The Blessings of Abraham - Part 4: Lessons of Abraham

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The Blessings of Abraham - Part 4

Lessons of Abraham

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The Blessings of Abraham - Part 4: Lessons of Abraham

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When I began this personal study of Abraham, I was hoping to discover why he has such a prominent place in the heroes of salvation chapter, Hebrews 11. What I discovered is more personally satisfying and troubling than I anticipated—satisfying, because I learned that he deserved the honor. Troubling, because I realized we each are challenged to duplicate Abraham’s faith. Abraham has not been merely set on a pedestal without an explanation of why he has such strength of character, but is shown to have been intricately designed, honed by hardship, honest labor, and time into a real yet remarkable human being who is upheld and illustrated multiple times in God’s Word. We must emulate his efforts if we wish for the eternal rewards he is promised.

Instructions from the authors of the four Gospels

In the New Testament, we read the name Abraham in the very first verse. We are told that Jesus Christ’s heritage came through David from Abraham. The Jews back then were concerned that Jesus Christ had a proper pedigree. Matthew was making sure that the audience he wrote for was well informed that this was so. Israelites in general and the tribe of Judah in particular have no problem honoring the greatness of Abraham.  But, as shown in Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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, there is much more to life than physical heritage: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

We read early in Matthew 8 how Jesus heals a servant of a Roman centurion. This Roman was, as far as we know, completely outside the physical promises that God made to Abraham and his children. God was looking for something more than physical ancestry in order to dispense His blessings. The lesson is clear: faith will be rewarded. Promises were made to Abraham, and they will all be fulfilled, but having faith now can be rewarded now. Those who witnessed Jesus saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (verse 10), must have scratched their heads in wonder.

We conclude Matthew’s references to Abraham with Jesus’ own statement that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32 Matthew 22:32I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
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). The people that Jesus was talking with knew Abraham was dead, but Jesus spoke powerfully, if simply, “God is not the God of the dead!” Abraham will rise again. Our challenge is to emulate the faith of Abraham in ourselves so that we can likewise be rewarded and rise with him to meet Jesus in the air when He returns to the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 [15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
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).

Proceeding through the New Testament, we see Mark’s one reference to Abraham in Mark 12:26 Mark 12:26And as touching the dead, that they rise: have you not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
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. This reference reiterates the lesson we just read in Matthew 22.

Luke’s account of Christ’s parable shows the role of Abraham as a father. His references surround our reading in his Gospel account like kids around the dinner table. Consider the parable that Luke alone relates in Luke 16:19-31 Luke 16:19-31 [19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. [25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from there. [27] Then he said, I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house: [28] For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [29] Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent. [31] And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
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. Abraham is portrayed as a loving father, who wants to see his children born into the Kingdom. He must lead them to look back to the scriptures that can help them. Abraham makes that decision: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (verse 31).

I find this parable compelling because Abraham is appealed to as chief dispenser of blessings rather than recipient of the blessings that God promised: “Father Abraham…send Lazarus…[to my] five brothers…lest they also come to this place of torment” (verses 24 and 28).

Leaving aside the deeply theological aspects of this parable, which are clearly and completely explained in many of our other publications, you may note the filial connections: father Abraham…five brothers. God is our Father though most humans only dimly acknowledge this. We are all brothers, though the record of history mostly shows destructive warfare! What a botch!

God is our Father; Christ is our Brother. Only by following the faith exemplified by Abraham, over and over again, can we be given the insight to acknowledge and choose the road that ends up on the correct side of that “great fixed gulf” (verse 26). God wants a large family, but the children must be born according to His Word.

John shows love to and reveres Abraham appropriately in his inspired Gospel account. John 8, also places Abraham in his correct position. What is that position? The Jews esteemed Abraham too highly. “Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed on Him, ‘If you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham's seed and were never in bondage to anyone. How do you say, You will be made free?’” (John 8:31-33 John 8:31-33 [31] Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; [32] And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. [33] They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how say you, You shall be made free?
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) They held Abraham in much higher esteem than they should have. In verse 53 they confronted Jesus with these words, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets are dead; whom do you make yourself out to be?”

Isaiah 45:22-24 Isaiah 45:22-24 [22] Look to me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. [23] I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. [24] Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
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and Romans 14:10-12 Romans 14:10-12 [10] But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. [11] For it is written, As I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. [12] So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
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show all humans—including Abraham—kneeling before the Eternal. That is the appropriate position for us all and we should choose to do it always. John quotes Jesus: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56 John 8:56Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
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). What did he mean? Jesus, before he took on human nature at His birth, was the Eternal, the I Am, the Lord that Abraham had interacted with and known. Abraham was truly a friend of God, but he also worshiped that particular friend.

Instructions from other New Testament writers

Peter, in the first of his New Testament Pentecost sermons, appealed to the promises that the Eternal made to Abraham (Acts 3:25 Acts 3:25You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
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). Peter is an excellent example of one who made gross human errors before he received God’s Holy Spirit. He did not allow his mistakes to steal his God-ordained potential and continued to move forward in faith. In that regard, he was like Abraham (and, we hope, like us too).

Stephen refers to the relationship Abraham had with God and shows that his following the direction of the Eternal was appropriate. He displayed great faith and trust (Acts 7:2 Acts 7:2And he said, Men, brothers, and fathers, listen; The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelled in Charran,
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). Stephen then clearly states the time that must pass before the promises were to be fulfilled in Abraham’s life. He thus says to us that we too must wait—a good lesson for all of us today.

In Acts 7:17 Acts 7:17But when the time of the promise drew near, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
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, continuing his summary of Israel’s history, we see Stephen insinuate that at least some of the fulfillment of the promises were and are very physical. The Eternal multiplied Israel as slaves in Egypt before they had any thought about greatness as a nation. Then He brought them out of bondage to a land of milk and honey. Abraham did not see this promise unfold, but he believed it would. Do we believe God’s promises for us?

Paul continues to point the early Church to Abraham’s example

The apostle Paul never tired of bringing up the subject of Abraham to initially gain the attention of his audience (Acts 13:26 Acts 13:26Men and brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and whoever among you fears God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
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). He soon found that focusing on the physical descendants of Abraham was not the way God intended him to use his talents (Acts 13:46 Acts 13:46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.
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). But he never could entirely allow Abraham and Abraham’s example of faith to lie dormant (Romans 4:9-13 Romans 4:9-13 [9] Comes this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. [10] How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. [11] And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also: [12] And 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. [13] For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
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, 16; 9:7-8; 11:1-2). He knew that everyone must learn and practice the faith of Abraham if they want to be given eternal life (Galatians 3:1-9 Galatians 3:1-9 [1] O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you? [2] This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [3] Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh? [4] Have you suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. [5] He therefore that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [6] Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. [7] Know you therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. [8] And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel to Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed. [9] So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
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).

Abraham was just a man who will need to be raised from the dead to glory. There was another Man who gave up the glory that He had already enjoyed. Abraham is a great example, but Jesus Christ is the perfect example. Paul begins by showing us that, like Abraham Jesus Christ was born a man (Hebrews 2:14-17 Hebrews 2:14-17 [14] For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; [15] And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. [16] For truly he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. [17] Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
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). He was much more before He became a Man, and He returned to that glory again (Hebrews 6:9-7 Hebrews 6:9-7
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:28). I encourage you to read all of Hebrews 7 and 8 to understand the perfection of the faith of Jesus Christ.

Paul ends his writings on Abraham by focusing on Abraham’s hope in the future (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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). We, too, only see that city, New Jerusalem, through a dark glass. We are not there yet.

Jesus Christ is the perfect, complete example, but Abraham is also a good example for us: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23 James 2:23And 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.
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). We must also always seek that same kind of relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.

To learn how to develop the kind of faith that Abraham possessed, request our free booklet, You Can Have Living Faith.

 

 

The Blessings of Abraham - Part 1

The Blessings of Abraham - Part 2

The Blessings of Abraham - Part 3: Abraham's conflict between Isaac and Ishmael

The Blessings of Abraham - Part 4: Lessons of Abraham