February 24, 2012
This week I’ve been writing about the gift of faith. On Wednesday I wrote about how God has given us each a gift or portion of faith for our own benefit. On Monday I wrote about the Gift of Faith and its ministerial benefit for the common good and the difference between that gift and our personal gift of faith.
Today I thought it only fitting to write about the father of faith, Abraham. I think you may be surprised at some things that never occurred to you before.
Now Abraham’s story begins in Genesis 11:27 at his geneaology to where it talks about his burial in Genesis 49:31 and covers 2/3rds of Genesis. That is a significant portion of scripture to be devoted to one man, so it seems that the importance of this man and his life to us must be significant.
We know that his willingness to be obedient to sacrifice Isaac was the catalyst for the New Covenant and from that one act he was deemed the ‘Father of Faith’. From that story alone it is easy to hold him in high esteem and revere him, for all of us wonder could we have had the kind of faith required to sacrifice our own child.
But I want to point out some things today to bring this great man into an appropriate light.
There are only two ways to live in communion with God. One, by keeping the letter of the law perfectly at all times and continually submitting sacrifices to ‘cover’ your sins, or two, by living in God’s grace. Abraham lived in the grace of God. Grace and law cannot co-exist in a person’s life. You must choose one or the other.
He had a sinful nature passed down from our father Adam. But let me point out that Abraham lived in the period of time before the Law of Moses. He knew nothing of keeping rules and laws in order to be in right standing with God. His sins were not redeemed or covered by the blood sacrifices required by the Law.
And yet he had communion with God. He thought nothing at all of talking to God and reaching out to Him. It never occurred to him that he should be separated from God. Because the law had not yet come, he freely lived in close communication with God.
And God communicated to him. His grace allowed that. God had not set in place the institution of the Law at that time and He could feely communicate with Abraham through His grace. There was no barrier between them. It was the law that created the barrier between God and man.
Abraham had no sin consciousness. In the beginning the only sin was the sin of disobedience when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. There was no other requirement God had made on man other than to obey Him. It was the law that brought sin consciousness.
The law brings sin consciousness.
Grace brings obedience consciousness.
And Abraham obeyed God. Because of grace, God and Abraham were able to communicate freely and develop a close relationship. Abraham loved God and God loved Abraham.
Through the years as this relationship grew Abraham came to know God, really know God intimately. He knew His character and His personality. He certainly knew His love. He knew nothing but the sweet preciousness of our Jehovah God.
So when God asked Abraham to go to the mountaintop and sacrifice Isaac, Abraham, only knowing the sincere and lavish love of Father God, knew that God would make a way.
He did not have the disadvantage of years and years of the Law telling him he was not worthy to receive ‘a way out’. He did not have the feeling that God was about to punish him and take something precious away from him. All he knew was God’s goodness and His love and he trusted that fully.
Abraham was far from perfect, but that did not stop God from pouring out His grace to Abraham and remaining in that close relationship. It was God’s desire as much as Abraham’s, to be in that tight relationship. They both entered into it eagerly.
You could say they were the very best of friends. And friends don’t abandon each other because of their imperfections, but they hold them up and compensate for them because of their imperfections, all the while loving them. Abraham knew of no other way to be in a relationship with God. It was an age of innocence prior to the law.
Let’s take a look at this story in Abraham’s life.
1) Abraham moved to the Negev and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he was living in Gerar, 2) Abraham told everyone that his wife Sarah was his sister. So King Abimelech of Gerar sent men to take Sarah. 3) God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You’re going to die because of the woman that you’ve taken! She’s a married woman!” 4) Abimelech hadn’t come near her, so he asked, “Lord, will you destroy a nation even if it’s innocent? 5) Didn’t he tell me himself, ‘She’s my sister,’ and didn’t she even say, ‘He’s my brother’? I did this in all innocence and with a clear conscience.” 6) “Yes, I know that you did this with a clear conscience,” God said to him in the dream. “In fact, I kept you from sinning against me. That’s why I didn’t let you touch her. 7) Give the man’s wife back to him now, because he’s a prophet. He will pray for you, and you will live. But if you don’t give her back, you and all who belong to you are doomed to die.” GOD’S WORD Translation
Now in this story Abraham and Sarah moved to the Negev to live. But he told Sarah to lie about who she was and when she did, because of her beauty, the king took her for his harem. But instead of punishing Abraham for lying, God intended to strongly punish the innocent king!
God was more concerned with someone hurting his friend Abraham, whom he had a covenant with, than he was with Abraham lying. God is basically telling the king here, “I don’t care if my friend Abraham lied to you, I will not let you take his wife! And on top of that you will be doomed to die unless Abraham prays for you.”
Now let’s read a bit further to find out why Abraham lied.
8 ) Early in the morning Abimelech called together all his officials. He told them about all of this, and they were terrified. 9) Then Abimelech called for Abraham and asked him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you that you would bring such a serious sin on me and my kingdom? You shouldn’t have done this to me.” 10) Abimelech also asked Abraham, “What were you thinking when you did this?” 11) Abraham said, “I thought that because there are no God-fearing people in this place, I’d be killed because of my wife. 12) Besides, she is my sister-my father’s daughter but not my mother’s. She is also my wife. 13) When God had me leave my father’s home and travel around, I said to her, ‘Do me a favor: Wherever we go, say that I’m your brother.'”
Wow! I LOVE it!!! Abraham lied because he was afraid of the king. He was more afraid of the king killing him that he was of God punishing him for lying. And rightly so! God’s grace covered the lie. Abraham never had less favor with God because he lied than if he hadn’t. God’s grace so covered the lie that God never saw it. We know this because if He had, He would have addressed it, but it is never mentioned that God was displeased with Abraham because of the lie.
And wouldn’t you have thought this great Father of Faith would have had enough faith to believe for God’s protection from the King if he had told the truth? Well Abraham’s faith wasn’t in his ability to do the right thing. In fact I doubt he even knew what faith was. He just knew a fearless relationship with God.
And just what did this kind of grace/favor do for Abraham?
14) Then Abimelech took sheep, cattle, and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham. He also gave his wife Sarah back to him. 15) Abimelech said, “Look, here’s my land. Live anywhere you like.” 16) He said to Sarah, “Don’t forget, I’ve given your brother 25 pounds of silver. This is to silence any criticism against you from everyone with you. You’re completely cleared.” 17) Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female slaves so that they could have children. 18) (The LORD had made it impossible for any woman in Abimelech’s household to have children because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.)
Abimelech saw the magnitude of God’s favor in Abraham’s life and he was terrified. He gave him Sarah back, and sheep, cattle, female slaves. And then he told him to take any part of his land which he wanted to live in. Then he reminded Sarah that he had also given her brother 25 pounds of silver. He was giving all this to Abraham to gain favor with Abraham. He also knew that his only hope was if Abraham would pray for him. He wanted desperately to be in Abraham’s good favor.
So when Abraham prayed to God, he healed the king. And He also healed all the women in the king’s household so that they could once again bear children, a curse which God had brought on them because of this. God cursed this king because of what he had innocently done to His friend Abraham, who lied.
It didn’t matter who was wrong and who was right. It mattered who was God’s friend. It mattered who God had relationship with. It mattered who God had entered into a covenant with.
Now lest you think that this was an isolated incident, don’t be fooled. Abraham lied about Sarah another time in a very similar situation. And he did it both times intentionally! And you never see a big episode of Abraham asking God to forgive him and then God granting forgiveness. God never missed a beat covering Abraham and going after his enemy. When residing in grace you are just forgiven!
Abraham lived with no law – just grace. He was not required to live sin free. Abraham was only required to obey. When he did not obey there were consequences, but he was still forgiven, just as in his disobedience with Hagar producing Ishmael.
Because of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice at the cross, we now have no law – just grace. But unlike Abraham who had a tight friendship with God, we have been given the ability to become the son’s of God. If Abraham had this much favor and power in his life as a friend of God, consider just how much more we as His children have.
Stop being concerned about what you do and don’t do. In grace you are just forgiven. Focus on your relationship with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. You are in covenant with them. You have their love, you have their friendship and they have your back.
In John 15:7 Jesus said.
7) “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you can ask for anything you want, and you will receive it