Before the flood of Noahís time, people lived longer, but after the flood their ages grew shorter. Our next story is a man who was one of the most famous people in the Bible. His name is Abraham. He lived to be 175 years old. When he was 75 something important happened to him. His name originally was Abram, which means ďrespected father.Ē He received this name even though he had no children of his own then. He did have a nephew named Lot, and Iím sure that he was like a father to him. His name tells us that he was one whom people respected.
Now you may be wondering how Abraham became so great? Did he conquer many enemies? Was he wealthy? Was he a great leader of a large group of people? Maybe he was good in sports and no one could beat him. He was not great for any of these reasons. In fact Abram would not have been great at all except for one reason. God gave him a promise, Abram believed it, and the promise came true. Abram believed everything God had told him. Sometimes when someone tells us to do something we have to think about it. If it is hard to do, we sometimes think of why we shouldnít do it. God gave Abraham some instructions that were hard to do. Perhaps he thought hard about some of them, but something he knew: it was OK to trust God and do as He said. Now let us see how Abram became great and how it started.
When Abram was 75 years old he lived-in a beautiful place called Haran, in a beautiful area near where people once built the tower of Babel. They had lived there for a longtime and were content to stay there. It was in Haran that God told him to pack up everything and leave. Besides that, God didnít tell him whether it was a better place or not. He just told Abram to leave and go to a place that was unknown to Him. God said, ďgo to a place that I will show you.Ē With this command God made a promise to Abram that if He trusted God in this move something wonderful would happen. God then made six promises that He would keep.
1. Abraham would become a great Nation.
Do you know when God promised that to Abraham, it didnít seem possible for it to happen? Abraham must have thought ďhow is that going to happen?Ē God did make it happen but it took some time. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael later became the father of the Arab nations of the world. Isaac became the father of the Jewish nation. Three great religions of the world claim Abraham as their father, Judaism, Islam and Christianity
We can see that it didnít happen right away, but in time God kept His promise and Abraham did become a great nation.
2. He would bless Abraham.
The word, bless, means to make happy. In this promise God is saying That He will make certain to provide all of Abrahams needs. Sometimes people think that happiness comes when they get everything they want. God doesnít promise that to us. Sometimes we think that we will be happy by having many possessions. God is our heavenly father and He promises to give us everything that will bring happiness. He alone knows how to cause true happiness. Abraham needed to hear that promise from God. He may have asked himself, where are we going to go?, What are we going to wear? Where are we going to stay? What are we going to eat? Those are questions we ask ourselves but God promises to take care of all of these.
3. He promised to make Abrahamís Name great.
Because of Abrahamís faith, three world religions claim him as their father. Something important that many people donít know is without God, Abrahams faith would not mean anything. Abraham became great because God was always faithful to do as He said.
4. He would make Abraham a blessing.
When God causes His blessings to happen to us it is important to remember that God does not intend for us to be selfish. He always gives enough of something that we can share it with others. Have you ever met a selfish person that was happy? Being a blessing to others means that we share that which God has given to us with others. Thatís what being a blessing means.
5. He would honor those who respected Abraham.
When men showed respect toward Abraham it would be like showing respect toward God. Abraham was Godís servant and He loved and protected him. When we respect Godís servants on earth, God says that we honor His servant, He will honor us.
6. He would dishonor those who disrespected Abraham.
God knew there would be those who for some reason would choose to become Abrahamís enemies. Abraham never gave any reason to dislike him, but because of Jealousy and selfish lifestyles they would try to destroy him. God promised to take care of his friends and enemies alike.
With these promises from God, what did Abraham have to fear? Abraham began his journey, not knowing where he was going. There is a song that says ďI know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the futureĒ Abraham could have written that song.
As Abraham made his journey he came across a large area of land. Once more God told Abraham to take a look all around as far as he could see. God promised that He would give all of that land to Abraham and his children after him. Once again Abraham believed God and to show how much he did, he built an altar at that spot. People build altars for worshipping God and offering a sacrifice. Building an altar in Abrahamís case was to use it as a reminder of what God has promised. Someday Abraham might return to that place and the altar would be there to remind him that someday all of that land would be His.
We donít build altars like that today made of stone, but it is important that we remember the areas of our lives when God did something important for us. Throughout our lives there will be certain promises we make to God that remind us to be faithful. Being faithful means being truthful about promises we make. One day in your life you made a promise to receive Jesus into your life. You can remember people, places, and the time that you did so. Remembering this is like building an altar; something to you do not want to forget. One day I decided that I was going to commit my life to some area of serving others. Another time I decided that I needed to improve on being faithful in serving others. These are like altars that remind us to keep going on. Abrahamís altar revealed that He believed that God would keep His promise.
After he built the altar Abraham journeyed south and everything started to look bad. Food and water became hard to find so he journeyed down to Egypt, a large territory where food and water were easier to find. Now Abrahamís faith faced a new difficulty. He had heard about how cruel the Egyptians were. He had heard that if they saw His wife, the king would take her as his own and kill Abraham. Now Abraham was afraid. What was He going to do? Could Abraham trust God and tell Pharaoh the truth? Could God help him if he did and spare his life? Abraham began to wonder if he could trust God. Now we said that Abraham believed God, but he still wasnít perfect. He still worried like some of us do and wondered how far he could trust God.
Sometimes in difficult times it is not easy to trust God and we try to figure out what we should do. Abraham had a plan. He was going to tell a half-truth. He was going to tell Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister, then he could take her and spare Abrahams life. The truth was that Sarai was the daughter of Abrahamís father through a second wife that he married after Abrahamís mother died. She was a half sister so what Abraham did was tell a half of a lie. Just as Abraham planned, the king took Sarai and added her to his other wives. Because of this God sent a plague on Pharaoh and told him it was because he had taken Abrahamís wife to be his own. Pharaoh became angry with Abraham for not telling the truth and sent he and his family on their way. Do you think that Abraham needed to tell a lie to protect himself? Abraham did what so many of us do when we think about what it costs to tell the truth. Satan always tries to convince us that telling lies is the safe way to do something, but it takes faith to speak the truth.
Another important lesson came to Abraham when he was 100 years old and Sarai was 90. God came to Abraham. Abraham built another altar and God made a promise to him that He will have a son born out of Abrahamís body. Once again, Abraham believed God even though he was 100 years old. It just wasnít possible that a 100-year old man and a 90-year old woman could have children. That didnít keep Abraham from believing Godís Promise.
Now I am sure that Sarai and Abraham thought hard about this and Sarai came up with an idea. Why donít you take my servant, Hagar, and marry her and have a child with her. That makes sense. They even convinced themselves that this was only reasonable to do this. Thinking that they were doing what was right, Hagar had a son from Abraham and named him Ishmael. Ishmael later became the father of the Arabic people of the world. Now Hagar hated Sarai and tormented her often because she could not have a child. There was trouble in the family. Is this what God planned to happen?
Not long after, God visited Abraham again and a message came to him. Sarai was to have a child. When Abraham heard this he began to laugh. He probably thought it was a joke that a 90-year old woman could have baby. Nothing like this has ever happened. How could it be possible? Once more God told Abraham that he would be a father of many nations and that Sarai would bear a son and call his name Isaac (Which means laughter). The name Isaac reminded Abraham that God was the God who could the impossible.
Now God changed the names of Sarai and Abraham. Until now, Abrahamís name was Abram which means ďrespected father.Ē Now his name will be Abraham which means ďfather of a great many.Ē Saraiís name meant princess, now her name is Sarah. Her name now means ďmother of nations,Ē saying that kings will come from her. Once again God kept His promise by the birth of Isaac. Do you think that Abraham learned from his mistake in taking Hagar to wife?
Today we have Arabs (sons of Ishmael) and the nation of Israel (sons of Isaac) at war with each other. This was one of the results of Abrahamís not understanding Godís promise. Abrahamís mistake did not keep God from fulfilling His promise to Abraham. The three great religions of the world own Abraham as their father; Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. God did keep His promise and many people too great to count are Abrahamís children.
Many years later Abraham experienced the greatest test of all. He must have been close to 120 years old when this happened. Isaac was now a young man around 20. In time, Abrahams faith in God grew stronger, and he learned from his past mistakes. God told Abraham to take Isaac, his son, to a high mountain and offer him as a sacrifice on an altar. This was a strange command from God, who promised a great blessing through Isaac. How could this happen if Abraham was now to kill his only Son? Why would the great God who always kept His promise make him do this? Abraham must have thought long and hard about this. He couldnít understand why God was asking this of him. He had no answer. All he could do was remember that God has always been faithful and now He will continue to be. We must trust Him when we cannot see, or understand knowing that later it will all make sense. It takes a great amount of faith to trust God when we donít have the answers. Abraham learned through time that God makes no mistakes and He wasnít making one now.
Abraham now built an altar and gathered wood to lay on it. Iím sure there was a great pain in his heart as he did all of this. Now what do you think Isaac was thinking. He didnít know that he was going to be laying on that pile of wood. He asked Abraham, Father look, we have the altar made and the wood ready to set on fire but where is the lamb? Abraham thought about his question and said, my son, God will provide himself a lamb. Do you think that Abraham knew it as a fact or did he hope it would happen? Then Abraham thought, if I have to kill my only Son then the God who asked me to will cause him to come back to life again. In another place in the Bible, it tells us that this is exactly what Abraham thought.
Abraham tied Isaac to the altar on the wood pile. Do you think Isaac had faith as well as Abraham by letting his father do this? We will study about Isaac next on how he was willing to obey when times were hard. While Abraham was about to slay his son, a voice from Heaven cried out. ďAbraham, do not harm the young man, for now I know that you honor me enough to be willing to slay your only Son for me. As Abraham looked around he saw a ram caught in the bushes. God had provided a ram to take the place of Isaac. In the New Testament we see something similar. Like Isaac, we are helpless in our sin, and like Abraham God gave His sinless perfect son because He loved us. Instead of Isaac having to face death, God provided a ram instead and Isaac was free from the altar. God, once again kept His promise.
The Ram is like Jesus, who became our substitute so we would not have to die for our own sin. Godís love like Abrahams was unselfish. He gave the best that He had just as Abraham did. The bible tells us that when we were without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. If we ask Him into our hearts He will forgive us of all our sins and give us a new life and purpose for living. This lesson in Abrahamís life tells us the story of Godís love.
God finishes this story by praising Abraham for the sacrifice he made. One more time, God repeats to Abraham what He had been promising, that his offspring will grow into a great nation. They will take over the land of their enemies and through Abrahamís seed the messiah would come (the messiah is Jesus, The anointed One) and all the world would be blessed.
All of this happened because ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD. It means that we can trust God. In times when things are going well; in times when we are afraid; when thing donít always make sense; in times of great difficulty, and when we are tempted to give up hope. God always has our best interests at heart andwe can trust Him.