Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What Abraham's Life Means to Us

GENESIS 22 & 23
Abraham's story with all the drama and events and lies and faulty humans is actually a story that shows us God's faithfulness and love. I never would have thought of it this way before going through this study but it is undeniable.
The story of Abraham's life is a story with almost limitless meaning. It includes examples of faith, prayer, and sacrifice. It contains many lessons for those who, like Abraham, live their lives by putting their faith in God. Yet perhaps the greatest significance of the story of Abraham is that it is the story of God in love with man.

From the earliest chapters of Genesis, we have traced out the evidence of God's profound love for the human creatures who bear His image and likeness. The rebellion of Adam and Eve not only did not conquer God's love, it actually became an occasion for Him to demonstrate its depth and breadth and height. For not only did God
love humans when they behaved, but He even loved them when they sinned. How? He gave them promises to live by and punishments to purify them. Over and over again, God bent down to reorganize and restore the family life that was shattered in Eden. First, He promised to defeat His enemy through human beings. Then, in Genesis
12, He promised to create, from one man, a whole nation that would belong to Him; through that nation, He planned to reverse the curse of Eden into universal blessing.

The context for comprehending the significance of Abraham's story is the initiative and action of God in pursuit of humanity. His call to Abram in Genesis 12 begins a detailed, engaging account of how one ordinary human being, a creature of flesh and blood like us, is singled out by God to be transformed from sinner to saint. The
story of his life is the first extended account we have of intimacy between God and man. It is a story of God's love from beginning to end.

Yes, even at the end, when God asks Abraham to give up, to put to death, that which gives his life its only true meaning, He is acting out of passionate love for him. How can that be? God knows that in losing our lives, we find them. He knew that in Eden. He knew that on Moriah. He knew it on Calvary. The source of perfect human happiness is perfect obedience to God, even if it costs us everything.

What began as intimations of God's love in the early chapters of Genesis are confirmed and ratified in the life of Abraham. Stooping down to call Abram out of Haran to follow Him to a new country, God demonstrates His condescension to undeserving mankind. Through the details of Abraham's story - faith, missteps, miracles, weakness - we see how relentless His love is. The culmination of this courtship takes place on Moriah, when God rewards the perfect obedience of Abraham with an oath that will affect the rest of human history, until the end of time. All of God's blessings in the world, from the time of Abraham, can be traced back to this oath. His mercies to Israel, the nation that came from the loins of Abraham, were the result not of the worthiness of Israel but of the promise He had made to Abraham on Moriah (Ex. 32:11-14; Ps. 51:1-4). When Mary sings exultantly of God's work in her, she sees it as a fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham (Lu. 1:54-55).

It is ironic, isn't it, that people sometimes suggest that God in the Old Testament is full of wrath, and that it is in the New Testament that we see Him as a God of love. Don't believe it for a minute. The story of Abraham is the story of God's powerful love for mortals like us, which searches us out and elevates us to unthinkable heights.
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

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