GREAT MEN OF THE BIBLE: The Old Testament
Before we study the story of Abraham, I want to point out that we all know that Abraham was first called "Abram" until God changed his name. For the sake of simplicity, though, we are just going to call him "Abraham" from the get-go.
Abraham is such an important figure not only in the Old Testament but also in Christianity itself that it is always tempting to study the theological significance of his life: the promise to Abraham and to his seed, the identity of the seed, law vs. faith, freedom vs. slavery, etc. That, though, should be the focus of Romans and Galatians, not Great Men of the Bible. What we want to zero in on in this study is the character of each of the men and how they inspire us to be men of God, just like them.
Whatever else Abraham is noted for, he is noted as being a man of faith. Very few, if any of us, have ever been called upon to exercise the faith Abraham was called upon to exercise. His faith is so great that he is the only person in the entire OT who is called "the friend of God" (Is. 41:8). God gave him that title because of how impressed He was with Abraham. Abraham WILL mess up—he is human; however, the degree of faith he exercised is phenomenal, especially in light of the fact that he was one of the first believers in God, not one of the last.
THE PROMISE (12:1-3)
|Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
The most important promise or covenant in the entire Bible is found in 12:1-3. Christianity, according to Paul, is actually based upon this promise (Gal. 3:16). The promise focuses primarily on the idea of blessing, that God would bless Abraham and his descendant(s) (Gen. 17:7).
The promise to Abraham, though, entails one other element too. According to Stephen, God called Abraham while he was living in Ur of the Chaldeans, southern-most part of modern-day Iraq. According to v. 1, where does God want Abraham to go?
So just exactly where is that land acording to v. 1?
ABRAHAM'S RESPONSE (12:4-10)
|4 So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. 8 Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. 9 Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev. 10 Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.
According to Stephen, Abraham followed God to the city of Haran, located to the north of the land of Canaan. Abraham stays there until his father Terah passes away. Once more God calls Abraham to follow Him. This is where Gen. 12 picks up. Where does God lead Abraham to (12:5-7)?
According to Gen. 15:18, the land of Abraham will extend from which river to which river?
ABRAHAM'S FAITH DESPITE THE SITUATION WITH HIS NEPHEW (13:1-15)
|13:1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 3 He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. 5 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. 8 So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." 10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere -this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah -like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. . . . 14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.
In the above passage, we see that Abraham gets involved in a land dispute. Who does he get into the dispute with?
What was the relationship between Abraham nd Lot? Father/son? Master/slave? Uncle/nephew? Cousins?
Who should have had the first shot in deciding which part of the country he wanted for his own, Abraham or Lot? Why?
In spite of that fact, Abraham relinquishes his right and defers to Lot. On the surface who gets the better end of the bargain, Abraham or Lot?
Why didn't Abraham exercise his prerogative and demand first choice? Wasn't he jeopardizing the promise God had given to him when he gave Lot first choice?
There is a view of predestination which claims that God has decided EVERYTHING before the creation of the world and makes sure that everybody does exactly what He has decided. This contradicts Christianity. On the other hand, Christianity does seem to indicate that many times God does have a plan and is very creative in the way He can make that plan come to pass. Did God predestine Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus and go to hell? I kind of doubt it. Did God MAKE Caiaphas condemn Jesus and thereby end up in hell too? Again, I doubt it. HOWEVER, God was able to use their evil in order to sacrifice Jesus for our salvation. That is creative. This should not surprise us because the first thing the Bible teaches us about God is that He is creative: "In the beginning God created . . ." This does NOT mean that we are not to work to bring about God's will. It's just sometimes God needs to remind us that when it is all said and done, He doesn't need our help to accomplish His purposes. He just invites us to join Him in what HE is doing so that we can grow in our relationship with Him.
How much of his own land (the land of Canaan) did Abraham actually possess (Acts 7:5)?
According to Hebrews 11:9, even though Canaan was now the home God promised to Abraham, did it feel like home to him?
According to Acts 7:5, how long was it before Abraham received his own land?
According to Gen. 15:13, how long will it be before Abraham's descendants possessed the land?
All this is truly amazing. How many of us practically demand that God fulfill His promises to us IMMEDIATELY? If not immediately, how about within a few months or at the most a few years? Abraham was willing to follow God even though the promise God gave him would not be fulfilled within his lifetime. In fact, it really wouldn't be fulfilled for another 400 years when Moses brought the Israelites to the land of Canaan to conquer it. Even more importantly, it wouldn't be fulfilled for almost another 2,000 years because ultimately Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham. Faith like Abraham's is what impresses God. As Abraham's spiritual descendants (Gal. 3:29), we are to exercise the same kind of faith that Abraham exercised (Gal. 3:7).