Rarely a night goes by that my twin boys don’t request to sing “Father Abraham.” He had many sons, the song says, “I am one of them and so are you. So let’s all praise the Lord.”
Praise the Lord?
So here’s my question: “Why should we praise the Lord for being considered the son of a lying, cheating, cowardly polygamous scoundrel who lived thousands of years ago, who isn’t even a blood relative for those of us who are Gentiles”?
Abraham sounds like the weird uncle you would try to avoid at a family reunion. Everyone might smile as he passes through the buffet line, but behind his back nearly no one wants to claim any affiliation to him. As a child I remember one reunion where an older, and very distant, relative would torture us kids by sticking his nub (what was left from his missing thumb) into our sides. This is the image I conjure up when I think of Father Abraham.
It can be difficult for us to celebrate our union in this dysfunctional family. It is hard for us to understand the whole family value of Old Testament culture from our twenty-first century vantage point. In biblical days a family connection meant inheritance. It meant rights and responsibilities. For the Jews, their family affiliation pointed to the divine selection and salvation of God.
Here’s what Paul had to say about Father Abraham:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)
The Old Testament Gospel and Father Abraham
Paul connects two things in this passage: Abraham’s family and the Old Testament Gospel. The O.T. Gospel said that God would bless the nations through Abraham. The O.T. Gospel spoke of an end, but we would not clearly see the means until the New Testament. God was going to bless the nations (end) through Abraham’s family line – specifically through the person of Christ (means).
Jesus, as a son of Abraham, would live perfectly, die substitionally, and raise victoriously. While Abraham reminds me of a weird distant relative, I certainly do not mind being grafted into the family of Christ. As a child of God, I am – and you are if you are a believer – a brother or sister of Christ. This means inheritance. This means rights and responsibilities. This means the divine selection and salvation of God.
As the sons and daughters of Abraham we too have received the blessing of God. Like Abraham, it is intended not just for us but for the nations.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Hebrews 2:10-11)
Yes, Father Abraham had many sons. Because of Christ, I am one of them and so are you. By faith in Christ we receive adoption as the sons and daughters of God. Like Abraham, we don’t deserve any of it. Like Abraham, it is received by grace through faith.
Welcome to our dysfunctional family.
Perhaps if we were to draft an invitation for our family reunion we should use the closing words of the 53rd chapter of Isaiah:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
It will be an amazing reunion.
I look forward to seeing you there.
After all, Father Abraham had many sons.
I am one of them and so are you.
So let’s just praise the Lord.