Besides Moses, no other Old Testament character is mentioned more frequently in the New Testament than Abraham. In James 2:23, James calls Abraham “God’s friend,” a title used by no one else in the Bible. Galatians 3:7 calls believers of all generations the “children of Abraham.” His impact and importance in redemptive history are seen in the Bible. Abraham’s life takes up most of Genesis, from his first mention in Genesis 11:26 to his death in Genesis 25:8.
We know a lot about Abraham’s life, but we don’t know much about his birth and early life. Abraham was already 75 years old when we first met him. In Genesis 11:28, we read that Terah, Abraham’s father, lived in Ur, an influential city on the Euphrates River, about halfway between the Persian Gulf and the modern city of Baghdad. We also read that Terah took his family and intended to go to Canaan but settled in Haran. Abraham’s story gets interesting at the beginning of Genesis 12.
In the first three verses, God calls Abraham to leave his home in Haran and travel to Canaan, telling him that He will bless him and make his name great. God calls Abraham out of his home and tells him to travel to a land He will show him. He also promises Abraham that he’ll get land of his own, be made into a great nation, and the promise of blessing. These promises form the foundation of what will eventually be called the Abrahamic Covenant, established in Genesis 15 and ratified in Genesis 17. What makes Abraham unique is that he followed God. Genesis 12:4 tells us that after God called Abraham, he went as the Lord told him.
How many people would leave everything familiar to them without knowing the destination? The concept of family meant everything to those living in Abraham’s time. Family units were firmly knit then, and it was unusual for family members to live miles apart. Additionally, we’re not told anything about Abraham’s religious life and family before his calling. The people of Haran and Ur worshiped the Babylonian pantheon of gods, particularly the moon god Sin, so God called Abraham out of the pagan culture. Abraham recognized Yaweh’s call, so he obeyed willingly, not hesitantly.
How old were Abraham and Sarah when they had Isaac?
In Genesis 12, we read about Abraham and his barren wife, Sarah. Genesis 12:1-4 records God’s words to Abraham about a homeland for his children. The gift of a son isn’t directly mentioned in this first communication, but God hinted at His plan for Abraham. Abraham was 75 when he first received God’s promise, and Genesis 21:5 says he was 100 when Isaac was born. Sarah was 90, so the couple waited 25 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise.
In the 25 years between God’s promise and Isaac’s birth, Abraham and Sarah had ideas of how they would facilitate keeping the promise. One was that Eliezer, Abraham’s steward, would become the heir of Abraham’s household, detailed explicitly in Genesis 15:2-3. Another theory was that Abraham could have an heir through a son conceived by Sarah’s lady maid, Hagar, as detailed in Genesis 16:1-2. In both instances, God rejected those men as Abraham’s heirs, pointing Sarah and Abraham to the promise’s literal, miraculous fulfillment.
A test of Abraham’s faith.
Abraham’s faith was tested regarding his son, Isaac. In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the top of Mount Moriah. We’re unsure of how Abraham reacted internally to his command. All we know is that Abraham faithfully obeyed the God who was his shield and was tremendously gracious and good to him until that point. As with the earlier command to leave his family and home, Abraham obeyed, as we read in Genesis 22:3. We know that God ultimately holds back Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but imagine how Abraham felt. He waited decades for a son, and the God who promised this child to him would take him away.
The point is that Abraham’s faith in God was more significant than his love for his son, and he trusted that even if he sacrificed Isaac, God would bring him back from the dead. Romans 4:11-12 describes Abraham as the father of faith due to his response to God in leaving his homeland and having a son in his old age. Genesis 15:4-5 details God’s promise to Abraham that his child would be “the sands of the sea.” Abraham was old and didn’t have sons, but he never doubted that God would follow through with His promise. He didn’t understand how something like that could be possible, but he accepted God’s word as truth.
Mary responded similarly when the angel Gabriel told her she would be the Messiah’s mother, as detailed in Luke 1:26-38. She didn’t understand how something like that could be possible since she was a virgin, but she never doubted that God would do as He said. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that response is the type of faith that pleases God. One lesson from Abraham’s life is that we should live a life of faith. Abraham took his son to Mount Moriah because he knew God would keep His promises. It wasn’t a blind faith, but one of settled assurance and trust in the God who proved Himself true and faithful.
If we looked back on our lives, we would see God’s hand of providence all over it. God doesn’t have to speak from burning bushes, visit us accompanied by angels, or part sea waters to be active in our lives. God is orchestrating and superintending the events of our lives. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem that way, but Abraham’s life proves that God’s presence in our lives is real. Even Abraham’s failures show that God, while not protecting us from the consequences of our sin, works His will through and in us. Nothing we do will stop His plan.
God called Abraham out of the millions of people on earth to be the object of His blessings. He used Abraham to play a crucial part in the outworking of the story of redemption, ending in Jesus’ birth. Abraham and Sarah are examples of hope and faith in God’s promises. Our lives should be so lived that, when we die, our faith, like Abraham’s will, remains an enduring legacy to others.