The Blessing of Abraham Part I:
The Call of Abraham
Abraham lived with his beautiful wife Sarai in Ur of the Chaldees. Ancient Ur was highly advanced with amazing clay guttering and pipeworks to store and discharge excess waters in a downpour. Moses similarly left the luxuries of the courts of Egypt behind when he fled to become a shepherd for the next 40 years in Median, Arabia.
Abraham was a friend of God and obeyed God's call to leave his city and kindred to a place that God would show him. What made Abram believe God in the first place? The only satisfying answer is God's grace, and God's grace alone. Abram's family were idolaters. "And Joshua said to all the people, So says Jehovah, the God of Israel, Your fathers lived Beyond the River in times past, Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods." (Joshua 24:2)
When Stephen the evangelist addressed the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem in Acts 7:2-5, he said that at God's command Abram was uprooted from his home and kin; and departed from Ur of the Chaldees.
"Men, brothers, and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. And He said to him, "Go out from your land and from your kindred, and come into a land which I shall show you." Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, he moved into this land in which you now dwell. And He gave him no inheritance in it, no, not even a foot-breadth. And He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, there being no child to him".
Kin were teased away from Abram's life little by little, sometimes traumatically. From the very beginning God's intention was to strip away from Abram carnal and kinship loyalties, in other words filial loyalties. Much later in Canaan, Abraham, under considerable grief, even had to banish the son of his flesh, Ishmael, from the camp.
Separating Abram and Sarai from close kin was the love of God towards them. The Bible uses the word 'agape' for this kind of love. There was no other way for God to fulfil His perfect purposes in them. Agape, the Greek word for the love of God, seems harsh when we compare it to human or brotherly love, Phileo in the Greek, which is an emotional mix of godly and human love. If we are honest and consider our own walk with God, this subtle difference between the two kinds of love, can unsettle and ruffle our own feathers. The fact is that our carnality, the way we filter what we hear, often reduces our thinking and reactions to Phileo love. Phileo love can resist Agape love, and make the word of God of no effect.
However, through God's agape actions, God was able to focus Abram's attention entirely on God's promises. He wanted Abram to become His obedient son and endure all circumstances in the will of God, even as Jesus did. God wanted Abram to become an overcomer. I believe that most Christians miss or belittle much about Abram's call.
Leave your kindred behind was God's command. Pretty harsh, don't you think? We see the same principle at work in the life of Jesus once He came of age, don't we? When Jesus left home to take up His ministry we must presume that Joseph was already dead. At the wedding of Cana Jesus still heeded to filial loyalty when He followed His mother's suggestion to provide wine. He objected mildly at His mother's request and manipulation, but turned the water poured into the vessels into the most excellent wine nevertheless. It was a prophetic act that He would be the giver of the Holy Spirit, because there were six earthen vessels involved, and 6 is the number of man. In Matthew 12:46-50 we see the filial break completed when His mother and brothers sought Him out while He was teaching,
'But while He yet talked with the people, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, Behold, Your mother and Your brothers stand outside, desiring to speak with You. And He answered and said to him who told Him, Who is My mother? And who are My brothers? And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever shall do the will of My Father in Heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother.' (Matthew 12:46-50)
Although this would have pierced any mother's heart, this does not mean that He stopped loving His mother and brothers when we remember His care for Mary as He hung on the cross. He entrusted John to look after her needs. So please don't misinterpret the scriptures.
Returning to Abram, we note that Abram was reluctant to obey God completely in his earlier walk with the Lord because he allowed his father and brothers to journey with him to Haran. In fact his father took patriarchal control of the situation, because in Genesis 11:31 it says, 'And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot, the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife. And he went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan. And they came to Haran and lived there'.
This is not what God had intended. God wanted Abram for Himself. That is part of the blessing of Abraham. God's covenant was too important to have family meddling and interfering with Abram and Sarai's walk. In any case, Terah and Abram's brother died in Haran, but his nephew Lot remained to travel on with Abram into Canaan.
In case we don't realize how family meddling can cause trouble, we need to remember that righteous Lot's descendants became the nations of Ammon and Moab who bitterly opposed God's purposes in His people. Jesus warned several times that the biggest obstacles in our walk with Him can be our own kin. He warned that anyone who loves their own kin more than Him is not worthy to follow Him. Its just a question of whether we love God more.
Going back to the Old Testament we discover that under God's hand even Lot was eventually taken away from Abram. Once Lot was out of the way God was able to fulfill His purposes in Abram.
Following Lot's departure, God blessed Abram with a foreshadowed communion that Melchizedek, priest of the most high God, who had no natural father or mother, brought to Him in Genesis 14 (vs. 18-24) after the defeat of the 4 kings. Melchizedek means 'king of righteousness". Melchizedek gave Abram bread and wine, and Abram gave Him tithes. This is only one of several examples in the book of Genesis why Jesus was able to say in John 8:56, 'Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and He saw and was glad.' The Jews strongly objected when Jesus said this. They did not realize that He was the eternal Word (John Chapter 1) and became incarnate as Jesus. They asked, how could Abraham have possibly seen you when you are not yet 50 years old? Abraham had passed away almost 2000 years earlier.
CIRCUMCISION AND BAPTISM COMPARED
The next important step then happened in Abram's growth. God introduced Abram to circumcision and changed Abram's name. God chose to change his name from Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, including part of His own name in theirs by inserting the letter H; God's name being JHVH, as revealed to Moses hundreds of years later.
Concerning the change of Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, and the introduction to circumcision (an Old Testament type of baptism according to Paul - 'in whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in whom also you were raised through the faith of the working of God, raising Him from the dead', Colossians 2:11-12) we see a parallel situation in today's baptism when we take on the name of Jesus. We only need to reconsider how the apostles baptised in the book of Acts and in the epistles. The name of Jesus, or the Lord Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jesus Christ was invoked in every single case on those being immersed in the waters of baptism. This may seem trivial and of no account to us, but in God's eyes its no trivial matter because He wants to achieve His final purposes of the everlasting covenant. He plans to cast Satan from access to heaven as we see in Revelations 12, and the dedicated church shall be playing a huge role in this.
A change to our name is God's perfect will, which was important for the everlasting covenant He established with Abraham, but not with Abram: And it is Abraham, not Abram, who is named the father of all who believe. In the manner of baptism carried out in the New Testament, the apostles literally obeyed the command to baptise people into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, so they baptised accordingly using the compound name of Jesus. Today, several churches throughout the world add, "even into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ". We rejoice because, in addition to our name, we now carry the family name of the triune God. As the scripture says , "We are clothed with Christ".
So that's a question which I shall leave before us. Is the manner of baptism a trivial matter or not? Are we free to choose? We are indeed free to choose, that is the dignity God has given us all, but do we truly wish to follow Jesus and the apostle's doctrine? That's our choice and food for further thought.
Its something to consider, isn't it? I believe that the Holy Spirit is bringing this to our attention world-wide. Part II in the next article gives a bird's eye view of the blessing of Abraham and its outcomes.