FAITH AND GOD’S PROMISES : ABRAHAM

Background to the call of Abraham
Gen 11:24 – 32.

  • Abraham was the son of Terah who lived in the city of Ur.
  • Abraham was an Amorite/ a Semitic tribe  who occupied the fertile crescent of the Middle East.
  • Abraham’s father migrated to Haran with his family.
  • Their religion was polytheistic.
  • Sacrifices were made to gods including human sacrifices. After the death of Terah, Abraham was left in charge of the family.
  • Abraham was married to Sarai but they had no child.
  • Abraham lived with Lot, his nephew, a nomadic and pastoral way of live.
  • Abraham was called by God to leave Haran to go to Canaan.
  • He was 75 years when he left Haran for Canaan.

The call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-9)

  • God called Abraham in Haran after the death of his father.
  • He commanded Abraham who was 75 years old then to leave his family to an unknown land.
  • During the call, God made the following promises to him:
  1. A great nation.
  2. Many blessings.
  3. A great name.
  4. A source of blessings.
  5. Blessing to those who bless him.
  6. Curse to those who curse him.
  • Abraham obeyed and set off for the unknown land with his wife, nephew Lot, servants and his flock.
  • In Canaan God appeared to him at Bethel and Sechem where he was shown the land that would belong to his descendants.
  • Abraham built two altars at the two places and worshipped God.

Lessons learnt about God from the call of Abraham

  1. God demands obedience from those He calls.
  2. He is a faithful God.
  3. He rewards those who obey Him.
  4. God is a source of blessings.
  5. He reveals Himself to humankind.
  6. He punishes evil.

Lessons Christians learn from the call of Abraham

  1. Christians should obey God.
  2. They should have practical faith in their lives.
  3. They should ask for blessings from God.
  4. They should be ready to face challenging situations as a fact of their faith.
  5. They should honour God when rewarded/ blessed.
  6. They should be prepared to be used by God for His purpose.

Definition of the term faith in God

Faith
It means having complete trust in something or in someone.
It is a strong belief and unquestionable confidence. (Heb 11:1 – 6)
Faith persuades us to believe in what we have not yet seen and enables us to act on it.

Importance of Faith in Christian life today

  1. Enables Christians to overcome temptations.
  2. Gives Christians strength and courage in their lives.
  3. Inspires Christians to do the will of God.
  4. Enables Christians to fellowship with one another.
  5. Makes Christians to lead a prayerful life.
  6. Promotes unity and oneness among the Christians.
  7. Enables Christians to preach the word of God.
  8. Enables them to do wonders and miracles.
  9. Leads to growth and development of the Church.
  10. Makes Christians live righteous lives.
  11. Enables Christians transform the lives of others as role models.
  12. Enables them to know the truth and insight about God.
  13. Enables them to praise and glorify God.
  14. Makes Christians hope for the Kingdom of God as a reality.

Abraham’s acts of faith in God
Gen 12:1 – 9, 15:1 – 6, 17:23-24 21:1-7, 22:11 – 19

Abraham is referred to as the father of faith.
He demonstrated his faith in God in the following ways:

  1. He was willing to leave his motherland and go to a strange land.
  2. Abraham readily believed all promises God made to him.
  3. By faith Abraham trusted in God’s voice.
  4. By faith Abraham built two altars for God; one at Bethel and another at Sechem.
  5. Abraham entered into a covenant relationship with God.
  6. He was willing to change their names from Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah.
  7. He offered the best of his flock as a sacrifice.
  8. He obeyed God’ call for personal relationship/ left polytheism for monotheism.
  9. He was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac when instructed by God.
  10. He was willing to obey God’s command of circumcision.

How Abraham demonstrated his faith in God in the incident when he was willing to sacrifice his son
Genesis 22:1-19.

  • Abraham collected wood for a burnt offering.
  • Abraham went with his son, Isaac and servants a three days’ journey.
  • He informed his servants to wait for him and his son as they go and worship.
  • When Isaac enquired about the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham told him that the lord shall provide.
  • Abraham built an altar and laid the wood in order.
  • Abraham bound Isaac and laid him on the altar.
  • He took the knife to slay his son, but the angel of the Lord stopped him.
  • Abraham took a ram from the bush and offered burnt offering instead of Isaac.
  • He named the place “The Lord will provide”.

Lessons Christians learn from the incident Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son

  • They should obey/honour God.
  • They should have faith in God.
  • They should be patient and wait upon God/should not give up.
  • They should be prepared to face difficult situations/perseverance.
  • They should be ready to give up everything.
  • They should rely on God’s guidance.
  • They should be wise when dealing with issues affecting their lives.
  • They should involve family members in worship.
  • They should rely on God’s providence.

Ways in which Christians express their faith in God today

  • Praying to God.
  • Giving offering and tithes.
  • Reading the Bible/Bible study.
  • Preaching the gospel.
  • Singing Christian songs.
  • Attending fellowships.
  • Helping the needy.
  • Leading holy life/obeying God’s laws.
  • Repenting their sins.
  • Partaking sacraments e.g. the Lord’s Supper, baptism e.t.c.
  • Caring for God’s creation.
  • Celebrating Christian festivals.

GODS PROMISES TO ABRAHAM
Gen 12:1 – 3, Gen 15:1 – 21, Gen. 17:1 – 8, 15-18.
Promise

  • An assurance to someone
  • Is a written/spoken declaration/commitment that one will definitely do or not do something.

Gods’ promises to Abraham were irrevocable commitments.  These are as follows;      

  1. God would give him land to dwell in.  His descendants would also be given the land of Canaan to dwell in.
  2. God would make Abrahams name famous.
  3. God would establish an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants He shall be their God.
  4. God would be a ‘shield’ to Abraham that He would protect him.
  5. God would make Abraham’s descendants a great nation.
  6. God would give Abraham and his wife Sarah a son of their own.
  7. God would make his descendants to be enslaved for 400 years in a foreign land.
  8. However God would deliver / free them and go back to their land with a lot of wealth.
  9. God would punish the nation that enslaves Abraham’s descendants.
  10. God would make some of Abraham’s descendants’ kings.
  11. God would bless Abraham.
  12. God would bless those who blessed him.
  13. God would curse those who cursed him.
  14. God would make all the families of the earth receive blessings through Abraham.
  15. Abraham would live long and die in peace.
  16. He would have many descendants.

Relevance of the promises to Christians today

The promises made to Abraham are important to Christians in several ways.  These include:

  1. God chose Abraham from among people who were idol worshippers so that he could serve him.  In the same way God continues to call people from different backgrounds to serve him in different ways e.g. evangelism, pastor, priest e.t.c.
  2. God’s promise to Abraham that he would be his shield of protection he is inherited by Christians; God continues to protect Christians under all circumstances.
  3. Through God’s dealings with Abraham God shows that he values personal relationship with humankind. Christians believe that God is interested in establishing such relationships with them.
  4. Abraham’s call demanded that he breaks from his earlier life e.g. he had to leave home, relatives and friends and go to the unknown land.  Christians are also called to leave their past sinful lives and put their faith in God the almighty.
  5. God promised Abraham the land of Canaan.  Historically this was fulfilled and Christians also hope for a new learn – heaven, which is the New Canaan.
  6. God promised Abraham that he would be a father of a great nation.  Christians today see themselves as the great nation of God and the descendants of Abraham.
  7. God’s promise to punish those who enslaved the Israelites shows that God is against any form of human oppression.
  8. Christians are expected to respond to the promises of God by faith, trust and obedience as Abraham did.

Meaning of the term Covenant

It is an agreement between two or more parties by which they exchange and accept obligations to one another.
It is a serious or solemn agreement between two persons or groups of people
Other words used are “testament” “pact” or ‘treaty”
It brings together two or more parties that have been separate before.

There are two types;
1. Conditional covenant
It is an agreement/ a covenant between two or more parties which in fact are equal.

2. Unconditional covenant
It is a covenant between two unequal parties for example between God and his people.
Examples of well-known covenants in the Bible;

  1. Covenant with Noah / Noaic in which God entered into a relationship with the whole world and promised to preserve the life of people (Gen 9) The sign of this covenant is the rainbow.
  2. The covenant with Abraham in which God promised to fulfill the promises he made with him.  The sign is circumcision.
  3. The covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai/ Mosaic in which God promised to be their God the Israelites promised obedience (Exodus 24). The sign is the law / the Ten Commandments.
  4. The covenant with King David in which God promised him that his dynasty will continue forever. (2 Sam 7:14 – 16)
  5. The covenant with Jeremiah in which God promised to make a new covenant with the Israelites where each individual will know God personally. (Jeremiah 31:3 – 34)

 Elements of covenant

  1. Two or more parties are involved.
  2. Those involved commit themselves to a binding agreement.
  3. Involves promises or oaths.
  4. It usually has some physical sign or symbol.
  5. It involves a witness or witnesses.
  6. It is usually sealed.
  7. A ceremony or a ritual is performed to enforce it.
  8. It has serious/ negative consequences experienced by those who break it and benefits for those who keep it.

God’s covenant with Abraham
Gen 15:1-19

Abraham wanted an assurance from God that the Almighty would fulfill his promises.
God commanded Abraham to prepare to offer a sacrifice.

Abraham was asked to bring the following

  1. Three year old heifer.
  2. Three year old she-goat.
  3. Three year old ram.
  4. Turtle dove.
  5. Young pigeon.
  • He was to cut these animals into halves except for the birds and arrange them in two rows.
  • He laid the cut halves one against each other in two rows out in the sun.

Birds were killed but were offered whole.

  • Abraham fell into a deep sleep during which God gave him more promises.
  • God the passed between the sacrificed animals in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch.
  • This was an unconditional covenant because it is God who was to bear the consequences.
  • Abraham had been assured of the fulfillment of the covenant.

Note
The physical manifestations of God are commonly referred to as Theophany. The following are well known examples of theophanies in the Bible;

  1. The burning bush in the call of Moses. (Exodus 3:2 – 4)
  2. The pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud as recorded in the story of Exodus. (Exodus 13:20 – 22)
  3. Thunder, lightning, smoke at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:16 – 22)
  4. The mighty wind, earthquake a still voice in the story of Elijah. (1 Kings 19:11 – 12)

Importance of the covenant

  1. It marks God’s initiative to enter into a personal relationship with humankind which had been destroyed.
  2. It signified the reward of obeying and having faith in God.
  3. It confirms that God was willing to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham.
  4. Through the covenant with Abraham, all nations of the world were to receive God’s salvation.
  5. It shows that God may elect an individual and use him/her for His purpose.
  6. By entering into a covenant with Abraham, God was confirming His choice of Abraham as the one to fulfill His plan of salvation.

Characteristics of God’ covenant with Abraham

  1. It was unconditional- it had two unequal parties i.e. God and Abraham.
  2. It had promises which were given by God.
  3. It had an outward sign which was circumcision.
  4. It was sealed through the blood of the sacrifice.
  5. It was voluntary- Abraham entered it willingly.
  6. It was binding- it was to be kept even by Abraham’s descendants.
  7. It was initiated by God.

Covenants in modern life These include;

  1. Baptism/sacraments.
  2. Marriage.
  3. Ordination.
  4. Oath of loyalty to state/ oath of allegiance.
  5. Trade agreements/ treaties.
  6. Peace treaties.
  7. Land buying contracts.
  8. Employment contracts.
  1. Baptism
  • Is an agreement between God and the believer to shed the life without Christ and take on life with Christ.
  • The believer makes vows to remain faithful to God and obedient to his will.
  • The believer promises to keep the commandment of God and to serve him.
  • The covenant is enacted through the ceremony of baptism.
  • The pastor/priest and the congregation serve as witness.
  1. Marriage
  • It involves the bride and bridegroom.
  • These are two parties that were separate before coming together.
  • The two exchange vows in the presence of the pastor and the congregation.
  • God is also a witness at this covenant.
  • Wear rings and exchange marriage vows.
  • A marriage certificate is the sign.

3 Oath of allegiance/loyalty

  • It involves national leaders taking up positions of public service e.g. the head of state, Ministers, etc.
  • This agreement is made between them and the people they will serve.
  • An oath is taken during the swearing in ceremony.
  • They promise to serve the nation and its citizens faithfully
  1. Ordination
    Made by leaders who are taking up leadership in the church.
    They take up vows in which they promise obedience and loyalty to God, their supervisors and
    Body of Christ

Importance of covenants in modern life

  1. Through baptism, Christians are encouraged to have the right relationship with God and be able to work for the good of the society.
  2. Through Baptism one is able to acquire Christian principles/rules with inspires one to live a virtuous life.  This helps one to fight against evils e.g. sexual immorality, drug abuse, and corruption.
  3. It makes people to be committed to their work.
  4. Makes people to have confidence in their leaders.
  5. Helps to create a peaceful environment.
  6. Brings unity between individuals and communities that were separated before.
  7. Strengthens one’s faith in God.
  8. Enlightens citizens on their rights.

JEWISH CIRCUMCISION
Gen 171-16

Circumcision
The word literally means to cut around or to cut the foreskin.
As a sign of the covenant, God instructed circumcision for Abraham and his descendants.

Elements of Jewish circumcision

  1. Every male among Abraham’s descendants had to be circumcised.
  2. They would be circumcised by the flesh of their foreskins.
  3. Circumcision would take place when a male was 8 days old.
  4. Circumcision was also required of all male servants of Abraham.
  5. The practice would be a mark/symbol of an everlasting covenant between God and Abraham’s community.
  6. Any man who was not circumcised would be cut off from Abraham’s descendants because he had broken the covenant.

Importance of circumcision to Abraham and his descendants

  1. It was an outward sign of Abraham’s and his descendants’ covenant relationship with God.
  2. It was an outward sign of a male Jew’s true belonging to the Jewish community.
  3. It was an outward sign of the inner faith for Abraham and his descendants that they were called to a life of obedience to God.
  4. It identified the Israelites as God’s chosen race.
  5. Through it, Abraham and his descendants were assured of inheriting God’s blessings.
  6. It confirmed that Abraham was obedient and faithful to God.
  7. It was a sign of continued love and protection from God which the Israelites were to enjoy.
  8. It signified purity/ cleanliness.

JEWISH VERSUS AFRICAN PRACTICE OF CIRCUMCISION
Similarities

  1. In both cases, it promotes one into full membership of the community.
  2. In both cases, it is a mark of identification of a person to a particular community.
  3. In both, it is carried out on male children.
  4. In both cases, circumcision has a religious significance.
  5. In both cases, special people/ religious leaders/heads of the community carry out the operations.
  6. In both cases, it unites the members with the ancestors.
  7. In both cases, members receive new names.
  8. In both cases, the rite is carried on from generation to generation/ is compulsory/ whoever fails to observe it is considered an outcast.
  9. In both cases, the ritual is a communal affair.
  10. In both cases, it involves the cutting of the foreskin.

Differences

  1. In some African communities, they circumcised both boys and girls while the Jewish community circumcised boys only.
  2. The African communities circumcised mainly teenagers while the Jews circumcised infants at 8 days.
  3. Jewish circumcision is a religious requirement while the African circumcision is a cultural requirement/ rite of passage.
  4. In the African communities the initiate would later be entrusted with new roles/responsibilities e.g. marriage, inheritance of property etc which was not the case for the Jewish community.
  5. Among the Jews it was commanded by God while in African communities it originated from ancestors
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