Abraham stands at the peak of his city, looks out beyond the walls, and sees nothing but wilderness. Did God call him into that?
God didn’t even give him the destination. Should he go? How could he not?
This is no idle God, after all. He speaks. He seems trustworthy. Abraham’s heart feels different as he hears from him. And that promise . . . how can he refuse that promise?
Abraham was already an old man, Genesis 14 tells us. God promised him a new life—life as a father. And the son he was to receive wouldn’t be an ordinary son. Through him, God would do something big. The boy would be the gateway into Abraham’s fatherhood of nations. Abraham didn’t know it at the time, but through that son’s line, God would eventually save the world.
That son, though, was to be born to a 100-year-old man and a ninety-year-old woman. Even back then that was crazy. But is it any crazier than God creating the world out of nothing? Is our God a God of crazy things?
(DIS)TRUSTING THE PROMISE
Paul picks up Abraham’s story in Romans 4:13-25. There, Paul speaks of the righteousness of faith. It’s not through the law that one finds salvation but through faith in God. Abraham is exhibit A. He believed a promise. He followed God. He went when God called. That set him apart.
As Abraham looked into the future, he saw his boy laughing as his mother once laughed at the silliness of God’s promise to make them parents (Gen. 18:12). Them? A man and woman who should be great-grandparents by now? The barren one will bear a child? Laughable.
Abraham felt his old age. Why couldn’t God have come earlier? Why now? How can this happen? He felt the creaks in his body as he rose from his bed. He saw the wrinkles on Sarah’s face. They had never known anyone so old to give birth to a child. Would they be the first?
But in hope, Abraham believed against hope that he should become the father of many nations (Rom. 4:18). Abraham did not allow his feelings to inform his doctrine. He let God’s doctrine inform his feelings.
When he felt hopeless, he looked to God for hope. When he felt as if this promise would never come to pass, he looked to God and knew that God would do what he said. Abraham glorified God, and as he did, he grew strong in his faith (Rom. 4:20). He became fully convinced that God could do what he had promised.
But as he wandered around his new home, he wondered about God’s promise. He believed, but what if it didn’t happen? He had moments of weakness. He faltered. He feared for his life. He gave Sarah over to Pharaoh (Gen. 12:15) and then again to Abimelech (Gen. 20:2). Thankfully, he received her back both times without compromising the promise.
But there were still more failures. Sarah gave Hagar, her servant, to him (Gen. 16:3). He went in to her. They conceived. But Ishmael was not the promised son. Isaac was yet to come.
Abraham’s sins were bold and egregious. But God held fast to him still. Why?
IT DEPENDS ON FAITH
Abraham’s story didn’t depend on Abraham as much as it depended on God, who made the promise. Works add nothing to God’s promises and they take nothing away from them. The one who calls is faithful. God is the one who justifies.
For all his failures, Abraham turned from his sin to his forgiving God time and time again. Try as he may, he couldn’t ultimately distrust the promise of God. God wouldn’t allow it. God kept bringing him back.
Finally, after all those years, Abraham heard the cry of new life. There lies his boy in his mother’s arms. All those tense moments of wondering. All the questions, spoken and unspoken. All the tears, all the miles, all the ridicule. All was forgotten and forgiven. Here was Isaac, the promised child (Gen. 21)!
And then there’s Isaac, the one whom God has asked Abraham to sacrifice (Gen. 22). Here they are, together on the road to Mt. Moriah. Abraham will not delay. He has delayed enough in his life. He’s not sure what God is going to do but he knows God’s promise will remain. Even if he is to kill the boy, somehow God will provide. Even if it means resurrection, God will provide. So, come what may, he walks on by faith.
This is the kind of faith God requires of us all—faith in a resurrection. That kind of faith grants righteousness. Paul summarizes this righteousness in Romans 4:24-25: “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
We are set right with God as we, like Abraham, find that there was another laid on the altar. Jesus died in our place. He paid the penalty.
Now, come what may, we can walk on, because Jesus has been raised from the dead. God’s promises—all of them—remain.
GOD’S GOT YOU
Paul said Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness. Those words were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also (Rom. 4:22-23).
We like to believe the way to God is the path of works. But from the beginning, it has not been so. If it were, Abraham would have failed. God would have turned and gone to another.
But he didn’t. Abraham was God’s man and he couldn’t do anything about it. If you’re God’s, you can’t either. He’s got you, always and forever.
The simple proof is your sincere belief in the gospel. The gospel isn’t something you did; it’s something God did. You just heard it and trusted it. If you trust that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection not only happened but happened for you, you are justified before God.
Abraham’s story is an encouragement amid our struggles. God is above all circumstances. He can create a child from an old man, life from death, righteousness from unrighteousness. What are you facing that you can’t trust God during? If your salvation was based upon what you do or don’t do, you would never feel secure. How could you? You can’t even obey the rules you give yourself each day.
But if it is God that declares us righteous, who acquits us and creates in us new hearts, how can we not feel secure?
God is not running the calculations in heaven to see if we add up to righteousness. He is reckoning us righteous in Christ and imputing the merit of Christ upon us to make us worthy of him. By faith, we are like Abraham, one to whom God has counted righteousness.
THE REMEDY FOR FEAR
We may still be afraid. God’s call always makes us uneasy. But real faith transforms and overcomes real fear. Wherever there is fear, faith in God is the remedy.
George Muller said, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
Our God is a God of crazy things. Crazy, wonderful, saving things.
David McLemore is an elder at Refuge Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He also works for a large healthcare corporation where he manages an application development department. He is married to Sarah, and they have three sons. Read more of David’s writing on his blog, Things of the Sort.