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Abraham: "From One Man..."

Abraham

by Dennis Pollock

Men have always pondered the nature of their Creator. Throughout recorded history and throughout the world, various religions have sprung up daring to declare that they have discovered the truth about God. Some suggest a harsh, demanding deity, while others present an easy-going Creator who has little interest in His creation. Whatever the truth about God, one thing is for sure about men and women: we are inherently religious. Few have it in them to go through their lives with a purely secular outlook. Take any group of babies, isolate them and raise them to adulthood in complete ignorance of all religious influence, and they will soon come up with some deity, religion, or metaphysical force that lies behind and beyond the visible world. We human beings are an incurably religious people!

But of course the question becomes, “Which group is correct?” Those who study and embrace the Hebrew Scriptures discover that, in them, the Creator of the universe has revealed Himself in a definitive way unlike that found in any other religion or religious writing. And it is through the Bible that God has provided the only legitimate “authorized biography” of Himself in existence in the world today.

Abraham’s Background

Interestingly it started with a solitary man, the man we know as Abraham. This nomadic wanderer, hailing from the land of the Chaldeans (which is present-day Iraq) did not start out to found his own religion. Abraham was in fact from a family and a people who were, along with all the rest of the world at that time, idolaters. In Joshua’s final words to the people of Israel before his death, he reminded them, “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods” (Joshua 24:2). Abraham grew up in the large city of Ur in what was then called Mesopotamia, and he lived in a culture devoted to the moon-god. The knowledge of God, which Adam had passed on to his children, and which was seen in Enoch and Noah, had apparently been lost almost entirely.

The world in those days was filled with idolatry. The idea of an unseen God would have been ludicrous to them. Their gods were built with men’s hands out of wood and stone. They could be seen, touched, and carried about from place to place. Nor did any one nation or group claim that theirs was the only god. They believed in a multiplicity of gods. Their boast was not that their god was God alone, but rather that their god was tougher and more powerful than their neighbors’ gods.

There were no Scriptures in those days, there was no Bible, no record of Moses or the prophets. There were simply fanciful stories about gods and demons and magic and curses told orally in the homes and by men sitting around in the marketplaces. If there should have arisen some noble man or woman who was desperately eager to know the true and living God in those days, there would have been no place to even begin to look. And so people typically believed the bizarre stories and religious fantasies that had been told them by their fathers, who had learned them from their fathers, and so forth.

“Get Out!”

But one day the true God, that invisible being who created all that is or was or ever will be, made His move. He touched one man’s life, and from him began a new race of people through whom He would make Himself known to the entire world. The Bible tells us:

Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

We find that Abraham did not start out as Abraham. His name was initially Abram, which means “exalted father.” Later God renamed him Abraham – “father of multitudes.” Today, most psychiatrists would think him delusional. He became convinced that he occasionally heard the voice of Almighty God. Not only did he hear this voice, but he responded to it in faith and obedience, whether it meant leaving his family and country behind, and going out to a land where he had never been, or later taking his son out to the wilderness where he planned to slay him in obedience to this voice. As we read the story of Abraham we learn that he was not always blameless, his life was not one of unblemished perfection, but he was a genuine believer. The Scriptures tell us: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” The Scriptures also refer to him as a “friend of God.”

Hearing the Voice

How strange this man must have seemed to those who knew him, this man who heard and obeyed a voice nobody else ever heard, this man who was willing to relocate himself across the known world simply because this voice told him to do so, this man who dared tell people that his God was the only true God and that all others were fabrications and impostors.

Abraham offers IsaacGod made a covenant with Abraham, and told him that through him all the nations would be blessed. Abraham, the “father of multitudes” was childless until he reached the age of 86. Finally, out of desperation, his barren wife had given her maid, Hagar, to him as a concubine, so that she could claim the child as her own. This was clearly not the perfect will of God, and finally God instructed Abraham to send Hagar and her son away. His elderly wife, Sarah, would give birth to the true spiritual heir who would carry on not only the family name, but this new revelation of God which Abraham, alone, embraced.

Isaac, child of Abraham and Sarah, was faithful to carry on the faith of his father, and passed it on to his son Jacob, who likewise passed on these spiritual insights to his twelve sons, who made up the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. And when God directed Jacob and his sons and their families to move to Egypt, it was to protect and preserve them, and to prosper and grow them from a small clan into a significant nation of people. Egypt served as a womb for the emerging people of Israel. Starting out there with less than one hundred men, women, and children, by the time of Moses they had grown into a sprawling, restless, enslaved people numbering in the millions.

Centuries of Slavery

During their centuries of slavery these Hebrews had no Scriptures to study. There were no synagogues or churches, no pastors or rabbis, no formal religious education. There were only the oral stories that related to an unseen God who made all things and who spoke to their ancestor Abraham, the root from which they had all come forth. These stories were told and retold in their slave quarters in the evenings, until every Hebrew child grew up believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

They were a nation without a land of their own however, and it took a man named Moses to change all that. Like his ancestor Abraham, Moses heard the same voice giving him specific instructions for his life’s work. He was told to go back to Egypt, from which he had come, and demand that Pharaoh free the people of Israel, the one source of light and truth in a dark and deceived world. Pharaoh, of course, refused, and faced God’s crushing and devastating judgments until at last the stubborn ruler relented and submitted to Abraham’s invisible God.

Throughout the days of the Old Testament the people of Israel continued to be an enigma to those around them. Their prophets continued to insist that there were not hundreds of gods, or dozens of gods, or even a few gods. They dared claim there was exactly one God, all-powerful, unseen, and omnipresent. And furthermore, they declared that this God insisted on a strict code of sexual and moral conduct. Whereas the idolatrous nations provided for sexual pleasure through “temple prostitutes” who made sure all the male worshipers had an especially good time when they came to the temple to worship and present their gifts, the God of Israel demanded that His people should be a holy people, and strictly limit their sexuality to their spouses. He even gave them a dietary code to follow and all sorts of regulations about how to worship. And He commanded His people to be considerate and compassionate toward the poor and needy.

The religion of Israel and their God was unlike anything the world had ever seen before, and its very strangeness resulted in the Jews becoming a separate people from all others on the face of the earth. When the prophet Balaam was prophesying about this people, he announced, “A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Sometimes Israel had attempted to pull away from the strict demands of their Creator, but God would always deal severely with them and refused to ever completely let them go. Through Ezekiel He told His Hebrew servants: “What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.’ ”

Thus Says the Lord!

It is through the Jewish people, through men like Abraham, Moses, and the prophets that God has made Himself known to the world. Over and over again in the Old Testament we read the words, “Thus says the Lord…” The revelation of God through the Scriptures is based upon the premise that men (and women) can hear the voice of God – at least those chosen few whom God has designated His mouthpiece to our world. Jesus fully recognized that the revelation of God to the world was through exactly one nation of people – the Jews. Not the Americans, not the Russians, nor the British, nor the Mexicans, but the Jews. He told the Samaritan lady who came to the well, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22)

But the revelation was not complete when Malachi wrote the last book of the Old Testament. Indeed, all of the Old Testament was merely the prelude for the major stroke of God’s revelation of Himself, which was the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

Jesus Christ – The Jew

And when Jesus Christ was born into the world, He was born as a Jew, a “son of Abraham.” As a boy he sat in the synagogues and heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob over and over again. He fully believed, as all good Jews did, in the one true God, invisible, all-seeing, all-powerful, and irresistible. And like his predecessors Abraham and Moses, Jesus began to hear that magnificent and mysterious voice, the voice of His Heavenly Father. In time He was led by that voice to go all over the nation of Israel, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and performing miracles unparalleled in earth’s history.

At the young age of thirty-three years old He was nailed to a cross, serving as the true sacrificial lamb, of which Moses had written. Jesus died because what we needed was more than merely to know about this mysterious God who made all that has ever been. We need to know Him personally, and without forgiveness this was not possible. Jesus was raised from the dead three days later, and thus fulfilled that promise to Abraham given so long ago: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).

And when a man or woman is born again through faith in Jesus, they become an adopted son or daughter of Abraham. The Bible tells us: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

So you see, God’s plan for the salvation of men and women was not an afterthought. Jesus is indeed the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” God started with one man, by the name of Abram, and through Him made Himself known, and revealed his plan of salvation to all the earth. Unlike Abram’s day, if anyone really and truly wants to know God today, it is not so very hard. The entire plan and program has been carefully recorded by God’s servants, the Jews. We call that record The Bible. It reveals to us one central truth of which no one can afford to be ignorant: that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


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