Summary: Abraham, the friend of God, was also a frail individual filled with doubts, who occasionally made unwise decisions. He sometimes acted without consulting God for guidance. He was often afraid. But God did not give up on him.
“Abraham—the friend of God” (introductory message) Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus
Introduction: Abraham is revered by all Jews, Christians, and Moslems; he serves as a common link. He is the patriarch of the Jewish nation, a spiritual father to Christians, and Moslems regard him as a mighty prophet. Abraham is called in Scripture the “servant of God” (Gen 26:24), God’s “friend” (Is 41:8), and the “father of Israel” (Ex 3:15). In a world confused by scores of deities he came to see that there is only one God.
He is known to us by two names: “Abram”, which means beloved or exalted father; and “Abraham”, the name God gave him, which means father of multitudes. Names were important in Bible days. The meaning of a name revealed an individual’s character or contribution. When God changed someone’s name it often meant that person was being singled out for a significant mission. A name-change indicated a turning point in that person’s life. To be called “father of multitudes” when he was yet childless was a testimony to the anticipated promise of the Almighty. God assured Abraham that he would be the father of a chosen, select people, who would receive God’s special revelation, presence, and blessing.
Abraham then, is the “first Jew”. From him all Jewish people trace their heritage; and through him the entire world is blessed--for through the children of Abraham came God’s redemption, in the person of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Abraham is included in the “catalogue of faith” in Hebrews 11. Consider verse 8: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Try to imagine yourself in Abraham’s sandals--in a land of idolatry you are confronted by the One True God, Who tells you to leave your comfortable home and travel to a destination unknown, to be disclosed at some future time. Abraham breaks the news to his bride, gets his house in order, alerts his servants, packs up his possessions and rolls out, even though he doesn’t know where he’ll end up.
Richard Harris portrayed Abraham in a 1994 movie. Here’s what he had this to say about his understanding of Abraham: “I didn’t want to do as most Biblical movies have done, namely to portray a Biblical character as a crazed, political zealot or a mystic, but rather as an ordinary human who encounters God. Abraham was not a man born to greatness but an ordinary man to whom greatness was thrust upon.”
Outline: I’d like us to consider 3 aspects of Abraham’s life: 1) his rejection of idolatry; 2) his faith, and 3) his pilgrimage.
1. Abraham’s rejection of Idolatry
Abraham’s hometown was the city of Ur, a prosperous city in ancient Babylon, just northwest of the Persian Gulf, located in what is now Iraq. During Desert Storm I convoyed in the vicinity of Ur. The pagan god of Ur was Naanar, the moon god. Archeologists have uncovered an impressive ziggarat (tower) that served as a focus for the worship of Naanar.
Idolatry is reflects human desires and is a subtle form of self-worship. Idolatry offers no reason for living, and fails to provide guidance or strength. The primitive religion Abraham turned away from offered only sexual perversion and mindless ritual.
As part of my preparation for this series, I read a historical novel about Abraham. The author depicts Abraham’s inner struggle with idolatry, which led him to faith in the One True God. Abram expresses his doubt about the god of Ur: “Naanar must be nothing higher than what he calls for. He must be nothing higher than you or I, and therefore not deserving of our worship!” In a world of pagan worshippers, Abram was able to gaze up at the moon in the starry sky and know Who to thank.
2. Abraham’s faith
The author of Hebrews acclaims the faith of Abraham. In 11:1, faith is defined as “being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” Abraham placed his hope in God’s promise. The faith of this patriarch commenced at the city of Ur (Gen 12); was confirmed at Canaan (Gen 15); and climaxed atop Mount Moriah (Gen 22). Abraham dared to believe God, and in so doing was a pioneer in the pilgrimage of faith.
We view Abraham from an unfair vantage-point. We possess God’s completed, written revelation. Abraham didn’t have one word of Scripture. Although God spoke directly to him, this special revelation was occasional, gradual, and progressive. Abraham received only the general outline, the broad promises. With such limited input he had to make daily decisions.
Abraham trusted even though he was left with some unanswered questions: When would the promised seed come? How would he receive the land of promise? Where specifically was he to go?