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Profiles of Faith

Abraham God's Friend

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Son, let’s go to the mountaintop and offer a sacrifice to God.” Abraham believed his son would be that sacrifice, but Isaac assumed they would sacrifice a lamb. Fully trusting his father, Isaac might have even reached for his father’s hand.

The touch of his son’s hand must have sent shock waves through Abraham’s body. Abraham’s mind was whirring; his thoughts alternated from deliberate, studied obedience and faith to passionate resistance, hoping that God might rescind this almost unthinkable directive.

The lessons of Hebrews 11 are written for you and me. Christians are encouraged to walk in the steps of Abraham, the father of the faithful. Your Bible makes plain that we can and must exercise the same faith that Abraham had, and that kind of faith is within our reach.

Although the biblical narrative doesn’t directly reveal Abraham’s feelings until Genesis 22:8 Genesis 22:8And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
American King James Version×
, we can speculate on the probable thoughts and emotions of Abraham. Abraham’s faith is in evidence; the reader, unlike Abraham, can know how the story will end. God didn’t want Abraham to kill his son; He was testing Abraham’s faith in Him.

“All right, Father, let’s go. May I help carry the wood?”

Abraham could only nod consent, for the lump in his throat blocked the sound that would otherwise have offered a simple, “Yes, you may, my son.”

“God will provide”

Off they went, a sad father, his trusting son and two servants, toward the mountain on which Abraham believed he would sacrifice the only son whom God, in their old age, had given him and Sarah (Genesis 18:10-11 Genesis 18:10-11 10 And he said, I will certainly return to you according to the time of life; and, see, Sarah your wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
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).

Three days later the travelers arrived at their destination, tired but aware this was the mountain God had chosen for them.

“Stay here while my son and I worship, then we will return to you,” Abraham told his servants.

Up the side of the mountain father and son trudged, Isaac with the wood for the sacrifice and father Abraham with the fire and knife.

“Father, we have the wood and fire, but where is the lamb for our burnt offering?”

“God will provide, my son. God will provide.”

This is the first hint of the rest of the story and the remarkable faith of Abraham. When they reached the precise spot for the burnt offering, Abraham laid down the fire and knife and began building an altar for the sacrifice. He neatly laid the wood and gently but firmly took hold of his son and began binding him. Then he laid Isaac on the altar on top of the carefully placed wood. At that point, Abraham dutifully, obediently, raised his knife to slay his son.

“Abraham! Abraham!” cried an angel in a strong voice.

“Here I am! I hear you!” Abraham responded to the angel.

“Do not touch your son Isaac, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not held back your son, your only son from Me” (Genesis 22:12 Genesis 22:12And he said, Lay not your hand on the lad, neither do you any thing to him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.
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).

Abraham had passed his supreme test of faith. In his mind and heart, Abraham had already followed through with his obedience to God’s command (Romans 4:17 Romans 4:17(As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who vivifies the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were.
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).

It was faith of this magnitude that inspired others to write that Abraham is the father of the faithful (Romans 4:12 Romans 4:12And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
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, Romans 4:16 Romans 4:16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
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). He was a man who believed and had total, complete trust and faith in God.

Abraham: God’s Friend

Their bond was so close that God called Abraham “My friend” (Isaiah 41:8 Isaiah 41:8But you, Israel, are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
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). Besides just being an interesting concept, this idea of Abraham as a friend of God points to some fascinating and far-reaching implications. We might ask why would God pay Abraham the great compliment of calling him His friend?

The answer can be found in comparing Abraham’s relationship with God to our Christian calling. Although we may never have thought of it this way, Jesus Christ also views us as His friends. He said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard of My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 John 15:15From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.
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).

But there is more. For Jesus to call His disciples “friends” requires a precondition. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14 John 15:14You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.
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).

That was the key for Abraham to be known as God’s friend. Obedience to God was and is the prerequisite to faith and qualifying as God’s friend. Paul highlighted Abraham’s faithful obedience (Hebrews 11:8-10 Hebrews 11:8-10 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
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; Hebrews 11:17-19 Hebrews 11:17-19 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure.
American King James Version×
).

Abraham’s faithful obedience

Let’s consider Abraham’s faith from three perspectives:

1. Abraham’s call: By faith when he was called he went out (Hebrews 11:8 Hebrews 11:8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
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)

2. Abraham’s sojourning: By faith he sojourned in a strange country (Hebrews 11:9 Hebrews 11:9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
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)

3. Abraham’s trial: By faith, when he was tried, he offered up his only begotten son (Hebrews 11:17 Hebrews 11:17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
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).

From the beginning, Abraham obeyed God (Genesis 26:5 Genesis 26:5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
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). Hebrews 11:8 Hebrews 11:8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
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tells the story briefly: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

In the Greek, the thrust of Abraham’s obedience is emphatic: “By faith being called out Abraham obeyed to go out . . .” (The Englishman’s Greek New Testament).

This is an important aspect of faith. Abraham was not called because of his faith (Genesis 12:1-4 Genesis 12:1-4 1 Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you: 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
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). He was called because God willed to call him. His faith is to be understood in relation to Abraham’s obedience. It was Abraham’s immediate obedience that proved his faith and justified him (James 2:21-24 James 2:21-24 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
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).

Hebrews 11:8 Hebrews 11:8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
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tells us that Abraham went out to obey God, not knowing where he was going. That is an important and difficult step for a Christian to take, because human beings desire independence. However, God wants us to learn to depend on Him forever. Abraham looked to God for guidance, direction and protection. Had Abraham lived by sight, he would never have obeyed God’s call to go into a foreign land.

Another element of Abraham’s obedience is evident in his sojourning: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:9 Hebrews 11:9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
American King James Version×
). The Englishman’s Greek New Testament shows that the Greek is emphatic about how Abraham lived: “In tents dwelling” highlights that he did not live in a permanent abode.

Obedience without reservation

Like you and me, Abraham would surely have preferred a permanent, stable home and life. However, Abraham knew he was a stranger and pilgrim in a strange land; and because he knew his citizenship was reserved in a heavenly city built by God (Hebrews 11:10 Hebrews 11:10For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
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), he remained faithful to God and did not return to his homeland (Hebrews 11:13-16 Hebrews 11:13-16 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: why God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city.
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). Little wonder God called Abraham His friend. God’s friends obey Him; Abraham obeyed God without reservation.

Finally, God supremely tested Abraham’s faith when He commanded him to offer his only son as a sacrifice. Scripture indicates that Abraham somehow knew, that he deeply believed that God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:19 Hebrews 11:19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure.
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). God was so moved by Abraham’s faith and obedience that He guaranteed His blessings to be upon Abraham and his descendants from then on, both physically and spiritually (Genesis 22:15-18 Genesis 22:15-18 15 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, said the LORD, for because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.
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).

We must remember that Abraham and Sarah had Isaac when they were old. Bearing a son beyond their time was a tremendous blessing in itself. God had promised Abraham He would bless his descendants through Isaac.

What a shock it would be to a father that someone, anyone, would demand that he take his only son’s life. All of the hopes of two older parents, all of their desires to see their son grow up to father his own children, all of these emotions and more would have discouraged anyone of lesser faith.

Abraham’s response to this trial is why God says that He is not ashamed to be called Abraham’s God (Hebrews 11:16 Hebrews 11:16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: why God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city.
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). This is also why God is preparing a city for His faithful disciples. You and I can exhibit this same faith.

Our faithful obedience

The lessons of Hebrews 11 are written for you and me. They are treasure troves of faith stored up for our spiritual enrichment. Paul encourages Christians to walk in the steps of Abraham, the father of the faithful (Romans 4:12 Romans 4:12And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
American King James Version×
, Romans 4:16 Romans 4:16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
American King James Version×
). Your Bible makes plain that we can and must exercise the same faith that Abraham had-and that kind of faith is within our reach.

We must remember the clear teachings of James 2, that faith without works is dead. For faith to be alive and well, for faith to be active, it must be seen as alive in the actions of the person who professes it.

Don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking otherwise. The works that prove our faith result from obedience to God and Christ’s plain and direct commands. Such scriptural commands are either the Ten Commandments themselves, as obeyed in the Spirit, or principles based on the Commandments (James 2:8 James 2:8If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:
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).

The tools we need to exercise Christ’s faith are all readily available. Jesus Christ is on the job 24 hours a day to help us experience the faith we need to weather the storms of life. With God’s help we can obey God’s commands. This proves our faith and pleases God.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×
).

Our exercise of faith toward God pleases Him. “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
American King James Version×
).

To please God, one must believe that God is alive and all-powerful. Abraham believed God existed. You believe God exists. Abraham diligently sought God, for he knew God would reward him for his diligence. You and I can diligently seek God, and we know He will reward us for studying and obeying His will.

Yes, we can please God. Yes, we do please God, and we do so through the same faith that Abraham exhibited.

This is not to say that we obey perfectly, that we show perfect faith. We do not. But our faith can grow through daily overcoming (that is, through daily contact with God in prayer, study of His Word and application of His law of love). What we lack God will provide (2 Corinthians 4:16 2 Corinthians 4:16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
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; Philippians 3:14-16 Philippians 3:14-16 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
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).

And so the story ends. God called Abraham His friend. In the same way, Christ calls us His friends. We are God’s friends because of our faith in Him, proven by our obedience to His holy commands.

Let us all continue to follow an excellent example of obedient faith, that of God’s friend, Abraham.

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