Abraham, the father of faith and friend of God is one of the most influential and historical figures in the Bible. His life does not only affect his generation but many Christians today some 4500 years later.
So what makes Abraham so profoundly important? As is commonly acknowledged, Abraham’s life was characterized by obedience and faith in God.
His story begins in Genesis 11:27, where we are told of his lineage and immediate family members. Through this short history, we can appreciate the context and environment Abraham lived in and further the weight of the instructions God issued to him in Genesis 12.
Abraham was the Son of Terah, who alongside his two brothers Nahor and Haran, dwelt in Ur of the Chaldeans. As Bible history shows, the Chaldeans were an ungodly people. They lived like today’s heathen- unperturbed and ignorant of the one true God, Yahweh. During their stay there, it follows that they practiced the religion and culture of the Chaldeans whom they lived amongst. Bible history asserts, that Abraham too would sacrifice to their pagan gods at their appointed altars.
Once his brother Haran passed on, their Father Terah, moved his whole household – sons and their wives to go to Canaan, but when they came to Haran which was along the way, they opted to dwell there. This is an important piece of information that we will unpack later on.
Historians suggest that the house of Terah continued in their pagan rituals while in Haran, as this is all that they had known. The family seemed to be ‘spiritually aware’ performing all rituals and sacrifices to their pagan gods. Terah, his father dies in Haran, another major occurrence in the life of Abraham, and it is at this point that Abraham is called by God in Genesis 12:1.
The first instruction God issued to him was to ‘Get out of his country, family and his father’s house, to a land that God would show Him (Genesis 12:1 NKJV). The promise continues with God stating that:
“I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you and I will curse him who curses you, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This is later on in various scriptural texts referred to as the Blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:14). Notably, it is the essence of this instruction and Abraham’s unbridled response that really begins to answer why God choose Abraham.
We are acquainted with the scripture ‘Obedience is better than Sacrifice’ these were the words of prophet Samuel to King Saul when Saul disobeyed God’s command to kill all the inhabitants of Amalek; cattle, sheep, men, women, and children. However, Saul in his conniving way sought to spare the best rams and flock to offer to God as a sacrifice.
This is when God’s glory lifted from Saul and in disdain, God removed the seat of governance from the House of Saul.
God delights in obedience more than acts of great sacrifice. He loves a heart that is willing to trust and obey him just as a baby does to the instruction of its mother.
Many applaud Abraham for his complete obedience to a God, who he had not even heard of until this encounter. There was no form of introduction or wooing that is recorded in the Bible, upon Abraham recognizing this to be the voice of God, the next verse records “So Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken to Him”.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the gravity of such obedience. Abraham looked to unquestionably obey these firm instructions to get out of the only place he knew to be home and to go to an unknown land. He didn’t ask for clarification, any evidence, or proof that God would bless or increase Him, He didn’t even worry about the timing of what God had said would happen.
All that he chose to know was that God said ‘Go’.
God being Omniscient, very well knew where he wanted to take Abraham, however, He chose to refrain from telling him the exact place. Part of the reason Bible scholars speculate that God did not tell him where he was to go was that God wanted to prove Abraham’s heart of obedience.
Likewise, others argue that, if he would have known his destination, he would not have relied on God for he perhaps knew the way to Canaan, which was their destination before Terah’s family sojourned in Haran.
Abraham was to begin a journey in which every step and destination was dictated by God. He had to lean on God for guidance, direction, because only God knew where He was taking Him and how He would bring all His spoken promises to pass in Abraham’s life. This paves the way to the second reason why God chose Abraham, Abraham was to be an example of faith to others.
Our Example of Faith
The entire situation necessitated Abraham to wholly trust in the Lord, throughout his journey. How would he know he was on the right track or doing the right things as he went along? How would he address the challenges he encountered along the way? How would he be sure that he would be preserved, protected, and victorious as he encountered other tribes and peoples and even during war with some of the kings in whose territories he passed through?
He had to ask God and receive counsel and wisdom from Him. This very thing constitutes Biblical faith.
Faith is defined as the assurance, the confirmation, the title deed, of the things one hopes for, being the proof of things that one does not see and the conviction of their reality Hebrews 11:1 (AMP). Faith is the state of perceiving as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. Another interesting definition is that faith is the unquestionable reliance and full assurance in the existence and nature of God.
If you ponder on the journey of Abraham, out of his pagan ways into a journey of divine promise-actualization. He relied on and fully depended on God for everything. What could be going through the mind of Abraham as he now had to go to war, to redeem Lot? Or when he had to go to Egypt to find food as the land he sojourned in experienced drought?
Or what about the well-known fact that his wife Sarai was barren for all those years? Would it be now that she would sire him a child? All of this uncertainty and difficulty on account of some promise given to him – he truly had to have considered God faithful and able to do as he said.
His example of reckless, unbridled faith in what God said is monumental to the Christian faith. The Bible records in Galatians 3:6 AMP that Abraham Believed in, adhered to, trusted in and relied on God and it was reckoned and placed to his account and credited as Righteousness.
Abraham was to serve as an example of faith – just how pure, strong and consistent a man or woman can walk in faith and not by sight in every age that would come after him. Abraham showed that this was not irrational but possible, thus receiving the accolade and title of being the Father of Faith.
A New Divine Order
A third reason why God chooses Abraham was that he wanted, to introduce a new order, a new lineage, and a new system where He took center stage. The story of Abraham commences immediately after the Tower of Babel, where God confused the languages of men and scattered them abroad on the face of the earth. Scholars have since proven that the Tower was constructed as an affront to God as the people wanted to exalt their names by constructing a tower that reached up to the heavens. Genesis 11:4 reads, and they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and tower whose top is in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…
In doing so the people used their own efforts and industriousness. The Bible records that they had brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. All which were man-made products, symbolizing that their efforts to make a name for themselves and to leave a lasting legacy was not dependent on God rather, it was inspired by selfish greed and pride. Hence why God confused their language.
However, from the wording of the promises to Abraham, we see God put in motion a new order where He was the one to make a people great. Remember his promise?
I will make you a great nation
I will bless you and make your name great…
I will bless those who bless you
I will curse those who curse you….
This new order is later on elaborated through the pages of scripture, where God through Christ makes man righteous. Righteousness no longer was a product of human works but God’s works. No longer did man have to pray very hard for very long hours a day to be in right standing with God. Man no longer had to make animal sacrifices, observe the Jewish feasts, and talk in a particular way to be righteous before God.
In Galatians 3 we see Abraham was reckoned to be righteous simply because He Believed in God. Therefore, God institutes a new divine order of right standing with Him on account of His redemptive work in Christ Jesus. Believers now are rightfully considered the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, simply because they have believed in Him.
To Establish His Plan of Salvation
Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, God spoke of the serpent (symbolic of darkness, sin, and evil) in Genesis 3: 15 NKJV saying “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His Heel.
This was God’s prophecy and promise of the redemption of man that through the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, the head of the serpent shall be bruised, meaning the principle of evil and sin shall be overcome and that the serpent shall bruise his heel, referring to the death and crucifixion of Christ.
The plan is set in motion through Abraham, who sires one child with his wife now known as Sarah, the son Isaac. Isaac is so dear to his Father, as he was the child of promise, begotten to Abraham in his old age. Shortly after, God instructs Abraham to offer his son upon a Mountain.
This is symbolic of what God did through Jesus Christ. That Christ was the only begotten of his father but was to be offered up for the sins of man, to redeem man from sin and evil.
The story is found in Genesis 22. The passage reads,
Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order, and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
But the angel of the Lord called him from heaven and said, Abraham Abraham! So he said, here I am
And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to Him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Biblical scholars argue that this act of faith is what set precedent and allowed God to offer His Son, His only Son, the child of promise- the Promised Messiah, for the world. By genealogy, Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, as he was of the Tribe of Judah, one of the sons of Israel who was the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
To Show Us that He Can Use Anybody
Abraham was an ordinary pagan of his day. There was nothing spectacular about him or some attribute or achievement that distinguished him from the rest of the human race. God decided to choose an ordinary human being to do extraordinary things and to walk in superabundant blessing.
Abraham was by far not perfect. First, we see him leave his Father’s household upon God’s instruction with his family, Lot, and all the wealth he had amassed while living in Ur and Haran. He wasn’t ready to let go of all that he was acquainted with, but we, later on, see the repercussions of his acts, especially with Lot.
Later on, we see him lie to 2 kings on two separate occasions about his wife Sarah. They both had desired Sarah to be their wives because she was beautiful and graceful even in her old age. Abraham told Sarah to say that she is his sister and not his wife so that they would not kill him to have her. But despite these human errors, God did not leave Abraham.
We don’t even see him rebuke Abraham for being fearful for his life on account of Sarah’s beauty. We simply see God continue to walk with Abraham, continue to direct him, talk to him and give him sweet success. Eventually, we see that in the lifetime of Abraham, all the promises of God were fulfilled, for God never forsook him.
Abraham was wealthy, rich in cattle, flock, cattle, gold, menservants, and maidservants. He was respected among the nations in Canaan and beyond. People of foreign lands considered him as nobility because of his great wealth and through him (the seed in Abraham which is Jesus Christ) all the families of the world are continuously blessed to this very day.
Indeed God can use anyone, despite their weaknesses, their fears, and moments of unbelief. By choosing an imperfect man such as Abraham, God shows that it is not on account of one’s perfection or imperfection that His promises come to pass, but on account of His Mercy and Grace.
The story of Abraham is intriguing in many regards. His complete trust in God, unbridled faith, his role in God’s plan of salvation are just but a few insights into why God choose Him. We can see that as much as Abraham was kind-hearted, he was not able in himself to be and to do all that he did. It was simply by the unmerited favor of God and His divine plan for his life.
Abraham was in no way perfect, he lied, he fumbled, regardless, he still walked with God closely and intimately.
Through Abraham we see how deep the love of God is towards His people, how consistent, able and faithful He is towards His own. Abraham’s life purpose can be summed up to this one thing – he was chosen by God to set the hope of all generations after him in earnest reliance on the goodness, blessing, grace, and mercies of our God.