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Abraham - God's Friend


  In this first of a two part article on Abraham, we discuss the story of a man whose name is well known in the Word of God, and who had an important place in God’s plan to redeem the children of Adam. The Scripture refers to this man as “the friend of God” and “the father of all who believe.” Do you know who it is? It is the prophet of God, Abraham {Ibrahim in Arabic}. The Holy Scriptures speak a great deal about Abraham. His name appears in the Writings of the Prophets more than three hundred times. Therefore, God willing, we will search the Scriptures to discover what they teach concerning this man who was called the friend of God. In this first part we intend to look into the story of Abraham, to see how God called him to follow Him, and why He called him and what God promised him.

  Before we begin, you should know that, at first, Abraham’s name was not Abraham, but Abram.  Later we will see why God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. For now let us keep in mind that Abraham was first called Abram.  Abram lived in a city named Ur, which was located in the country of Chaldea, known today as Iraq. This city was not far from where Nimrod tried to build the city of Babel with its tall tower. The people of the land worshiped idols. Like all of Adam’s offspring, Abram was born in the darkness of sin. Abram’s father Terah did not know the true God and neither did Abram.  However the Scriptures tell us that one day the Lord God revealed Himself to Abram and spoke with him. You need to know that in early times, God occasionally spoke directly with people, because they did not yet have the Writings of the Prophets. Today God speaks to people through the Holy Scriptures. That is why we no longer need words which resound from the sky, or visions, or angels in order to know God’s way of righteousness. When we meditate upon the Holy Scriptures, we are listening to the voice of God.

  Let us read now what God said to Abram. In the Torah {Taurat in Arabic}, chapter twelve, verse one, we read: “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’” (Gen. 12:1) Did you hear what God commanded Abram? He told Abram to leave his father’s house, bid farewell to his relatives, leave his country, and move to a country to which God would lead him. To man’s way of thinking, what God asked Abram to do was extremely difficult, but God had plans to greatly bless him.

  Let us now reread this verse and the two verses which follow, to know why God called Abram to leave his home and go to another country.   “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:1-3)

  Why did God command Abram to move to another country? This is why: God planned to make of Abram a new nation from which the prophets of God and the Savior of the world would arise. That is why God promised Abram saying, “I will make you into a great nation…and you will be a blessing…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

  Here is a great truth. Do you understand it? God chose Abram to become the father of the ancestors through which the promised Redeemer would come into the world. This Redeemer was destined to be the Savior for all the peoples of the world, so that whoever believes in Him, might be saved from the dominion of sin and Satan, and from the eternal fire. Thus, we see that when God called Abram, He was moving forward with His plan to send the Savior of sinners into the world. Abram himself was not the Savior of the world, but he was to become the father of a nation from which the promised Savior would come.

  That is the promise {or covenant} God made to Abram–on the condition that he leave his country and go to the place that God would show him. Did Abram obey God? What do you think? The Word of God tells us: So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.” (Gen. 12:4-5)

  Why did Abram obey God, turning his back on his father’s home and religion? There is only one reason. Abram had confidence in God. Abram did not know where he was going, but he believed the word of the Lord which said, “Move out! If you move, I will greatly bless you!” Abram had confidence in God and left his country as the Lord God had told him. And God, in His faithfulness, led Abram to the land of Canaan, which today is called Palestine or Israel.

  Next, the Scriptures say: “Abram traveled through the land…At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” (Gen. 12:6-7) Thus we learn that God, who promised to make Abram the father of a new nation, also promised him a new country as well. That is what God meant when He appeared to Abram and promised him, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

  Again, we see something which surpasses human wisdom. The land of Canaan had people living throughout it. How could Abram and his descendants possess it? Abram was seventy-five years old. His wife was sixty-five and childless. Could two elderly people have enough children and descendants to fill the land? How could this happen?

  Let us try to illustrate what God promised Abram. It is like an elderly man who has no children and comes from a far off land to visit a new country, say Senegal in Africa. He comes with his elderly wife, who has never been able to conceive. When they arrive, someone says to them, “One day you and your descendants will possess the whole land of Senegal!” The old man laughs and says, “You are very funny! My descendants are going to possess the land? I do not even have any descendants! I am an old man; I have no children, and my wife is unable to conceive—and you say to me that my descendants are going to multiply and possess Senegal? Are you ill?”

  Perhaps this illustration seems a little absurd; nonetheless, this is the kind of promise God made to Abram–to a man who was old and childless, with a wife who could not conceive. Read what God promised Abram in chapter thirteen. He said,  “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Gen. 13:15-17)

  Did God do what He promised? Did He make of Abram a great nation? Did He give the land of Palestine to Abram’s descendants? He surely did! In future lessons we will see that Abram became the father of the Hebrew nation to which God gave the land that, today, is called Israel.

  Next, the Scriptures say: “So [Abram] built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent…. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.” (Gen. 12:7,8) What was the first thing that Abram did, upon arriving in the new country which God had promised to give him? He slaughtered an animal and burned it on an altar he constructed. Just as Abel, Seth, Enoch and Prophet Noah did, Abram, in the same way, offered up animal sacrifices to God. Why did Abram do this? He did it because God had not done away with His law which states: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin!” (Heb. 9:22) Abram, like all of Adam’s offspring, was a sinner. The only reason God could overlook Abram’s sins was because Abram believed God and brought to Him the blood of a sacrifice, which was an illustration of the holy Redeemer who was to come into the world to die in the place of sinners.


 As we continue the story of Abram we see what happened between Abram and his nephew Lot. The Scriptures say:
 
(Gen. 13) 2Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3…He went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. 5Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot… 8So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.

   10Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
  

  Thus we see how Lot chose the well watered fields, and left his uncle Abram with the drier ones. However the portion which Lot chose was in the region of Sodom–a city which was filled with great wickedness!    Lot chose his own will, while Abram chose God’s will. Lord willing, we will see what happened to Lot who followed his own desires. In the end, Lot lost everything: his riches, his wife, his family, his happiness, and his testimony! As for Abram, who left everything in the hands of God, he was greatly blessed by God.

  How can we profit from the story of Lot and Abram? Perhaps by asking ourselves a simple question. Which of the two am I most like? Lot or Abram? Am I seeking after the things of the world, like Lot? Or the things of Eternity, like Abram? Like the two of them, each of us must choose between our own will and God’s will. The one who is wise will choose God’s will. The Scriptures say: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) “Do not love the world or anything in the world…[Because] the world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15,17) What is it that you want more than anything else? The things of the earth which are passing away or things of God which last forever?

  Now, let’s continue with the story of Abram. The Scriptures say:

 (Gen. 14) 14The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.

    (Gen. 15) 1After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
  

  Incredible! Abram and his wife were elderly and had no child. Yet God continued to make promises to Abram concerning a great people that would issue from him. How could this be? How could Abram become the father of a great nation? There is only one answer: The Lord God is the God who can do all things! God is great! Nothing is impossible for Him! What God promises God performs.

  What about Abram? Did he believe the Lord, who had promised an “impossible” thing? Read what the Scripture says: “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness!”What a wonderful thing! God had promised Abram something which, humanly speaking, could not happen. Yet how did Abram respond? He believed what God had promised him! And what did God do? God judged Abram as one who is righteous, because of his faith!

  This truth ought to thrill the hearts of those who want to be counted as righteous before God. Why did God judge Abram as one who is righteous? Was Abram a righteous person in himself? No!  Like every descendant of Adam, he too sinned.  Why then did God count Abram as righteous? God counted Abram as one who is righteous, because Abram believed what God said!

  What does it mean to believe God? As you may know, the Scriptures of the Prophets were written in the Hebrew language. In Hebrew, the word for “believe” is “AMAN” from which we get our word Amen. When you say “Amen” you are simply saying, “Yes! It is true!” or “Yes, I agree!” This is what it means to believe. When God made a promise to Abram, Abram’s heart response was: “Amen! Yes! It is true! I believe your words!” Based on that simple “Amen” to the word of God, God counted Abram as righteous.

  How about you? Do you want God to count {consider} you as one who is righteous, as He counted Abram righteous? Then you must believe God as Abram believed God. You must believe what God says, even if it is not easy. You must accept the true Word of God, even if your relatives or your friends do not believe it. God wants to clothe you in His righteousness and give you the right to live in His holy presence forever, but you must believe His Word! The Holy Scriptures say:
 
“…without faith it is impossible to please God!” (Heb. 11:6) and that “it is by grace that you are saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9)

    “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” (Rom. 4:1-3)
  
  Abram believed what God said. That is the reason that God imparted to him His perfect righteousness. And the most wonderful thing in all of this is that the words “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” are not just for Abram. We too can have a share in these words. God will impart to us His perfect righteousness–if we believe the Good News of God concerning the Redeemer who later came into the world through the lineage of Abraham.

  How about you? Do you really believe God? We are not asking if you believe that God exists, or if you believe that God is one. The Scriptures speak of that kind of “faith,” saying: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder!” (Jam. 2:19) Satan himself knows that there is only one God. Believing that there is one God, will not cause God to forgive your sins and count you as one who is righteous! What God wants is for you to believe His Word and receive it. God wants to speak to you through the Writings of the Prophets. He wants you to know and to believe the news of salvation which shows how you can be made forever righteous before God, the Holy One!

Earlier we mentioned that Abram sinned.  Some think that God’s prophets never sinned. But the Word of God declares: “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:22,23) and “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:10) We have already discussed how Adam’s sin spread to all people–young and old, men and women, pagan and prophet. Only one Person was not stained by the sin of Adam. That One is the holy Redeemer whom God sent to earth to save sinners. He was not stained by sin, because He came from above–from the presence of God the Holy One.  Let us see one of Abram’s sin and its consequence.  

   Both Abram and his wife Sarai were elderly and had no children, yet that did not cause Abram to doubt the word of God. However, ten years after God first promised to give Abram descendants, Abram tried to “help” God fulfill His promise. However, what Abram did, in his impatience, produced many problems.  Scriptures say:

(Gen.16) 1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6“Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her.

  Thus we see how the sin of Abram produced bitterness and conflict in his household. Sarai was jealous because Hagar was pregnant; Hagar was upset with Sarai who was mistreating her. Thus, Hagar ran away from Sarai.

  Next, the Scriptures say:
 
(Gen. 16) 7The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert… 8And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” 11The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. 12He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

  So Hagar returned to Sarai, her mistress, as the angel of God had said. “So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.” (Gen. 16:15,16) Thus, Ishmael {Ishma il in Arabic}was born, the one who is the father of all the Arabs. As we will see, God cared for Ishmael and had a plan for him, but Ishmael was not the son which God had promised Abram. God’s wonderful plan to make a new nation of Abram had not changed. God is not in a hurry as was Abram. God always does what He promises, even if it seems to us that He is slow. Thus, the Scripture tells us that for thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God remained silent, saying nothing to Abram. But one day God spoke again to Abram.

  Let us read in chapter seventeen, and hear what God said to Abram after thirteen long years of silence. What we are going to read is very wonderful. The Scriptures say:
 
(Gen. 17) 1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
   3Abram fell face down and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

   9Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised…”

   15God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18And Abraham said to God,”If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” 19Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
  


  So what did Abraham do after God confirmed His promise to give him a child in his old age? The Scriptures say: “Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’” Abraham laughed! But he did not laugh because of unbelief, but because of happiness.

  Thus, the Scriptures say:  “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Rom. 4:18-21)

  Nevertheless, Abraham wanted to know what would happen to Ishmael, the child of his servant, Hagar. God replied, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him…I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you…I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” (Gen. 17:20,21,19)

Thus, God confirmed His purpose to bring forth the prophets and, at last, the Redeemer Himself through the descendants of Isaac. In the next lesson, God willing, we will see how the Lord gave Abraham and Sarah the son of the promise—Isaac {Ishaq in Arabic}.

  Truly, God is faithful. God does what He promises! Nothing is too difficult for Him! Listen to these beautiful verses from the holy Gospel {Injil}:
 
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay Him?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
(Rom. 11:33-36)   

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** This concludes our first part of a two part study of Abraham from the Holy Scriptures.   To go to part 2 click here . This teaching from the Scriptures is a compilation of Lessons 18, 19 and 20 from “The Way of Righteousness” by Paul Bramsen.    Posted here by permission of copyright holder – Paul Bramsen.

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