The Promises of God
When God told Abraham to leave home, God was asking a lot of him. The world was not a global village then. Travel wasn’t easy; there were no planes, taxis or hotels. Furthermore, leaving home was a decisive break with all the good of home, because going back for a visit was difficult or just out of the question entirely. So leaving home then was a loss that we can’t imagine well anymore in our era of video calls and texting.
Still, when God told Abraham to leave, Abraham went.
Why did he go? Presumably because he wanted what God offered him. If Abraham left, God told him, then Abraham would become a great nation, and all the communities of the earth would find blessing in him. That is a fairly stunning reward.
So Abraham, who had a great desire for that reward, obeyed God, left what was familiar and beloved to him, and wandered off as a stranger in a strange land.
And then notice what happened.
Abraham lived a very long time after this promise of God’s and he stayed faithful to God’s commands his whole life. But by the time Abraham died, this is all he had: one son to carry on his posterity under this promise and two grandchildren. By anybody’s estimation, this is a very small family. Certainly, one son and two grandsons is not a great nation.
Furthermore, hardly any communities knew Abraham at all, let alone found a blessing in him. The idea that all the communities of the earth would find blessing in him really would have been completely laughable at that time, wouldn’t it?
Of course, as we now see it, all Jews, Christians and Muslims are the Abrahamic peoples. Many great nations are included among the Abrahamic peoples. All of them know Abraham and think that they find blessing in him.
And so God’s stunning promise to Abraham has been completely fulfilled.
But notice that he did not live to see it. He had to take the fulfillment of God’s promise to him on faith.
So maybe Abraham is the father of faith because he was willing to stake his life on a promise whose fulfillment did not come in his lifetime on earth.
In this, he is not only the patriarch of the family of faith but also a pattern to follow for all those in his family.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University