A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.
The story of Abraham begins at the end of Genesis 11. He was the son of Terah, who Scripture tells us was at a minimum an idol worshipper, possibly a man who made his living as an idol maker. He lived in Ur, a thriving metropolis, a place full of the excitement of a city. And it is on this stage where we hear God’s call.
Genesis 12:1-3 (The Message):
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.
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.”
And then, verse 4: “So Abram went.”
Just like that. He left the only city he ever knew. He took his things and his wife and left. And he journeyed through the wildernesses of the land of Canaan.
And next, verse 7:
God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.
First, have you noticed that Abram, and a lot of the people of the Old Testament, built altars to God… to worship Him… to acknowledge that God moved supernaturally in their life at a certain point? I believe it is important to remember to do that regularly. If we do nothing else when we go to a church building on Sunday morning, my prayer is that the time spent there is a time of remembering and thanksgiving — worship!
Okay back to Abram… back to the promises… God says he will give Abram three things:
1. a land — The Promised Land.
2. offspring — a race of people through Abram’s seed.
3. a blessing — that he and his descendents would be a blessing to all people. If you dig deep enough into Abram’s children – his heritage – you find that Jesus, our Messiah, comes as a direct descendant of Abram. That’s the ultimate blessing!
There are many things that happen to Abram throughout his life where God shows up, but there are two that are especially noteworthy:
The first is the covenant, the promise, God made with Abram. The second is the miracle of his son Isaac’s birth.
Genesis 15 outlines the agreement, the contract signed between Abram and God that God would indeed bring forth a nation from Abram.
Then he took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!”
And he believed! Believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.”
God continued, “I’m the same God who brought you from Ur of the Chaldees and gave you this land to own.”
Abram said, “Master God, how am I to know this, that it will all be mine?”
The Jewish way of a covenant promise began right here. God has Abram bring him some animals to sacrifice, so he cuts them open and lays them on the ground.
Ray VanderLaan describes it in detail:
When forming a covenant in ancient days, two parties gathered animals, cut each into two parts, and then placed them on the ground so their blood flowed into one stream. Each party walked through the blood, symbolizing that they would pay with their life if they broke the terms of the covenant. God made his covenant with Abram in this familiar way. Abram created a bloodpath using a goat, heifer, ram, pigeon, and dove. God, in the form of a smoking firepot, walked through the path and affirmed his promises to Abram.
The text says that Abram was filled with “a thick and dreadful darkness” (v. 12). This Hebrew expression was used to describe someone who was scared to death. Abram knew that he could not live up to the terms of God’s covenant: He could not live in perfect obedience and he would have to pay with his life when he broke the covenant.
But instead of making Abram walk the bloodpath, God, this time in the form of a blazing torch, walked through the path for him. Knowing Abram couldn’t keep the covenant, God’s actions effectively said, “If either you or I break this covenant, I will pay for it with my own blood.”
Do you get that? Do you see that even here in Genesis 15 we see Jesus? When we fail God, and we do everyday, God pays for it through the blood of Jesus! The sacrifice of the Lamb of God!
THE BIRTH OF ISAAC
We know that both Abram and his wife Sarai, were very old in their age. And yet, God had promised that a whole nation would come through Abram. And since Abram didn’t see it happening with Sarai, he conceived a child through their maid. Ishmael was the child’s name. And God was not pleased.
Now fast forward 13 years. Abram is 99 years old. Sarai is 90. And God shows up and reminds Abram of the covenant that He made. Genesis 17 says God then changed Abram’s name… from Abram, meaning “father,” to Abraham, “father of many.”
How is this going to happen? No matter. Abraham trusts God. And he falls on his face and worships God. He believes God. And God delivers. Isaac is born to Sarai, now Sarah.
God had many personal encounters with Abraham. And Abraham obeyed Him. He indeed has a lineage that could be numbered with the amount of stars in the skies. Abraham believed God.
So when God asked him to take his son Isaac to a mountain and sacrifice him, Abraham believed that if that’s what God wanted, God would provide again, somehow, a son, a man, through him, who would be the start of the “great nation” of people. And we know that God provided and spared Isaac. And we see that Abraham was willing to do whatever God wanted.
And because of that,
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 (NIV)
FRIEND OF GOD
You know what strikes me most about this New Testament verse? I used to think that that friendship was one-sided. God, a friend of Abraham. But it’s not just that way… Abraham was God’s friend too. Let that soak in for a minute or two…
Do you remember being in high school? Most days I’d rather forget… but go back there with me for a second. Perhaps you had a friendship with someone who you would classify as your best friend. But that friend had a different best friend, their best friend was someone else. Complicated, right? But when you found that one best friend who was also your best friend? That was special. And could it be that that is how it was with Abraham and God? Yes! And could it be that way with you and God? Yes, again!
Abraham. Father of many nations. Faithfully obedient. Friend of God.
How about you? Can you believe God’s promises for your life?