What the Bible says about Abraham's Relationship with God
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God commits Himself to giving Abraham this land forever. The concept of eternity enters the picture early in God's relationship with Abraham.
Searching for Israel (Part One): The Promises to the Faithful
Abraham was concerned that he had no children. In this section, God promised him that he would have countless children. Into this comes faith; Abraham believed Him. It is that simple. When it says that Abraham believed, we can understand from James 2 and elsewhere that his belief motivated him to submit—to obey God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)
Following the "bread and wine" incident of Genesis 14:18, Abraham asks for clarification of his status with God, because earlier, in Genesis 12, God had implied that Abraham's family would be great. After Abraham asks for clarification, God give the promise using an illustration involving stars. In order for Abraham to see stars, this event had to take place at night.
Notice Exodus 12:5-6:
Your [Passover] lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
This is one of those places where the word "evening" is from the term in Hebrew ben ha arbayim. In modern English it means "twilight" or "dusk." The meaning of this word describes the time that the sun has gone down, but light continues to remain for a period of time. At this time of the year, the light would have lingered very close to about 45 minutes. After that, it would be dark.
Abraham is brought bread and wine by Melchizedek. The next thing we see in Genesis 15 is the mention of "stars"; it is dark. The Passover takes place in that period of dim light before it becomes dark. That is the time that we, in our observance, normally take Passover, just as the sun goes down. That is where the opening of Genesis 15 is time-wise. By the time you see stars, it is dark. We are beginning to see that time is moving in this episode.
When ben ha arbayim takes place, the Abib 13 has ended and Abib 14, Passover day, begins. This is undoubtedly when Melchizedek brought forth the bread and wine. Then came Abraham's vision, when it was dark and the stars were out. It is clearly into Abib 14, because it is dark.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame DayRelated Topics: Abraham's Descendents as Numerous as Stars | Abraham's Relationship with God | Abraham, Descendants of | Ben Ha Arbayim | Ben Har Arbayim | Bread and Wine | Descendents of Abraham as numerous as Stars | God's Promises to Abraham | Melchizedek | Passover | Promises to Abraham's Descendants | Selfsame Day | Stars, Dust, and Sand as Metaphors
The Lord appeared, and Abraham saw Him coming. What did He look like? He looked like a man. But it was the Lord because Abraham bowed down and worshipped Him, and the Lord did not reject his worship.
In verse 4, Abraham says, "Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet." God has feet. Then he says in verse 5, "And I will bring a morsel of bread." We find that God took the bread and the meat, and the three of them ate. He spoke, so He had a voice, and He conversed with Abraham and Sarah.
God shows other qualities here that are interesting to think about. How long did it take Abraham to run, order a calf killed, have someone slaughter it, bleed it, skin it, butcher it, roast the meat, and then serve it to Him? It must have taken a few hours at least. In the meantime, God is sitting under a tree, and He is at the same time running the whole universe. He must have been handling all of the other things that go on in the universe from that chair or pillow He was sitting on.
Do we ever feel rushed because we have too many things to do? Yet, here is the busiest Being in all of creation, and He had enough time to sit down, wash His feet, and wait patiently while they made Him a meal. Do we ever become impatient? In this example, we see patience exemplified.
So, we see God exhibits qualities other than form and shape, even though they may not be mentioned directly.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part Two)
God is assured that He has first place in the heart of his servant Abraham. Again, notice the tenderness in the words. He calls Isaac "your son, your only son," thinking no doubt of His own relationship with His Father.
Abraham's One God
When Abraham was called, he was literally living in Babylon on the plain of Shinar in the city of Ur. He did not come from a God-fearing family, and there is no evidence that he was converted at the time of Genesis 12:1. Every indication is that he, too, was a heathen. As we shall see, every called person begins in idolatry.
God had in all likelihood begun to work with him, preparing him for his calling by guiding his thinking to begin to question areas of life he had previously accepted without question. Historical traditions indicate that his family was of a priestly caste, and perhaps he was already questioning the validity of the false gods he served.
Acts 7:2-4 clarifies a few things relating to the early period of his calling:
And [Stephen] said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.' Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell."
What is included in God's appearance is not known. Whether it was literal, in a vision, or by dream is not explained anywhere else. The element we need to understand is that, as with us, Abraham did not earn his calling. He had done nothing to earn or deserve God's notice.
Isaiah 51:2 adds a further piece of information worth considering: "Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him." While Sarah is at least mentioned, no other family members are included within the scope of this statement. It appears that several members of Abraham's family depended on him, since much of his family left with him, yet God makes clear that Abraham was the only one spiritually called.
To how many of us has a similar thing happened? Why does this happen? Nobody knows! It is unanswerable. God shows mercy to whom He shows mercy. He loves Jacob but loves Esau less by comparison, despite their being twins. He accepts Abel and rejects Cain. He chooses only Noah among millions of others to whom He could have given grace.
This we know: At some time before leaving Babylon, God became a living reality to Abraham to a degree no one else near and dear to him experienced. Even amidst his personal self-seeking and self-pleasing, he was motivated to leave his set routines of life. It must have been similar to what Job experienced when he said, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You" (Job 42:5).
Whether the opening of Abraham's mind was gradual or sudden, God had graciously revealed Himself enough to make him move, and he did so to the extent of leaving his homeland and journeying over 1,200 miles, probably on foot or at best by donkey or cart, to a land known for violent weather, especially for its high temperatures.
Abraham was already 70 years old, yet he severed virtually every relationship that matters to normal human concepts of life and well-being. For a long time, stability became a thing of the past, considering that he never again dwelt in a home with foundations. This may seem an unusually hard and harsh requirement. Nevertheless, he embarked on a journey into an utterly unknown future.
What can we learn from this God-engineered example? Undoubtedly, He was testing Abraham, a process we should expect a measure of in our calling as well. We may never have to leave our homeland and set out on a long journey without knowing where we are headed, but it is highly likely that disruptions will accompany our calling.
A primary instruction God wants us to understand from Abraham's calling is that we must make a complete break from our old lives. We must clearly begin to sever ourselves from the old, "inner" life that was implanted in our character by our living according to the course of this world (Ephesians 2:2).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)Related Topics: Abraham | Abraham's Example | Abraham's Calling | Abraham's Children | Abraham's Faith | Abraham's Faithfulness | Abraham's Offspring | Abraham's Relationship with God | Abraham's Righteousness | Abraham's Seed | Abraham's Spiritual Children | Abraham's Spiritual Fatherhood | Abraham's Test | Abraham, Descendants of | Babylon, Coming out of | Calling | Calling Out | Calling, Uniqueness of | Spiritual Pilgrimage | Spiritual Struggle | World, Coming out of
There was nothing vague about God to Abraham. His relationship with God was of such intimacy that he thoroughly understood His character and purpose. He knew that he could trust God to act and react within clear parameters. Abraham added up what he knew about God and about His promise that Isaac was the promised seed, reached a conclusion, and acted. He knew God would have either to resurrect Isaac or to provide a substitute. He chose to trust the One he knew has the power and is faithful.
What if, like most Americans, Abraham had just guessed, based upon vague remembrances of a Sunday school class, movies, fiction works, and paranormal inspirations? We can assume that he would have worshipped the idols of his father Terah. A right concept of God is a Christian necessity because a wrong notion of Him is the very foundation, the starting point, for idolatry. In brief, the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.
God makes this clear at Mount Sinai after making the covenant with Israel and giving them His law. In Exodus 32, Aaron, confronted by the sinful pressure of his peers, became carried away and made a stupid Golden Calf to rescue them from their perceived dilemma. Aaron and the Israelites revealed that their false concepts of God remained. God had the idol immediately destroyed. Israel sinned in attempting to determine the nature of God based on their own reasoning, and many died in a punishing demonstration of the true God's wrath at this egregious sin.
The Israelites of today are still at it; modern Israelites are fantasizing about God. The idolater simply imagines a conception of God and then acts as though his conceptions are true. He is deceived and certainly does not know the true God as Abraham did.
God seeks out those with whom He desires to make the covenant. At that time, all they understand about Him is in broad terms. They are then to seek Him out to know Him more precisely. Those who make the New Covenant with God are required to seek out intimate details regarding His nature, purpose, and character.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem
God has a commitment to Israel—and thus us—because of the obedience of one man, Abraham. We are reaping the benefits of the good Abraham sowed almost four thousand years ago because God is faithful to His promises!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!
Paul describes what happened to Abraham at his calling and must happen to us. Abraham's mind—and therefore his life—was so arrested and redirected by God's revelation of Himself that he responded dramatically, despite the realization that he could no longer live as he had for 70 years. He had to make changes, and some of them would be considerable and costly.
He could no longer live completely for himself. He no longer perceived people as he had all his life. He especially could no longer perceive his new God and Savior as He formerly had. A new man was being created from within, so he had to make a clean and permanent break from his old life. His life now had a new Object toward which he must walk. His life had a new direction, a new relationship, new desires, and new requirements to fulfill.
We must never forget that Abraham was a special case; he is the prototype who set a vivid, overall example for all his spiritual children to follow to some degree. There were bumps along the way; at times, he fell short of the ideal. Yet, on the whole, he did nothing less than set a superb example for all of us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)Related Topics: Abraham | Abraham as Prototype | Abraham's Example | Abraham's Calling | Abraham's Children | Abraham's Faith | Abraham's Faithfulness | Abraham's Relationship with God | Abraham's Righteousness | Abraham's Spiritual Children | Abraham's Spiritual Fatherhood | Abraham, Descendants of | Spiritual Pilgrimage | Spiritual Struggle
Abraham is the father of the physical nation God elected to work in and through, and he is also the father of those He calls to be part of His forming spiritual nation. Appreciating Abraham as the father of the physical nation is easy, but seeing him as father of the spiritual nation is not so simple, as we are more apt to think that, because God begets us, He is our spiritual Father. We must therefore see Abraham's spiritual fatherhood in a different light.
The Jews of Jesus' day did not grasp Abraham's spiritual fatherhood correctly. Jesus gives the answer to this perplexing title in John 8, where a great deal of the dialogue involves ancestry.
"And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. . . . I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me." They said to Him, 'Where is Your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also." . . . Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." (verses 16, 18-19, 28-29)
Abraham's spiritual fatherhood soon becomes the focus of Jesus' instruction:
They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?" . . . "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father." They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this." (John 8:33, 37-40)
Members of the same family bear a likeness to one another. It is this principle that designates who is a spiritual child of Abraham. It is not a matter of physical resemblance but a similarity of moral and spiritual attitude and behavior. Christ designates that resemblance to be believing God as Abraham did, as well as doing the works that he did. In the larger picture, a spiritual descendant of Abraham will grow and overcome, gradually changing into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ.
The factor that set Abraham apart above all others was that faith drove, motivated, inspired, and guided—sometimes dramatically—what he did with his life. Thus, Abraham is not only the physical progenitor of Israelites but also the spiritual, moral pattern that his descendants are to conform to.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)Related Topics: Abraham's Children | Abraham's Offspring | Abraham's Relationship with God | Abraham's Spiritual Children | Abraham's Spiritual Fatherhood | Abraham, Descendants of | Children of Abraham | Children of Israel | Relationship with Christ | Relationship with God | Spiritual Children | Spiritual Family | Spiritual Family Traits | Spiritual Israelite
Abraham left Ur by faith, and it was also by faith that Abraham left Haran. He sojourned in the Promised Land by faith as well. Nowhere does it say how Abraham knew that Canaan was where he was to remain or even that it was indeed the Land of Promise. We will pursue how he knew in a later article.
We are told that despite becoming quite wealthy, and with the exception of a burial place for Sarah and himself, never owning a piece of land, he lived the entire time in tents and that the Canaanites lived in the land with him (Genesis 13:2; 23:1-20). This establishes another general pattern for his faithful children. In every sense of the word, he was a pilgrim. No matter where he lived or what were his economic circumstances, he purchased no land—he never even built a house!
Beyond this, the Bible reveals little social interaction with others outside of his family. Except for a league made with his nearest neighbors, Abraham made no alliances, nor took any part in the politics or the religions of the people of the land. He lived this way for one hundred years. Isaac and Jacob shared the same pattern of life.
God shows us all of this so we might see that virtually Abraham's entire post-calling life was engaged in living by faith, focused on maintaining his relationship with God. He truly was in the world but not of it. He did not cultivate its friendship but used it as necessity required, though in a guarded way, lest he should in some way abuse his privileges with God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)