Was Abraham really a man of faith? Did he really believe he would have a son as promised?
– He brought with him his possessions and nephew Lot (“heir apparent”) when God told him to leave everything, and everyone, behind. Cf. Gen. 12:1 and 12:5.
– He moved southwards even after settling in Canaan, the promised land, thinking since the Canaanites were still there he should therefore go elsewhere.
– He was so afraid to be killed by Pharaoh, and that’s before he had a son.
– He thought Sarai being taken by Pharaoh as wife was okay, thinking his own son(s), if he would have any, would be from another (perhaps younger) woman anyway.
– He actually agreed to have a son with his concubine Hagap, thinking Sarai was probably right that she’s too old to conceive. Also Gen. 18:12-15.
How then was Abraham a man of faith? Why is he the father of faith, and we his children?
1. If we are to say Abraham was a man of faith, it was because he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, not because he believed in the birth of Isaac before it took place.
– Believing in the gift of a son has not much significance, at least not to so many of the chosen people. God surely does not promise the birth of a son to a whole lot of people. And the fact that Abraham believed in the gift of a son, even if he did, has no theological bearing on us.
– It does not explain why we, by faith, are children of Abraham.
2. But Abraham was a man of faith because when he was willing to sacrifice his son, his action truly demonstrated that he believed he would not lose his son in the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-19). He was confident that both he and his son would go back to the servants after the sacrifice (22:5). And he explicitly said to Isaac that God would prepare the lamb needed for the sacrifice (22:8).
– This explains why Abraham is called the father of faith and we are his children: because, following him, we all believe in the same thing: that God would prepare, or has already prepared, a lamb to take our place in death.
– Also because: we, like his child Isaac, are saved from death by a lamb of God.
– This implies the beautiful idea that ultimately the Old and New Testaments are more similar than different – God made the old covenant with Abraham, because Abraham believed that God would prepare a lamb to take the place of the children of Abraham (signified by Isaac, and signifying all believers in the New Testament).