The children’s song goes like this: “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham.” While we recognize Abraham as the father of the Jewish nation, like any member of our fallen race he was far from perfect. Much like many of our fathers.
One danger of celebrating historic lives is that we can elevate a person too high by never mentioning certain shortcomings or character flaws. However, the Bible shares honestly of the lives of its heroes. Abraham becomes the first person of faith in the Bible. God counts Abraham’s faith as righteousness, and the standard is set for the rest of scripture.
Abraham was a person of faith, but he did not always make the right decisions. Even the faithful do not live a life without sin. Early in Gen. 12, God made His covenant with Abram that He would make of him a great nation. People that blessed him would be blessed. Then time passed.
Years had gone by between Genesis 12 and 15, but when Abram suggests a hired hand will inherit his possessions, God reassures him that this will not be his heir but his own son. Then it all gets a little Jerry Springer.
Sarai sees that she and her husband are aging, and suggests that Abram give her children by way of her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar. There would have been nothing unusual about this given the culture of the time. It was however, exactly what God said not to do.
In Genesis 15 God told Abram his own son would be his heir, and in the very next chapter Abram, without protest, goes along with his wife’s hair-brained scheme. Incidentally, after Ishmael is born, and Sarai sees that Abram loves him, she has a fit of jealous hatred and blames Abram for coming up with such a wicked plan. Abram (not yet Abraham) man of faith, has acted unfaithfully.
We then see God’s mercy act in two ways. First, he reminds Abram that Ishmael is not the son of promise and that he and Sarai will indeed have a son of their very own. Secondly, since Hagar’s son Ishmael is also a son of Abram, a great nation will be made of him as well. God is faithful to his word, despite the problems that will create for the nation of Israel down the road.
Abraham was faithful enough in believing God’s promises to sacrifice his son Isaac, yet on two separate occasions, lied about Sarah being his sister. He believed Isaac would be raised from the dead if that was God’s will, but did not seem to think God would protect him from those who might murder him in order to marry his wife.
Abraham believed in God’s promise, yet he didn’t follow God’s will perfectly. And that is the lesson. God used Abraham despite his inherent flaws. We are a fallen people living under the curse. Fathers (and mothers, grandparents, sons and daughters) can emulate the good examples we have before us, and trust in God’s grace because perfection is out of our grasp.
Only our Heavenly Father is always just, patient, loving, and forgives to 70 times 7. He is the Father we can depend on, in spite of the flaws of our heroes.