Abraham—The Father of the Faithful
A Bible and Spirit of Prophecy compilation, with comments by R. C. Dumaguit
One night a house caught on fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, were flames, smoke, and blackness. As we can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you! Jump!” The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. So the Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known. This is the meaning of true faith. Faith has to do with things that are not seen and with hope for the things that are not at hand. Faith must not only be learned theoretically; it should be experienced practically in our lives. The apostle Paul explained, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” ().
Why is it so important to live by faith? What is the role of faith in overcoming? The apostle John declares that “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” ().
“Through faith, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed.”1
“The work of conquering evil is to be done through faith. Those who go into the battlefield will find that they must put on the whole armor of God. The shield of faith will be their defense and will enable them to be more than conqueror.”2
This faith that gives us the victory over the world was demonstrated by our father Abraham. Why was Abraham called the father of the faithful? When we think of the father of something, we think of one who is an inventor of something or who has contributed some major advancement towards it. Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine, Edison the father of electricity, and Karl Benz the father of the automobile. What about Abraham? How did he become the father of the faithful? We need to know his life’s experience in order to understand faith. If we want to have the faith that produces victory over the world, we must have Abraham’s faith.
We read inabout the call of Abraham to go out from his father’s house. “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: 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: 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.”
Ur of the Chaldees was a center for heathen worship; the land was fertile, and the place had great advantages for easy wealth. And God told Abraham, in essence: “Get out of here. And as you start moving, I will show you where the land is that I will give you.” What was the reaction of Abraham? Abraham began packing his belongings. You can imagine the reaction of his immediate family. His kinsmen might have asked, “Why are you packing?” “I’m leaving!” “Where are you going?” “God will tell me!” “Is the land fertile?” “I don’t know!” “Tell me about the land where you are going.” “I don’t know! All I know is that God wants me to go there, and He will be with me!” What would be the thoughts of his kinsmen of his straightforward replies? Of course, they would think of him as a great fool. But what moved Abraham to take such extraordinary action? The apostle Paul said, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” ().
“Abraham’s unquestioning obedience is one of the most striking evidences of faith to be found in all the Bible. To him, faith was ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (). Relying upon the divine promise, without the least outward assurance of its fulfillment, he abandoned home and kindred and native land, and went forth, he knew not whither, to follow where God should lead. ‘By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise’ (verse 9, RV).
“It was no light test that was thus brought upon Abraham, no small sacrifice that was required of him. There were strong ties to bind him to his country, his kindred, and his home. But he did not hesitate to obey the call. He had no question to ask concerning the land of promise—whether the soil was fertile and the climate healthful; whether the country afforded agreeable surroundings and would afford opportunities for amassing wealth. God had spoken, and His servant must obey; the happiest place on earth for him was the place where God would have him to be.”3
Why did the Lord command Abraham to come out from his kinsmen to go to a land unknown to him? The Spirit of Prophecy explains, “In order that God might qualify him for his great work as the keeper of the sacred oracles, Abraham must be separated from the associations of his early life. The influence of kindred and friends would interfere with the training which the Lord purposed to give His servant. Now that Abraham was, in a special sense, connected with heaven, he must dwell among strangers. His character must be peculiar, differing from all the world. He could not even explain his course of action so as to be understood by his friends. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and his motives and actions were not comprehended by his idolatrous kindred.”4
In obedience to God’s call, Abraham moved from Ur to Haran until the death of his father, Terah. Then the divine Voice bade him continue forward and he and his household took with them “their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran” ()—souls won through missionary labor.
Everywhere Abraham built an altar unto the Lord—including at his next stop, Bethel. As he continued to journey southward, he encountered a drought, but he did not question the leadings of Providence. He would not allow circumstances to shake his faith in God’s word. To escape the ensuing famine, he sought temporary refuge in Egypt but did not forget the goal where God was placing him.
As he moved, the altars Abraham left were a standing testimony to his faith in the living God.
The life of prayer must be seen also in God’s remnant church today. “Like the patriarchs of old, those who profess to love God should erect an altar to the Lord wherever they pitch their tent. If ever there was a time when every house should be a house of prayer, it is now. Fathers and mothers should often lift up their hearts to God in humble supplication for themselves and their children. Let the father, as priest of the household, lay upon the altar of God the morning and evening sacrifice, while the wife and children unite in prayer and praise. In such a household Jesus will love to tarry.”5
“In every family there should be a fixed time for morning and evening worship. How appropriate it is for parents to gather their children about them before the fast is broken, to thank the heavenly Father for His protection during the night, and to ask Him for His help and guidance and watch care during the day! How fitting, also, when evening comes, for parents and children to gather once more before Him and thank Him for the blessings of the day that is past!
“Family worship should not be governed by circumstances. You are not to pray occasionally and, when you have a large day’s work to do, neglect it. In thus doing you lead your children to look upon prayer as of no special consequence. Prayer means very much to the children of God, and thank offerings should come up before God morning and evening. . . .
“Fathers and mothers, however pressing your business, do not fail to gather your family around God’s altar. Ask for the guardianship of holy angels in your home. Remember that your dear ones are exposed to temptations.”6
As soon as possible, Abraham left Egypt and returned to Canaan “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (). Lot was still with him, and they realized the pasturage was no longer enough for their animals; separation was essential. Although Abraham was senior in years and the one actually called by God, he gave Lot the first choice of where he wanted to live.
“‘Let there be no strife,’ [Abraham] said, ‘between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left’ ().
“Here the noble, unselfish spirit of Abraham was displayed. How many under similar circumstances would, at all hazards, cling to their individual rights and preferences! How many households have thus been rent asunder! How many churches have been divided, making the cause of truth a byword and a reproach among the wicked! . . . The cultivation of a uniform courtesy, a willingness to do to others as we would wish them to do to us, would annihilate half the ills of life. The spirit of self-aggrandizement is the spirit of Satan; but the heart in which the love of Christ is cherished will possess that charity which seeketh not her own.”7
This unselfish spirit was manifested also in Abraham’s intercessory appeal in behalf of the inhabitants of Sodom.
Before he became the father of the faithful, Abraham committed a grievous mistake by running ahead of God. He thought that he and his wife could “help” God to fulfill the promise that his descendants would become a great nation. Since they were old already, they agreed that Abraham should go ahead and take Hagar, Sarah’s servant, to bear his son. That mistake created so much trouble in his household!
Finally, even though Sarah was past the age of childbearing and Abraham was well advanced in years, the miracle of a son was born to them, as God had promised. The most important legacy of salvation bequeathed by Abraham to his descendants was the act of faith in his willingness to offer up to God the miracle child, Isaac. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” ().
“The command was expressed in words that must have wrung with anguish that father’s heart: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, . . . and offer him there for a burnt-offering,’ (8). Isaac was the light of his home, the solace of his old age, above all else the inheritor of the promised blessing. The loss of such a son by accident or disease would have been heart rending to the fond father; it would have bowed down his whitened head with grief; but he was commanded to shed the blood of that son with his own hand. It seemed to him a fearful impossibility.”
Yet after much agonizing prayer, Abraham began the three-day journey up the mountain with his beloved son, to carry out the call.
As they neared the summit, Isaac inquired: “ ‘My father,’ ‘behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Oh, what a test was this! How the endearing words, ‘my father,’ pierced Abraham’s heart! Not yet—he could not tell him now. ‘My son,’ he said, ‘God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering’ ().
“At the appointed place they built the altar and laid the wood upon it. Then, with trembling voice, Abraham unfolded to his son the divine message. It was with terror and amazement that Isaac learned his fate, but he offered no resistance. He could have escaped his doom, had he chosen to do so; the grief-stricken old man, exhausted with the struggle of those three terrible days, could not have opposed the will of the vigorous youth. But Isaac had been trained from childhood to ready, trusting obedience, and as the purpose of God was opened before him, he yielded a willing submission. He was a sharer in Abraham’s faith, and he felt that he was honored in being called to give his life as an offering to God. He tenderly seeks to lighten the father’s grief, and encourages his nerveless hands to bind the cords that confine him to the altar.
“And now the last words of love are spoken, the last tears are shed, the last embrace is given. The father lifts the knife to slay his son, when suddenly his arm is stayed. An angel of God calls to the patriarch out of heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ He quickly answers, ‘Here am I,’ And again the voice is heard, ‘Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me’ (verses 11, 12).
“Then Abraham saw ‘a ram caught in a thicket,’ and quickly bringing the new victim, he offered it ‘in the stead of his son.’ In his joy and gratitude Abraham gave a new name to the sacred spot—‘Jehovah-jireh,’ ‘the Lord will provide,’ (verses 13, 14).”9
1. Unquestioning obedience
“Abraham’s unquestioning obedience is one of the most striking evidences of faith to be found in all the Bible.”10
“Many are still tested as was Abraham. . . . They may be required to abandon a career that promises wealth and honor, to leave congenial and profitable associations, and separate from kindred, to enter upon what appears to be only a path of self-denial, hardship, and sacrifice. God has a work for them to do.”11
2. A life of prayer
“The life of Abraham, the friend of God, was a life of prayer. . . . Fathers and mothers, each morning and evening gather your children round you, and in humble supplication lift your hearts to God for help. Your dear ones are exposed to temptation and trial. Daily annoyances beset the path of young and old. Those who would live patient, loving, cheerful lives must pray. Victory can be gained only by resolute and unwavering purpose, constant watchfulness, and continual help from God.”12
3. His noble and unselfish spirit
Remember Abraham’s exemplary attitude toward Lot. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” ().”
4. Love for perishing souls
Although Abraham loathed the sins of Sodom, “he desired that the sinners might be saved. His deep interest for Sodom shows the anxiety that we should feel for the impenitent. We should cherish hatred of sin, but pity and love for the sinner. All around us are souls going down to ruin as hopeless, as terrible, as that which befell Sodom. Every day the probation of some is closing. Every hour some are passing beyond the reach of mercy. And where are the voices of warning and entreaty to bid the sinner flee from this fearful doom? Where are the hands stretched out to draw him back from death? Where are those who with humility and persevering faith are pleading with God for him?”13
5. The father that ruled well his house
“The testimony of God concerning this faithful patriarch is, ‘Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.’ And again, ‘I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him,’ (14; ). . . . There would be on the part of Abraham no betraying of the truth for selfish purposes.”
6. A faith that worked
When God commanded this patriarch to offer his only begotten son, he obeyed by faith.
7. A testimony to the entire universe
“The sacrifice required of Abraham was not alone for his own good, nor solely for the benefit of succeeding generations; but it was also for the instruction of the sinless intelligences of heaven and of other worlds. The field of the controversy between Christ and Satan—the field on which the plan of redemption is wrought out—is the lesson book of the universe. . . .
“It had been difficult even for the angels to grasp the mystery of redemption—to comprehend that the Commander of heaven, the Son of God, must die for guilty man. . . . When the father’s hand was stayed as he was about to slay his son, and the ram which God had provided was offered in the place of Isaac—then light was shed upon the mystery of redemption, and even the angels understood more clearly the wonderful provision that God had made for man’s salvation.”15