You are currently viewing ABRAHAM, THE FRIEND OF GOD
This is Abraham. God loves him and has made him rich and great. He has given Abraham silver and gold and flocks of sheep and goats and camels. But Abraham said that God had not given him a son, to have all these things after Abraham should be dead. Then God spoke to Abraham in the night and told him to come out of his house and look up at the sky. And God asked him if he could count those stars that he saw up in the sky. But there were too many; Abraham could not count them. Then God told Abraham that he would give him a son, and that his son should have children too. Abraham's children and his children's children, God said, should be like those stars —so many that nobody could count them.


AFTER the Flood, the Bible tells us, men grew foolish and idolatrous, and began to sin against God, so that the human race was in peril of becoming almost like animals. In order to make a greater and a stronger people, God chose a man named Abraham to be the father of a mighty race, and the Bible story tells us how Abraham was guided by God to his great destiny. We read here how faithfully Abraham served God, even when the right way seemed cruel and hard; we read the sad story of Hagar and Ishmael, who went out into the wilderness; and we learn the great lesson of the calm peace that comes from trust in God. We call this story by the proud name which has been given to the faithful Abraham – The Friend of God.

In the early days of history a procession of men and camels was seen crossing the vast Syrian desert from the direction of Mesopotamia. Among the men was a tall and noble chieftain, named Abraham, whose eyes often gazed across the terrible desert, as though in quest of some end to his journey. By his side went a younger man, his nephew, named Lot.

It was a sad journey they were making, and only the iron will of Abraham kept the others to their duty. For this cavalcade was moving away from their homes, from their friends, from people who spoke their own language, and whose customs were the same as their own; and they were journeying to discover a new country, where everything would be strange to them, and where, perhaps, they might encounter enemies and treachery, and meet with slavery and death.

We can understand how Abraham’s wife, the beautiful Sarah, listened on her camel’s back to the murmurs of her women, and sometimes shared their terrors, and sometimes even questioned the wisdom of her husband. When, at each day’s end, the tents were erected and the camels knelt down to rest in the sand, when darkness fell across the great round circle of the desert, and under the shining stars men and women sat silently round the fires thinking of the comfortable homes they had left behind, the young Lot would, we can imagine, look towards his uncle, and feel rebellious in his heart.

But no one dared to withstand this splendid king of men. He had seen a vision. God had spoken to him in a dream. He was following his dream. How the men and women must have looked across the dark of the encampment towards this old, stern man, with the firelight on his rugged face and sweeping beard of snow- -this old man who declared that the God of heaven had spoken to him-this old man who was following his dream across the desert!

These were the words Abraham declared God had addressed to him:

“Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

It was this command, this magnificent promise, which kept Abraham upon his way. The end of the long journey came at last, and Abraham found himself in Palestine, a lovely and a fertile country, beautiful to the eye and comfortable to the heart. Glad and grateful were the hearts of his company as they gazed upon this gracious country.

Here he dwelt, he and all his people; and they grew very rich, and fortune smiled upon them. But so rich and powerful did they become that jealousy crept in between the shepherds and herdmen of Abraham and the shepherds and herdmen of Lot, his nephew.



Then Abraham said to his nephew: “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen, for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

These gracious words were spoken on a high tableland; and Lot, turning from his uncle, looked down to the beautiful valley south of the Jordan, stretching far away in richness and loveliness, and promising great happiness and wealth. This was his choice, and Abraham parted from his nephew with love and kindness.

Afterwards, when he heard that his nephew had been involved in a great war, and had been carried away a prisoner, Abraham did not forget him, but armed his servants and went in pursuit of the captors. And Abraham prevailed against them, and the kings who rejoiced in his victory would have given him gifts; but Abraham refused, saying that he would take nothing, “from a thread even to a shoelatchet.” He sought nothing but to do his duty and wait upon the will of God.

So he returned to his pastoral life, and again God visited him in visions, with the assurance that his children should inherit the earth.



In the midst of this peaceful and pleasant existence, Sarah, the wife of Abraham, had many sad and tragic thoughts. She was, as we shall see, a strange mixture of strength and weakness, kindness and unkindness. We know that she was exceedingly beautiful, for a king of Egypt had greatly desired her for his wife, and we know that Abraham was devotedly in love with her. She must have thought, many times, of God’s promise that Abraham’s children should inherit the earth; and as the days went by, and no son came, she began at last to fear that she was unworthy of Abraham.

In those days men married more than one wife, and Sarah went one day to Abraham, and persuaded him to take for a second wife a little Egyptian maid in her service, named Hagar.

She said to Abraham, “Marry my slave-girl, and perhaps she will give us a son for our home.”  So Abraham did what his wife said. When poor Hagar found herself so honoured, she was at first a little proud, and her pride made Sarah angry. Sarah drove her out with angry words, and the poor little slavegirl, who had been so proud and conceited, found herself suddenly an outcast in the wilderness. While she was weeping there, God sent a messsenger to tell her that she must return to Sarah. “Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.” And the poor, frightened slave-girl exclaimed in words that ever since have been spoken in all languages, in all countries, “Thou God seest me.” She went back obediently and submitted herself to the harshness of Sarah.



One day, as Abraham sat in the door of his tent, when the sun was at its highest, and the land lay dazed in an Eastern noon, there suddenly appeared before him three strangers. Abraham rose, struck by their wondrous appearance, and received them with the highest honour. While he was entertaining these visitors, one of them foretold that Sarah should have a son.

We can imagine the joy of the old father and the old mother. The preparations made by the rejoicing parents for the feast when the child Isaac was born passed everything they had ever done in splendour and magnificence. Sarah was just as excited as Abraham, and she laughed often in her joy, and gave herself up to the glory of the feast.

And Ishmael, Hagar’s son, the lad who hitherto had been everything to Abraham, looked on at all this, and laughed mockingly, so that Sarah, in an outburst of rage, called to Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son.”

Abraham grieved because of his son Ishmael; but a Voice comforted him, saying, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.”

Abraham listened to this Voice in his soul, and he trusted it. He brought himself to the great agony of parting with his son, the gay and spirited young Ishmael. There is something very touching in the brief story of this parting. Abraham rose up “early in the morning,” evidently before his angry wife was stirring, and, providing poor Hagar and his son with food and water, took a loving farewell of them, telling them, we may be sure, of God’s promise, and watching them through tears in his eyes as they departed.



Alas! for poor Hagar. She set out very sorrowfully, making no protest, but quietly submitting to her hard fate. And when her food and water came to an end, and they could go no further, she laid her son down and went a good way off from him, saying, “Let me not see the death of the child.” And she wept.

And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, “What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.  Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.”

And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.

And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

But another and a greater sacrifice lay before Abraham. A vision came to him, and the Voice to which he had always listened obediently seemed to tell him to take his son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountains. What a frightful command! And how Abraham must have shrunk from it! We can imagine how he tried to persuade himself that it was not God who had spoken to him, that it was only a dream, a thing he should put out of his mind and forget all about. But Abraham’s glory was this—he trusted in God, and he felt the Voice to be from God.



So he rose up early in the morning, and saddled an ass, and split wood for the fire, and took with him Isaac and two young men, and started out upon his journey of death. At the end of three days in the mountains he saw the place appointed by God for the sacrifice. And Abraham said unto his young men, “Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Then Isaac said suddenly, “My father! Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham, in great trouble, answered, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”

Then Abraham made an altar, laid the wood upon it, and took Isaac into his arms, and laid him for a lamb upon the altar. But just as he was about to slay this beautiful victim, a Voice sounded to him from heaven. He looked up from the angry mountains to the rolling clouds of dawn, and the Voice said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.”

This was the last trial of Abraham’s splendid and almost terrible faith. He did not know, as we know now, that God is a loving Father. He thought of God simply as great and powerful.



The rest of Abraham’s life was calm and beautiful. He lived to see his son Isaac married to one of his kindred, the beautiful Rebekah; and when he died he was laid by the side of his beloved wife, in the cave of Machpelah.

He did not know at the end of his life how the nations of the earth were to be blessed through Isaac; but it is quite certain that he was not curious about this, and contented himself with the knowledge that God would fulfil His promises. How those promises were wonderfully fulfilled we shall see.