Those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Galatians 3: 9

Abraham was blessed by God in many ways, for he had a long, close, and very active relationship with God in which the Lord led Abraham to a land of promise, provided him with position and prominence in that new home, and gave him the greatest desire of his heart in the form of a family. Yet, greater than all of these blessings was the promise that God made to Abraham that he would be the starting point of a long line of followers of God.

Although Abraham was a dynamic leader who exhibited courage and wisdom, he was an astute manager of his business interests, and he was able to negotiate treaties and contracts to his advantage, the thing that he is remembered for is still his faith. Abraham trusted God, and he allowed that trust to grow under the continual influence of the Lord, too. He was also willing to accept the grace of God as a vital part of the blessings that he was receiving, for Abraham frequently put himself into situations where God needed to save him from himself.

Ultimately, the story of Abraham gets down to a very simple reality. It is one of continuing day after day to simply put one foot in front of the other with the confidence that trust brings in the assurance that God will provide a solid place for that foot to land. Even on the days when the swirling winds of uncertainty and fear are trying to obscure the path, I know, as did Abraham, that the Lord will take my hand and that the light of His glory will penetrate any darkness. In Christ we can have faith that we will come through the moment whole, with no real injury, and stronger from the experience. As we journey through this foreign land that is life in the world we can join with Abraham in enjoying the blessing of God that comes through faith in His perfect will and infinite grace and love.   

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Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech.

Genesis 20: 17

This is a story of fear and failure to trust, a tale of how the very human man, Abraham, couldn’t find it in his heart to remain strong, or better, to live in the center of the strength that God grants to His children. Thus, Abraham deceived Abimelech and came very close to putting him directly into the path of God’s righteous anger and all of its consequences. Although he was not one of God’s chosen, God came directly to Abimelech and warned him in clear and honestly direct terms about the dangerous course that he had entered upon because of Abraham’s deception.

There was a spiritual disaster in the making in these events, for here was a man who God, Himself, had visited and had eaten a meal with. Abraham was a man who was to become known as a “friend of God”; still, he was allowing fear, uncertainty, and his inability to trust God above his own understanding to cause him to fail miserably in his mandate to bring the Lord’s truth and His loving grace into the lives of the seeking souls around him. Still, the Lord’s plans and His will are greater than anything that we people are capable of doing to thwart them. Also, through His grace, God permits us to repent and turn to trust in him in order to redeem the catastrophic situations that we create.

So God called upon Abraham to enter into a time of focused and concentrated prayer on behalf of Abimelech in order to seek healing for him. Whatever may have been hurting or diseased with Abimelech’s body, it was his soul that needed healing. He would never be whole until he had surrendered his own life to the God of all Creation. Thus, this is what Abraham sought for his new friend. This is what God asks all of us to do as well. We are all to seek God’s gracious and saving intervention in the lives of people without regard for what our past experiences with them might have been like. We are also to set aside our fears and apprehensions that are based on a person’s race, religion, and affiliations. Then we need to watch in amazement and joy as the Lord works to bring these people into common familial relationship with us as we become one in Christ.  

For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God.

Hebrews 11: 10

 

We know the story. What Abraham did was no small thing, for he left al behind and headed out into the hostile unknown in order to respond to what God called upon him to do. He would never know the comforts of a dwelling place that was constructed out of stone or bricks or even of well fitted wood. He would be a tent dweller for the rest of his life, and that was fine with him so long as what he was doing was pleasing to the Lord. Abraham knew that God’s promises to him had a very long duration and a distant horizon of full execution. Although it wasn’t always easy to wait on the development of God’s plan, and Abraham did take things into his own hands from time to time, he was mostly content to trust in the Lord and to dwell in the land of faith and hope. This was not easy to do for him, and it is seldom so easy for us to rest easy under similar circumstances.

 

Yet, this looking ahead with hopeful anticipation is a part of the journey that God sets most of us on. There are always aspects of trusting the Lord that involve a form of waiting and aspects of hoping and trusting. We trust that what we hear from God in His Word, in teaching, and through what the Spirit says to us is accurate and true. We act upon the sort of input that is typically discounted or dismissed in the world outside of the church; so, in faith, we often do things which defy the logic of the world where we live and the people who we engage with in its environment. This can make people who follow Christ seem to be irrational or even imbalanced to others as we make important, life-altering decisions for reasons that often run counter to all that is of primary importance in society at large. Still, these decisions are made in due consideration of what Christ is saying to us and are founded upon our God-granted understanding that this life is significant for the way that Christ uses it for the sake of the future of His kingdom.

 

In this way, we join in with Abraham in considering the foundation that is being constructed by God’s hand as He works through our small efforts. We may see only a stone or two of that wall as it is laid out upon the ground of our world. We might not even get to touch that much of the future during the brief span of time that we have here, but even in these minimal dents in the sand, eternity is found. A simple act of obedience today may very well ripple through the future with powerful effect as Christ works in the hearts and the minds of others. We do not know what the outcome may be, and that is truly by virtue of God’s design. We are, like Abraham, simple workers in the Lord’s field. We are tasked with following Christ in trust and by faith into that still forming future that He is working out, Himself in obedience to the Father. Still, we join with Abraham in looking upon God as the builder of something that is great and glorious beyond all imagining as we set our hands to work in placing by faith the stone that Christ directs us to set.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show to you.

Genesis 12: 1

 

When Abram obeyed God in this matter, he became a pilgrim and a traveler, an immigrant. He left behind everything that gave him earthly identity, comfort, and safety; plus, he effectively walked away from his heritage as a man of some rank and privilege. But he was responding to God’s calling for him and upon his life. There was a very powerful promise of greatness through descendents that God gave to Abram, but that was certainly vague and intangible. What this man of rather ordinary faith knew was that he needed to pack up his household, his wife and the people who served them, his nephew Lot and his family and servants and leave home for foreign soil that was far away and probably dangerous for them.

 

He did all of this because God told him to. He entered into a life-changing journey of faith in response to a calling of the Lord that was too powerful and compelling to ignore or to set aside. The journey was a true adventure, and its narrative gives us many of the great accounts of God’s faithfulness, protection, and grace in the Bible. Yet, it all started with one person who knew God and responded to the Lord’s voice. Frankly, I have never been in Abram’s shoes. God has not given me directions that involved such bold and blind faith. My journey with Him has been shaped and formed in close connection with other people who have listened and responded to the Lord’s calling upon them. My steps through life have landed on soil that is close to the place of my birth. My morning sky is filled with the light of a very familiar sun.

 

However, there are aspects of my story that are very similar to Abram’s. The life journeys that all followers of Christ experience are also like Abram’s in certain ways. Christ calls us out of the false security of our birth identity, the comfort of family, and the familiar rules of culture, and He leads us into the foreign soil of the kingdom of God. If we take Christ’s demand upon our hearts and minds seriously, we become true immigrants in our world. We enter into a life of living outside of the secure connections that our earthly homes provide as we embrace the adventure and the restorative love that is at the center of Christ’s will for each of His people. Followers of Christ today are separated from Abram by thousands of years and live in a radically different world; yet, we are truly like him in many ways. God speaks to us. He gives us His will, the promise of His faithfulness to us, and He grants us the ability and the authority to bring life into the foreign lands where we now reside. Our part in it all is like Abram’s in that we need to pack up and go.

I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.

Genesis 17: 1b

 

This is a point in the story of our ancestor Abraham when he has tried to figure out the answers to the most troubling challenge of his life. He did this by going his own way and by doing things in a manner that he readily understood. Abraham lacked the ability to just hang in there long enough to see how God would resolve it all. He listened to the first person that gave him an idea for resolution that seems like something that he could accomplish on his own. The actions required were understandable to him, for they didn’t require anything supernatural or outside of Abraham’s control. Yet, Abraham was totally wrong, and God was about to fill his world with the touch of that which for the Lord is totally natural.

 

As our days progress and our personal stories unfold, it seems that we are often in the same place. We believe that God is good to His word, and we trust His accomplishment of it. Still, when the pressures start to mount, the time for resolution gets short, or our nerves become frayed and our patience runs thin, we start working on the solutions, and we become open to suggestions that are too often not ones that God would or could endorse. Then human nature takes hold, and we try to do it all on our own and keep everything that we are doing out of the sight of God.

 

For Abraham, the Lord made it very clear and understandable. He does this for all of us, too. God is who and what He is, for He is the Creator of all, the ruler of everything, and the power to accomplish anything is held in His hands. God also loves each of us absolutely, cares about our needs as the true Father that He is, and continually blesses us in all of the ways that we require. God wants me to live my life in His presence with all of my thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and plans fully in His view. The Lord gives me His word, the people in my spiritual family, and His Spirit to comfort, counsel, and assist me along the journey. He calls upon me and all of His people to walk before Him in full submission to His will and with bold confidence in God’s direction for our travels.

 

In hope against hope he (Abraham) believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”

Romans 4: 18

 

If Abraham had lived a perfect life of quiet submission and acceptance of the promises that God had made to him, I would have a very hard time identifying with him. But he was hardly the faith in action poster child for his or for any generation. Still Paul and the author of Hebrews both hold him up as exactly that. Why? What is there that I can learn from Abraham’s story of inaction followed by impulsivity and taking matters into his own hands?

 

There seem to be two main components to the way that the events of his life play out. First, God never waivers in his commitment to Abraham; the promises that God made to him were absolute and they were permanent. Also, they required nothing out of Abraham in order for God to honor them. The Lord stuck with Abraham through all of his wandering and every moment of doubt and sinfully self determined action. Thus, God was continually restoring Abraham’s faith, for the Lord was Abraham’s only reliable and unchanging source of hope just as He is ours. Secondly, Abraham accepted the truth of God’s grace and His commitment. He kept coming back to God and seeking out His voice of truth and purpose for life.

 

My life has had far too many episodes and even periods of time where I took off on my own and decided that my way was the right way to go. Although, I have always been wrong when I have done this, God has consistently stayed with me to redirect my thinking and to pick me up when I have fallen down. Abraham was not really a special case and his situation was not all that different from those that we all encounter. Yet, as He did with Abraham, so God will always fulfill His promises to us.