Abraham’s adventure to a promised land is a journey toward responsible manhood in the process of becoming the father of a family of nations. His seed bore the western world’s civilization, founded upon Judeo-Christian faith, which is based on the stories of Abraham and his children Israel, and on her Messiah and the savior of the world.
Quite an accomplishment for a father, and the Bible wants to give us the chance to apply the lessons of Abraham’s life and become the kind of responsible men and women, moms and dads that might be a blessing on the earth like our father Abraham.
Abrahams’s journey from leaving family toward the promised land can be understood as our own voyage toward the kingdom of God or that ideal place where our divine nature in God’s image is lived out in its fullest. (See Our Father Abraham for more on this.)
Let’s begin by looking at the curious practice of building altars at every new place where Abraham arrives.
Offering sacrifices on an altar was his way of thanking God for each accomplishment along the way to a better place, even though he never fully understands where that might be or how to get there. Abraham is acknowledging his utter dependence on God to guide him step by step along the path to his promised land.
Abraham was convinced that God was leading him away from home to a better future, and this gave him the confidence to keep moving forward in spite of a variety of troubles he faced along the way. There were unpredictable natural disasters like the famine that sent him and his family down to Egypt. He could have blamed God, who seemed to be cruelly making life hard and the path even more difficult. Abraham came face to face with his own weaknesses and sinful nature when he succumbed to calling his wife Sarah his sister. He easily could have got lost in despair. Finally, there was the evil of mankind and their violent hordes attacking him and his family at every turn along the way. Who has not experienced how hard it is to keep believing when experiencing the loss and suffering at the hand of man’s viciousness?
At every step in his progress toward his destiny, Abraham stops and builds an altar to stand before his God, confess his frailty and puzzlement, and renew his commitment to stay the course and keep moving toward the goal. His sacrifices offered on these altars are the key to renewing his devotion to the cause.
The idea of sacrifice introduced in the Bible is an extraordinary development in the process of maturing. It is the ability to understand that we can give up something of value now in order to achieve something better in the future.
On one level, sacrifice makes no sense. Why should I give up my prize bull or best crops now in the midst of a drought with only the hope of a better future?
Yest isn’t that what every responsible mother of father does when we deny ourselves the pleasures of the moment for the possibility of a better future for our family? Mature parents will sacrifice career, financial stability, and sleep in hope of a meaningful future for their children. They refuse to enjoy the pleasures of sin for the future and the needed stability in their marriages and family to get there.
Sacrifice is fundamental on the path to mature manhood, and how Abraham becomes the Father of Faith and Father of Nations. He was, in fact, willing to sacrifice anything for God’s promised future for his children and his children’s children. His faith is put to the ultimate test in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, even the son of the promise.
Watch this delightful experiment done at Stanford University in the 1960’s and what twists and turns these young children go through to distract themselves from eating the marshmallow now and waiting to get rewarded with two marshmallows. Scientists found that forty years later the children who were able to wait for something better became far more successful in life than those who couldn’t resist instant gratification.
The promise that the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham means that God blesses us and our families when we walk in the ways of our father Abraham. The opposite is also true, and the irresponsible father will become isolated, and his family will suffer.
Here are a few more recommendations for how to take ownership and responsibility in the places you find yourself on the path to God’s promises for your life.
Define your boundaries
Lay down borders like Abraham, who marked out clearly the territory God had led him to and gave him responsibility for.
We need to know what’s mine and what’s yours. Mind your own business, I Thess. 4:11 reminds. Worrying about what others are doing or comparing ourselves with others can be a distraction and way of avoiding what needs to be done right here and now in our own lives and families.
Have borders in your relationships with your children and family. Too much control after a certain age produces fear, dishonesty and rebellion. Too little brings chaos and anarchy. The same is true for our relationships at work and in society.
Build an altar on your land
Wherever God leads you, dedicate and set apart that territory to God by building an altar. That begins with our own body, heart and soul, which is a temple, a place where God is worshipped. Keep the fire of sacrifice burning on the altar of your heart.
In a family, home, congregation or workplace where God has given me oversight, my job is to take responsibility, to dedicate all that we do to God. That means maintaining to the best of our ability honesty, mutual respect, and humane interactions among the people for whom we have been given oversight.
Protect your interests
When God chose the city of Jerusalem to be His own special dwelling place, He built walls and placed watchmen around to guard His territory from enemies. “On your walls O Jerusalem” (Isa. 62).
Our families must be watched over constantly. Like the farmer who gets up early in the morning to check fields and flocks. Or the mother who makes sure all the doors are locked and windows closed before putting the children to bed.
“Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Pt. 5:8
“Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Mt 26:41
The building of altars to establish worship and dedication to Israel’s God by families throughout the earth in response to covenants, visions, revelations and promises of God is the hope of our Father Abraham and of humanity.
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