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Bible

Understanding

Made Easy

Abraham

Abraham is a very important figure in the Bible.  He was a man of great faith and one who God uses as an example for us to imitate in the area of faith (Hebrews 11).  We will study many aspects of his life to find out what God wants us to duplicate in our own relationship with Him.  Here are some highlights from his life:

 

Abraham’s original name was Abram.  God changed it to Abraham later in Bible history.  He was married to a beautiful woman named Sarai.  God changed her name to Sarah later in Bible history (Genesis 11:27-32).  

 

God made a special promise to Abraham.  God said, “1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran” (Genesis 12:1-4).

Now, God told Abraham to go and leave everything he knew.  He told him to leave his family and home land.  Sometimes, God calls us to make sacrifices (Romans 12:1).  We should give God complete obedience when we have commandments to fulfill.  Abraham obeyed and God promised to bless Him.  When we make the sacrifice of obedience to God, we will be blessed.  We will go on to eternal life in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).

God promised to bless Abraham by making a great nation out of him.  This means that God would give him many descendants that would become the nation of Israel.  In other words, he would become the father of millions of people over time.  This would require great faith on Abraham’s part, because he didn’t have any children at this time and he was already very old.   He was already 75 years old and normally, people are past having children at this age (Genesis 12:4).  This tells us that nothing is impossible for God to do (Luke 1:37).   Whatever God promises, He has the power to do.  Remember, as we already studied with Adam and Eve, God created the world and everything within it (Genesis 1-3).    So, if God can do that, He can certainly make an older couple have a child!  Always remember, that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).  So, if He promises anything to you and me, it will be done (Hebrews 11:6)!  

God also promised to make Abraham famous and a blessing to other people.  Abraham is certainly famous, because he lived thousands of years ago and we are still talking about him today!  Also, he is a blessing to other people, because He is one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, Himself (Matthew 1; Luke 3).  So, God used Abraham’s body to bring Jesus in to this world many generations after Abraham died.  

 

Abraham left all that he knew and obeyed God by leaving Haran as God instructed him to do (Genesis 12:4)!  As God instructed, Abraham left the land of Haran and lived in the land of Canaan.  Sarah, his wife, and Lot, his nephew was with him (Genesis 12:5-9).  

 

Unfortunately, due to a food shortage, Abraham and his family had to move to Egypt for awhile.  Abraham was not a perfect man, but a good man.  He was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him and take Sarah away from him, because she was a very beautiful woman.  So, he told Sarah to say she was his sister instead of his wife.  When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, thought that Abraham and Sarah were not married, he took her into his palace to make her his future wife.  God did not like this idea at all, because as you know, He does not like adultery.  Remember, adultery is to take another person’s husband or wife from him or her.  Don’t ever do that.  God is very angered when people cheat as you would call it today!  It may seem like a fun thing, because people on television do it all the time, but if these people do not stop cheating, God will punish them (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  As a warning to Pharaoh, God put diseases on him.  He figured out what the problem was and made Abraham and his family leave Egypt! (Genesis 12:10-20).  

 

Was God disappointed in Abraham for saying that Sarah was his sister?  She was his half sister (Genesis 20:12).  However, what we learn from Abraham’s lie is that if you do not tell the whole truth you are still lying!  Deception is lying.  Anytime we are fooling people to believe something that is false, even if we give them a piece of the truth, we are still lying.  Remember, the old saying, “A half truth is a whole lie!”’

Returning to our story, we see Abraham and his nephew, Lot, traveling together.  Unfortunately, they and their animals became too numerous to live together.  The land where they were would not provide enough food for all the animals together.  They began arguing with each other.  However, they were very wise men.  They kept talking about their disagreement until they worked out a solution together.  So, they had to separate themselves from each other to survive.  Today, this is the way God wants us to handle our problems.  He does not want us to speak evil words about each other.  He does not want us to hate each other.  He does not want us getting into fist fights to settle our differences.  Instead, He wants us to sit down and talk our way through our problems with each other (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-17).  And then both people should come up with a solution together that works out for every one!  That way, we have peace instead of war with other people (Matthew 7:12; James 2:8; Hebrews 12:14).  Lot went to the land of Sodom.  Abraham went to the land of Canaan (Genesis 13).

Moving on, God also shows us that Abraham was a good military leader as well (Genesis 14).  One day, the King of Elam, his army, and many other allied kings captured Sodom and Gomorrah.  This was a major issue for Abraham even though he did not live in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived in Sodom and was a prisoner of war to the King of Elam.  We do not know how many people the King of Elam and his allies had, but it had to be at least thousands of men.  With only 318 men by his side, God blessed Abraham and his men to defeat the King of Elam.  Lot was freed.  This shows us that nothing is too hard for God to do for us!  So, we should have faith in anything He promised to do for us (Luke 1:37).

After God used Abraham to rescue Lot, God made two great promises to him that would be fulfilled later in Bible history (Genesis 15).  God said He would give Abraham a son.  Remember, Abraham was an old man and his wife, Sarah, was an old woman.  They never had any children before so this is something that would take faith to believe in the miracle God was going to do with them.

                                       

The Bible says that Abraham believed God and because he believed, God called him righteous!  As you can see, we are not righteous in God’s sight unless we believe everything He promises.  Even the impossible is possible with God and this is called faith.  We must have faith to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

The second promise God made was that the land of Canaan would be given to his descendants.  We know this happened hundreds of years later in the time of Joshua!

Moving forward, the story of Abraham and Sarah continues with a mistake they made (Genesis 16).  Although God had promised Abraham a son, Abraham and Sarah came up with their own plan to have a child because they still did not have children and Abraham was already in his eighties.  Sarah told Abraham to take a slave woman named Hagar and have a child with her.  He did and Hagar became pregnant.  

 

However, when Hagar became pregnant Sarah and Hagar began disagreeing.  Their arguing was so bad that Hagar ran away, but God told her to go back to Sarah and Abraham.  She obeyed God’s command and returned to Abraham’s household.  Abraham and Hagar had a child name “Ishmael” (Genesis 16).  Abraham was 86 years old when his first child, Ishmael was born.

We learn that we must do things God’s way or trouble will happen.  Sometimes, we make problems for ourselves that we will have to live with later on for years to come.  That is why we try to make wise decisions at all times to avoid creating problems for ourselves that we do not have to go through.  Abraham and Sarah had problems in their house because they made a decision that God did not ask for.

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, God spoke again to Abraham and promised to give him numerous descendants and he changed Abraham’s name from “Abram” to “Abraham” (Genesis 17).  God also changed Sarah’s name from “Sarai” to “Sarah.”  On top of that, God promised again to give Abraham a son.  This time, God stated that the chosen son would be called “Isaac.”  God would take care of Ishmael too, but the promised child was Isaac and the Jewish people would come from this Isaac.  Also, Sarah would give birth to Isaac at the age of 90 years old and Abraham would be 100 years old when Isaac would be born!  Surely, a miracle from God was about to happen!

Genesis 18 gives us two more very interesting stories about Abraham.  First, the Bible says that he was visited by three men.  This is a very special visit, because these were three men from heaven.  One of them Abraham called “Lord.”  This special messenger is who we call the “Pre-incarnate Christ.”  This means that before Jesus came to earth, He would come from time-to-time to people in the Old Testament days.

Abraham talked to Jesus on this day.  Jesus told him of the blessing of Sarah having Isaac a year from that time (Genesis 18:1-15).   The other two with the Lord were angels.

Second, we see Abraham pleading with God to not destroy Sodom.  God’s patience with their sinful ways had come to an end.  After begging repeatedly, Abraham and God finally agreed that if 10 people who were righteous were found in Sodom, then He would not destroy it (Genesis 18:16-33).  Unfortunately, God could not find 10 people in the city and decided to destroy it later on in history.  Instead, the only one’s God decided to save from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was Lot, his two daughters, and Lot’s wife!

Genesis 19:1-29 talks about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The two angels who were with Abraham left him and went to Sodom.  Abraham’s nephew, Lot, took them into his home out of hospitality.  However, a large gang of men from Sodom wanted to sleep with the two male angels.  Lot did all that he could to convince the men of Sodom to not do such a wicked thing.  However, the men insisted and the angels, themselves, caused the gang of men to go blind.  From there, the angels began to destroy the city with fire and brimstone out of the sky.  However, God saved Lot and his family, because he thought they were righteous!  Lot and his family escaped, but Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of stone, because she disobeyed God’s commandment not to look back at the destruction of the city.  She disobeyed and God punished her accordingly.

                                       

What does this punishment upon Lot’s wife teach us?  Jesus talked about Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt in Luke 17:26-32.  He showed us what was wrong with her as to why she looked back at Sodom when it was being destroyed.  When it was destroyed, the family did not have enough time to grab their things, because the destruction came so suddenly.  Unfortunately, she wanted the material things that were being destroyed.  What this is telling us is we must value God’s salvation more than any material things in this world.  When we are living right in God’s eyes, we must realize that He will provide all the things we need any way (Matthew 6:33).  God’s deliverance, meaning salvation, is the most important thing in our lives.  Don’t trade it for money or material things in your heart!  For example, don’t do crime as this is putting the love of money and material things over one’s salvation!  Stealing is always sin in God’s sight and motivated by greed (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

 

Moving on, God certainly honored his promise to give Abraham and Sarah a child named “Isaac” at the appointed time (Genesis 21:1-7). Again, this shows that nothing is impossible for God since Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old.  Furthermore, the Bible said she was past childbearing age before she conceived Isaac.  Thus, this was truly a miraculous event that no one can deny (Genesis 18:11).

The Bible goes on in Genesis 21:8-21 to show us what happened to Hagar and Ishmael.  The Bible shows us that when Isaac was a little boy, his teenage brother, Ishmael, started making fun of him. Isaac had reached the age of not needing to be breastfed anymore; so, he was very young.  This would mean that Ishmael was probably between the ages of 14 and 17 years old.  So, there was a huge age difference between the two children.  The teasing by Ishmael angered Sarah so much that she told Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out of the camp.  Abraham did not want to do so, but God intervened.  God re-assured Abraham that his heir would be Isaac and not Ishmael.  He also assured Abraham that He would have mercy on Ishmael and make him the ancestor of a great nation.  God told Abraham to follow Sarah’s advice.  Abraham had Hagar and Ishmael cast out into the desert.  Hagar and Ishmael almost died of thirst, but God miraculously gave them water for their survival.

What do we learn from this incident of casting out Hagar and Ishmael?  We learn the concept of God’s providence.  That is, God is active in the daily lives of mankind on this earth.  He can use every day things, such as this family event in Abraham’s house, to make sure His Will is done.  God’s Will was for Isaac to be the heir of the family and not Ishmael.    This small event of casting Ishmael out guaranteed that Ishmael could do nothing in the future to make himself the heir.  This sometimes happened between brothers of important men.  They would argue, fight, and sometimes, murder each other to become the leader.  Perhaps, this is why God separated the two boys by casting Ishmael out.  Either way, God guaranteed His Will would be done by telling Abraham to separate the two boys!  So, do not be surprised when God uses every day events in your own life to make other things happen.  Sometimes, he closes some doors in our lives to open up other opportunity areas for us!  God separating the two boys worked out to both of their benefits.  Isaac remained the chosen heir while Ishmael also became a great man later on in Bible history.  

 

Genesis 22 is one of the most famous chapters in the Bible where Abraham’s faith was greatly tested.  God told Abraham to take Isaac and sacrifice him on a mountain in the land of Moriah.  As God commanded, Abraham took Isaac and tied him down on the altar.  He had his hand on the knife.  Fortunately, the Angel of the Lord told him to stop so Isaac was not hurt.  God was pleased that Abraham would have sacrificed his only son to please the Lord!  As a substitute, God provided a ram in the bush that Abraham sacrificed instead (Genesis 22:1-19).  

Why was God so pleased with Abraham?  It was because Abraham was putting God as the highest priority of his life like we are supposed to (Romans 12:1).  We are to love God more than anything or anybody else in this world.  Even though Abraham’s obedience pleased God, his faith also pleased God (James 2:20-24; Hebrews 11:17-19).  In other words, because Abraham had both a faith in the promise of God and obedience to His commandments at the same time, God was pleased with him!  The New Testament tells us that Abraham even believed that Isaac would rise from the dead any way (Hebrews 11:19).  This is because God had already promised that Isaac would be his heir and Abraham would have a lot of descendants.  So, the thinking of Abraham was that since Isaac was his appointed heir, then God must do something special to fulfill His promise of making a great nation out of Abraham.  This was a lot of faith in the promise of God, because no one had risen from the dead in Bible history at this point in time!  This means that Abraham’s faith was tremendously strong and we are to imitate this level of both faith and obedience to be pleasing to God (James 2:20; Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 11:6).

In Genesis 22, God repeats His promise to Abraham.  God said, “16…I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:16-18 New International Version).  Again, God promises an uncountable number of descendants to come from Abraham!  

 

However, even more important, God talks about the “offspring” of Abraham being a blessing to all nations.  As we discussed earlier, Jesus is that “offspring” of Abraham promised to come into the world for all people.  Notice, the Bible says to “all nations!”  This means that Jesus is not just the Savior of the Jewish descendants of Abraham.  He is the Savior of all nationalities, races, and colors on this planet!  So, this is great news told to Abraham hundreds of years before Jesus was born!  This is what is called a “prophecy,” which means God foretelling that something will occur before it actually happened!

 

The end of the story is that Sarah died at the age of 127 years old.  Abraham buried her in a cave in the land of Machpelah (Genesis 23).  Abraham also died at the age of 175 years old.  He was buried next to Sarah.  He left all that he owned to Isaac and gave gifts to his other sons before they died.  Isaac had other brothers, because Abraham married a woman named “Keturah” after Sarah died (Genesis 25).  He also had concubines who gave him children as well.

 

In conclusion, Abraham was not a perfect man.  However, God considered him to be a righteous person anyway.  This is what grace means.  It means we have God’s favor even in our imperfections!  The part of Abraham’s character we should not imitate was his impatience.  He should have waited for God to give him a child through Sarah instead of taking it upon himself to have a child with Hagar.  This impatience caused hatred and arguments to develop in his household that could have been avoided.  Also, we should not imitate the rare dishonest times he displayed in his life.  However, he found grace in God’s sight anyway, because of the two things we should imitate.  That is, he found grace because of his tremendous faith in the promises of God and his obedience to God’s commandments. These are things we should imitate that he did to please God for ourselves!

- Anthony L. Norwood

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