The Story: Father Abraham Had Many Sons, Part 1 (Faith and Grace)

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.
Right arm!

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.
Right arm, left arm!

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.
Right arm, left arm, right foot!

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.
Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot!

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.
Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot,
Chin up!

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.
Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot,
Chin up, turn around!

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.
Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot,
Chin up, turn around, sit down!

We don’t sing this one in grown up church for some reason. Evidently, God doesn’t approve “chin up” by adults. I mean, it’s a catchy tune and theologically sound (more sound than many praise hymns I can think of) — although I do struggle to catch the deep meaning of the “right arm, left arm, right foot bit.

Or maybe the real reason we don’t sing it is that we have no idea why anyone would sing that we are “sons of Father Abraham.” It’s hardly standard teaching. I mean, when was the last time you heard a sermon or a Bible class lesson suggesting that we’re all sons of Abraham? I mean, wouldn’t that be better taught in synagogue?

We read in the gospels where the Jews claimed to be sons of Abraham (Matt 3:9; Luke 1:73, 3:8, 13:16, 16:24; etc.), but we’re not Jews. We’re Christians. And we in the Churches of Christ are fond of saying that we’re “New Testament Christians” (as though there might be some other kind).

But Paul is actually quite clear on the point (and we should’t be surprised that the children’s program often has a better theological foundation than the adult program — the kids don’t complain about unfamiliar teachings — it’s all unfamiliar to them!)

(Rom 4:16-17 ESV) 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring — not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

And this requires us to understand Abraham as much more than a hero or moral example. We must share “the faith of Abraham” so that he becomes our father.

So what is it about Abraham that makes him so special that he’s the father of all Christians everywhere and every time?

It all begins with a call. God called Abraham (known as Abram at the time) to leave his hometown and travel to Palestine — which, as we’ve covered, was no tourist spot. In fact, Abraham seems to have spent considerable time in the Judea desert (I mean, wilderness).

Here’s a map of Abraham’s journeys.

Abram's Journeys

Notice that he doesn’t venture into the fertile coastal plain. He doesn’t hang around the fresh water of the Sea of Galilee. Abraham was a shepherd, and shepherds herded their sheep in the wilderness. The cropland was too precious and was used only to raise food for human consumption, and so the shepherds had to make do with land too poor to grow crops or pasture cattle. (Taking sheep into the croplands was a good way get killed by an angry farmer. Your sheep would literally be eating his children’s lunch!)

This is what God called Abraham to do, and Abraham revealed an obedient, faithful heart by honoring God’s call.

As a result, God promised Abram —

(Gen 12:1-3 ESV) Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abraham did some great acts, and had great faith, but he was also a deeply flawed and broken human. And it’s the beauty of God’s grace that the authors of the Bible can report Abraham with all his flaws and still consider him a hero. There’s no need to romanticize God’s men and women when The Story is ultimately about grace — God’s incredible generosity — rather than humans solving their own problems.

You see, The Story isn’t about the greatness of man, but the greatness and grace of God. The true hero of the Story is God.

Abraham was married to Sarah, his half sister. She was a great beauty. Due to a famine, Abraham went to Egypt to live for a while. He was afraid that Pharaoh would kill him to take Sarah from him, and so Abraham told a half-truth, only saying that she is his sister. As a result, Pharaoh took her into his harem.

Later on, Abraham did the same thing when he entered the realm of Abimelech. And it’s tough to justify Abraham’s actions by any standard. Clearly, Abraham was a flawed man. God did not choose him because he was perfect.

Rather, God chose him because of his faith. In fact, God’s relationship with Abraham was in many ways a one-way relationship, with God calling Abraham and Abraham receiving.
Abraham’s blood oath.

[to be continued]

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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8 Responses to The Story: Father Abraham Had Many Sons, Part 1 (Faith and Grace)

  1. Nancy says:

    OHHH…my children learned this song at their sweet, Christian preschool. I am so thankful. Brings tears to my eyes when I think about the sweet, gentle godly women that taught my children (and me too) there.

    And, so excited to be studying Abraham!

  2. We could do the “turn around, sit down!” part in grown-up church. Already do, I think…

  3. Monty says:

    Jay,

    If you mean by “deeply flawed”- as we all are in comparison to Holy God, then I accept that definition. But by human standards, Abraham ‘s heart and obedience comes shining through. A half-truth when you’re in fear of your life? if that’s the worst of his actions then he’s light years ahead of me. Lot’s of positives in his life, giving Lot 1st choice, going to rescue Lot, pleading with God for Sodom, offering his son,etc,,etc….

  4. While Abraham was a great man of faith by the end of his life, his faith had to grow over time. When first called to leave his country and his family to go to a new land, he traveled to Haran with his father and brothers. After the death of Daddy and one brother, he went on to Canaan with his nephew, Lot. His trip into Egypt showed lack of faith in God’s provision for him in Canaan and his lie to Pharaoh (with the same lie later being told to Abimelech) showed lack of trust in God’s protection.

    When God had not blessed him and Sarai with a son after a mere dozen years, he and she decided to help God out by Abram having a child by Hagar. Then, when the Lord told him Sarah would have a son, he pleaded, “Let Ishmael live before You.” Later, he shamefully sent Ishmael and Hagar into the wilderness with scant provisions where they would have died had God not provided for them.

    All of these acts of incomplete obedience led to trouble later on, some of which continues to this day.

    Yet, a few years later he offered Isaac on the altar, trusting God would raise him from the dead to be able to fulfill His promise of a blessing for all nations through this son of promise!

    Let’s not forget the many times Abraham did not obey God fully, while remembering that Abraham’s faith was growing, maturing into that vibrant faith that makes him the Father of the faithful. In this, we should be able to identify with him, as our faith is also weak and our obedience incomplete – but (hopefully) growing! And, just as God was patient with Abraham, He is also patient with me.

  5. Nancy says:

    Jerry wrote..”Later, he shamefully sent Ishmael and Hagar into the wilderness with scant provisions where they would have died had God not provided for them.”

    But Abraham sent them away after God told him to do it. I think that must have been very hard for Abraham to do.

  6. Monty says:

    Certainly we see the patience of God in the life of Abraham, he wasn’t say, Job like, and he wasn’t David like. He was somewhere in the middle. But he is the father of the faithful for a reason. He trusted God. He walked with God daily. He loved God. He looked forward to a heavenly city.

    I don’t recall God ever getting onto him about anything or the scriptures condemning any of his actions. The Hagar thing was an attempt by them in the wrong direction to bring about what God had promised. How many of us have never tried to force God’s hand in some matter instead of waiting on Him? How many of us have never told a white lie or revealed all the truth in a matter in order to save face, much less our lives?

  7. alreadybeen2 says:

    When you get to ‘Abraham’s bosom” you can ask him about his faults. Abram broke his
    father’s idols according to the Midrash. That took courage in that era. He was honored
    by the king of the most High God by Melchizedek, a type of Christ. Unlike Aaron to come
    Melchizedek was priest and king forever.

  8. bobs yer uncle says:

    American Samoan soldiers bringing back a childhood memory, I’m really grateful. Samoan soldiers singing on you-tube

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