Recommended Reading: Genesis 12:1 – 21:7 – Scripture references are as noted
All of the stories of Abram are really phenomenal. Abram had a strong faith in his God – in fact, in Romans 4 he is referred to as the father of faith. He was not a perfect human, not by a long shot. But he is a perfect example of faith, fear and failure – but also of hope.
Abram’s faith was so strong in fact, that as a middle-aged man, he took his immediate family and all he owned and moved from the land he knew in order to travel 300 miles away to a destination likely unknown to him. He left behind what had been the life he had lived for a very long time, as well as his extended family and friends. When he got the call from God to do this, he seems to have done it without questioning. God’s promise to him was this: “’I’ll make you a great nation and bless you, I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.’” (The Message – Genesis 12:2-3) Although he and Sarai were past the age for child-bearing, he accepted what God promised and went into action. When they arrived at the appointed place, the land was occupied by the Canaanites, yet God told him that the land would one day belong to his offspring. Here he is with his small household and he is supposed to believe that he will take over that land from the Canaanites. Yet Abram simply believed. That is impressive.
At some point, a severe famine struck that area and Abram moved his household to Egypt. Here is where we see the humanity in him – this man of great faith wavered. Because Sarai, his wife, was beautiful he became fearful that the Egyptians might kill him in order to have his wife. So in order to protect himself, instead of trusting God to handle things, he had Sarai claim to be his sister. (It was not a full-on lie because she indeed was his half-sister, but it was a real cop-out for a man that was supposed to be full of faith.) Sure enough, Pharaoh took Sarai to his palace to be a part of his harem; and, all the while Abram continues to thrive, accumulating stock, servants and wealth. When Pharaoh discovered Abram’s deception, he gives Sarai back to him and sent him away. That is not impressive.
At Pharoah’s command, they leave Egypt and head back to Canaan. But Abram did not let the moral defeat he suffered in Egypt stay with him. I am sure he knew he was forgiven and that gave him the ability to stand tall and strong and once again be full of faith. He exhibits this when the land for their animals becomes too little to support his herds and those of his nephew Lot that had traveled with him, so they decided to split up in order to survive. Rather than using his prerogative as the elder and selecting the best of the land for himself, he humbly allowed Lot to select what he wanted (and of course, Lot selfishly chose the best) then Abram moved on to the remaining land. With his unselfish attitude and his faith restored he hears again from God where He reassured Abram that He will take care of him regardless of where he resides. (See Genesis 13:14-17) This is impressive.
Years later there were uprisings and conflicts among some of the kings of the land. At one point 4 kings approached Sodom (where Lot now lived) and 5 kings drew up their battle lines to defend Sodom and other cities. These 5 kings were defeated and the other 4 looted their cities. They carried off everything, including Lot and his family out of Sodom. Word reached Abram of what had happened and he rallied 318 men of his household and went in search of his relatives. This small group of men launched a surprise attack during the night, defeating those four armies. Abram rescued Lot and his family and all their belongings as well as other people that had been taken captive. That is an impressive example of strong faith.
Time continues to march on and still Abram and Sarai had no children. Abram seems to have doubts creeping in and wavering faith. He begins to believe that the only way God’s promise will be fulfilled is by one of his servants having children for him to adopt. But God again reassures him – telling him that he will indeed have his own heir and that the end result will be so many offspring that they, like the stars above, will not be able to be counted. After God assured Abram, Genesis 15:6a simply states “Abram believed the Lord…” The impressive man of faith is emerging again.
I will skip over the story of how Sarai – because of a lack of faith on her part – muddles up the plans. But in Genesis 17 where it says that Abram is now 99 years old and Sarai is 89, God appears again reassuring him that the plan is still a big go. So much so that he changes his name from Abram (meaning “exalted father”) to Abraham (which means “father of many”.) God also tells Abraham to change Sarai’s name (which means “princess”) to Sarah (meaning “My Princess”.) Then Abraham is assured that in a year they will have their son.
After this encounter with God they are on the move again for reasons unknown. In Genesis 20 we read about how they end up in an area called Gerar where amazingly Abraham, our great example of faith, once again has Sarah lie and say that she is his sister for fear that King Abimelech would kill him in order to have Sarah as his wife. She is indeed taken in by Abimelech, but God miraculously saves Sarah from being violated and she is returned to Abraham once again. So not impressive.
Soon after this experience God honors His promise to Abraham. Sarah conceives and gives birth to their son – and they named him Isaac as had been directed. (Genesis 21:1-7) Finally it is beginning – the march of time from our Father of Faith, Abraham, to the establishment of the nation of Israel. And as they say, the rest is history.
The biggest lesson we can learn from Abraham’s life is that no matter how strong our faith is, we can become fearful in times of weakness – Satan stands ready to make that happen. But we can always return to our faith from that fear and any resulting failures. God is always ready, willing and able to forgive us and restore us. In Romans 4 it discusses Abraham’s strong faith and in verse 21 it says that he was “…fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised.”
Are we full of enough faith that we too can be fully persuaded about God’s promises to us? We should be – because the awesome God we serve is able!
Written by Karran Martin – February 10, 2019