Abraham – Father of Nations
by John C. Westervelt
Abram was born in 2165 B.C. in Ur of Chaldeans, a wealthy, populous, and sophisticated pagan center of southern Mesopotamia. The city of Ur was not far from where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow into the north end of the Persian Gulf.
As directed by God, Abram left Ur with his wife Sarai, his father Terah, and his nephew Lot in search of Canaan the Promised Land. The party traveled six hundred miles up the Euphrates to Haran, Mesopotamia in the southeast of present-day Turkey. At this place, five hundred miles short of Canaan, they settled.
When Abram was seventy-five, his father died. The Lord reiterated His call to Abram, saying, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram took Sarai, Lot, and the possessions they had accumulated and set out for Canaan. Upon reaching Shechem, thirty miles north of Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.”
Abram and Lot prospered so much that the two men agreed to go their separate ways to find more grazing land. Lot went to the valley of the Jordan, and Abram settled in Canaan. Not long afterwards, the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt (Nile) as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.”
As the years passed Abram accumulated many livestock. Though he wished for many children, Sarai was barren. Finally, Sarai gave her Egyptian maid Hagar to Abram as his wife, so he would have an heir. From this union, Ishmael was born when Abram was eighty-six.
When Abram was ninety-nine, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham...Sarai’s name shall be Sarah. I will bless her and will give you a son by her, and you shall name him Isaac.” Both Abraham and Sarah laughed to themselves at the thought that they could have children at their age. To their surprise and pleasure, God’s promise was fulfilled with the birth of Isaac.
Not long afterward, turmoil between the Jews and Arabs began and has continued to this day. Abraham had to referee a conflict between Sarah, his Jewish wife, and Hagar, his Egyptian wife. He finally had to send Hagar and his son Ishmael away.
God spoke to a distressed Hagar in the wilderness, saying, “Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand; for I will make a great nation of him.” Hagar and Ishmael lived in the Sinai Peninsula, and when Ishmael was of age, Hagar took a wife for him from Egypt.
God planned for the direct descendants of Abraham to be the father and mother of Jesus, whose life would affect all nations. God had one last test for this man of faith to see if Abraham’s love for the Lord was greater than his love for his son Isaac. God told Abraham to take Isaac to the hills of Moriah (near Jerusalem) and offer him as a burnt offering. Upon arriving at Moriah on the third day, Abraham obediently built an altar and prepared Isaac for the sacrifice.
My heart is torn by the thoughts that must have gone through the mind of the bound boy as his daddy raised the knife over him. Fortunately, the terror was over quickly as God intervened and furnished a ram trapped nearby in the thicket for the burnt sacrifice. On this day, the boy Isaac would join his father as a man of faith.
Copyright 2001 by John C. Westervelt
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