Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Sheer Humanity of Abraham

The story of Abraham in the Old Testament is one of the most human stories in the bible.

Abraham and his wife hear God speaking, and off they go, thinking about what it means to become a great nation. Except they’re old, and not exactly the stuff you might expect a great nation to be built from.

But go they did. And they were blessed materially, even as they wandered. They had obeyed.

And then came the promise – a promise that they would have a child. In their 90s, no less. And they did a very human thing. They doubted. Sarah figured that the child must have to come from a maidservant, since she was too old for childbearing. Abraham doubted because he went along with Sarah’s plan.

And like most human plans that try to second-guess God, they screwed up. They screwed up so badly that the impact is still being felt today in the Mideast.

Then they do another very human thing – they try to make the problem they created go away, and literally. Hagar and Ishmael are sent into the desert to die. Except they don’t.

Sarah eventually gives birth to a son, Isaac. God was faithful. That is, until the day He told Abraham to go into the mountains and sacrifice Isaac.

We have the benefit of hindsight with this story. We know that God stops Abraham from killing Isaac, and we know we have a picture of a substituted sacrifice. We know what was going on. Abraham didn’t know – he was living the story forward. But he did know that God was faithful, always faithful.

The Book of Genesis shows Abraham at his most faithful and noble, and Abraham at his most unfaithful and least noble. It describes a very recognizable human being, capable of goodness and stupidity, and faithfulness and doubt. And above all it shows God’s grace continuing to pour through, especially when Abraham didn’t deserve it.

When God asked Abraham to trust, ultimately he did just that. Yes he stumbled and screwed up. But he trusted in God’s promise.

And that’s the point of the story, says Andy Stanley in The Grace of God. “The Lord established an important precedent (with Abraham): a righteous standing with God comes through faith. This is the single most important aspect of God’s grace.”

It wasn’t anything Abraham did, or anything Abraham avoided doing. It wasn’t by following a set of rules. It was by faith. Only faith.

And God’s grace poured down.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading and discussing The Grace of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Chosen by Grace,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.

Photograph by Robert Nacke via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


jasonS said...

I'm so glad God included the foibles as well as the triumphs. He shows over and over that grace works no matter what we do or don't do. It's all by faith. Almost seems too easy, but I guess that's the point. Thanks Glynn.

Fatha Frank said...

And here we are, children of Abraham- fully capable of the same mistakes, but just as capable to have the same relationship with God. What's amazing is that God never gave up on Abraham. He screwed up a lot, even argued with God at one point, and yet God kept his promise. How encouraging it is to remember when we make mistakes- all we need to do is return to trust in Him because His promises are secure.