The God of the Bible is called the God of Abraham. Abraham was called the friend of God. Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8-10). What can we learn from Abraham?
While Abram (Abraham’s name before God changed it) is first mentioned in Genesis 11, his story really begins in Genesis 12. “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (v. 1-3). The word “bless” is used five times in two verses. The blessing is a major theme in the Bible. God separates Abram from his father’s house, giving him a new identity no longer based in his family or geography. God promised Abram three things—land, offspring, and blessing. It’s no overstatement to say that these promises set the stage for the rest of the biblical story. Abram was blessed in order to bless the world. As Christians, our identity is in God. Like God separated Abram, we separate from the things of the world in order to be a blessing to the world.
God had blessed Abram but he still faced battles similar to those you and I face today. In Genesis 12:10-13, he faced a battle within. There was a famine in the land, so Abram went to Egypt. In the process, he asked his wife, Sarai, to say that she was his sister. The God who fed Elijah by the brook with the ravens would have taken care of Abram, but he took matters into his own hands. Instead of focusing on God who said, “I will,” Abram was focused on Egypt saying, “They will.” Don’t look at God through your circumstances but look at your circumstances through God. Abram told a half-truth which was a whole lie. Next, Abram faced battles with family. In Genesis 13:8-9 we see that Abram separated from Lot. He set a great example for us by choosing relationship over revenue, and friendship over finances. Abram was a peacemaker. Finally, Abram had battles with enemies. Five kings went to war with four kings. The five kings were captured, and Lot, Abram’s nephew, was carried off as a prisoner of war. Today, Abram would have been advised to pay a ransom, but he went to war with 318 fighting. God gave him the victory. Abram’s rescue of Lot is an example for how we should go after our lost family and friends. In Genesis 14:18-20, we read that after this victory Abram tithed to Melchizedek, the King of Salem. There are many parallels between Melchizedek and Jesus. When Abram gave a tenth of everything it demonstrated that God was his priority and treasure. A battle the believer must win is the battle of possessions. Tithing says we love the Giver more than the gifts.
Ten years passed between Genesis 12 (God’s first promise to Abram) and Genesis 15. In Genesis 15:1-5, we read a conversation between the Lord and Abram. God had promised to make him into a great nation, but he still did not have a child of his own. Abram asked God about this and God reassured him that he would have an heir and that through the heir his descendants would outnumber the stars. Like Abram, you can be honest with God. God did not rebuke him. God told him to look up! When you feel down you need to look up! Keep looking up! Barrenness is an accurate picture of the human condition spiritually. We are barren and can produce no spiritual life apart from God. Other couples were more fruitful, but God chose Abraham and Sarah. We see this pattern again and again throughout the Bible. God delights in using those who are weak in order to display His strength. God will use you when you are aware of your weaknesses not when you think you are strong. When we are weak, He is strong! In Genesis 15:6, we read that Abram “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Our greatest need is righteousness, and we have none on our own. Being religious will not get you to heaven. God requires righteousness. Praise God that Jesus is our righteousness! He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. All we have to do is believe.
Abraham was a man just like you and me. God blessed him to be a blessing, gave him victory in his battles, and saved him because of His belief. The same can be true for us.