The Father of Faith

If you were to pick an animal to symbolize your strengths, what animal would that be? What animal would symbolize your weaknesses? The Bible actually speaks to us using this kind of symbolism, as it encourages us to be the best that we can be:

When God decided to rescue mankind from his fall into sin, He did not do so in a random way. He chose a man named Abraham, from which he formed the nation of Israel. Out of Israel came laws giving us the knowledge of right and wrong, the scriptures that became our Bible, and our Messiah — namely Jesus.

Abraham was called the friend of God (James 2:3) because Abraham trusted God NO MATTER WHAT:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, so that he who had received the promise was offering up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called”, for Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac even from the dead.” (Hebrews 1117-19a).

Because of that kind of faith, Abraham is often called The Father of Faith. But on one occasion, Abraham was actually having a CRISIS of faith. You can read about it in Genesis 15. Here is a paraphrase of what happened on that occasion:

God had promised Abraham a child from which God’s redeemer-nation would come. But Abraham and his wife Sarah were now old and past their child bearing years. In spite of this, God re-affirmed His promise by making a covenant with him to “seal the deal” in Abraham’s mind.

A covenant is an ironclad agreement. At that time in history when two kings were making a covenant with one another, it was common for an animal to be cut in half, and then for the covenant makers to walk in-between the two pieces, as a way of saying “may the fate of this animal come upon me if I fail to live up to the terms of this agreement”. This was called “cutting a covenant”.

On this particular occasion, when Abraham wanted to be reassured that God was really going to give him a son — and eventually many more descendants — God did not scold him for lacking faith. Instead, God told Abraham to get some animals and cut them in half! Then God came down in a pillar of fire and passed between the split animals, but did not ask Abraham to do the same. Wow! Of course, the implications of God not keeping “His end of the bargain” were unthinkable, so I am sure that Abraham was thoroughly convinced!

But when God asked Abraham to fetch certain animals for that covenant, why did He choose the animals that He did? Why did God say to split some but not others? I believe it is because God was not only intending to confirm His promise, but through these animals, He was also intending to make a prediction about the sort of people that Abraham’s offspring would eventually become. That prediction contained “some good news and some bad news”. More specifically:

The ram represented ‘warfare’ because the ram’s horn was blown in the call to battle. The heifer (cow) represented ‘work’ because domesticated cattle did the farm work in those days. The goat represented ‘stubbornness’ because goats often do not obey their masters. The pigeon and the dove — which were not split because they represented GOOD things — represented ‘humility’ and the ‘anointing of the Spirit of God’.

Ans so, God was predicting that His people Israel would eventually form a nation that at times would be war-like, overly focused on works as a means to please God, and stubborn. That’s the bad news. But they would also at other times be humble and anointed with the power of God’s Spirit! That’s the good news! Later on, Sarah gave birth to the “miracle child” Isaac, and the rest is history.

Which animal would God pick to describe you? I suspect we all have a bit of goat and a bit of dove inside of us. But if we believe that Jesus came to take the punishment we deserve for our “goat” nature, and also believe that He rose from death on the third day — just like Abraham believed about Isaac — then God gives us His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16) so that we can bind up that goat! So, which animal are you? Let’s pick a good one, and hold onto our faith no matter what!

-Pastor Dominic

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