On October 9 (old style) the Orthodox Church commemorated a great saint and prophet – Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch and forefather. We all know pretty much about this unique saint. However, I would like to recall the 3 main feats of faith of Abraham, although there were much more of them, and his whole life can be compared with one significant feat of faith.
1. “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there” (Genesis 11:31). By God’s calling, Abraham left one of the most comfortable and civilized cities of that time – Ur of the Chaldees. Only in the 20th century, the scientists managed to learn what a great city it was before. More than 65,000 of people lived there, so it turned out that it was a large metropolis with a highly developed culture and economic life. Having left that city and gone barely to nowhere, Abraham and his father Pharra shew their courage and firm faith. Abraham trusted God, Who called him into another life full of wanderings, dangers and fear.
2. At first, Abraham was called Abram, which meant “the great father”. After God had made a Covenant with him, God changed his name and called him Abraham, which meant “the father of many”, since according to God’s promise, numerous tribes and peoples will come through Abraham into this world: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (Genesis 17:4-6). Abraham had no doubt in that promise, although his wife Sarah was barren.
3. Finally, the greatest feat of Abraham’s faith was to sacrifice his own son Isaac. God said: “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). And so Abraham obeyed, he took his son Isaac and went to Moriah. It is impossible to imagine what Abraham felt and how difficult for him it was to follow God’s commandment. Here is what St. John Chrysostom says about it: “When the patriarch heard that address: “Abraham!” (Genesis 22:1), he readily listened to the calling, since he was waiting for another manifestation of God’s mercy. In his mind, Abraham thought about the marriage of his son and the organization of a wedding feast, so that the Divine covenant about the seed and offsprings became true. But let us examine the words of the order itself: “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love”.
You see how these words work, you see how they sting the father and foster the flame of our nature, how they acute the father’s love towards his son by calling him beloved and only at the same time? Go to the land of Moriah and then burn him as a sacrifice on one of the mountains to which I would point. What would you feel after you heard such words? Who of the people, who have children and know how strong our natural love towards them could be, would not be horrified by such an order? Just think about how the father felt, who got the order to sacrifice his only son. Who would not be stunned by that order? Who would not say that he was ready to die himself rather than to fulfill such an order? […] What are You asking me for? What the terrible words I hear from You? Could it be so that You have made me be a father in order to make me be a filicide later? Could it be truth that I have been honored with that wonderful gift of fatherhood in order to become a parable for the whole world? I should kill my son with my own hands? Should desecrate my hands with his blood and become the murderer of my child? So, this is what You want? This is what sacrifices are pleasing for You? You are ordering me to kill my only son, about whom me and Sarah thought that he would bury us? With this marriage I should please him? To light burial fire instead of joyful wedding lights? […] How could I become the father of many peoples by Your word, if You ask me to kill my only son?” (The Homily on Abraham and Isaac)
However, Abraham loved God more than anything and trusted Him as much as children trust their parents. God stopped Abraham’s hand and did not let the worst thing happen. Some time later, hundreds of years later, the event would happen, for which Abraham’s sacrifice became a foretype. Jesus Christ, being the Word of God, trusted His Father and accepted terrible tortures, dishonor and shameful death, so that the ancient condemnation would be washed with His holy blood. The Son trusted His Father, and the Father resurrected His Messiah from the dead: “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
So let us remember about the faith of our Forefather Abraham and let us teach from him how we should trust our God and stay loyal to Him: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
By John Nichiporuk,
a Bachelor of Theology,
specialized in Biblical Studies.
specialized in Biblical Studies.
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