamic Covenant

Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

In this passage, we see the foundations for God’s covenant with him. The two primary promises to Abraham are:

1) The promised land (of Canaan) and temporal blessings for those in the covenant.

2) The spiritual promise of the seed/offspring to come—being the Redeemer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

These promises lay the foundation for what will later be called the Abrahamic Covenant (established in Genesis 15 and ratified in Genesis 17).

What really makes Abraham special is that he obeyed God. Genesis 12:4 records that after God called Abraham, he went “as the LORD had told him.” For his faith, the author of Hebrews “enshrines” Abraham in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

Surely, we all have had moments in our life when we’ve had to trust in God despite not knowing what was ahead of us. This was life-changing for Abraham, and yet he knew and recognized the call of Yahweh, the LORD, and obeyed willingly, not hesitantly.

Now, Abraham was a fallen man and didn’t always do what was right.

Read: Genesis 12:10-20

It is easy for us to look out only for ourselves—to ask others to lie or cheat or steal for our good. In this moment, Abraham was not walking in accordance with his faith. Instead, he feared the hand of man and manipulated his situation for his own benefit. By the grace of God, this did not ultimately cause him or his wife harm, for God had bigger plans for them.

Abraham and Sarah were without a child of their own. This was a real source of shame in that culture and time, and yet God promised that Abraham would have a son.

Read: Genesis 15:1-6

Abraham believed the promise of God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). It is important to see the work of imputation here again. Just as we saw that Adam’s sin was credited to the human race as our federal head and, for the elect, Jesus was later credited with our sin and we were credited with His righteousness. Paul speaks of this in Romans 4.

Read: Romans 4:1-8

It is so important to see that we are not saved or credited with righteousness by God for anything we do on our own. The righteousness laid upon Abraham and us is God’s righteousness. It is not something Abraham produced. The Bible says that even the faith we have in God is a gift from God (cf. Philippians 1:29; Eph. 2:8-9).

Therefore, Paul says we have nothing to boast about, for God’s righteousness and renewal is a gift of grace. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:7-8).

God reiterates His promised covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17.

Read: Genesis 17:1-8

Next, God gave Abraham the rite of physical circumcision as the specific sign of the natural (or ethnic) layer of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Read: Genesis 17:9-14

Under the Old Covenant, all males in Abraham’s line were to be circumcised and thus carry with them a lifelong mark in their flesh that they were part of God’s Old Covenant people. Any descendant of Abraham who refused circumcision was declaring himself to be outside of God’s covenant. This was a sign for the chosen people of God, just as baptism is a sign of the chosen and redeemed people of God in the New Covenant.

Abraham’s faith is finally rewarded in Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac. But Abraham’s faith would be seriously tested regarding his greatest gift, his son, Isaac. In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the top of Mount Moriah. What is almost shocking to us as we read on is that Abraham faithfully set things in motion to fulfill this command of God. If there was ever a great testimony of obedience to God’s commands despite great sacrifice to what is most important to you, this situation surely ranks at the top of the list.  Abraham was faithful to his God. He obeyed God’s command to sacrifice Isaac even though Isaac was so important to Abraham. This is one of life’s greatest tests. Often, we will give up ourselves, our time, and our money; but to give up our most loved ones is truly a great test of who our ultimate prize is, what the greatest affection of our heart is, and who God truly is to us. Many of us are quick to say that God is number one, but is He?

Now, it is important to note that Isaac was spared, and we will spend more time on this situation and Isaac next week, but let’s not miss the readiness and obedience of Abraham to go the distance despite his own heart’s desires.

Now, don’t forget—Abraham did some amazing acts of faith, but he struggled in this area too. Not only did Abraham show a lack of faith when in hostile lands a couple times, but we also know that the frustration of not having a child got to Abraham and Sarah as they carried out their man-made plan—a plan to have a child through Sarah’s servant, Hagar (Genesis 16:1-15). The birth of Ishmael not only demonstrates the futility of Abraham’s folly and lack of faith, but it also shows the grace of God (in allowing the birth to take place and even blessing Ishmael).

So, Abraham who is considered the “father of the faithful” surely had his moments of doubt and disbelief, yet he still is exalted among men as an example of the faithful life. There are a few significant things we can learn from Abraham.

  1. Faithful

Abraham’s faith wasn’t an ignorant faith; his faith was a settled assurance and trust in the One who had proven Himself faithful and true—God Himself.

If we were to look back on our own lives, we would see the hand of God’s providence all over it. God doesn’t have to speak from burning bushes or part the sea waters to be active in our lives. God is orchestrating the events of our lives. Sometimes it may not seem that way, but Abraham’s life is evidence that this is true. Even Abraham’s failures demonstrate that God, while not removing us from the earthly consequences of our sin, graciously works His will in us and through us; nothing we do will thwart His plan.

  1. Obedient

Abraham’s life also shows us the blessing of simple obedience. When asked to leave his family, Abraham left. When asked to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham “rose up early the next morning” to do so. From what we can discern from the Biblical narrative, there was no hesitation in Abraham’s obedience. Abraham, like most of us, may have agonized over these decisions, but when it was time to act, he acted. When we discern a true call from God, or we read His instructions in His Word, we must act. Obedience is not optional when God commands something.

Romans 3:28 says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law …”

Theologically speaking, Abraham’s life is a living example of the doctrine of sola fide, “justification by faith alone.” Abraham’s faith in the promises of God was sufficient for God to declare him righteous in His sight. Abraham did nothing to earn justification. God’s grace is enough. The faith God gives His people is enough to set us free because of the perfect work of the Redeemer—Jesus.

We see in this the workings of God’s grace very early in the Old Testament. The gospel didn’t start with the life and death of Jesus; rather, it was promised all the way back to Genesis. In Genesis 3:15, God made a promise that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent.

The rest of the Old Testament chronicles the outworking of the gospel of God’s grace through the line of promise beginning with Seth (Genesis 4:26). The calling of Abraham and the familiar promise of Seed was just another piece in the story of redemption (cf. Galatians 3:16).

  1. Faith is not hereditary

Another big take away we must see in Abraham is that faith is not hereditary. All through the Gospels (cf. Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39), we learn that it is not sufficient to be physically descended from Abraham to be saved. The application for us is that it is not sufficient to be raised in a Christian home; we cannot ride into heaven on the coattails of someone else’s faith.

God is not obligated to save us simply because we have been raised in a godly family. Paul uses Abraham to illustrate this in Romans 9, where he says not all who descended from Abraham were elected unto salvation (Romans 9:7). God sovereignly chooses those who will receive salvation, but that salvation comes by grace through the same faith that Abraham exercised in his life. Each of us must have our own saving faith in Jesus and not lean on someone else’s.

  1. Faith that does not show fruit in righteous works is not real saving faith

Finally, we see that James uses the life of Abraham as an illustration that faith without works is dead (James 2:21). The example he uses is the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. Mere assent to the truths of the gospel is not enough to save. True saving faith will result in good works of obedience that show a living faith. This is not perfection; rather, it is a growing in obedience to the revealed will of God. The faith that was enough to justify Abraham and count him as righteous in God’s eyes (Genesis 15) was the very same faith that moved him into action as he obeyed God’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham was justified by his faith, and his faith was proved by his works.

  1. God fulfills His promises

In the final analysis, God called Abraham out of the millions of people on the earth to be the object of His blessings. God used Abraham to play a pivotal role in the outworking of the story of redemption culminating in the birth of Jesus. In Matthew 1, we read about Jesus’ genealogy, and in its opening, we read the critical understanding that He was a son of Abraham: Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

The redeemed in all generations are called the “children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). The work that God set out to do for us all in Christ came through Abraham. Aside from Moses, no Old Testament character is mentioned more in the New Testament than Abraham. Abraham is a living example of faith and hope in the promises of God. Our lives should be so lived that when we reach the end of our days, our faith, like Abraham’s, will remain as an enduring legacy to others.

By grace, through faith in Jesus, may we too be a part of the legacy of blessing that comes through God’s covenant with Abraham and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ—that we would not only be blessed, but be a blessing to others.

Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

By His grace and for His glory,

-Shepherd

Soldiers for Jesus MC