Chapter 12: Seven Attributes of Abraham

To establish necessary faith, we can be guided by the under-listed attributes of Abraham, also removing wrong assumptions, regarding Abraham as having been spiritually superior. Abraham is our father, only because grace, leading to our salvation, begins with him. Righteousness is a virtue that cannot be associated with physical humans. Abraham obtained God’s favour due to belief and faith.

“What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:3 NIV). “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29 NIV).

Nevertheless, Abraham should never be taken as a model of Christian living. He had tests, though not identical to ours, as living in a different historical background. We are Abraham’s seed only on one factor—belief in the true God of the universe, whose living model is Jesus.

Some Christian communities pursue polygamy, citing scriptures that project Abraham, or his grandson, Jacob, having been polygamous. However, all biblical characters should be viewed ordinarily like all of us. Some of them may carry good records, but with their share of human frailties, lacking in perfection. We identify with Abraham in human frailties and not necessarily spiritual conditions.

By faith Abraham received grace. By faith, true Christians have also received grace. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35 and 1 Peter 1:17). Some of Abraham’s attributes reveal how God’s grace takes care of human inadequacies when exercising similar faith.

If God’s favour was not removed on account of Abraham’s shortcomings, the same applies to us––regardless of our possible shortcomings. Being preferred with the term “Abraham’s seed” entitles us to privileges that stem from what was accorded to Abraham.

Attribute #1: Direct Call

Abram was directly called to go to a place which only God knew to be good for him and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-4). Abram did not need to be familiar with that land, known only by God––avoiding all opposing opinions, as long as God had spoken. God’s voice carried utmost authority, even though common reasoning showed no beneficial value.

As to why God specifically called Abraham, instead of any other, we are not told. But the reason could not have been to do with Abraham’s righteousness, as only God holds attributes of righteousness.

Christians are similarly called. “No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him at the last day” (John 6:44 NIV). The calling is without consideration of virtuous acts, necessarily. Belief and faith, acknowledging truth as a virtue that comes from God is what sets people free.

The uncertainties, arising from spiritual jungles that a convert faces, when yielding to God’s calling, are similar to Abraham’s experiences; as Abraham committed himself to follow God through hazards imposed by idolaters in foreign lands.

The Christian world practices lifestyles that are opposed to Godly principles. The monumental question is: How can practising Christianity be possible in a sinful world? It is extremely impossible, except when Christ takes over.

Our Christian calling does not give room for other options, as God’s word is final. Abram was also not given room for other options after God had spoken.

The promised land of Canaan, as shown to Abraham, did not immediately reveal signs of advantageous qualities. A Christian––having been offered heavenly promises––hardly sees any advantages of such promises. What is promised cannot be seen through physical eyes.

Attribute #2: Unconditional Promises

After arriving at the scene depicting the land of promise, nothing could be seen as appealing, except that the land had been designated by God (Gen. 12:6-9). Stiffer challenges of starvation were more than imagined––prompting Abram to succumb, instead of seeking God’s counsel.

Where could God have been, to whom Abram had originally shown allegiance, as the distressing famine devastated him?  Moving to Egypt became irresistible. But the same gracious Lord had to intervene, delivering the patriarch out of that self-imposed predicament (vs. 10-20). Faced with options between life and death, human flaws prevailed. His wife Sarai had to be surrendered. Such behaviour shows lapses––being weaknesses of human nature, also inherent with Abram.

God did not use that wrongness as valid to annul His affirmed unconditional decrees. Abraham’s blunder had not been deliberate, but his condition of weakness was common to everyone.

Christians are not spared. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV). Our points of weakness are good reasons why we should celebrate the marvellous grace of our Lord. Through Paul, Christ surmises that such weaknesses are necessary—for a Christian to remain in a state of humility.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13 NIV).

Our weaknesses cannot prevail against God’s marvellous grace. Christ availed Himself to rescue Peter, having lost faith due to the imposing tempestuous sea, after having achieved the impossible––strolling upon sea waters, (Matt. 14:30-31). Peter had experienced comfort in supposing he had faith, but like the patriarch Abraham’s starvation episode, the stormy sea caused the lapse leading to drowning.

Christ was right there, as always there for believers in similar spiritual predicaments. “…Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6 NIV).

Walking in grace, though, requires avoiding judging others, as appreciating God’s grace implies being fully aware of own shortcomings. Judging others becomes mischievous when Christ is the one carrying all burdens of sinfulness (Matt. 7:1-5 & James 4:11-12). God tolerates shortcomings, except when one fails to tolerate other people’s shortcomings (Matthew 18:21-34).

Attribute #3: Exposure to human reasoning

God promised a nation from Abraham’s offspring (Gen. 15:2-6), without specifying how possible that would happen. Abraham was later exposed to human reasoning, as the promise seemed overdue (Gen. 16:1-6).

Ishmael, whose offspring later became a thorn in the flesh of Isaac’s offspring––was a product of human reasoning. Isaac was the child of promise, not Ishmael. Through his wife, Abraham was exposed to a false suggestion––facilitating the attainment of what God had promised unconditionally––thereby producing Ishmael.

There are instances through which Christians behave––seeking to please God––yet leading to the opposite. Before ascension, Jesus instructed the disciples to wait for The Holy Spirit, necessary for their empowerment.

Those disciples reasoned out that since their numbers had been reduced to eleven, the gap needed filling, thereby appointing Mathias. They missed the point that Christ was still right there, with them, though not physically observed.

It appealed to prudence, to choose from those faithfully walking with them as Jesus’ disciples. They considered merit, for the position of apostleship. Nothing appears amiss with that resolution:

“….Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us…So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they drew lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:12-26 NIV).

This behaviour had no precedent, as all of them were appointed by Christ, without consideration of merit. Peter and Andrew had been fishermen (Matt. 4:18-20), unlike those religiously devoted in Jerusalem. The same applied to the sons of thunder––James and John (Matt. 4:21-22).

Matthew was a tax collector, also without anything to do with God (Matt. 9:9). The background of Judas Iscariot is not given, but there is no doubt that God knew Judas’ character and how he would be used by Satan.

How then did those apostles come up with, even the idea of casting lots to appoint apostles? They were following human reasoning, instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit, as instructed (Luke 24:49, and Acts 1:4).

What they did was not associated with waiting. Meanwhile, Christ was focusing on Paul, a Jewish scholar from Tarsus. Though inaugurated with pomp and fanfare, Matthias’ name does not go further than mentioned in Acts 1:26.

This is not, necessarily, suggesting that Matthias was not a Christian. But the eleven apostles had overlooked the fact that the church was to be led by Christ, though not seen physically.

Paul also succumbed to a similar error, as found in instructing young Timothy to apply standards that were different from Paul’s calling (1 Tim 3:1-13). Paul was called while on his unsavoury mission to Damascus (Acts 9:1-16). But, as in Abraham’s case, human reasoning did not limit God in accomplishing great works through the fallible Apostles.

Undoubtedly, such a mistake negatively affected Christianity downstream. A careful analysis shows that the condition of Christianity, today, reflects those apostolic errors. But God remains in charge, converting such errors to be advantageous.

Attribute #4: Gentleness

Abraham displayed gentleness in handling factional disputes between shepherds associated with Lot on one hand and those associated with him on the other (Gen. 13:5-11). As a leader in that entourage, Abraham had every right to dictate allotments; awarding himself the favourable choice.

His behaviour shows a mindset that is different from how ordinary humans predictably handle such issues. Abraham allowed Lot to make the first choice. True Christians—bearing the fruit of the Spirit, whose other component is gentleness (Gal. 5:22)—apply the same principle.

An ordinary person finds Abraham’s behaviour foolish. How could a leader fail to take advantage, awarding himself the preferable choice?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your interests but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4 NIV).

Attribute #5: Testing

The confirmation of promises to Abraham was ratified in passing the test of faith. This required Abraham to forego that which was attached to his heart, in favour of God’s directive. God knew that Sarah, whom Abraham had originally surrendered to the Egyptians, could not have been closest to Abraham.

The test required offering Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the hills in the region of Moriah (Gen. 22:1-10). This, ideally, spells the crux of Christian faith, giving the best to God, as also confirmed in Abel’s offering—approved ahead of Cain’s (Gen. 4:4).

Abraham could not have contemplated doing such an abominable thing as to sacrifice his beloved son. But the voice of the Lord had spoken. Human reasoning could not cross Abraham’s mind at that stage.

Human reason may have come, but without prevailing against the clear voice of the Lord. After passing the test, God unequivocally declared: “Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Gen. 22:12 NIV).

Christians are vehemently assured: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29 NIV).

One rich young man succumbed, on account of love for personal riches. Yet previously having vehemently displayed desiring to receive the esteemed eternal life (Matt. 19:16-24). Having failed the test, the rich young man could certainly not be associated with Abraham at that stage.

Just like the rich young man had assumed, most people suppose that mere law-keeping is what is necessary. Christ revealed how wrong that assumption was. Law-keeping requires a commitment to the principle, rather than just the letter.

Attribute #6: Futuristic Promises

Having passed the test did not mean an instant acquisition of promised blessings (Gen. 22:15-18). After Isaac’s redemption, Abraham was devastated by the subsequent death of his wife, with Isaac still not having obtained a wife to guarantee the establishment of Abraham’s dynasty.

There was no way Abraham could physically witness promised blessings, due to ageing. But, the certainty of acquiring what God promised was not erased, as confirmed:

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Heb. 11:17-19 NIV).

These promises are as predictable as the certainty of the rising sun tomorrow. Christianity is the only faith that does not require doing anything except listening and obeying God’s instructions. It overlooks shortcomings, as long as that person is humble, and changing when proven wrong.

The realisation that one is saved by grace is sufficient for remaining focused, but not being judgmental of others––yet desiring to see everyone turning to Christ.

Attribute #7: Assurance of the promise

In Christ, we are as safe as standing on a solid rock. God, in His dealings with Abraham and later, the nation of Israel, never promised anything that He failed to fulfil: “Not one word out of all the good words that the Lord your God has spoken to you has failed” (Josh. 23:14).

Today, more people claim to be descendants of Abraham than any other genealogical claim the world has ever known. The influence and growth of Christianity, the world over, confirms that reality.

“And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Heb. 11:12 NIV).

In terms of checking the authenticity of God’s promises, we are in a better position than Abraham, who died before the birth of his grandchildren, Esau and Jacob. The reality of the development of the Israelite nation could not crystallise in Abraham’s lifetime—let alone the eventual birth of Jesus.

Today, we are privileged to analytically follow and learn from the patterns of Israelite’s shortcomings, with prophecies leading to Christ’s birth. The records of the apostles’ experiences also provide a clearer understanding of God’s plan.

Today, Christians can be more informed about the authenticity of God’s promises. All that Christians need is to take the words of Jesus seriously. However, it is necessary to appreciate not only to learn from the strengths of the early apostles but also to learn to avoid their mistakes.

The establishment of the New Civilization started with the Patriarch Abraham, who attained God’s favour when no one else could understand what was going on. But Jesus has since confirmed that civilization, as highlighted in this book––is for those willing to accept this reality.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com  for $6.99

 

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