Flawed But Faithful

The Biblical account of Abraham arouses great insight into the principles and priorities of God. Here is a man immersed in the Chaldean culture which was saturated in idolatry. This man breaks away and gives to us understandings of the Eternal God that have shaped nations and history.

It is evident that God promised a segment of this Earth to Abraham and his descendants. "And the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country . . . to a land that I will show you . . . '" (Genesis 12:1) It was a gift of grace. Abraham hadn't done anything to earn it. He couldn't buy it because he didn't know where it was and it wasn't bequeathed to him by any earthly admirer. Then it states that he would become a great nation. This is said in the singular. The son of promise was to be the second stage in God's plan for bringing this nation into reality. Again it was the Lord's intention that the fulfillment of the promise would come about by an act of grace.

Because of a drought a series of flawed, if well intentioned decisions, sees Abraham and his charges journey to Egypt. Returning a chastened man he has a woman named Hagar as a handmaid for Sarah. However, as he enters the land once again the God of Grace renews the promise. In the account it seems as if it is too much for this ageing man of faith. " O LORD GOD, what will you give me, seeing I go childless . . . " (Genesis 15:2) God tells him to look up and behold the stars. They become the Lord's testimony in the heavens of His promise of descendants from Abraham and Sarah. The awesomeness of Abraham's faith in God is recorded, "he (Abram) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

Unfortunately, in Genesis chapter sixteen, we read of Abraham succumbing to the pressure of trying to bring about God's purposes by human means. Faith is swamped by logic. Faith is weakened by self-justified reasoning. Faith is over ruled by passion. Sarah offers Hagar as a stand in 'womb.' Conception takes place and Ishmael is born. Sarah and Abraham's ploy which became for them a family embarrassment has become for the World a global conflict.

How long suffering is God? Fortunately, His grace flows with forgiveness and atonement power that lifts a man and a woman out of their weakness. Though Abraham might be considered flawed, God's purposes are not overthrown. If God required any of us to be perfect before fulfilling His promises then they would remain unfulfilled. The wonder of His grace and power is His ability to overrule the flaws and failings and bless the faithfulness and desire of the heart that pleases God.

There was a long period of silence, almost thirteen years had passed, before the Lord considered it to be the right time. " . . . God said to him, 'As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations . . . I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."' (Genesis 17:3-8)

Following this Covenant of Grace the Lord enabled Abraham and Sarah to conceive Isaac. The son of promise had finally come. Notice also, in the LORD's promise to Abraham that he would now be a father of many nations. Even though God intended Abraham to be singular in 'nation' (see Genesis 12:1-3). Now, because of the Lord's mercy to Abraham, Ishmael and his descendants would receive the blessing of nationhood.

Isaac alone would inherit the Covenant and the unique relationship with the LORD. " . . . you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish my covenant with him . . . " (Genesis 17:20) Ishmael, on the other hand, would be recognised in his own right as a son of Abraham. "He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation." (Genesis 17:21)

It would have seemed almost certain that the faith journey of Abraham was climaxed there. Such was not the case. For God reveals a principle in the following encounter with Abraham and Isaac that has repercussions for us all.

In Genesis chapter twenty-two is an account imprisoned in print that no theatre could adequately portray. The God who gave now wants him back; yet there are no children to Isaac. Abraham is called upon to go with his son and two companions to Mount Moriah. Leaving the servants in the valley, the father and son ascend the hill of sacrifice. Abraham is called upon to be willing to offer up the son of promise believing the Lord can bring him back from the dead. The son expresses submission to his father in allowing him the right to express faith in the sovereign power and grace of God. The Eternal, who is both Creator and Redeemer, intervenes providing the substitute ram. The awesomeness of this event goes beyond our imagination.

Here is the principle of God's dealing with the future nation of Israel. It is also the principle by which He deals with peoples today. It is on the basis of promise, the providing of a substitute and the fellowship of resurrection. There can be no relationship with the Eternal God who is Creator and Redeemer apart from a faith that throws itself upon His promises, rejoices in the substitution of the Lamb of God, and the experience of the resurrection. That faith may at times be flawed. It may even struggle. It will be tested and it will grow. Its focus is the key issue. That focus must be and can be none other than the Lord God, Himself, who has made Himself known to us in and through His written and living Word.