GREAT PEOPLE OF THE BIBLE SERIES
Abraham is a pivotal character in Bible history. Through him the entire course of human history diverged. On the one hand, the Hebrews, who have had a major impact on much of Western civilisation, descended from Abraham. And on the other hand, so did the Arabs (whose impact on Western civilisation has also been great). Interestingly, all three of the worldís major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) trace their heritage back to Abraham and his faith.
We noted that Yahweh (the Hebrew name for God), chose Abram to commence a walk of faith. He gave him promises of great blessing, both to him and his descendants, and told him that he would be blessed to be a blessing. All this was despite Abrahamís shortcomings. Yet there is something even more remarkable about the relationship that God had with Abraham above the blessings, lineage, and promises. It is this aspect of Abraham that we will investigate.
It is fair to say that Abraham is the most talked about man in the Scriptures (27 Books of the Bible make reference to him, which represents 278 verses. Compare this with Joseph who is only mentioned in 15 Old Testament Books, and mostly in reference to being a tribe or house of Israel).
1. The Scriptures lend further weight to the uniqueness of Abraham by ascribing to him a unique description. What is that description, as found in James 2:23 (refer to 2Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8), and why might he have been given this?
TESTED BY GOD
I guess trust is the essential ingredient to a strong friendship. In fact it is probably the measure of a relationship (that is, the more trust, the stronger the friendship).
2. What was the single greatest display of Abrahamís trust in God? (note Hebrews 11:17; James 2:21)
3. Have you ever prayed earnestly for something, received it, then been challenged to hand it back to God?
Abraham was the Friend of God largely because of his incredible faith and trust in God. If we want to be known as Godís friends, then we too must follow Abrahamís example and trust God enough to hand over to Him all the things that are similarly most precious to us.
4. What factors would have made Abrahamís test even more risky for Abraham?
When God saw that Abrahamís heart was completely toward Him, He gave Abram a new name. Abram which means High Father, became known as Abraham, which means the father of many nations (or, the father of a multitude). Significantly this event in Genesis 17:5 took place during the formation of a covenant between God and Abram. Part of covenant making is the emergence of new names for both parties. When Yahweh and Abram formed a covenant, they exchanged and mingled their names:
Yahweh + Abram = Abraham.
God + Abraham = the God of Abraham (Gen. 31:42)
5. We are in covenant with Christ. What responsibility do we as Christians bear in relation to that covenant? (Note Colossians 3:17)
Abraham was more than just the father of Isaac. God made him both a natural and a spiritual father.
6. In what sense did God make Abraham a spiritual father? (Note Romans 4:16)
God wants us to also grow into being spiritual parents. Abrahamís faith in God produced many offspring. Ours should too. It starts with faith, moves to friendship, then onto fatherhood. You might believe God (faith). But you need to move onto friendship with God (trust), then onto parenthood in God (fruitfulness).
Even the great Abraham had to live with the consequences of his failings. When he took Hagar and fathered Ishmael, little did know he had planted the seeds of an international race dispute that would span across four millenniums! But his shortcomings serves to illustrate a spiritual truth.
7. What is that truth as taught in Galatians 4:22-31?
Some commentators see typology in Abrahamís third wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1, although note 1Chronicles 1:32). The danger with trying to get typological teaching out of an Old Testament passage comes when the New Testament is silent on that passage.
8. What aspects of Abrahamís life can you draw upon as an example for your own life?
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania