|Topical Bible Study||February 1962|
The People in God’s Plan—Lesson IV
Abraham, the Father of the Faithful
THE name Abraham signifies “father of a multitude.” This patriarch’s original name was Abram, but it was changed to Abraham by God, in keeping with the divine intention concerning him. (Gen. 17:4,5) While his name was still Abram he is referred to as “the Hebrew.” (Gen 14:13) Abraham was a descendant of Noah’s son Shem, and in this line of; descendants there was one named Eber. It is thought by some that this may be the origin of the name “Hebrew.” (Gen. 10:25; 11:14) The name Hebrew also has the connotation of “beyond, on the other side,” and the hypothesis has been suggested that it was applied to Abraham and his posterity in order to express a distinction between the races east and west of the Euphrates.
Abraham’s father, Terah, was an idol worshiper, but Abraham himself was a firm believer in Jehovah, the great Creator of the universe. Abraham had full faith in the promises of the true and living God; and upon the basis of his faith God accepted him into the circle of his friendship.—II Chron. 20:7; James 2:23
Our chief interest in Abraham, in his faith; and in his friendship with God is in the fact that through promises made to him God has revealed much of his plan for the ultimate restoration of the human race to life. So basic to this plan are God’s promises to Abraham that the Bible informs us that in reality God proclaimed the “Gospel” to him.—Gal. 3:8
God’s promises to Abraham are centered around what is referred to as a “seed,” a progeny. God said to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. (Gen. 12:3) Later, when Abraham demonstrated his faith and obedience by his willingness to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice, God confirmed his promise to him by his oath.—Gen. 22:15-18; Luke 1:73; Heb. 6:17,18
The whole nation of Israel was made up of the natural descendants of Abraham, but the New Testament explains that there was one particular member of that nation who primarily was the “Seed” of promise, the One whom God would use as his instrument for the blessing of all the families of the earth. That One was Jesus, the Messiah.—Gal. 3:16
We are also informed in the New Testament that Jesus will have associates in the future work of blessing, who are also looked upon by God as the “seed” of Abraham. These qualify for this honored place in the plan of God solely upon the basis of their faith, which leads to their full surrender to do the will of God. They are identified as those baptized into Christ. (Gal. 3:27-29) The first to be offered this opportunity were the natural descendants of Abraham who lived in Jesus’ day, but later the same opportunity was extended to Gentiles. (John 1:11,12; Acts 1:8) Actually these become one in Christ Jesus, so that national distinctions are no longer recognized.
In the revealment of his plan of salvation, God used Abraham’s son Isaac to prefigure the “Seed” of blessing. (Gal. 4:28) God asked Abraham to offer Isaac in sacrifice, which illustrates the fact that before all the families of the earth could be blessed with life through the “seed” a loving father must give up his son in sacrifice; and it was the Heavenly Father who actually did this, giving his own beloved Son to die for the sins of the world..
God did not permit Abraham actually to slay Isaac as a sacrifice. Instead he substituted a male lamb to take his place on the altar. It. is in keeping with this that Jesus is later identified in the Bible as “the Lamb of God”; the Lamb, that is, which God provided to give his life, that condemned humans might have an opportunity to believe and live forever.—John 1:29
The true followers of Jesus who, with him, are also the faith seed of Abraham, likewise lay down their lives in sacrifice. This is the condition upon which they are counted worthy to share with Jesus in the future work of blessing “all the families of the earth.”—Matt. 16:24; Rev. 14:1,4
While we cannot suppose that Abraham understood all the implications contained in the promises which God made to him, we are informed that he did look for a “city.” (Heb. 11:10) A city is used in the Scriptures to symbolize a government, or kingdom. Evidently Abraham expected that in some way his progeny, his “Seed,” would establish governmental control over the nations of the earth, and through a beneficent ruler. extend God’s promised blessings to them.
A hint of this was given to Abraham by God when he confirmed his covenant to him by his oath. God then said that Abraham’s seed would “possess the gate of his enemies.” (Gen. 22:17) Those who possessed, or controlled the gates of ancient walled cities held a governing power over the cities. So this promise implied that the seed of Abraham would be in a position to bless the people in keeping with God’s promise, by virtue of the fact that they would be the future associate rulers of the world. It is in accordance with this that Jesus, the Head of the “Seed” Class, referred to himself as a great King. His footstep followers are shown as being raised from the dead to live and reign with him.—John 18:37; Rev. 20:4,6
God’s promise to Abraham concerning a “Seed” was reiterated to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. (Gen. 26:4; 28:14) Later Jacob bestowed his parental blessing upon his twelve sons, and singled out his son Judah as the one through whom would come the future peaceful ruler of the world, that ruling seed of blessing.—Gen 49:9,10
Many centuries later, when the descendants of Abraham had become a great nation, David was selected by God to be their king. David was of the tribe of Judah, and, in his promises to him God assured David that his throne would be established forever. (II Sam. 7:16,17) Thus the promise of rulership was narrowed to the family of David, and it was from his line that later Jesus was born. The angel who announced to Mary that she would give birth to the great King of promise specifically explained that he was the One who would fulfill the covenant God made with David.—Luke 1:30-33
The promises of God concerning a ruling seed to bless all nations were not unconditional. Those who were to constitute that “Seed” must prove worthy of this high position in the plan of God by obedience to the will of God. We know that Jesus, the Head of this seed class, was obedient—faithful to his Heavenly Father in every detail.
When, through Moses, God gave his Law to the Israelites, the natural descendants of Abraham, he offered them the opportunity, as a people, to become a holy nation and a royal priesthood. (Exod. 19:5,6) As a nation the Israelites did not qualify for this high position in the plan of God, and finally this offer was withdrawn from them. Jesus said that the kingdom—that is, the opportunity of becoming rulers in the messianic kingdom, would be taken from them and given to a nation which would bring forth the necessary fruits of righteousness.—Matt. 21:43
The Apostle Peter identifies this new nation for us, showing it not only to be a holy nation, but also a royal priesthood. (I Pet. 2:9,10) The Apostle Peter also discloses that this royal priesthood, which is being built up during the Gospel Age, is called to be a spiritual company. (I Pet. 2:5) Paul speaks of these as being partakers of “the heavenly calling.”—Heb. 3:1
In the original promise to the Israelites that upon the condition of obedience they could become a holy nation and a royal priesthood, nothing was said to indicate that this would be other than an earthly company of rulers. The history of Israel as a nation indicates an almost continuous course of disobedience to divine law, but in every generation there were some who made a sincere and wholehearted effort to please the Lord, and doubtless the promise God made to them concerning rulership in the earth was one of their incentives to faithfulness.
These faithful ones of the descendants of Abraham, as well as those prior to his day who exercised the same justifying faith as he, are referred to by the Apostle Paul, and the names of many of them given. He explains that while the church class will occupy a better, or higher position in the kingdom than these Ancient Worthies, nevertheless they are to enjoy a better resurrection, and that the hope of this, engendered by the promises of God, stimulated them to faithfulness in devoting their lives to God’s will and purpose for them.*—Heb. 11:32-40
* “The Time Is at Hand,” page 207, paragraphs 1 and 2.
These Ancient Worthies will be the natural ruling seed of Abraham, the “Israelites indeed” who proved their worthiness prior to the time when God began the call and development of the spiritual “Seed.”*
* “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” page 288 to top of page 293.
Comprehended in God’s promise to Abraham, in addition to the “Seed” which will be the channel of blessings, are all the families of the earth who will receive the blessings. First among these, particularly as the work of the messianic kingdom begins, will be the natural descendants of Abraham, other than those who qualified to be the earthly representatives of the kingdom. To these will be fulfilled God’s promise concerning the land of Palestine. (Gen. 13:14-17) However, as subjects of Messiah’s kingdom, these will need to accept the provision of life made for them through the Redeemer, and obey the laws of the kingdom in order to enjoy the permanent favor of God.
The blessings of Christ’s kingdom will be extended to the people of all nations, for God’s promise was that the “Seed” would bless “all the families of the earth.” These, as the subjects of the kingdom, will receive the same blessings of peace and joy and health and life as the natural descendants of Abraham, other than those who proved worthy to share in the rulership of the kingdom.*
* “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” page 297, last paragraph.
God’s promise to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations, and that kings would come out of him. (Gen. 17:1-8,16) Those of all nationalities who qualify for life upon the basis of obedience to divine law will be the “seed” of Abraham from God’s standpoint, and among these will be the kings, or rulers, in the kingdom, both the spiritual and the earthly. Thus Abraham can truly be called “the father of the faithful.”
What is signified by the name Abraham, and why was he called a Hebrew?
Upon what basis did Abraham become the friend of God?
Why did the Apostle Paul refer to God’s promises to Abraham as the “Gospel”?
What is the key word used by God in his promises to Abraham?
Who did the Apostle Paul identify as being THE “Seed” of promise?
Who will be associated with Jesus as also a part of the seed of blessing? Who were the first to be offered this opportunity?
What important lesson did God teach by asking Abraham to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice?
What symbolic name does the Bible apply to Jesus to denote the fact that he died as a sacrifice?
Is it necessary for the followers of Jesus to suffer and die with him if they are to participate in the future work of blessing?
What is indicated by the New Testament statement that Abraham looked for a city?
How was the thought of a ruling seed indicated in God’s promise to Abraham?
What did Abraham’s grandson Jacob say about a ruling seed?
What covenant did God make with David that is related to the ruling seed of promise?
How do we know that God’s promise to David concerning his throne is fulfilled through Christ?
What condition did God stipulate would have to be met by those who would share in the work of blessing all the families of the earth? Did the Israelites as a nation qualify for this honored position?
When and by whom was this special opportunity taken away from Israel as a nation, and to whom was it given?
When was it first revealed that the principal heirs of the Abrahamic covenant would be exalted to the divine nature, and be invisible rulers in Christ’s kingdom?
Who will be the human, or visible representatives of the spiritual rulers in the kingdom, and how will they be related to the promise God made to Abraham?
What will be the position of the natural descendants of Abraham who did not qualify to be part of the ruling seed of promise?
How do we know that the promised blessings will be extended to the people of all nationalities?
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
God’s promises to Abraham comprehend much of the plan of God. There is the seed that will do the blessing, and the seed that will receive the blessings; the latter eventually including the obedient of all kindreds and nations.