“Our society’s conspicuous failure to sustain or create compelling norms of fatherhood amounts to a social and personal disaster.” David Blankenhorn – Fatherless America – p. 4
As we try to learn some things from God’s dealings with Abraham and his fathering of Ishmael and then Isaac, I want to first share a few thoughts about why I’m doing this fathering series. The imprint a father leaves on a son or a daughter is like none other. God’s good, gracious and wise intent is that this imprint would be so strong and pervasive that every child would have the very best chance or opportunity to know and walk with God, to hate and overcome sin, to understand/discern and overcome the evil one, to understand/discern and have nothing to do with the world system that Satan runs and rules, and to live a fruitful life and end well in God’s favor. Satan’s intent is that fathers would never see or grasp their high calling to father their children; that they would live for themselves; and that their children would never receive the blessings and resources that God intended to come from their relationship with their father.
Thankfully as John the apostle wrote, “….The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” I John 3:8 No matter how badly we fathered our children; no matter how badly we were fathered by our earthly father, Jesus, the Eternal Father, is passionate to pour out His power, mercy and grace on us, and even use us to restore His original purpose and plan for fathering.
Now as we turn our thoughts to Abraham, Father please help us see what we need to see in Your ever unfolding revelation in the Scriptures regarding all things fathering! Amen.
When God needed a father to begin to populate the earth, he chose Adam. When He needed a father to (with his family) preserve humanity and the animal world from the coming flood, He chose Noah. Now when He needed a father to begin the formation of a people called Israel He chose a man named Abram, later to be re-named Abraham.
The story begins in Genesis ch. 11, wherein we learn that Abram’s father was a guy named Terah, who moved his extended family to the land of Haran and then died there. Abram lived with his father for about 75 years (eventhough he eventually married Sarah there it was not unusual for married children to live with or near their parents). There is no evidence that his father knew or walked with God. In fact what we do know from Joshua’s last address to the people of Israel before he died is that Terah worshipped idols: “Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel,” From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.”
Does the “they” point to Terah and the other “fathers”, or to Terah, the other fathers and to Abraham and Nahor? Hard to know for sure, but what we do know is that Abraham lived with and related to his idol worshipping father for 75 years. An imprint was surely made over that period of time.
So all of a sudden in chapter 12, we find the living God of the Universe pursuing and calling Abraham to begin the formation of a nation or people from his own seed (Genesis 12:2,7). But before Abraham does that he must have a clean break from what he has been exposed to and imprinted by for the last 75 years – “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;” Genesis 12:1 God doesn’t just say that Abraham will need to leave his country. He seems to emphasize that he will need to leave what he has known from his family and extended family. I’m sure there were some good things that Abraham got from his parents and relatives, but what he needed most especially from his father he did not get.
It is easy to be unaware of or to downplay the reality that our families and extended families over generations create a culture of mindsets, values and practices that greatly influence the way each of us think and act. Much of what we learn and feel growing up about life, family, marriage, parenting, finances, etc., we learn from this extended family culture.
For Abraham (or any of us) to truly come to know God, to become like Him, and to be used by Him - especially to father children that will in turn be useable in God’s hands for His purposes – anything in that family culture that is not pleasing to God and in keeping with His kingdom culture will have to eventually be exposed and repented of.
Some of the character defects that Abraham left home with will show up pretty quick in chapter 12. But before I point those out I do want to say to his credit he obeyed God’s voice and left home as both Genesis 12:4 and Hebrews 11:8 point out. Here’s the latter, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
Back to Genesis 12, one of the many destructive effects of not walking with the One True God and instead worshipping idols is we over time become self absorbed and are unable as men to see the true value of women. The demons behind idol worship hate all people, and they do everything in their power to cause us to do the same. They are very involved behind the scenes in the development of extended family culture when idolatry is being practiced. Please know that idolatry (which is the obsession of and delight in things other than the living God) is alive and well in all of our cities. It is just more subtle now in America. The idolization of sports or sports teams is just one of many examples.
So when Abraham decides on his own without seeking God to sojourn to Egypt in light of the famine in Canaan (12:10), he out of fear for his own life, no trust in God’s protection, and seemingly out of little concern for what might happen to his wife at the hand of the Egyptians asks her to lie about her marital status (12:11-13). She was taken into Pharoah’s presence, but they to Abraham’s shock treated him very well (12:14-16).
Because God had chosen these two to birth a son who would eventually birth sons and so on out of which Israel would be formed, God was not about to let these Egyptians mess around with Sarah. He dealt with them decisively and Sarah was released along with a rebuke of Abraham from Pharoah for lying to them.
Abraham was I’m sure deeply grateful that they released his wife and spared his life, and that God intervened for them and delivered them from the Egyptians. God does not deal with his lying. Perhaps He felt Pharoah’s stinging rebuke was enough for now.
Later in chapter 13 we discover that Abraham and his wife and all his livestock and herdsmen and Lot and his wife and livestock and herdsmen all were traveling together. As they traveled to Bethel and beyond Abraham came upon the place where he had built an altar to God before he had gone down to Egypt. He again worshipped God there – perhaps thanking Him for delivering he and Sarah, “….and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” (Gen. 13:4). We don’t know what Abram prayed about therein. But it is significant that he stopped and sought God. He didn’t have to. Perhaps he reminded God that they were getting older and Sarah was not getting pregnant. Interestingly the next time God speaks to Abraham He promised him yet again that this nation would come out of his own descendants, “The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Gen. 13:1-16)
Abraham has a lot to learn and unlearn about how to be a husband and a father. We will see eventually that God will help with that – especially the fathering part. But for now what impresses me about Abraham is he is responsive to God and appears to want a relationship with God. If that continues and increases, learning to father children will not be as difficult as it would be otherwise.
May the Holy Spirit give each of us fathers and grandfathers an ever deepening hunger for Him and a growing responsiveness to all that He is seeking to do in and through us. God bless you until next time. (Since I have to preach this Sunday it may be a while).