Abraham, the founding father of the Jewish nation of Israel, was a man of great faith and obedience to the will of God. His name in Hebrew means "father of a multitude." Originally called Abram, or "exalted father," the Lord changed his name to Abraham as a symbol of the covenant promise to multiply his descendants into a great nation that God would call his own.
Prior to this, God had already visited Abraham when he was 75, promising to bless him and make his offspring into an abundant nation of people. All Abraham had to do was obey God and do what God told him to do.
God's Covenant with Abraham
This marked the beginning of the covenant God established with Abraham. It was also Abraham's first test from God, since he and his wife Sarai (later changed to Sarah) were still without children. Abraham demonstrated remarkable faith and trust, immediately leaving his home and his clan the moment God called him to the unknown territory of Canaan.
Accompanied by his wife and nephew Lot, Abraham prospered as a rancher and shepherd, as he made his new home surrounded by pagans in the Promised Land of Canaan. Still childless, however, Abraham's faith wavered in subsequent times of testing.
When famine struck, rather than waiting on God for provision, he packed up and took his family to Egypt.
Once there, and fearing for his life, he lied about his beautiful wife's identity, claiming she was his unmarried sister. Pharaoh, finding Sarah desirable, took her from Abraham in exchange for generous gifts, to which Abraham raised no objections. You see, as a brother, Abraham would be honored by Pharaoh, but as a husband, his life would have been in danger. Once again, Abraham lost faith in God's protection and provision. Abraham's foolish deception backfired, and God kept his covenant promise intact.
The Lord inflicted disease on Pharaoh and his family, revealing to him that Sarah must be returned to Abraham untouched.
More years passed during which Abraham and Sarah questioned God's promise. At one point, they decided to take matters into their own hands. At Sarah's encouragement, Abraham slept with Hagar, his wife's Egyptian maidservant. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, but he was not the promised son. God returned to Abraham when he was 99 to remind him of the promise and reinforce his covenant with Abraham. A year later, Isaac was born.
God brought more tests to Abraham, including a second incident when Abraham lied about Sarah's identity, this time to King Abimelech. But Abraham underwent the biggest testing of his faith when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the promised heir, in Genesis 22: "Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you."
This time Abraham obeyed, fully prepared to slay his son, while fully trusting God to either resurrect Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19), or provide a substitutionary sacrifice. At the last minute, God intervened and provided the necessary ram.
The death of Isaac would have contradicted every promise God had made to Abraham, so his willingness to perform the ultimate sacrifice of killing his son is probably the most strikingly dramatic example of faith and trust in God found in the entire Bible.
Abraham is the great patriarch of Israel, and to New Testament believers, "He is the father of us all (Romans 4:16)." The faith of Abraham pleased God.
God visited Abraham on several unique occasions. The Lord spoke to him numerous times, once in a vision and once in the form of three visitors. Scholars believe that the mysterious "King of Peace" or "King of Righteousness," Melchizedek, who blessed Abram and to whom Abram gave a tithe, may have been a theophany of Christ (a manifestation of deity).
Abraham carried out a brave rescue of Lot when his nephew was taken captive after the Battle of the Valley of Siddim.
God tested Abraham severely in more than one instance, and Abraham demonstrated extraordinary faith, trust and obedience to the will of God. He was well-respected and successful in his occupation. He also had courage to face a powerful enemy coalition.
Impatience, fear, and a tendency to lie under pressure were a few of Abraham's weaknesses revealed in the biblical account of his life.
One crucial lesson we learn from Abraham is that God can and will use us in spite of our weaknesses. God will even stand by us and rescue us from our foolish mistakes. The Lord is greatly pleased by our faith and willingness to obey him.
Like most of us, Abraham came to the full realization of God's purpose and promise only over a long period of time and a process of revelation. Thus, we learn from him that God's calling will usually come to us in stages.
Abraham was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans (present day Iraq). He traveled 500 miles to Haran (now southeast Turkey) with his family and stayed there until his father's death. When God called Abraham, he moved 400 miles south to the land of Canaan and lived there most of the rest of his days.
Referenced in the Bible:
Genesis 11-25; Exodus 2:24; Acts 7:2-8; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 2, 6, 7, 11.
As head of a semi-nomadic clan of herdsmen, Abraham became a successful and prosperous rancher and shepherd, raising livestock and farming the land.
Father: Terah (A direct descendant of Noah through his son Shem.)
Brothers: Nahor and Haran
Sons: Ishmael and Isaac
And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (NLT)
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. (NLT)