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Abraham

My wife and I host a Bible study on Wednesday night and we are currently in the book of Genesis. We have embarked on chapter 12 and are getting into the story of Abram (later to be known as Abraham). Abraham is known and revered as a great father of a nation by both Christians, Jews and Muslims. Interestingly, as it always does, the Bible gives an accurate account of Abraham as a man, complete with flaws and a serious need for the grace of God.

In chapter 12, he is still known as Abram, which means 'exalted father.' Later, God changes his name to Abraham, which means 'father of a multitude.' In a later post, we'll get into some the significance of this.

In Genesis 12:1 -- Abram was given specific directions by God to leave his family and his land and journey to a land of promise that God intended for him and his descendants to possess. We discover in 12:4-5, however, that he takes others with him (such as his nephew Lot) who create problems later and delay him from achieving God's objective. But God, in His infinite grace, is patient with him and gently nudges him along through various lessons until he truly becomes the father of many nations.

We revere him as a man of great faith, but just like the rest of us, that faith had to be built through testing. When Noah arrived in Egypt with his wife Sarai, who the Bible tells us was very beautiful, even as an older woman, he lies and says she is his sister so he won't be killed and basically 'pimps her out' to save his own neck. He was operating not from a place of trust but one of fear. Ever do that? I know I am guilty as charged. That is how sin operates, though. It not only harms us but those around us who may be touched by it. That had to be a hard, disgraceful place for him to put Sarai. Moreover, Pharaoh was to pay a heavy price for defiling another man's wife (12:17). Fortunately, God in His fairness and wisdom, intervened and revealed the truth of Abram's deception before it was too late.

Despite this, God is merciful and deals well with Abram and does become a father [in his old age] of many people. Of course,we know that this is not the last time he falls short of God's ideal and flounders in his faith. Not trusting God fully, he takes his wife's hand maiden and has a son by her. Through his sin of [once again] failing to trust God, the situation creates pain for both the hand maiden and her son as they are eventually rejected and must leave. As I mentioned before-- and feel the need to emphasize again, that is how sin is. It affects not just us, but those around us in painful, harmful ways. Some time after that, in advanced age and in a time of God's own choosing, he has a son by Sarai (re-named Sarah by God). This son continues his legacy which eventually brings us to our Lord Jesus. But... our Heavenly Father knew us before we were born and sees our hearts. He chose Abraham long before Abraham chose Him.

It's a tremendous story and a wonderful illustration of how much God blesses us, even when we fall short. If we persevere and grow in the faith, we will see the reward of it, as did Abraham. Fast-forward to the New Testament and you will not read of Abraham disobeying God at first or the mistakes he made along the way. No mention of God's disappointment in him -- you will only read of what a man of faith he was and how God blessed him.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. -Hebrews 11:8 (ESV)


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