A Father Like Abraham
By Beth Patch
Father Abraham, often referred to as the father of our faith, grew up as one of three ordinary sons of Terah (eighth generation descendant of Noah's son, Shem). His parents named him Abram and when he was a young man he married Sarai. It was almost 100 years into their lives when God gave them the names Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17). Their lives before that moment had prepared them for the historical covenant God made with Abraham making him the father of many nations and promising to be the everlasting God of Abraham and his descendants.
Before that day, Abram and Sarai had made their fair share of notable good and bad choices. Abram's first recorded personal encounter with God happens at age 75, when the Lord tells Abram to leave his home town, his father, and his relatives and go to a land that God will show him. In short, God told Abram to move and he'd tell him where when Abram had already packed up and hit the road with Sarai. Many of God's children since that day have taken great steps of blind faith in response to God's call on their life because of Abram's first example of obedience.
Taking Charge of the Family
For just a moment, picture your family in this situation: the father of the household says, "God told me that he wants us to move, so we're moving." Certainly, rolling off the tip of someone's tongue is the question, "Where does God want us to go?" Then the father says, "He'll tell us more when we're on our way." Would your family respect this father and begin packing? Probably, most of us would have to admit that our family's story would not follow the pattern of Abram's. Honestly, many of us claim to want great men of faith leading our households, but when it comes to this kind of leadership, we put on the brakes.
Sarai may have always been a wife who trusted her husband's lead (as was customary of the age), but she also saw evidence in Abram's character that unmistakably resulted from his personal encounter with Almighty God. Many of you have had a similar experience yourself and easily recognize the workings of the Holy Spirit when He touches someone's soul. Because the Bible tells us that the Lord spoke to Abram, it's believable to picture Sarai and Abram's departure as one made in an awestruck, compliant demeanor.
God also gave them encouragement by telling Abram, "I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:2-3). As the head of his household, Abram set out on a journey with his wife, nephew, livestock, and the people he had taken into his household (perhaps workers and friends). One might think that this divine send-off would be all they would need to stay in tune with God.
Making Mistakes and Amends for Them
They arrived in Canaan, God appeared to Abram and told him He was giving this land to his descendants, and Abram built an altar there to honor the Lord. Time passed and a famine drove them to Egypt. When they approached the Egyptian border, Abram's confidence in God had evidently left him because he feared that the Egyptians would kill him and take his beautiful wife; so he lied and said Sarai was his sister. What a mess! Sarai was taken into Pharaoh's harem and Pharaoh gave Abram tons of gifts because of her.
Snapshot this situation into your family: the father of the household brings the family to a place where they can get food, senses that the locals want to kill him and keep his wife; so he lies and says she's his sister. The locals take her for their leader's pleasure and the husband gets a bunch of money and fine gifts. Wow, talk about from hero to zero! How would this likely pan out for your family? Again, probably not like Abram's. This family would likely be heading to divorce court and the head of this household would never be trusted again!
Abram's focus turned from God to his circumstances. He made terrible choices out of fear and selfishness that jeopardized his family. However, because God is faithful and true, He did not allow this to be the end of their story. The Lord had promised Abram that he would make him into a great nation. He brought a plague on Pharoah and his household. Pharoah somehow figured out that the plague was related to taking in Sarai, confronted and scolded Abram for lying, took back the gifts, and sent them out of Egypt.
They traveled (for months, maybe years) back to where Abram had built the altar in Canaan and he "worshipped the Lord again" (Genesis 13:4). This is the first mention of Abram seeking the Lord diligently after the Egyptian ordeal. After this, it's recorded that God spoke to Abram again and said that He would give Abram all the land he could see in every direction and so many descendants that they could not be counted (Genesis 13:14-16).
Most of us are familiar with the story of Abram and Sarai knowing that the Lord had promised Abram a son and since it hadn't happened in their timing, Sarai had the bright idea for Abram to take her servant, Hagar, as an additional wife to bear him a son. What another mess! Hagar gets pregnant. She and Sarai become bitter enemies. Hagar has a son, Ishmael, when Abram is 86-years-old.
When Dysfunctional Families Turn to Christ
Now we have enough history on this family to label them dysfunctional by our modern standards. Would you say that you would like to have a father like Abraham? You just might have one. He's the dad who has heard from the Lord, answered the call, made mistakes, returned to the altar, made more mistakes, all the while trusting that God will keep his promise to love him with God's covenant love.
Hopefully, this puts fathers and their families at ease; remembering that Father Abraham - the father of our faith - made plenty of poor choices along with his good ones. No one is perfect but Almighty God. His anointed men, the prophets of old, King David, all made mistakes. Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, was without sin. But, mankind is sinful! For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard (Romans 3:23).
When you think of your earthly father, you may have such great love and respect for him that you've put him on a pedestal. He may indeed be worthy of your respect, but he's an ordinary man. If he loves the Lord, he would much rather you put Jesus on the pedestal and let him stand shoulder to shoulder with you as humble servants of the Lord.
Families can be messy! Your earthly father may have been distant or unkind. You may not even know him. You may have resentment towards him. Maybe he didn't live up to your expectations. Wherever pain lingers in your soul over your dad, you can be sure that our heavenly Father cares deeply for you and longs to show you His truth and love. It's pure and everlasting.
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Almighty God, we thank you for the many examples you give us of fathers in your Holy Bible. We ask that you bless our fathers here on earth and draw them close to you. Speak to their hearts Lord and let them know of your great plans for them, your purpose for their lives. For those of us who long to see our fathers again, we pray that you will fill that empty place in our hearts as only you, our merciful and loving heavenly father, can do.
Beth Patch is an Internet Producer and Editor of the Spiritual Life content on CBN.com. For more articles and info, visit Beth's bio page.
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