Was Abraham Really the Father of the Faithful?
As a young boy in Hebrew school at my synagogue, I remember my teacher proclaiming that Abraham was the Father of the Faithful. These words established the very foundation of my Jewishness and my Judaism. But, was my teacher’s proclamation accurate? Was Abraham really the Father of the Faithful?
The more I study and learn about the Word of G-D, the more I question the above statement. Now, before you stop reading, please let me explain. Yes, Abraham was absolutely the Father of our Faith, regardless of whether you are a follower of Judaism or Christianity or not. There should never be a question about this in our hearts and minds. After all, Abraham is called our Father in many places in both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and Brit Chadasha (New Testament), as we see in Exodus 3:15:
15 God also said to Moses: “You are to say to Bnei-Yisrael, Adonai, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and the Name by which I should be remembered from generation to generation.
And in Acts 3:12-13:
12 But when Peter saw, he responded to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us—as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Yeshua—the One you handed over and disowned before Pilate, though he had decided to release Him.
But, while Abraham is definitely the Father of our Faith, the question remains: was he the Father of the Faithful? Was he always faithful, or said another way, full of faith? Yes, when G-D called him to get up and go to a land that He would show him, Abraham got up and followed. However, Abraham was also told to leave his family behind, and instead he took Lot his nephew with him and the result of his bringing Lot was not only war as we read in Genesis 14, but it also resulted in the establishment of the Ammonites, who were Lot's descendants, who later became enemies of Israel.
Abraham also showed a lack of faith when his life was in danger, and instead of trusting G-D, he claimed Sarah was just his sister and not his wife, as we see in Genesis 12 and Genesis 20. Abraham also twice shows doubt and faithlessness concerning G-D’s promise of a son by suggesting first that Eliezer could be his son, and second by having relations with Hagar and bringing forth Ishmael (and we all know how that ended up).
So, while all we should conclude that Abraham demonstrated great faith and was and is the Father of our Faith, we should also conclude that just because Abraham was the Father of our Faith, it doesn’t mean Abraham was the Father of the Faithful.
But, this understanding should not discourage us; iit should encourage us. After all, in Jacob (James) 2:23, Abraham was called G-D’s friend:
23 The Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”—and he was called God’s friend.
I am not writing about the difference between having faith and being faithful just to point out Abrahams failures. I am writing this in order to encourage you and I today because both Abraham’s faith and his unfaithful moments were provided by G-D to us in His Word as examples, and they were much more prophetic in nature than of which we often take notice.
For instance, Abraham was instructed to leave his family to go to a kingdom G-D would show him as an example of faith, and Yeshua (Jesus) left His Father’s house to show us an example of faithfulness. Abraham was given the opportunity to offer his life for those he loved as an example of faith, while Yeshua did offer His life for those He loved. Abraham was also given another opportunity to show his faithfulness that I believe we often overlook. This particular opportunity, although overlooked, may be the most meaningful for you and I today.
When Abraham was told by G-D about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham demonstrates faith by interceding for them with the what-ifs. What if there are fifty righteous? What if fourty? What if thirty? What if ten? But, Abraham stops at the number ten. We can only speculate as to why Abraham stopped at that number. However, what would have happened if Abraham had fully embraced faithfulness beyond simple faith? What if Abraham’s intercession went beyond prayer to action? What if Abraham had said, “what if there is one?” and then went to Sodom himself to stand in the gap to be that one?! Isn’t that exactly what Yeshua did for us?
Yeshua did what Abraham didn’t. Yeshua did more than intercede in prayer; He left the ultimate Promised Land and came to our Sodom and Gomorrah because there were no righteous people here. So, He became the One and provided salvation for us.
G-D looked at the world and saw it had become corrupt and would need to be judged and destroyed, and there was none righteous, as we read in Romans 3:10 and 23:
10 As it is written, “There is no one righteous—no, not one.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Now that we see the difference between Abraham’s faith and Yeshua’s faithfulness, you and I have a choice to make: will we be people of faith, or will we be faithful? Every one of us has the same opportunity that Abraham and Yeshua had. Before us, we see a world just like Sodom and Gomorrah, and we have the opportunity to follow Abraham’s example and intercede from a distance. Or we can follow Yeshua’s example and be light in darkness. I think this is what Yeshua was speaking about when He said in John 15:12-13:
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.
Abraham was the Father of our Faith, but it was Yeshua who taught us faithfulness, which goes beyond faith. This is why Jacob, who wrote that Abraham was a friend of G-D because of his faith, wrote in the very next verse, Jacob 2:24:
24 You see that a man is proved righteous by works and not by faith alone.