Abram, Abraham [Ā'brăm,Ā'brăhăm]—the father of a multitude. The original name of the youngest son of Terah was Abram, meaning “father of height.” Abraham was given to him when the promise of a numerous progeny was renewed to him by God (Gen. 11:26; 17:5, 9).
Abraham’s place in the Bible’s portrait gallery is altogether unique and unapproachable. He stands out as a landmark in the spiritual history of the world. Chosen of God to become the father of a new spiritual race, the file leader of a mighty host, the revelation of God found in him one of its most important epochs. In himself, there was not much to make him worthy of such a distinction. His choice was all of grace.
Abraham’s life is given us in detail, and we know him as we know few men of the Bible. He was from the great and populous city of Ur, and therefore a Gentile although he became the first Hebrew. He was a rough, simple, venerable Bedouin-like sheep master. He uttered no prophecy, wrote no book, sang no song, gave no laws. Yet in the long list of Bible saints he alone is spoken of as “the father of the faithful” and as “the friend of God” (Isa. 41:8). Let us briefly sketch his story and character.
I. He was born in Ur of the Chaldees, of parents who were heathen. Little is known of him until he was seventy years old, a striking proof that he had yielded himself to God before he left his heathen home for the far-off land of Canaan.
II. He received a distinct revelation from God, and of God, but we are not told how and when. This, however, we do know: He gave up a certainty for an uncertainty and went out not knowing whither he went. Willingly he surrendered the seen for the unseen.
III. He was taught the lesson of patience, of waiting upon the Eternal God. It was many years before the promise of God was fulfilled to him—promises three in number—of a country, Canaan; of posterity, as the stars of heaven; of a spiritual seed, through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.
IV. He believed as he waited. His soul fed upon the promises of God. He believed God in the face of long delay and also amid difficulties that seemed insuperable. This is why he is called “the father of all them that believe.”
V. He was renowned for his active, working, living faith (Gen. 15:6). Abraham believed in God and it was counted to him for righteousness.
VI. He was subject to failures. His character, like the sun, had its spots. Abraham’s conduct to Hagar on two occasions, in sending her away, is painful to remember. Then his departure from Canaan into Egypt when the famine was on was surely not an act of faith. The falsehood which on two occasions he told with regard to Sarah his wife gives us a glimpse into a natural character somewhat cowardly, deceitful and distrustful (Gen. 12:19; 20:2).
VII. He was called to offer up special sacrifices. The first is fully described in Genesis fifteen, where the five victims offered in sacrifice to God were symbolic and typical of the whole Mosaic economy to come. Then we have the offering up of Isaac, an act of faith on Abraham’s part and yet a trial of faith (Gen. 22). What a demand God made! But Abraham did not withhold his only son of promise. What God wanted was Abraham’s heart, not Isaac’s life. So when the knife was raised to slay Isaac, a provided substitute appeared. After this sacrifice Abraham received the testimony that he had pleased God.
The Bible offers us many types of Christ, Isaac being one of the chiefest, but Abraham is the only type in Scripture of God the Father. Abraham so loved God as to give up his only son, and centuries before Christ was born entered into the inner heart of John 3:16. After serving God faithfully, Abraham died when 175 years of age.
There are many profitable lessons to be gleaned from the biography of this notable man of God:
Faith has always trials. Being a Christian does not mean that trial is impossible or unnecessary. The greater the faith, the greater the trial.
Faith shines through the cloud. How the patience and meekness of Jesus are manifest through His trials! Take away Abraham’s trials and where is his faith? Faith must be tried, in order that faith may live.
Faith in spite of trial glorifies God. Abraham’s story is written in tears and blood, but how God was glorified by his trials of faith! Abraham’s obedience of faith earned him the honor, “Abraham My friend!” Truly, there is no greater rank or greater honor than to be described thus. Yet such is our privilege if ours is the obedience of faith, for did not Jesus say, “I have called you friends”? He also said, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.”