- Background to the Call of Abraham (Genesis 11:24-32, 12)
- Faith and God's Promises to Abraham (Hebrews 11: 1 – 6)
- The Testing of Abraham's Faith (GEN. 22: 1 – 18)
- Importance of Faith in Christian Life Today
- Jewish and African Practices of Circumcision
The background to the call of Abraham is found in the first book of the bible. This is Genesis which is a Greek word meaning “Beginning”. The relationship between Adam and God was good but after Adam disobeyed GOD, their relationship changed because of sin by Eve and Adam. After sometime, God repaired this relationship by calling Abraham and offering salvation.
-Abraham lived with his father Terah at a place called Ur. Abraham’s father lived among people who worshiped many gods. One of the god’s whom people of Ur worshipped was the moon. This worship of many gods is referred to as polytheism.
-The family of Terah moved from Ur to Haran. While at Haran, God called Abraham at 75 years old. He was told to…. “Leave your country, your relatives and your father’s home and go to a land that I am going to show you”. Abraham obeyed God’s call. He left Haran for a land that was unknown to him. He took his property his wife Sarah and his nephew lot. At the time of the call of Abraham, he was known as Abram and his wife Sarai. God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham means Father of many nations while Sarah means mother of nations.
-On arrival in Canaan, he travelled and came to a place called Schechem. God appeared to him once more. Abraham built an altar for the lord at this place. Altars are places of worship. They were regarded as holy and were manifestations of God’s presence. An altar was made of stones.
-After sometime, he separated with his nephew Lot due to their servants having strife over water for their livestock. Abraham left Canaan due to feminine. He went to Egypt.
-Faith is a strong belief, a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. It is also a firm belief, which is not based on any scientific or logical proof. Faith in God is an attitude of complete trust in God.
It is not based on concrete or tangible objects. Faith is manifested in the ways of life of a believer.
-Abraham is an example of someone who had faith in God. He showed his faith in action in several ways.
- Although Abraham was old, he left Haran to go to a strange unknown land of Canaan.
- After he settled in Canaan, Abraham was assured by God of his protection and was given other promises such as he will get a son, and Abraham believed God. Sarah gave birth to a son when she was 90 years old and Abraham was around 120 years old. This was as the lord had promised Abraham.
- The son was named Isaac that means “laughter” – because Sarah had laughed when she was told that she would have a child in her old age. The child Isaac was circumcised when he was eight (8) days old.
- Abraham was told by God to circumcise all males in his household including himself. He obeyed.
- When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to God, he was ready to do so.
- Abraham believed that God would fulfill all the promises he had given to him
- Abraham demonstrated his faith by building altars
A promise is giving an assurance of something to someone. The promises God gave to Abraham were that:
- God told him he would give him a land. His descendants would be given the land of Canaan to dwell in
- His name would be made famous
- His descendants will be many. Abraham would be made a great nation.
- God would protect him
- He was promised a son of their own
- God would bless him
- God would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him
- Abraham was promised that he would die in peace and in an old age
- His descendants would be strangers in a foreign land but afterwards would come out with great possessions.
The Relevance of the Promises Made by God to Abraham to Christians Today (Gen. 12: 2 – 3, 15: 1 – 21, 21:1 – 7, 17: 15 – 18)
God called Abraham from idol worship in the same way God continues to call people to serve him.
- Through Abraham, God had a plan to restore the relationship between man and God
- Christians receive the promises of blessings from God through Abraham (Gods promises to Abraham fulfilled through Christians)
- As Abraham left his own people, Christians should leave their sinful lives and put their whole trust in God.
- Abraham is seen as the descendant not only of the Israelites but also of Christians
- Christians have faith that God fulfils promises to them as he did to Abraham
- Christians are assured of God’s protection
- Through God’s dealing with Abraham, God shows that he values a personal relationship with human kind.
- Through Jesus Christ Christians enter into an everlasting covenant with God. Just like Abraham entered into a covenant with God.
- The promise to Abraham of Canaan Promised Land is to Christians the hope for new land – heaven
- God continues to make promises to those who believe him
- Abraham is the ancestor (Father) of all believers)
A covenant is a solemn agreement between two persons or two groups of people. An agreement is between two separated parties. It’s a pact, a treaty. When it is a covenant, it conveys a union or partnership.
There are components or features that must be in a covenant. A covenant must have a ceremony, sign, witnesses, promises/vows/oaths, obligations / consequences, and participants. A covenant establishes a sacrificial bond between the parties involved. There are obligations or rules by which the parties must abide by, adhere to and observe in order to keep the covenant. A covenant is an agreement and if it is broken, there are consequences for breaking it. In the Bible, there are many covenants.
- Adamic covenant – Agreement between God and Adam
- Noahlic Covenant – God’s covenant with Noah where God promised to preserve life of man and not to destroy it with water. The sign of the covenant is the rainbow. In Gen 9 verse 3, GOD told Noah, “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you…Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. Verse 4 says, “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it”
- Abrahamic covenant – Gods covenant with Abraham. He promised to fulfill promises He gave to Abraham. These promises were: (1) Increase numbers of descendant of Abraham. He will be father of many nations, (2) Be GOD of his descendants (3) Abraham will have a son an heir, (4) Given land of Canaan and other lands from the river of Egypt to River Euphrates, and all for heirs of Abraham (Gen. 15: 17 – 18) (5) Circum-cision of all males at 8 days after birth even none Israelites living in their land (6) Covenant with Isaac
- Mosaic Covenant – is a covenant between the Israelites and GOD. Moses led Israel to Mt. Sinai. God promised to be their God. Israelites were given the law written by GOD in “tablets of stone, with law and commands I have written for…. instruction”. (Read exodus 23).
- Davidic Covenant – covenant between David and God – God promised him that his dynasty would rule forever.
- Messianic Covenant – new covenant between Christians and God through Jesus Christ.
The covenant was established after God appeared to Abraham in a vision. During the visitation of God, Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years. He was promised a son. Abraham wanted assurance from God. God told him to bring him the following items for sacrifice.
Items for sacrifice
- Three (3) years olds: heifer, goat, ram and a dove and a pigeon.
- Abraham then cut these animals into two halves and placed them opposite each other.
- The birds were not split.
- After it was dark, smoking fire and a flaming torch suddenly appeared and passed between the pieces of animals.
- Towards evening, Abraham fell into a deep sleep. While he slept the Lord appeared to him and told him that:
- His descendants will be strangers in a foreign land and be slaves for 400 years. But they will come out of this land with a lot of wealth and God will punish the nation that will enslave Israelites.
- He, Abraham will live up to a ripe age, and die in peace. Then the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and promised to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan. God himself passed through the sacrifi-ces and bound himself to keep the promises.
- God bound himself in a personal relationship with a human being
- As God passed through the meat, he showed Abraham he would always protect him. This passed on to the descendants of Abraham
- This covenant between God and Abraham begins a lasting relationship between God and all the nations of the earth.
- Throughout this covenant God was initiating his plan of salvation for human kind
- The promises made to Abraham were fulfilled in New Testament blood of the lamb – death of Jesus Christ
- It emphasized the importance of faith followed by obedience that Abraham shared.
Modern covenants are
- Oath of loyalty
- Ordination of clergy
In marriage, the bride, bridegroom and their fami-lies come together. When the two families come together a relationship is developed. They make an agreement and both sides are seriously involved in the ceremony, whether the marriage is civil or religious. During the marriage ceremony the couple makes vows/promises to each other, before a priest/ pastor and the congregation. Two officials witness these agree-ments. Rings are exchanged as a sign of a lasting relationship. A certificate is given in some cases as a testimony (sign) of this agreement. There is eating and drinking.
In a Christian baptism, a covenant is entered into between the believer and God. The believer makes vows before God. The priest and the whole congregation witness this agreement. In some churches, a card is issued to the person who has been baptized as a sign of Christian mem-bership. The baptized can now take the Holy Communion, which is a Christian Ceremony. But when an infant is baptized, parents take the vows on behalf of the child.
Leaders in public service for example the president, ministers, Members of Parliament, and chief officers are sworn in before they take over their new responsibilities. They swear (take an oath) and promise to carry out their duties firmly and without fear or favour.
Ordination of the clergy:
Church leaders, nuns and priests take oaths and make vows to God and to the congregation in a ceremony attended by worshippers.
The importance of modern day covenants
- They bind different groups
- They act as a security
- They strengthen relationships
- They unite people together
- They create loyalty
- They create peace, harmony and bring a sense of permanence
God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to go and sacrifice his only son Isaac. This was the son he loved so much. He was to travel to Mount Moniah. On reaching Mt. Moriah, he built an altar, and arranged wood on it. He tied up his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood.
He lifted a knife to kill him. “But the Angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven. Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy…Do not do anything to him. Now I know you that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (v 11-12). Abraham had obedient reverence for God became he did not keep back his only son from God.
God provided a ram for sacrifice. He named the mountain “the Lord provided” God was pleased with Abraham and promised him blessings, many descendants’ victory, and protection.
- A Christian today is acceptable to God through his faith in God through Jesus Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
- A Christian can only serve God if he has faith in him. Faith enables a Christian to serve God
- Faith enables a Christian to accomplish what appears to be impossible
- Through faith, Christians are able to trust God to fulfill his promises to them
- Faith is the foundation of the Christians salvation
- Faith in God gives a Christian the power to overcome all temptations.
- Christians should expect to have their faith tested just like Abraham was.
- Faith enables Christians to patiently wait on God’s promises
- Christians through faith in God help the poor, make right decisions and are able to understand and know God better.
The rite of circumcision was started by Abraham and has been practiced by the Jews up to the present times.
In the Old Testament, it was important because:
- Through circumcision: God assured Abraham that he would fulfill His promises to him.
- Circumcision was a sign that Abraham and his descendants had entered into a covenant with God. It was an outward sign of inner faith.
- Circumcision was a mark of identity for the Jews
- It was a sign of obedience to God
- It was an acceptance of God as the only true God and their willingness to remain faithful to him
In the New Testament
- Circumcision doesn’t qualify one to be a child of God. One is accepted as a Christian without circumcision as long as they have faith in God.
- A true descendant of Abraham is the Christian who truly believes in God and lives according to His will regardless of colour, race or creed.
Circumcision is one of the rites of passage among the African people.
It marks the transition from one stage to another.
Many ethnic communities in Kenya still practice the rite of circumcision. During circumcision ceremonies, prayers are offered to God for the well being of the initiates (those who are being circumcised) and the prosperity of the whole community.
Initiates learn secrets of their community and society. They are taught myths, origin, religious beliefs, and sex education. In some communities, initiates are given new names or ornaments to signify their new status.
In both Jewish and African communities, circumcision: (a) is a mark of identity (b) provided a sense of belonging (c) was observed as a religious experience (d) was compulsory (e) was a tradition passed from one generation to another (f) is a time for shedding blood (g) was a time for offering prayers to God for the well being of the initiates (h) was a time for giving gifts (i) was a ceremony for initiation (j) was a time for giving the initiates names (k) took place in sacred places.
In Jewish community,
- Circumcision was a rite for boys while in African society it was for both boys and girls. But it was for boys in a few communities.
- Boys were circumcised when aged 8 days while in the African society; it was between 15 to 25 years old.
- Circumcision was for boy’s organ while in African societies several forms of initiation were done, for example, removal of teeth, and body piercing among others.
- Circumcision was a command from God while for the African communities it was in obedience to customary law where ancestors were invoked to protect the initiates.
Among the African societies
- Circumcision was a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood while for the Jews it was not.
- The initiates were given specialized education while the Jews were not.
- The initiates were grouped into age groups, and were secluded from the community while among the Jews it was not so.
- The rite of circumcision according to seasons while the Jews once a child is born, they are circumcised on the 8th day.
- After circumcision, the initiates were allowed to marry, enter a warrior group, own property but for the Jews the initiate was still a child.