The last couple of days I have been reading from the book of Genesis and focusing on Abraham’s life. I know from my Bible study that Abraham is called a “Father of Faith”; but honestly, as I was reading afresh from Abraham’s life, I just didn’t see it. I saw many characteristics, but not faith. Let me explain:
In Genesis chapter 12 are the verses which are referred to as “The Abrahamic Covenant”. It says, “2I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). Awesome! Was it Abram’s faith that caused him to receive such an amazing calling and promise from God?
Nope, he wasn’t even called “Abraham” yet! (Abraham means “Father of Many” while Abram just means “father”.) Anyone could be like Abram.
So as you follow the story, the next thing that happens is that he lies about who his wife is and gets in trouble with the king. He calls his wife his “sister”. That’s not faith! In fact, it is dishonest and shows fear and lack of trust in God. Can you imagine the effect on their marriage? Not a very good start for a guy that is supposed to bless all the nations of the world.
Ok, the very next thing is that he and Lot’s workers have a huge disagreement where Lot and Abram agree to part ways. Lot is a nephew and is not an equal to Abram. Remember, Abram is the one called of God. So Lot, looks and sees the great beautiful plain below him and tells Abram that he will take the best land and give Abram the high rocky ground; and Abraham accepts. That is not faith! I would say it maybe grace or humility, but not faith. Some people just call it “stupid”!
Next was war! Abram heard his nephew was captured so he got 318 of his trained men, no more no less, and went to war. He won and took all the spoils and gave 10% to the King of Salem. Again, I don’t see faith there. I see bravery, I see courage, I see loyalty and generosity. .. but not faith.
After the battle was over and the blood was spilled, and the victory already gained an angel came to Abram and said, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Great timing! Abram just won a victory and he got rich by capturing his enemies possessions and then the angel shows up! I don’t know about you, but one of my pet-peeves is people who state the obvious. I am pretty sure I would have been a little sarcastic with that angel.
By now we are in Genesis chapter 16 and disaster is about to hit. You got it, Sarai gets an idea. . . “you sleep with Hagar”. Oh, man! Ishmael was born. Abram had a promise from God about being the father of nations, and so he went about finding a way to get a son on his own. You know the end of the story. Eventually Abram has to send Ishmael and Hagar away. They live in the desert and become enemies of Abraham’s other son Isaac for thousands of years to come! So, as I am reading I am thinking. . . how on earth does this guy get called the “Father of Faith”. I don’t want to be arrogant, but I am pretty sure I have got more faith than Abraham.
In chapter 17, he does show some faith and amazing courage. God institutes circumcision. Abram circumcises himself and all the men in his entourage. For this, God changes his name to Abraham. I must say, it was well deserved.
Next, Abram has some angels visit him and tells him he will have a son. Abraham sits in stunned silence and Sarah laughs. Not much faith seen there either. I probably would have laughed too.
Then he heard God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot lived. He begged God to save the towns. He was thinking of saving Lot, but only if God could find enough righteous people there. They negotiated from 50 to 45 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10 people. God could not find 10 righteous people so Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed. All Abraham did was negotiate. He didn’t preach. He didn’t offer to go rescue Lot. Previously, when he heard Lot was in trouble he went in with his best trained commando’s and broke him out. Not this time, he only negotiated. Again, I just don’t see the faith!
Now, Abraham is getting pretty old and we have gone all the way to Genesis chapter 20 and not seen a fleck of faith. So Abraham, apparently being pretty nomadic, moved to the Negev desert. There he met a king. So he told the king that his wife, was his sister. Hey, didn’t he do this before? Yes, he did. We called it lying, deceitful and led to many heartaches. And yes, Abraham did it again. Was the result different? Nope.
Finally, in chapter 21, God gave Abraham and Sarah their promised child Isaac. Of all the names they could have given him like “Great warrior”, “King of the Ages”, “Son of Faith”. . .they called him, “He laughs”. I just don’t see faith welling up in his life. I don’t see him oozing faith as he engages in the complexities of life.
Then we have chapter 22. God says to Abraham (the one he gave the covenant to so very long ago), “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:2). In verse three we have his response:
“Early the next morning Abraham got up. . .”. He obeyed immediately. This was faith!
We all know the end of the story, how he took Isaac on a three day walk, up to Moriah (which is Jerusalem) and sacrificed him on a hill (which is probably the temple mount) where the King of Salem ruled (oh, that means the King of Peace). And God was going to give him the whole nation which would become Israel. And he would have to take it himself. God wasn’t going to send him angels to fight for him. Abraham had to do it himself.
Now I see faith. Faith without action is nothing. Action, in what you know God is leading, is faith. I am sure Abraham didn’t know what he was doing most of the time. But he continued to do the best he could; worked his hardest; and helped other people out. All the time God was forming his character to be the one whom He would use to bless every nation on earth. He purposely lived his life in pursuit of God’s promise to him. This is faith!
Good times and bad times, Abraham depended on God. He depended on him when God was speaking clearly and when he was silent. He helped people and did his best to protect his family, even if he made plenty of dumb choices along the way. Abraham, it seems, is a lot like me. Abraham knew that good intentions were pointless. Planning is not faith in itself. Dreaming is not faith. Faith is action. Faith is obedience to what you know God intends.
Looking at the life of Abraham I know that faith is following God. It is helping people. It is sticking your neck out. It is being a friend and a loyal relative. It is working hard. It is negotiating and trying to help people who don’t even want to be helped themselves. And when God calls. . . you know it is him. You get up early in the morning and go do what he tells you to do.
A brief look at the descendants of Abraham clearly shows that the physical descendents of Abraham are everywhere and probably in every country of the world; even Cambodia. This promise is still being worked out by all of us, as descendents of Abraham.
Jesus gave all believer’s a commission; a covenant; a promise; a job to do. It is the exact same one he gave Abraham. Ours is found in Matthew 28:18-20. I call it the Steve Hydic Covenant (because I love theological lingo). You can name it after you too (I give you theological permission). The call is given to people just like Abraham, and just like me, and just like you. I mess up like Abraham. I do dumb things. But I keep working toward what I know God has promised for my family and my country. One day, when the great test comes, I hope the first things I will do is: Early in the morning get up. . . and obey what he wants me to do.
With Abraham’s kind of faith in us, God can bless every nation, through us. Just as he promised.