Abraham, Friend of God, Father of Nations

First St Johns Jul 21, 2013

(Luther’s prayer to receive the word) “Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached word into our hearts so that we may receive and believe it and be gladdened and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify Your Word in our hearts. Make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it and through Your inspiration think what is right. By Your power fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are gladdened by the Word of God said … AMEN

Does anyone remember what an FOB was? …. Friend of Bill, President Clinton. With all due respect Abraham was much bigger, he was an FOG, in fact he’s the only one in the Bible who is explicitly referred to as an FOG, what is that? Friend of God.  Interestingly this expression wasn’t used until about 2,000 year later. James , the brother of Jesus, referred to Abraham as a “friend of God”.

Abraham was born about 2166 BC in what was called Ur of the Chaldeans. Most experts place Ur where Iraq is today. Abraham is 11 generations separated from Noah. At some point  Abraham’s father, Terah, picks his family up and intends to move everyone to Canann, but somehow ends up in a city called Haran which again experts believe was in Turkey, which means he missed his target by about 500 miles. That is what we call in the Coast Guard a serious steering error.

Abraham is now seventy five years young and Yahweh tells him that he wants him to go to Canaan, what we call Israel and there Yahweh tells him: “I will make a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great…” (12:2) He left there with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. At seventy five years old, Abram and Sarai have not had any children. You will note I called him “Abram”, which means father of many. I’m sure that at 75 the irony was not lost on Abram, since he was the father of none. When they get to Canaan Yahweh reconfirms His promise, He will give Abram and his offspring this land, Abram still has no offspring. They moved to Canaan, settled for a while, had to pick up again and move to Egypt when famine struck. At that point Abram got a little weasely, Sarai was very beautiful, Abram was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him to take her and he lied about her being his wife and said she was his sister and Pharoah took her and was going to make her another one of his wives. It was weasely, because essentially Abram abandoned his wife to another man in a foreign country because he was afraid, we are called to protect our wives, not hand them over if we get chicken. Anyway, Yahweh works it out, Pharoah hands him back his wife, he had already given Abram a lot of livestock, servants and money, told Abram that his visa had been cancelled and he had to clear out of Egypt post-haste.

Yahweh meets with Abram in chapter 15, restates His promise, in fact Yahweh points Abram to the night sky and promises that his offspring will be as many as the stars in the sky. At this time and in this culture there are a lot of considerations about having children, especially when your name is Abram, “father of many”. Sarai, in the very next chapter, finally decides that they can’t wait any longer, she tells Abram to take her servant, Hagar, and have a child. Again, being weasely, Abram caves. Abram’s been in Yahweh’s presence twice now. Yahweh’s told him that he will be the father of multitudes, that this will be the child of Sarai and Abram, but what does Abram do? Sarai pushes him, and he goes to Hagar. Hagar does have a child, a son named Ishmael. Remember this is about 4,000 years ago and Sarai and Abram’s decision affects us today. Hagar’s son becomes the father of the Arab people. Sarai’s son, Isaac, becomes the father of the Jewish people, enough said? Suffice to say, bad decision and 4,000 years of warfare. If nothing else, the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar is: do it God’s way, stop trying to force your way. God knows how He wants things to work out and you don’t. We can all rest in faith that God’s way is going to be exactly right and our way may not result in centuries of warfare, but may have serious consequences. It’s interesting to note that there is no label we really can put on Abraham, he’s a Hebrew, but not really Jewish, there is no “Law” at this point, therefore no “Jewish” religion, so in terms of his two sons, none of them can be labeled. But God has made it clear that the “covenant”, the “promise” would be through Isaac. Certainly Abraham is clearly identified with the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, who call themselves children of Abraham, which Jesus disputes, they chose not to believe that Abraham rejoiced for Jesus’ day, so Jesus told them the reason they don’t believe is that they are children of the devil. Jesus goes on to honor Abraham more by relating how those who have died, like Lazarus, goes to Abraham’s bosom.  

But God is gracious and He will work His plan no matter how much we try to mess it up on Him. He comes back to Abram who is now 100 years old, promises him a child, it’s now Abraham who falls on his face and laughs. Apparently Yahweh lets him off, but just a few short verses later, Yahweh returns again, Sarai overhears the promise and she laughs and this time Yahweh kind of wags His finger at Sarai.

We are up with our readings for today. It seems Abram recognizes the men who appear in front of him. He bows down refers to him as Adonai, Lord. John Walton points out that by cooking a calf for them, that Abraham is being especially hospitable. Our reading makes it sound like Abram pulled all this together in a couple of minutes, but you can imagine baking bread, slaughtering and cooking a calf, heck it seems like a week before a Thanksgiving turkey is cooked. Clearly Abram knows who these men are, and then there is no doubt, Yahweh makes it clear that He will return to Abraham in a year and at that time Sarah will have her son. Sarah is ninety years old at this time and let’s just say, she’s unconvinced, and giggles over it. Yahweh turns to her and says “is anything too hard for the Lord?” The Hebrew word that is used is aleîP’ which I kind of prefer. Yahweh is asking her “is anything too wonderful for the Lord, is anything too marvelous for the Lord?” Instead of the negative and hey our God does not deal in the negative, our God very much deals in the positive. So instead of the negative Yahweh is asking Sarah, “really is there anything that is too wonderful that I can’t do, is there anything too marvelous that I can’t do? Of course not, all we have to do is look at the magnificence of the universe around us, all we have to do is consider the wonder of all there is. God made our world to be marvelous, to be extraordinary, it is man, because of his sin, that has taken the world and made it into what it is, has degraded God’s creation. In our resurrection, in the new Jerusalem, it will be perfect, it will be extraordinary, it will be magnificent. What we have now, when we really understand it, really comprehend the wonder of the world we live in is extraordinary, but when we do have understanding the way we were intended to have, we will understand the magnificence of our world the way it is now and the magnificence of the world to come in the resurrection.

But, as Abraham will attest, it is in God’s time, and then God may just kind of double back to say where you are.

What’s Abraham’s and Sarah’s sons name? …Isaac. What does Yahweh tell Abraham to do when Isaac is older. Yahweh tells Abraham that he must sacrifice his son. Yahweh doesn’t let him go through with it. But it is a reminder to Abraham, yes Isaac is important, he is part of that magnificent creation, but don’t get immersed in your son, keep your focus on Me, I’m the One who creates, I’m the One who makes things happen. You and Sarah tried to change the way I wanted things to happen by having Ishmael, and Yahweh does bless Ishmael, but He makes it clear that His covenant with Abraham, His promise with Abraham will be through Isaac. We do tend to make idols though, lots of time it is children and children are important, but not more important than God’s will, they are not more important than trusting and being obedient to God.

God has given us a magnificent Savior, we worship no one but Jesus, He is the sure and certain proof of our extraordinary Creator, He who died in order to pay for our sins, whose human ancestors were Abraham, David, and so many of the great men and women of the Old Testament. He who still watches over and gives glory to very fallible people like Abraham and like me.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

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