Abraham: A Tangible Example of ‘by God Alone’

Abraham is an interesting person to read about.  God’s dealing with Abraham begins in Genesis 12.  This morning my Old Testament reading portion was Genesis 15-18.  Every time I read through this section of Genesis, I find myself shaking my head.  By man’s estimation, Abraham was a bit of a goof-up and disappointment.  

God, according to His own wisdom and counsel, chose Abraham to be the father of a nation through which the whole earth would be blessed.  What this meant was that the Messiah would come through Abraham’s descendents.  God chose to use Abraham according to His own purpose, not because of anything special Abraham did.  In fact, as I mentioned above, Abraham had his share of failures.  In chapter 12 God promised to make him a great nation; to bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him.  Yet Abraham didn’t trust God when he went down to Egypt and lied about Sarai being his wife, instead claiming she was his sister.  This got him into trouble with Pharoah, when Pharoah took Sarai into his harem, believing she was unmarried.  God struck Pharoah’s house with plagues, and Pharoah returned Sarai, asking Abraham why he had done this to him.  

Abraham, unbelievably, told this same lie about his wife 8 chapters later in Genesis 20.  In chapter 15, God promises to give Abraham and Sarah a son.  Verse 6 tells us: “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”  This is important because it demonstrates how salvation works: believing the Lord and imputed righteousness.  Even the belief Abraham demonstrated was a gift from God.  And yet, just a few verses later, Abraham fails again when Sarah talks him into taking her maidservant as a wife to bear a child, because they had been childless 10 years and quit trusting that God would make good on His promise of an heir.  Hagar bore Ishmael when Abraham was 86 years old.  Thirteen years later, the Lord visited Abraham and again declared that He would bless Abraham and Sarah with a son through which the nations would be blessed.  Abraham pleaded that it be Ishmael who would be his heir, as he loved his first-born son from Hagar.  God said no, and when Abraham was 100 years old, 14 years after Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands through unbelief, and produced Ishmael with Hagar, Isaac was born.  The promised son.

It is perplexing upon first consideration, isn’t it?  Why would God chose to build His nation on a man who was so full of faults?  He was a liar, he didn’t learn from his mistakes, he was weak in faith disbelieving the Lord would come through in His promises.  And yet he is the father of Israel, the nation from which the Messiah sprang forth.  I believe this was intentional on God’s part, and here is why.  I’ve written before about how God is interested in His own Glory.  Everything He does, He does for His own purpose and to glorify Himself.  Because Abraham was so weak and imperfect, it becomes obvious that it is through God alone that the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled.  God made a promise to Abraham that was unconditional and one-sided.  It did not depend on anything Abraham did or did not do.  It was actually a covenant that God made with himself for Abraham.  This demonstrates the five solas: 

  • Sola Fide, by faith alone.
  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

Remember 15:6?  Abraham believed, and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness.  No works, only grace.  Then we have God insisting that the promise be fulfilled through Abraham’s son Issac, not Ishmael.  Was it because God didn’t like Ishmael?  No.  It was because Ishmael was the son of man’s will.  Issac was the son of God’s promise: a supernatural demonstration.  This was all about God demonstrating His attributes, and bringing glory to Himself.

Abraham, because he was imperfect and sinned, encourages us.  It is a tangible reminder that our salvation is not up to us.  It is by grace alone through faith alone, entirely of God alone.  And aren’t you glad for that?  God always fulfills His promises; He never disappoints.  We on the other hand…

Soli Deo Gloria!

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