'Tales of the Unexpected'
Abraham's story speaks of a call and a promise from God, followed by faith and obedience from Abraham.
Abraham was 75 years old when God told him to leave his country and go to a land which God would show him. The call was to go from security and prosperity, into uncertainty and risk, leaving behind all that was familiar and travelling into the unknown. The promise itself must have seemed improbable in the extreme, and yet still Abraham obeyed without question and without hesitation.
He didn't come up with the many excuses that we do - even though he didn't know where he was going, he trusted that God would lead him. Although Abraham did not have a clear destination, he did have a clear promise, and this promise fired his faith, so he was willing to trust God on his journey, holding fast to the promises of God, and having the faith in God's not yet revealed purposes.
Abraham's relationship with God depends entirely on his faith in God's promise, and his behaviour was motivated by his confidence and belief in the faithfulness of the promise, not because God had given him a set of rules to follow. When Abraham was called by God he had to choose between staying at home in relative comfort, or taking the risk of stepping out in faith and following God. Even when he didn't know exactly where he was going or why God wanted him to go, Abraham chose to trust and obey God's call.
We have the same choice - the God who calls us into new life gives us a vision of the homeland we seek - such a vision enabled Abraham to remain faithful to the unseen God who called him - such vision enabled him to live as a resident alien in the new land, and to see with fresh eyes the goals, values, and relationships of the society encountered in the new land.
The faith of Abraham was more than right thinking, it also involved right actions - it involved not just his mind but his whole being. God's call is not always accompanied by a reason, but it is always accompanied by a promise. But will we have faith like Abraham, to obey God's call, however unrealistic or impossible it may sound, yet always trusting that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him ?
Abraham is known as 'the Father of our Faith' - he took God at His word and this faith act is accounted to him as righteousness. Not that Abraham was a righteous man, for he lived a very compromised life, yet by resting on God's promise, believing it when life's circumstances seemed to demand another conclusion, he was graciously regarded by God as if he were a righteous man and so was rewarded as such.
Abraham was an ordinary person, just like the rest of us, with many frailties and weaknesses - he was not perfect, and made many mistakes, yet still God blessed him.
Following Abraham's act of faith in responding to God's call, his faith soon turned to fear and he resorted to lies and deception. In fear of his own life, he tried to deceive Pharaoh into believing that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife, and so we see that at this point Abraham lost his faith in God's protection, even after all God had promised him. As is often the case, these lies then led to more problems.
Also, Abraham and Sarah became impatient waiting for God's promise to be fulfilled, and rather than waiting in faith, instead they decided to take matters into their own hands. Their impatience caused much unhappiness for Abraham, Sarah, and her maid Hagar, and from this we learn that God does not always spare us from the consequences of our lack of faith. Although He forgives us, the physical consequences are often still felt - this was a lesson that even Abraham had to learn the hard way.
Abraham trusted in God, and believed that God was always faithful in keeping His promises. Even though his patience was tested, as he had to wait 25 years for the fulfilment of God's promise, still he walked by faith. Even though his faith was mixed with doubts and misgivings, with worry and frustration, still God rewarded and blessed him for his faith. Abraham was a flawed man who followed a perfect God.
Abraham's greatest test of faith came when God asked him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice to Him.
This would be a shock to any parent, and you can imagine the confusion and conflicting emotions that must have been raging through Abraham's mind. Isaac was his long awaited and promised heir that God had blessed him with, and now God was asking him to offer him up as a sacrifice. How could that make sense ? And yet in faith, Abraham willingly took Isaac to the mountain for sacrifice, just as God had commanded.
It says in Genesis 22:5, that when Abraham reached the mountain, he said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship, and then we will come back to you.' Notice he doesn't say that they may come back, or that only he would come back, but rather, that they both will come back - which really highlights Abraham's faith and trust in God.
If Abraham intended to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, how could he possibly have expected to bring Isaac back with him? That doesn't make sense, until we read Hebrews 11:19, which says, that 'Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.'
Abraham reasoned that God had made a promise - a promise that a great nation would be fathered through Isaac, the boy of promise. So, Abraham reasoned that God can't lie - He's made a promise. So even if he did sacrifice his son, God would bring Isaac back from the dead. In Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, he showed true devotion to God, choosing to put God first in his life and to fully rely on God. Abraham knew that God had a plan and His purposes would be fulfilled.
In Genesis 22:7-8, Isaac asked Abraham, 'I see that you have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide one'. The true answer to this question is seen in John 1:29, when John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him and says, 'There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world'. God's plan from the beginning, has been to make himself known to all, and this he does through his promised son Jesus Christ.
Abraham is seen as an example of faith - he didn't have a static faith, but rather an ever growing faith, that comes through being 'a friend of God.' His life is said to 'define the difference between a true pilgrim and a mere pedestrian'. Abraham lived in the world, but his heart was set on another country.
We too live in the world, and the direction of our lives must always be forward, always seeking to grow in our faith. The true pilgrim realises he has struck camp, and is going places with God, adventuring, searching beyond distant horizons. Faith and hope are qualities evident in Abraham's life, and which God still seeks to cultivate in our lives.
Will we step forward in faith, taking risks for God, and truly putting him first in our lives? So often, we want a clear view of what is ahead, but God asks us to put our faith and trust in Him. We don't need to see the whole staircase, but we just need to take the first step, and trust that God will lead us, because He is always faithful and will keep His promises.
God called Abraham to a life of faith, and so He also calls us to put our faith, hope and trust in Him. We are to wait patiently for His perfect timing, to obey his commands, and follow Him wherever He may lead.
As we journey in faith, we will make mistakes, just as Abraham did, but thankfully despite our flaws, we have a perfect God, who loves us, and promises to be with us, always - so let's put all our hope and trust in Him.
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