Long, long ago, God had a very special friend whose name was Abraham. That’s a wonderful name! It is a name which really means something. It means one who is the father of many people. Of course Abraham didn’t have many children of his own. But, then, the Bible tells us that all the people who have ever lived on the earth, and, who believe God and do the things which please him, are to become the family of Abraham. That’s why Abraham is called the father of so many people.
It was a long time after Noah built his big boat and all the water was on the earth that Abraham was a little boy. When Abraham grew up and was married, he lived in a city. Oh, it wasn’t New York City, and it wasn’t London. It was a city with a very short name. It was called Ur, and it was in a country called Chaldea. Funny name! But I suppose it was a good name in those days.
In all the countrv of Chaldea there was hardly anyone who believed God. The people in that country thought the moon was God, and so they worshiped the moon. Wasn’t that strange? We would not want to pray to the moon, would we? We know that the moon can’t do anything for us.
In those days long ago most people didn’t seem to know any better. Of course, Abraham knew better. You see, Abraham was born only two years after Noah died, so Abraham knew how good God had been to Noah and his family. Abraham loved God, and worshiped him. Abraham believed everything God said, and that was why he was God’s friend.
When Abraham was seventy-five years old, God sent him a very special message, and what do you think it was? He sent word to Abraham that he wanted him to move away from his home city of Ur and to go into another country miles and miles away.
It wasn’t easy for Abraham to do this. He didn’t have an automobile, and there were neither trains nor airplanes in which to travel. Oh, no! There were only two ways that Abraham could travel. One way was to walk, or if he didn’t care to walk, he could ride on the back of a camel or a donkey. But riding on a camel or a.donkey such a long distance is very tiring, because they don’t walk very fast.
So, to move miles and miles away was something very hard to do! But Abraham believed that God knew best. He was sure that anything God wanted done was the very best thing to. That is another reason, you see, why Abraham was God’s friend. God knew lie could trust Abraham. That is what it means to have a friend, isn’t it?
Abraham’s wife’s name was Sarah, and of course God wanted Sarah to go with Abraham. And God made a wonderful promise to them . You see, they didn’t have any children, but God said that if they did as lie wanted them to, they would have a son. God promised also that the children of Abraham would be used to do good to all the other people in the world.
Abraham’s brother had a son named Lot, and Lot lived with Abraham’s father. And what do you think? Lot decided he, too, would like to go with Abraham. So, you see, when they finally started away from the city of Ur they were quite a family. There was Abraham, and Sarah, and Abraham’s father, and Abraham’s nephew, Lot.
But that wasn’t all!
Although Abraham lived in a city, he must have had a farm outside the city, because he had many cattle and sheep which he took with him. Of course they had to walk. Just imagine Abraham, and his family, and all the cattle and sheep starting out through the country in the direction of the place God asked them to go.
As I told you before, there were no automobiles then, and they didn’t have hard roads, either. I suppose most of the way on their journey toward the land which God promised to Abraham they didn’t find roads at all.
And they didn’t have hotels in which to stay at night. The Bible tells us that they lived in tents. This means that toward the end of each day, as they traveled along, they would have to find a place where they could set up their tents and stay overnight. It must have been very hard to journey that way, but perhaps they enjoyed the trip, anyway. It’s fun to go camping if you don’t stay too long.
Can you imagine Abraham and his family with their tents all set up at the close of the day? Out in the fields, all around the tents, there would be a great number of cattle and sheep. The cows would “moo” and the sheep would “baa.”
Of course the whole family would need to have supper. And maybe Sarah and Lot’s wife would be cooking something for the rest of the family. So out beyond the tents we can imagine that smoke is coming up from the fire which they have just made. It is getting quite late in the evening now, and the sun is going down behind a mountain. Yes, it must have been rather pleasant and exciting, too.
But Abraham wasn’t taking this journey just as a vacation. Really, he didn’t know just where he was going! All he knew was that God promised to show him where to go, and he believed God. He was sure God would show him the way to a good place. And he did!
They journeyed on and on, day after day and week after week. They didn’t go very far each day, and I think we can understand why. Finally they came to a place called Haran. Haran was in a country called Mesopotamia, in the country where the Garden of Eden used to be. The country which was called Mesopotamia when Abraham journeyed through it is now called Iraq. So, you see, it was a real country, and it is still on the earth today, but now it has a different name.
When Abraham and his father and the rest of the family arrived in Haran something happened. What do you suppose it was? Why, Abraham’s father died. He was quite an old man, and that is why he died. He wasn’t strong enough to keep on traveling day after day. But after Abraham’s father died they started on the journey again, and finally they reached the land which God had promised to Abraham.
There was something else that God promised which Abraham wondered about. God promised him and Sarah that he would give them a son, but as yet he hadn’t given them any children. This was a good lesson for Abraham, and it is a good lesson for all of us. God does not always do right away what he promises to do. But we can be sure that if God promises to do anything he will do it when the right time comes. There is no doubt about that!
God has promised to do many wonderful things for all the people of the world. Why, God has promised that all the people who have died will be brought back to life again, and we will be able to see them, and talk with them, and live with them. Isn’t that wonderful?
It has been a long time since God made these promises, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t do what he has promised. God has a time for doing everything, and when his time comes, all his promises will come true! Yes, God promised Abraham and Sarah that he would give them a son, but God’s time hadn’t come, so Abraham and Sarah had to wait.
One day three angels visited Abraham. Of course he didn’t know that they were angels as they looked just like men. He thought they were travelers who were passing through the country and just happened to go by his home, which was a tent. He probably thought they were hungry, because, as we have just learned there were no hotels and restaurants in Abraham’s time. Maybe Abraham thought his home was the only one these three angels had seen in a long time, having perhaps been on a long journey.
Now, Abraham was a very good man. Not only did he love God, but he wanted to do everything he thought God would do. He knew that God supplies everyone with food, that he makes delicious fruits and vegetables grow right up out of the ground so we can always have something to eat. Abraham thought since God was so good to him, he should give some food to these strangers. In that way, you see, he would be generous like God.
So Abraham invited the strangers to come in. It probablv was a hot day, so Abraham didn’t take them into the tent, but had them sit down under a big tree out in the field. Abraham asked one of his servants to cook some meat, and lie asked his wife to bake some bread. When everything was ready—the meat and bread, and whatever other food they had—it was brought out under the tree. There they sat and ate.
When people eat, they usually like to talk. As they talked, these three angels told Abraham that he would soon have a son. Sarah, who was Abraham’s wife, didn’t know exactly who these strangers were. In those days, you know, the wife didn’t always sit down to eat with the family when they had company; so Sarah just stood in the door of the tent and waited until they had finished eating.
But she was listening, and when she heard the angels tell Abraham that he was to have a son, and that she would be the mother of that son, it made her so happy that she laughed.
The angels heard her laughing, and when Sarah knew that they had heard her, she felt rather ashamed of herself that she had laughed when there was company! But she was very glad that she would have a son.
By and by, when God’s time came, the promised son was born. The name given to this little boy was Isaac, which means “laughter.”
And now I want to tell you something very wonderful about the name that was given to him. Abraham and Sarah didn’t choose his name. We have a lot of fun nowadays thinking up names for the new babies who come into our homes, don’t we? Of course Abraham and Sarah thought Isaac was a very good name, even though they weren’t the ones who chose it. It was God who told them to name the baby Isaac.
God told them to call the baby Isaac because it would remind them of the wonderful promise which he had made to them. And it should remind everybody in the whole wide world that they, too, will be happy when all God’s promises come true.
And what was that promise?
God promised that through the children of Abraham he would bless all the people on the earth. Now that was a wonderful promise! It meant that some day God would bless all of the people who lived even before that great flood came upon the earth. It meant that Noah and his family and many other people in that long, long ago would be blessed. It meant that God planned to do something wonderful for everybody who has ever lived upon this earth.
I suppose you wonder how God can do that, because so many of the people are already dead and in their graves. But God knows how to do it, and the Bible tells us that God will bless them by bringing them back from their graves and making them live again, right on this earth. Isn’t that wonderful? All this God said he would do through the children of Abraham.
As I have already told you, Isaac was given to his father and mother by God in fulfillment of a promise that he had made to them. My, how they must have loved that boy, and they must have loved God all the more because he had given them such a wonderful son. When Isaac became a young man, Abraham probably thought that it was almost time for his boy to do something wonderful for all the people of the world, as God had promised.
But what do you think occurred?
Why, God spoke to Abraham, and said that he wanted him to take his dear son and offer him as a sacrifice! Now we have already learned what a sacrifice is. You remember that the very first man in all the world to offer a sacrifice was Abel. He was the son of Adam, as you know. Abel offered a sheep to God. Of course, whenever a person offered an animal to God in sacrifice it meant that the animal first had to be killed. That is what Abel did with the sheep.
Later on, when Noah and his family came out of the Ark, after the water of the flood had dried up, you remember, Noah offered a sacrifice, too. The animals which he offered in sacrifice also had to be killed.
Now just think how Abraham must have felt when God spoke to him and asked him to offer his own dear boy, Isaac, as a sacrifice! This meant, you see, that God expected Abraham to take his boy’s life, and put him on an altar to be burned.
What did Abraham do about it?
Why, he loved God, and he knew that God was very wise and very powerful and very loving, and he knew that God could not make a mistake. Abraham loved God so much that he wanted to do as God asked. He had so much faith in God that he believed God would make Isaac live again. Wasn’t that wonderful?
So the next morning, after God had told Abraham what he wanted him to do, he arose very early, and took Isaac with him. They walked and walked and walked, and walked all that day! You see, God told Abraham just where he wanted that sacrifice offered, and it was a long distance from Abraham’s home. The Bible tells us that they journeyed for three days before they came to the right place. So they walked all that first day, and then they walked all the next day, and they walked all day the third day. That was a long journey!
If Abraham had owned an automobile they could bave made that journey in two or three hours, or even less. But they didn’t have automobiles in those days, so there was nothing to do but walk, or ride on a camel or a donkey. Poor Abraham, how sad he must have felt every time he thought of where they were going and what he was supposed to do!
But, you see, Isaac didn’t know that he was to be the sacrifice, because his father hadn’t told him. Finally, when they came to the place where the sacrifice was to be made, Isaac asked his father where they would get the lamb for the sacrifice. He knew that they were going to offer a sacrifice, but they hadn’t brought the animal with them, and Isaac wondered where they would get one, now that they had come to the proper place.
Abraham didn’t want to make Isaac feel badly, so he just told him that God would furnish the lamb.
Now this sacrifice was to be offered on a high mountain called Mount Moriah. So they walked up the mountain, and there Abraham built the altar. Then Abraham just had to tell Isaac that he was to be the sacrifice! Isaac loved God, too, and besides, he loved his father. He knew that God couldn’t make any mistake. He knew also that his father wanted to do just what God asked him to, so Isaac didn’t run away. He just let his father tie his hands and his feet and put him on that altar, ready to be sacrificed.
You see, God wanted to prove whether or not Abraham would obey him, even though he could not understand why God wanted him to do such an unusual thing.
Abraham was ready to take the life of that dear boy of his, but God sent an angel who prevented him from doing what God had asked him to do. The angel told Abraham to look around, and when he did, there in a bush was a lamb that God had sent for Abraham to use in place of Isaac, so he didn’t have to sacrifice his son after all. Wasn’t that wonderful?
Who was Abraham, and why was he called the friend of God?
Why did Abraham leave his home and travel to a distant country?
What promise did God make to Abraham, and when will that promise come true?
Who was Isaac, and why did his mother laugh?
How will God bless all the people of the world who have died?
Why did God ask Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice?