The second major section of Genesis focuses on the beginnings and the establishment of the nation of Israel. There are four major individuals: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The primary attention is on Abraham and the covenant God makes with him and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18-21). The Covenant God makes with Abraham is a reversal of the curse issued in Genesis 3. So this section dealing with patriarchal history provides the reader with great hope (despite the many failures of the characters) of God’s plan of redemption.
The story of Abraham spans from Genesis 11-25 and is foundational of what follows. Abraham grew up in a pagan family (Joshua 24:2) and was called by God to go to a Land of God’s choosing. Through Abraham will come a blessing to many, a blessing that will result in an undoing of the curse and the crushing of the serpent’s skull. Though there was much failure in the life of Abraham, the Scriptures present him as a man of faith. Abraham’s life functions as an example of a whole life lived by faith (Heb. 11:8-19). We will observe that by God’s sovereign grace, Abraham had a willing faith, waiting, and watching faith.
A Willing Faith
According to His perfect timing, God appeared to Abraham and said,
Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3)
This is an amazing promise. In this covenant God promises Abraham land, descendants, and blessing (as noted earlier, a reversal of the curse issued in Genesis 3). We need to understand that in order to act in obedience to this command of God, this would involve faith. He would have to leave his home, friends, family and familiar surroundings. How did he respond? The writer to the Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (11:8).
Abraham’s actions of packing up and leaving Haran (located in modern day Iraq) and making his journey to Canaan revealed a willing faith. If we are going to live the life of faith, we must be willing to go or do what the Lord requires of us. Sometimes doing what the Lord commands will involve sacrifice and struggles. But the life of faith responds with willingness.
A Waiting Faith
Abraham’s life of faith didn’t mean instant fulfillment. As Abraham walked the life of faith he learnt that it involved waiting and watching. That is to say, he not only had to be willing to do what God said, but he had to also be willing to wait for what God had said.
He was willing to wait for descendants. God made Abraham a promise that he would have descendants. However, there was a huge problem. Abraham and Sarah were both very old and Sarah had been barren her whole life. Sadly, they took this problem into their own hands and tried to solve it using human wisdom. This of course led to many problems that are still in existence today. The LORD then spoke to Abraham and promised that He would give Abraham and Sarah. Abraham laughed because he was 100 and Sarah was 90. However, the Lord made it clear that this is what He was going to do. Though both Abraham and Sarah did not demonstrate trust, eventually they did and God fulfilled His promise (Heb. 11:11-12). In the end, they waited on God and what was laughing of distrust became laughter of delight when they held their son Isaac.
Abraham was also willing to wait for the Eternal City. Abraham eventually made it to the Promised Land, however they lived in tents and were nomads. In one sense, life may have been easier if they went back to Haran or some other place. But he was willing to wait for what God has promised. For Abraham, this world was not his home, for he was just passing through. He was willing to wait for the eternal city (Heb. 11:9-10, 13-16).
A Watching Faith
The final lesson we learn from the life of Abraham is that he had a watching faith. That is, he expected God to do what He had promised. This was demonstrated in a situation that would have been intensely difficult. The LORD called out to Abraham and said,
Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you (Gen. 22:2)
As difficult as this would have been, we are told that he arose and went. Abraham fixed his eyes on the Lord and responded with a watching faith. He was willing and ready to offer the sacrifice with the view of watching God raising Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham knew God promised Him many descendants and that God promised to make an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his offspring (Gen. 17:19). Sometimes things in life might not seem to work out the way we think it should, but a watching faith looks to God and trusts Him.