Abraham is introduced in Genesis 11 as Abram, the son of Terah. (Genesis 11:26) He is a descendant of Shem, residing in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and his relatives did not know the Lord, yet the Lord called to Abram and told him to go to the land of Canaan. God promised He would make him a great nation and give his descendants the land of Canaan as their possession.
God’s promises of blessing, land, and offspring pointed toward a hopeful reversal of the curse of sin. (Genesis 3) The true Hope and true Champion of this story is not Abram, but Christ. Jesus is the Promised One through whom all the peoples on earth will be blessed. (Galatians 3:14)
God chooses ordinary people to fulfill His plan of redemption. At the time God called Abram, we aren’t told why he was chosen, but we are told Abram’s obedience was credited to him as righteousness.
God said to Abram,
“‘Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then [God] said to [Abram], ‘Your offspring will be that numerous.’ Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
(Genesis 15:5-6, Galatians 3:6)
To establish this promise, or covenant, it was custom for animals to be cut in half and the two persons of the covenant could walk between the halves, binding them to the terms of the covenant lest they become like the animals. Rather than Abram walking between the split animals, God put Abram into a deep sleep, and God himself passed between, assuming the full burden of fulfilling the terms of the covenant. (Genesis 15:7-21)
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning “father of many,” and expounded on the promises and requirements of the Abrahamic Covenant. (Genesis 17) Although God’s intent to establish Abraham’s lineage was clear, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was old and barren, so she doubted, “But the LORD asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Can I really have a baby when I’m old?”’” (Genesis 18:13)
Abraham and Sarah were only human. They saw limitations. They feared. They doubted. For example, when Abraham let Pharaoh believe Sarah was his sister, he essentially gave her as a sex-slave to Pharaoh to protect himself, proving he still had much to learn about fully trusting God and His promises. (Genesis 12:10-20)
Furthermore, Abraham and Sarah assumed that since she was barren, the promised offspring must come through a different woman.
“Sarai said to Abram, ‘Since the LORD has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.’ And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” (Genesis 16:2) Their attempt to fulfill God’s promise themselves caused immense suffering.
Abraham and Sarah aren’t the heroes of the story here. There is One Hero, the Almighty One. “Is anything impossible for the LORD? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year [Sarah] will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)
God did not choose Abram to be the father of the nations because He saw Abram as capable, wise, and strong.
No, quite the opposite.
Abraham was old, his wife was barren, and he was incapable of fulfilling the covenant requirements.
No human is.
“Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world–what is viewed as nothing–to bring about what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence.
It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us–our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption–in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.”
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31)
The Bible is full of weak, foolish, sinful people God used to fulfill His plan of redemption. God didn’t choose Abraham in order to give him a platform to be a hero. Rather, God chose Abraham to show God is the Hero.
To show God is able and wise and loving.
He alone could redeem His children; just as God alone traversed the split animals in Genesis 15, Christ alone could fulfill the requirement of the law and bring us salvation.
Galatians 3:8 tells us the gospel was preached to Abraham when he was given the promise. This is the Gospel: on our own we are weak and foolish, but God has sent us His Own Son to be our strength and wisdom. We, the Gentiles, are blessed in Him if we repent of our sins and have faith in His finished work on the cross.
Let that sink in.
Thousands of years ago, God declared His Gospel promise. If we become His daughters through faith, we will be redeemed through Christ, the Promised Seed of Abraham.
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