A Father Before His Time
Our callings precede their fulfillments. Leaders are leaders before they ever get a formal title. Prophets are prophets before they utter their first word. Deliverers are deliverers before they rescue their first captive. And a father is a father even before he has his first child.
Joseph was an inmate leader in prison before becoming an innate leader in his promotion to second in charge of Egypt. Jeremiah and Samuel were prophets before they were formed in the womb. Moses was a deliverer before he ever approached Pharaoh to say, “Let my people go.”
All those callings — leader, prophet, deliverer and especially father — find fulfillment in Abraham, originally known as Abram until an encounter with God brought about a tweaking of his identity and an expanding of his destiny. The name change from Abram (which means “exalted Father”) to Abraham (which means “father of a multitude”) reaffirmed God’s call on His servant’s life and spoke to a promise which ultimately would be realized in Jesus Christ.
Even when it looked like he might never have a son — after all, he was childless at age 75, when God started talking to him — Abram bore the traits of godly fatherhood brewing in his character. What was it that God saw in him that would be good if God saw it in every man who aspires to be honored on the Father’s Days to come?
Abraham, a father before his time, was …
A man of vision. By the time God called him out of Haran, Abram (as he was known at the time) had amassed abundant wealth. He ran a big operation. Yet, he was willing to uproot everything at the call of God because, even though he didn’t know where he was going, he had the vision to see that the invisible God was calling him to something greater than what and where he was. Rather than be satisfied and complacent, Abram obeyed, showing himself to be a man of vision and a man of wisdom.
A man of foresight. A father is always looking ahead because he’s a leader. Genesis 12:10 says there was a famine and Abram made provisions to go to Egypt because he anticipated that things would only get worse. He even anticipated that the leaders there would make a move on his wife Sarai because of her beauty, which they did. God protected them, however.
A man who established peace in his home. When it was apparent that living alongside his nephew Lot would create nothing but problems for his immediate family — there was a lot of quarreling going on — Abram acted decisively by negotiating a separation. “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen,” Abraham said. (Genesis 13:8) Not only that, but he gave Lot first choice of where to move, confident that whatever territory remained God could abundantly bless him in it.
A man who would fight. Even though he separated from Lot, that hardly meant he abandoned him. A father does not abandon his family. When warfare erupted in the land that Lot chose first, Abram’s nephew was taken hostage. When Abram learned this, he organized 318 trained warriors and went to retrieve him. And he succeeded.
A man who honored God first. In celebration of his triumph in getting Lot back, Abram gave glory to God by giving a tenth of the spoils of victory to Melchizidek, a mysterious king/priest figure who would become a type and shadow of Jesus Christ. With a cheerful spirit that preceded the Old Testament law of tithing and more clearly reflects the way we should give now, Abram recognized that without God, he could not have had the success he did.
A man who honored his wife. Sarai was getting antsy because 11 years after God first spoke to her husband, the promise that had been relayed to her didn’t seem to be nearing any kind of fulfillment. So, she proposed that Abram get her a child through Hagar, her maidservant. That was an acceptable custom in the Middle Eastern culture of that day. And even though it would prove to be a misstep borne out of impatience, Abram honored Sarai by following her lead. When a father guides his household in the fear and admonition of the Lord, even his missteps can work out to fulfill God’s purposes.
A man who shepherded the promise. God sovereignly and unilaterally entered covenant with Abram, making one of the most outlandish promises recorded in Scripture — namely, that a man without child would one day have more offspring than he could possibly count. And as a constant reminder of the goodness that God would bestow on Abram, here He changed his name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah. God told Abraham to look up to the heavens and count the stars, if he could. And without blinking, Abraham believed that God was fully able to do what He promised. When there are promises in a household, the father is the custodian of those promises and everything he does will be filtered through the certainty that those promises will be fulfilled because God cannot lie.
A man who interceded. By now, everybody knows the evil that Sodom and Gomorrah represented. Abram probably had an idea of it himself because his nephew Lot lived there. When God came down and visited Abram, He revealed to him that He was about to destroy those cities because of their wickedness. Rather than judge them, Abram started interceding with God, trying to sway Him into relenting. He pleaded that if 50 righteous could not be found there, maybe 45. And on and on, Abram pushed in an attempt to save the cities. Maybe 40. Maybe 30. Maybe 20. And finally, maybe 10. Even though Sodom and Gomorrah fell short of even that low threshold, Abram demonstrated a valuable quality in any aspiring father — the role of intercessor. The Bible says Job did the same thing regularly on behalf of his family, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” (Job 1:5)
A man who provided for the present and future of his family. Even when he reluctantly sent his son Ishmael away — (a.) to keep the peace in the household and (b.) because God said so, meaning He would protect them — Abram still provided for their departure. Even if your house is divided by circumstances like divorce, a father still looks out for the needs of his family. Later, as he saw himself growing old and soon to pass away, he secured a wife for his son Isaac so that Isaac effectively could carry on the shepherding of the promise.
A man who demonstrated obedience to God in front of his family. Of course, there was that moment that Abraham wasn’t sure Isaac would be around to shepherd the promise. In one of those moments in which God can seem extraordinarily contradictory, God had told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Without missing a beat, Abraham modeled in front of his son what obedience to God meant, even if it seemed like Isaac wouldn’t have long to remember it. And when the voice spoke from Heaven to Abraham, telling him “Do not lay a hand on the boy” — no doubt to his son’s everlasting relief — Isaac had a clear idea what obedience to God meant. Any father worth his salt will do the same.
Just as your child grows into what he or she will ultimately become, so too you will grow into fatherhood. Don’t sweat if you don’t exhibit all the characteristics right away. But as you follow the guidance of your Heavenly Father, know that He will guide your steps and help you produce the good fruit of fatherhood.
Heavenly Father, Whose Name we magnify, we earthly fathers thank You that You are the Source of all good and perfect gifts and that You have created us in Your image. Help us to walk in the ways that a good earthly father should. Help us to be patient, kind, wise, protective, supportive and one who reflects and instructs our kids to follow You as a father. You said if we needed wisdom, You would provide it, and so we’re asking in faith that You will use it to mold us into what You would have us be. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.