Important People in the Bible – Abraham

We learn about Abraham in the book of Genesis. Abraham was the son of Terah and is known as the founder of the Hebrew nation. His family settled in Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham had two brothers, named Nahor, and Haran. His wife was Sarah.

After the death of his brother Nahor, Abraham and his family, including his nephew Lot and his father Terah, left Ur to go the land of Canaan. God assured him in a vision that this was the land his seed would inherit.

Abraham lived in the hill country for at least 15 years. He strengthened his position with the local Amoritish chieftains by uniting with them in the rescue of Lot from an Elamite king. On his return, he was blessed by Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, to whom he gave a tithe of his spoils.

God now renewed his promise of an heir to Abraham; but when no son came, his wife, despairing of having children of her own, suggested that he take as his concubine, her maid Hagar. In the 86th year of his life, Hagar bore him Ishmael (Genesis 16). Thirteen years later, God revealed to him that the son he had had through Sarah, and not Ishmael, would be his heir. God now appointed the rite of circumcision as a sign of the covenant he had made with Abraham.

When Abraham was 100 years old, Isaac was born, an event soon followed by the expulsion of Ishmael. Abraham’s faith in God’s promise met one last very severe test, when God commanded him to sacrifice his son. He was saved from doing so by God’s last minute provision of a ram.

At the age of 175 Abraham died, and was buried beside his wife Sarah, in a cave which he had previously purchased.

Such is a short biography of the man named Abraham. However he is an important character to us today, principally because of the promises that God made to him. These promises assured:-

The ultimate blessing of all nations, through Abraham, because of his descendants. When Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac, this must have seemed to Abraham like an ultimate denial of the promises that God had previously made. Genesis 12 v 1-3: “Now the Lord said to Abram, Go out from your country and from your family and from your father’s house, into the land to which I will be your guide. And I will make of you a great nation, blessing you and making your name great; and you will be a blessing: To them who are good to you will I give blessing, and on him who does you wrong will I put my curse: and you will become a name of blessing to all the families of the earth.” (BBE)

The everlasting, personal, possession of land. Genesis 13 v 14-17: “And the Lord had said to Abram, after Lot was parted from him, From this place where you are take a look to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west:  For all the land which you see I will give to you and to your seed for ever.  And I will make your children like the dust of the earth, so that if the dust of the earth may be numbered, then will your children be numbered. Come, go through all the land from one end to the other for I will give it to you.” (BBE)

Other statements of God’s promises to Abraham are quoted in Genesis 12 v 7, Genesis 15 v 18, and Genesis 17 v 4-8:-  ” And the Lord came to Abram, and said, I will give all this land to your seed; then Abram made an altar there to the Lord who had let himself be seen by him.” …  “In that day the Lord made an agreement with Abram, and said, To your seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” … “As for me, my agreement is made with you, and you will be the father of nations without end. No longer will your name be Abram, but Abraham, for I have made you the father of a number of nations. I will make you very fertile, so that nations will come from you and kings will be your offspring. And I will make between me and you and your seed after you through all generations, an eternal agreement to be a God to you and to your seed after you.  And to you and to your seed after you, I will give the land in which you are living, all the land of Canaan for an eternal heritage; and I will be their God.

None of the promises, however, were fulfilled in the experience of Abraham himself. He even had to purchase a burial place, so no land at all was given to him by anybody. Neither have the promises been fulfilled in the lifetimes of his son Isaac, nor in that of his grandson, Jacob. Neither have they been fulfilled at any time since. In order for them to be fulfilled, unless we are prepared to accept the idea that God breaks his promises, Abraham must need to be raised from the dead to inherit the land that he was promised on earth.

And that, is where, we as Christians, become involved in the promises to Abraham.

There is one chapter in the Bible that lists all the faithful men of old time, and of these, Abraham is included. This chapter is Hebrews 11. It would be logical that Abraham is listed there, because all the subsequent promises that God has made throughout history, are based on the promises made to him that we read above. The relevant verses in Hebrews 11 are verses 8 to 13:- “It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. For Abraham was waiting for the city which God has designed and built, the city with permanent foundations. It was faith that made Abraham able to become a father, even though he was too old and Sarah herself could not have children. He trusted God to keep his promise. Though Abraham was practically dead, from this one man came as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, as many as the numberless grains of sand on the seashore. It was in faith that all these persons died. They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth.” (GNB). And then, further on, in verses 38 to 40 we find this stated:- “The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.”

So, it is only with us that Abraham will receive the fulfilment of his promises to inherit eternally, land that is upon the earth. So we will be upon the earth as well! And that is how we are linked in to the promises of God that God made in old time, and how we also will inherit salvation on the earth.

A description of our link with the promises to Abraham is not limited to what is said in Hebrews 11. It is also found in Galatians 3. Consider these verses:- “Even as Abraham had faith in God, and it was put to his account as righteousness.  Be certain, then, that those who are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. And the holy Writings, seeing before the event that God would give the Gentiles righteousness by faith, gave the good news before to Abraham, saying, In you will all the nations have a blessing. So then those who are of faith have a part in the blessing of Abraham who was full of faith.” (Galatians 3 v 6-9, BBE). Hebrews 11 described our link to the promises God made to Abraham in relation  to the land that he would inherit eternally. These verses in Galatians 3 describe our link to the promises God made to Abraham in relation the multitude of his descendants. Furthermore, in verses 14-18 we find these words:- “… on the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; in order that we through faith might have the Spirit which God had undertaken to give. Brothers, as men would say, even a man’s agreement, when it has been made certain, may not be put on one side, or have additions made to it. Now to Abraham were the undertakings given, and to his seed. He says not, And to seeds, as of a great number; but as of one, he says, And to your seed, which is Christ. Now this I say: The law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, does not put an end to the agreement made before by God, so as to make the undertaking without effect. Because if the heritage is by the law, it is no longer dependent on the word of God; but God gave it to Abraham by his word.” And, as another link, comes verses 27 to 29:- “All those of you who were given baptism into Christ did put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, servant or free, male or female: because you are all one in Jesus Christ.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and yours is the heritage by the right of God’s undertaking given to Abraham” (BBE). So, baptism links us as Christians to Christ Jesus, and this Jesus links us back to Abraham because Jesus is a seed, or descendant of Abraham.

That is why the promises of Abraham are just so important to us!

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