Jesus in the Life of…
Abraham – Father of the Faith
By I Gordon
While this is the ‘Jesus in the Life of’ series, Abraham, unfortunately isn’t really a picture of Jesus himself but of God the Father. Hope you too aren’t disappointed and I promise to not break the rules again (I hope!)
Let me start with a question… what two titles are given to Abraham in scripture? There may be others but it seems to me that two titles constantly applied to Abraham are ‘the Father’ of the faith and ‘the friend of God’. Have a look at the following scriptures.
Gen 17:3-5 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
Rom 4:16-17 ‘Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.’
Three times in scripture he is also called the ‘friend of God’. As well as in 2 Chronicles 20:7 and James 2:23, there is this passage in Isaiah 41:8
“But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend.’
So how does a friend differ from an acquaintance? Amongst other things, a friend is someone whom you have become close to, enabling you to share life experiences and feelings that you would not normally disclose to an acquaintance. What has all of this got to do with this study? In calling Abraham His friend, I believe that Abraham was allowed to experience many of the key events which God the Father would experience. Along with this, and the fact that Abraham is clearly pictured as ‘the Father’, I believe that Abraham is a clear picture of God the Father just as his son Isaac is a clear picture of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. So lets look at a few examples of events in Abraham’s life that point to this fact.
The Two Sons of Abraham
While Abraham had many sons naturally (see Gen 25:1), scripture concerns itself with but two – Ishmael and Isaac.
Gal 4:28 ‘And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh (Ishmael) persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit (Isaac).’
From this we can see that the firstborn, Ishmael, became associated with the flesh, while the second, Isaac, became associated with the Spirit. Likewise, God the Father also has many sons but scripture consistently reveals and contrasts the importance of but two of these – Adam and Jesus. And like Ishmael and Isaac, these two also speak of the contrast between flesh and Spirit.
Luke 3:38 ‘…the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.’
1 Cor 15:22 ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.’
1 Cor 15:45-46 ‘So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.’
The Son born according to the flesh is sent away
Gen 21:8-14 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy.
Even though Abraham had two sons, we see here the command from God to send the first born, Ishmael, away. Even though this distressed Abraham greatly, it was necessary as the second son Isaac was the one through whom God’s plans would be accomplished and ‘the slave woman’s son (Ishmael) will never share in the inheritance’ with Isaac. God allowed Abraham to go through this as a type of what He had to do with His son Adam. After the fall God had to cast Adam out of the Garden of Eden and His plans and purposes were immediately focused upon another son – Jesus Christ. We see from this prophecy that right at the fall of man, God's intentions had shifted to another who would be born of a woman.
Gen 3:15 ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.’
Abraham sending away his first son also pictures how spiritually God places no hope or confidence in who we are ‘in Adam’ – but only in who we are ‘in Christ’. So we too are called to cast away any hope we may have in our own ‘Adamic’ natures and rest in all that Jesus is for us. The apostle Paul expressed this very idea when he wrote
Phil 3:3-9 ‘…glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.’
The Father Sacrifices his Son
Gen 22:1-10 ‘Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; …And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.’
While most of this will be discussed in a separate study on Isaac, there are just a few points I would like to make here. Firstly, the obvious picture is again of God allowing Abraham to go through the same experiences that He would as God the Father. The extent of this meant knowing what it was like to even have to give up your own son for the purposes of God. What we see from the passage above is that even though it was a horrible thing that Abraham was called to do, he never once hesitated, trusting God that His purpose would be completed. We read in the New Testament that
Heb 11:17-19 ‘By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.’
Just as Abraham never hesitated to sacrifice his son because he reckoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead, so God the Father didn’t waver in His decision to sacrifice His Son because He saw the resurrection and the results that would be won for all mankind. We even read in Isaiah
Isaiah 53:10-11’But the Lord was pleased to crush Him (Jesus), putting Him to grief; If He (Jesus) would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His (Jesus) soul, He (God the Father) will see it and be satisfied.’
The last point I would like to make from the Genesis 22 passage quoted earlier is that twice it is mentioned ‘so the two of them walked on together.’ At each stage of the sacrifice, Abraham and Isaac were together both physically and purposefully in what they were doing. It was only at the end when Abraham bound Isaac to the altar and drew his knife that Isaac would have felt separated and unsure of what his father was doing. This again is a key pointer to the Father’s presence with Jesus as He went to the cross. The Father had been with Jesus His whole life and never had they been separated. Yet we read that while on the cross, as the sins of the world were placed upon Jesus, He cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Like Isaac, Jesus was suddenly unsure of the purpose of His Father. But the victory was won on the cross and the presence of His Father was restored to Jesus as we see Him cry out a final time before dying, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit.’
The Fathers heart for His Son
Gen 24:1-4 Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
After the near sacrifice of Isaac the next mention of him is this passage in chapter 24 where we see Abraham’s intention for his son. That intention is for Isaac to have a wife. To accomplish this Abraham sends his servant to another land to find her. This also shows us God the Father’s heart in that a bride should be prepared and found for His son Jesus. The unnamed servant is a picture of the Holy Spirit who was sent out to do this. While this will be discussed in the study on Isaac as well, the thing to note here is that we, as believers, are a gift from the Father to Jesus.
John 6:37 ‘All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out’
John 17:1-2 ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify you, even as you gave Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom you have given Him, He may give eternal life.’
In this current age, God the Father still seeks out a bride that He can give as a gift to his beloved Son Jesus. This He does through the Spirit who works upon the earth, convicting them of their need of the one who died for them.