Genesis 22:20-24 (ESV)
Now after these things it was told to Abraham, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” (Bethuel fathered Rebekah.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Moreover, his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.
God’s promise feels different now. Abraham knows, really knows, that his descendants will be as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. Then he finds out that his brother Nahor is already doing pretty good in the descendants game. This is great news. In their culture, large families are a principal sign of God’s blessing.
It has been a long and winding road to this point, but Abraham has reached the end and has discovered real faith, which is credited to him as righteousness. That’s a good thing, since his own righteousness has been pretty much AWOL the whole time.
By almost any standard, Abraham is a lousy hero. Yet the Bible holds him up as a prime example for us to follow. This is precisely where the Biblical point of view and the worldly point of view diverge. Understand this, and you understand the Bible.
The world admires things like hard work and honesty. We like those things too – but there’s a problem. The problem isn’t with the hard work and honesty; it’s with the admiring. We don’t admire people for doing the obvious.
For example, do you drive with your eyes open or closed? Open, of course. Should you get a medal for that? Why not? Open is much better than closed.
From a Biblical perspective, admiring people for hard work and honesty is like admiring them for driving with their eyes open. Doing things right is better than doing them wrong, but it’s nothing special. Besides, we can’t seem to do things right all that often anyway.
But there is something that’s special – faith. Faith is really all about not admiring ourselves and accepting the lordship of the only one who really knows what He’s doing.
Abraham is done admiring himself. He’s seen the light.
We can memorize this doctrine ‘til we’re blue in the face and still not get it. Sometimes it seems that only total failure can really hammer this one in. So, in a perverse twist, a good way to teach the faith based gospel is to give the works based gospel a try.
But that’s a slow and painful path. Praying about it is much more efficient. Ask God to help you see your inability contrasted against His lordship.
But beware, this can get painful too.
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