Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 13, 1952

Father Abraham

R. C. Bell, Abilene, Texas

God started humanity with a home. This simple social institution, because man desecrated it, failed to serve God's purpose among men, and the race fell into ruin. When God began to rebuild humanity, He began again with a home. God's ground of confidence in Abraham as material for this rebuilding was: "I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after, him, that he may keep the way of Jehovah to do righteousness and justice." (Gen. 18:19) The home was God's first and fundamental institution. Humanity cannot succeed without it.

Abraham A Pilgrim

But before Abraham could be God's key man in the restoration of humanity, he had to be separated from the rest of men. God called him out of a great center of civilization to pioneer in Canaan. He reached Canaan at the age of seventy-five years and lived there a century in tents without having owned more land than a family graveyard. Personally, he was content to be a pilgrim, knowing that God would give the country to his descendants later. He gave little to and received little from Canaanitish civilization.

To avoid strife with Lot about pasture lands, Abraham, saying, "Let there be no strife between me and thee ... for we are brethren," allowed Lot in whom there was nothing high or deep, to take the best lands. Abraham and Lot being fellow-pilgrims in heathen Canaan must not have trouble between themselves before the godless. Let us not miss the bearing of this on Christians today; nor forget Lot's pauperized and shameful ending. Great servants of God like Abraham, David, and Paul must be of large and generous nature. Little, selfish men like Lot, Gahazi, and Judas cannot serve God, directly.

When the king of Sodom offered Abraham goods that would enrich him, he replied: "I have lifted up my hand unto Jehovah, God most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take ... ought that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich." (Gen. 14:22, 23) Since to accept riches from an enemy of God, when God had promised him the whole of Canaan, would be doubting God and dishonoring him before the heathen, he chose to await God's time and manner. Is it not significant and prototypal of Christianity that at the time Abraham was declining a king's gift, he was giving a priest of God "a tenth of all"? (Gen. 14:17-20) and that wherever he sojourned, he "pitched his tent" but "builded an altar"? (Gen. 12:8) He was a separated pilgrim, "the friend of God," and could not compromise with and be under obligation to God's enemy. How jealous he was of God's name and honor!

Faithful Abraham

Abraham's faith was doubly tested in Isaac. First, "hope believed against hope" when he thought that Sarah, who had been barren in her youth and prime, could become a mother in her age and decay. Second, after Isaac grew up Abraham's hope in him was blasted by God's command to offer him as a burnt sacrifice. This command was not only against human nature, but it seemed also to destroy the very basis of his religion by making God self-contradictory. How could Isaac be the progenitor of a great people as promised, if he were to be slain? However, without an intellectual solution, believing that God would vindicate his righteousness in his seeming unrighteousness, he "wavered not through unbelief," but obeyed up to striking the deathblow, when God, reserving the supreme sacrifice of a beloved Son for himself, intervened to spare Isaac. If God seems to be against God in permitting trouble in our personal lives, and wrong and misery on earth today, let us "trust and obey." When we do not understand, leave it to God who does. The Judge of all the earth will do right.

From a study of Abraham, it is easy to see why Paul and James use him as the pattern man of faith. And Peter probably had him in mind when he exhorted: "Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." (1 Peter 2:11) As Abraham came out of and stayed out of a godless world when God called, so must men do today when God calls in Christ. Their catching the detached, pilgrim spirit of father Abraham is necessary to their being faithful "sons of Abraham."