As Abraham in the Bible was the Father of the Hebrew nation, do you consider him a good model as a father? As a normal and imperfect man, I do. ♦
If you’ve been around kids and church you may have heard the catchy praise song simply titled Father Abraham. It’s cute and fun and involves a repeated chorus and arms and legs and head movements. The lyrics are simple: “Father Abraham had many sons, Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, So let’s all praise the Lord!”
Yes, this is the same Abraham whose son, Isaac, was born to Sarah when Abraham was 100 years old. Yes, the same Abraham whose first son, Ishmael, was born to Hagar his wife’s maid-servant 14 years earlier. In fact, Abraham actually had 6 other sons (Genesis 25:1-2) with his second wife, Keturah, after Sarah died. Note that it was Abraham’s son Isaac who had 2 sons, Esau and Jacob. It was Jacob, later renamed Israel, who had 12 sons whose descendants became the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel
Certainly Abraham was a very real and historical person who lived a prosperous and active life. He was the first Hebrew and so considered the Father of the Hebrew nation. He lived to be 175 years old.
So why does the song say that I am one of his many sons? And why praise the Lord over this? And what kind of Model Father is Abraham anyway?
“A Blessing to all the Nations”
As introduced in Genesis 12, Abraham (in Genesis 17 we see that God changes his name from Abram, exalted father, to Abraham, father of many) is instructed by God directly:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Quite a promise. Completely unwarranted. There’s little warning or set-up in Chapter 11. Abraham is a mere man, son of Terah, who is chosen by God out of obscurity to play a key role in God’s reconciliation plan.
He proves worthy by being obedient to God and is reckoned as righteous by God by simply believing Him:
He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6)
Abraham is forever tagged as the one whose descendants are receivers of the promise. And all those who believe, Jews or Gentiles (non-Jews), are forever blessed. In his New Testament writings on the new Christian faith, Paul explains this extension of God’s grace to all peoples/nations in his letter to the Christians in Galatia:
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)
Yes, this is very Good News for all of mankind. All peoples and nations on this created earth can be reconciled back to God merely by believing in God as revealed in His Word, the Bible. Now no man or woman is tied to performance or law:
So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:24)
But what about Abraham and the Father Model?
Abraham and the Good Father Model
As we approach a day that honors Fathers, I propose 5 key attributes that make up a Good Father Model as exemplified by Abraham:
- A Good Father Respects, Honors, and Believes God – Abraham was not a high-performer or scholar; he simply respected God and honored Him through his obedient life. It was clear that he had been taught about Creator God by his own father. All of Abraham’s life was one that reflected as an obedient servant of God.
- A Good Father is Not Perfect – Abraham made several key mistakes and poor decisions that had dire consequences: he allowed his nephew Lot (ultimately of Sodom/Gomorrah fame) to initially travel with him when told to leave his family; he lied about Sarah being his sister rather than wife (twice!) to protect himself from opposition; he forced the offspring promise (Ishmael born of Hagar) when he and Sarah misinterpreted God’s promise. Nevertheless, God still accomplishes His purposes with imperfect people who believe.
- A Good Father Leads His Family – Abraham kept charging forward in leading and directing his family. His marching orders came from God, but he himself had to execute the work and directives, even if he experienced hardships and missteps along the way.
- A Good Father Teaches His Children About God – As Abraham was instructed by God, he passed this teaching and practices onto his children. While it’s clear in reading about the mistakes and misfortunes of Abraham’s family descendants, Abraham fulfilled his fatherly responsibility of passing on the ways of the Lord to the next generation.
- A Good Father is Kind and Noble – While Abraham showed evidence of human foibles and self-serving behavior, he nevertheless was a man who proved to be kind, fair, and noble. He was generous in dividing land with Lot; he put himself and his men in harm’s way in order to rescue Lot and his family when they were taken captive; he negotiated selflessly on Lot’s behalf in the attempt to save Sodom from destruction. As an overarching characteristic, Abraham was a good, kind and noble man. Aspiring traits for all fathers.
Being a good father is a developed skill. It takes work and comes with growth and maturity. Of course, this Good Father Model is grounded in a faith and belief in God. Without God, fathering is merely behavioral and subjective to the cares and whims of man. Father Abraham lays down a humble example from which all of us can learn.
Happy Father’s Day!
So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. – Galatians 3:5-7