[Sojourners and Exiles] Abraham: Our Model of Blind Faith?

Sacrifice of Isaac (1603) by Caravaggio. Image from Wikipedia

As a kid in Sunday school, I learned that Abraham was the father of nations. But more importantly, he was the man commended for great faith in Yahweh as his inclusion in Hebrews 11’s “Faith Hall of Fame” affirms. Why else would he leave the comforts of his home and sojourn to a new land? What other motivation could he have had for being willing to sacrifice Isaac, his son promised in old age?How else could he be counted righteous if not for his faith? Surely his faith was blind since when he accomplished those things, he was simply obeying what God said. All action, no thoughts given. God gave the word, Abraham complied. Right?
Or at least we might be misunderstanding the nature of Abraham’s faith and thus applying it to ourselves wrongly. Did Abraham lose his reason once he followed God? Is that the kind of faith reiterated in the New Testament and one that we as modern Christians should exercise? To answer these questions, we can turn to Genesis 12 and Hebrews 11 for insight into what kind of faith the father of nations had. Basically, Abraham’s decision to leave his land and obey what God commanded was rooted in these two things: God’s promises and character. In my opinion, it is these two interconnected factors that formed the basis for Abraham’s actions. 

The Promises of God

The interesting thing to note is that Abraham, or Abram, was not initially a worshiper of Yahweh but somehow he recognized Yahweh’s call in Genesis 12. God commanded Abram to leave Ur and at 75 years old, he leaves for Canaan. Notice that right after the command, God gives the promise for obedience.
COMMAND: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12:1)
PROMISE: “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 in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:2)
On this passage, Steve Fuller writes:
So how did God want Abraham to obey? Not by just focusing on the command. Not by just saying, “I’m supposed to do this. God commands me to do this. This is the right thing to do.” No. God wanted Abraham to obeyby faith – by trusting God’s promisesGod wanted the worth of his promises to so capture Abraham’s heart so that he wanted to obey.
It is in believing God’s promise and backing it up with action that shows the twofold nature of faith.  This is why James is able to instruct us that faith without action is dead; the actions demonstrate faith but it is faith with a basis. Abraham then is considered a model not of blind faith, but faith that is rooted in God’s revelation of himself.

The Character of God

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham already had enough experiences with God to know that God fulfills his word. The Jewish word emunah (steadfastness/faithfulness) can connote this kind of faith that has a basis and is not simply a matter of mental assent. In Hebrews 11:17-19, it says that Abraham was tested to offer up Isaac, Isaac was the one through whom “shall [Abraham’s] offspring be named,” and Abraham “considered” that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.
Isaac was the fulfillment of one promise in God’s bigger plan to bless the nations. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac because he knows that God will fulfill this greater promise for the nations with or without Isaac. Finally, Abraham was not acting in blind faith when he went up Mt. Moriah to offer his son as he considered that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.
Now that’s hard to follow.
You see, like Abraham, we don’t always have the full picture of God’s plan. But I’m convinced that because Abraham walked with God, remembering and trusting in his promises, he had the strength and confidence to do what God asked of him. It’s because Abraham has seen what God had done in the past that Abraham has a foundation for obeying God and his crazy commandments. This is why as we navigate life, when God seems to be asking us to do something irrational, we have to remember, trust, and be rooted in who God says he is; to hold on to his promises because he has been faithful to keep his promise in the past. Because it is against his character to not fulfill his word. 
No wonder why it’s so difficult to obey sometimes. We may feel like we can’t will ourselves to obedience and have confidence like Abraham, then we beat ourselves up for not doing enough for Jesus. Perhaps we have lost sight of God’s promises and character that we have nothing to go off of. We may have forgotten that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s character and promise; that because Jesus came, we know that God is trustworthy, he keeps his word, and his love for humanity was so wild that he let Jesus die so that the promise he gave to Abraham long before our time would come to pass. The nations can once again come to God in relationship and live according to his design. 
Wherever you are in your journey, if it is difficult to do what he is asking you to do, I hope that you receive comfort and challenge in God’s word. I pray that you realize how he does not ask us to follow him blindly. Through his word we can know his character and promises, and this would fuel our obedience. His word is a lamp for our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119:105) so we can walk by faith– not in darkness and blind obedience–but with marvelous illumination.

What promise or attribute of God is he wanting you to remember lately?

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