This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac. . .
The remaining fifteen verses of the opening chapter of Matthew go on to list one name after another, covering forty-two generations. Forty-two lifetimes leading toward the fulfillment of God’s covenant. As we peruse this list of names, we may recall moments in the patriarchs’ lives that seemed less than stellar. Less than what one might assume would be fitting for the lineage of the King of kings.
Clearly, Jesus did not come from the most stalwart of human ancestry. These were real people with real struggles and temptations, relatives who experienced their share of defeats. The very families from which Christ descended needed His salvation just as much as the rest of humanity. In their lives, we can see ourselves and hopefully be encouraged to know that perfection is not a prerequisite for being chosen.
When God first made His covenant with Israel, He chose a simple man named Abram to be renamed and claimed as the father of a multitude. Chosen to be the first in a lineage that would bear the Savior of the world, I daresay Abraham never fully grasped the enormity of his role in all this. I’m sure he had no idea that millions of people throughout the centuries would be privy to his story and would learn to process their faith with some guidance from his own.
God’s promise to Abraham was that He would make a covenant with all of Israel through him, vowing to bless Abraham and to make his offspring (which as yet were none) into a great nation of people. Abraham’s only responsibility in this was to live with faith and obedience. And so he did.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith–for he was like a foreigner, living in tents . . — Hebrews 11:8-9
These words recorded in Hebrews show a man who apparently trusted God enough to uproot his entire family, pack up his bags, and strike out into the wilderness without any idea of where he was heading, other than into God’s will. Admittedly, that’s some pretty strong faith, right there. One might assume Abraham remained consistently faithful, always responding with obedience, never wavering with moments of doubt or fear. But to assume that is to forget Abraham’s frailty as a human.
While Abraham did step out in faith, sometimes he also stepped out on his own, only to find that where his own will led him was a bit astray. In time of famine, he moved his family to Egypt where fear prompted him to stretch the truth about his relationship with his wife in order to protect himself. This lie placed not only his wife but all of pharaoh’s household in jeopardy. Yet even in his mistakes, God still had Abraham’s back, delivering him and his family safely. You’d think that event would be enough for Abraham to learn God would protect him when they confronted another foreign ruler. But no, Abraham repeated the same lie to King Abimelech, and again lives were placed in danger before God delivered Abraham safely once more. (Genesis chapters 12 and 20)
When God promised Abraham a son, Abraham believed even though he and his wife Sarah were well beyond the years of bearing children. But after years and years of waiting for what was appearing to be an unfulfilled promise, Abraham and Sarah devised their own twisted scheme. In a rash attempt to “assist” God, they took matters into their own hands — enter Ishmael and a bitter rivalry to last for thousands of years. Although God finally fulfilled His promise by sending Isaac as a natural born son of Abraham and Sarah, we see that seasons of waiting can test even the most faithful of folks in BIG ways, causing them to act contrary to the very faith by which they live.
Despite his obvious failings, Abraham is still best remembered for his faith and obedience, especially in the scenario when asked to sacrifice Isaac’s life. (I’m assuming he neglected to run this one past Sarah until after the fact.) He fully trusted God to either resurrect Isaac or to bring a substitute sacrifice, and God allowed him to prove his faith right up to the very last second before he would have claimed Isaac’s life. Since the death of Isaac would have contradicted the covenant God made with him (and subsequently all of Israel), Abraham’s willing obedience in this scenario is huge. His faith was affecting far more than his own life.
It usually does, though we seldom think about it being so.
By faith, Abraham became the father of many nations.
By faith, Abraham rescued Lot.
By faith, Abraham overcame the enemies in his midst and prospered materially and spiritually.
By faith, Abraham built altars in remembrance and honor of God throughout his journey.
Then he (Abram) believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. — Genesis 15:6
All of Abraham’s failures fell by the wayside when they encountered God’s grace, and every act of faith was counted to him as righteousness. He enjoyed the faithfulness of God’s purpose and promise despite his slip-ups and experienced moments of startling revelation throughout the years. But a lot of ordinary living took place day after day with only intermittent moments of the miraculous.
And so it is with us. The brunt of life is lived out in obeying and believing the truths we already know. Persevering through the trials and through the ordinary. Holding on to past revelation when God remains silent in the present. Moving forward in what we know for this moment. Watching, praying, standing firm, constantly on the alert for the Keeper of covenants to show up at just the right time.
Even when we can’t seem to live up to our faith, we can always choose to live by it. Willing to change course at God’s word and rediscover life with the next step, and the next, and the next. Trusting that the culmination of those steps will be similar to Abraham’s legacy and lead us faithfully toward Jesus.
And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead — a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. — Hebrews 11:12
Aren’t you thankful the entirety of your life is not on public record? I sure am. I daresay the pages of my testimony would be filled with a long list of sins revealing my clumsy stumbling toward holy, while tripping over generous portions of God’s grace. Abraham was not afforded the same luxury as us; there are no skeletons left in his family closet. Though he was called by God and knew the Creator of the world, sometimes it failed to make much difference in his behavior. Do you ever notice the same in your own life?
Like Abraham, we have received grace to overcome our lack of faith and have been given some pretty special promises. We have a God committed to loving us with unfailing love, a Savior who died to free us from the power of sin and death, and a Holy Spirit who has taken up residence within us to help us lived a transformed life. What are some specific ways you can begin to walk in faith with Him today?