While reading through Genesis, with the 5 Day Bible Reading Program, there has been a lot I haven’t understood. In fact, I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions. Why this, why that – and why on earth Circumcision!? That stuff has got to hurt.
But, the question that’s been nagging away at me the most is about Abraham.
I grew up hearing all about his wonderful stories. How God would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven or as the sand along the shores (Genesis 22:17); or how at a hundred years old (100 years!) his son Isaac was born to him (Genesis 21:1-8). I even sang songs about him. I remember waving my body around like a goose while loudly singing:
“Father Abraham had many sons
Had many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord”
These are cherished memories, but they’re not an accurate portrayal of Abraham’s whole life. Children stories often neglect to tell the parts that are full of sin. The Bible, on the other hand, lays it all out for all to see. In Genesis chapter 12 Abraham lies to Pharaoh about his wife; in Chapter 16 Abraham takes the advice of his wife (rather than God’s) and has a child through Hagar; in Chapter 20 Abraham lies again about his wife, this time to Abimelech.
There are more, but these are the cherry picked sins. These are the instances that made me read Genesis 15:6 with a raised eyebrow; “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
How could Abraham be righteous when he was so sinful? This is the question I couldn’t understand. It was, at least, until I realised I was reading it wrong. I was asking the wrong question. You see, the Bible didn’t say Abraham was righteous. Instead, what do “the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3). The Bible is clear that it wasn’t Abraham’s life that made him righteous, but that it was his faith in God.
To be reminded of this is a great comfort! The fact that it didn’t depend on Abraham’s life to be right with God should encourage us to remember that it doesn’t depend on our life either. If it did, we would all be in serious trouble. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Our standing before God rests solely on what Christ has done in our place – not what we have done, are doing, or will do.
This realisation points us back to the hope we have in the Gospel; that it is Jesus who saves, not us.