Perhaps the most important aspect of the biblical narrative about Abraham is his faith. Repeatedly, throughout his life, Abraham’s faith was tested in various different ways. Sometimes his faith prevailed, at other times his faith wavered and he stumbled, yet at every step God continued to lead him onward, always encouraging him to reach higher.
When God called Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees to travel to an unknown destination he was seventy-five years old and incredibly wealthy. It was a time in his life when every inclination would have led him to settle down and enjoy retirement but Abraham chose to obey God’s call. He uprooted his family and his vast holdings, slapped together a massive caravan and moved in the direction God was calling him to move in.
When he eventually got to Canaan disaster struck. There was a famine in the land. Abraham’s wealth was primarily made up of flocks and herds who all needed ample grazing land and a ready supply of water. A famine made both these commodities scarce. At this point, it would have been tempting for Abraham to look up at the sky and ask God why? He had been perfectly content to stay at home and enjoy his wealth but here he was traipsing about in an unknown land and all because God has asked him to do it.
The first lesson we learn from Abraham’s story is this; when God calls you to come out of your comfort zone and follow him that doesn’t mean that the road before you is going to be smooth. The only guarantees you have when you follow God are His continued presence and the assurance that He will provide a way out of every trial you face. Never once does God promise us a life that is free of hardship.
Instead of asking God why? Abraham chose to make the best of a bad situation. God had called him to come to Canaan, of that he was certain, but since there was a famine in Canaan Abraham chose to travel down to Egypt and wait it out.
While he was here his faith was tried again but in a different way. His wife Sarah was a beautiful woman and on his way into Egypt, Abraham must have noticed the open stares she gathered. Fearing for his life he asked Sarah to lie about their relationship and say that she was his sister. Technically this was true, she was his half-sister but in reality, he was hiding the more significant relationship that existed between them; that of husband and wife.
Abraham’s failure to disclose the entire truth led him and his wife into a precarious situation. Pharaoh took Sarah into his household and God had to intervene in order to preserve Sarah from being taken as one of Pharaoh’s wives. Abraham was rebuked and sent on his way. The entire debacle teaches us a valuable lesson.
Abraham allowed his fear to overwhelm his faith. God had promised to bless him and multiply him but instead of choosing to rely on God for protection, Abraham decided to take matters into his own hands. Often in life, we are much like Abraham. We let our fears get the better of us. We let our fears push us into striking out on our own instead of driving us to God for solutions. If there is one thing to be learned from Abraham’s encounter in Egypt it is this; when you are afraid run to God instead of away from him. His solutions are always better than anything we could ever come up with ourselves.
The next really significant test of faith that Abraham faced was when he was forced to wait for God for the promised heir. This is a familiar story. God had promised to give Abraham a posterity that would rival the sand on the seashore and yet when he was pushing almost 100 he was still childless. It seemed like an impossible feat. Sarah, who was ten years younger than him, was in no shape to bear a child and so both he and Sarah decided to take matters into their own hands. Abraham takes a concubine, his wife’s maid and she gives him a son. But the birth of this longed-for heir doesn’t bring joy or satisfaction; instead, it leads to fracturing the bond between Abraham and Sarah.
Sometimes it’s really hard to wait for God to accomplish what he has promised to accomplish in his own time and in his own way. It is so much easier to try to take control of the situation and help God along. Especially when it is difficult to see how God could accomplish what he is promising. Sometimes when we look at the promises of God and then look at the hand we have been dealt with in life or even look at what he is asking us to do with our lives it is impossible to fathom how the two could ever be reconciled.
Perhaps that is the essence of faith. Speaking of Abraham Romans 4:21 says “being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform” Faith is being fully persuaded that God is able to perform what he has promised in his time and in his way. That persuasion leads us to step back and allow God to lead instead of trying to take charge of the situation ourselves.
The crowning moment of Abraham’s experience was when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Isaac was the longer-for heir. The miracle child that God had given Abraham and Sarah when they were both well past their childbearing years. To offer him on the altar was also to offer up every single vestige of hope that God would perform his promises because there could be no substitute for Isaac. God had plainly told Abraham “in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Meaning Isaac was the heir, the only heir. Offering him up on the altar made no sense but Abraham doesn’t stop to ask God to explain himself. He doesn’t pause to pepper God with a barrage of questions, to demand answers. Instead, he simply obeys.
The Bible says in Hebrews 11:19 “accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” In other words, Abraham didn’t think God had changed his mind about Isaac being the only heir. He knew that Isaac was. He just believed that even though what God had promised to accomplish and what God was asking him to do at that moment were seemingly at odds with either God was able to reconcile the difference. His job was simply to trust and obey. It was God’s job to find a way to keep his word.