If anyone has ever wondered if a life of righteousness is coupled with an absence of problems, Abraham provides the answer. Father Abraham, universally recognized for his goodness, had problems.
Abraham endured family problems
It is almost a comic understatement to say that Abraham had family problems. The life of this pivotal prophet is revealed in surprising detail in the book of Genesis and the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Just as surprising is the realization that today’s challenges share similar themes, if not similar details. How did Abraham cope with the wickedness of his world, the upheavals that he faced, and the difficult decisions resulting from the actions of others and from his own commitment to Jehovah?
Even before Abraham, then known as Abram, had left his home region in Mesopotamia, he was dealing with family discord. Disappointment hardly describes the situation. His family, once believers in the one true God, had turned to the idol worship that surrounded them. Terah, his father, had succumbed to the need for human sacrifice to appease the heathen gods, and had vowed to kill his dissenting son (Abraham 1:7). One could say that the family had left the church’s fold.
Such an untenable situation at home forced Abraham and his new wife Sarai [Sarah] to leave. The leaving followed the Lord’s direction. “Now the Lord had said unto me: Abraham, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Abraham 2:3). They became immigrants in an unknown land, really in two lands as they lived in both Canaan and Egypt.
Abraham experienced loneliness in a foreign land
It is probably a universal truth that moving into a new country is difficult, especially when it is a “strange land” (Abraham 1:16). Abraham faced this with only his wife, a nephew named Lot, Lot’s wife, and servants to accompany him. To add to the physical problems, Abraham was not a young man, but 62 years old (Abraham 2:14).
Egypt became the temporary destination due to a famine in the land of Canaan. This exposed Abraham to new problems, primarily keeping his beautiful wife, Sarah, safe from the lustful designs of the Pharaoh and the Egyptian princes. How to stay safe in Egypt required strategy, a ruse, and the Lord’s help. Eventually, Abraham and his company were able to return to their intended destination, Canaan. Yet, even after living in Canaan for years, when Abraham went to negotiate the purchase of a burial plot in Hebron, he still referred to himself as “a stranger and a sojourner” (Genesis 23:4).
Abraham worked to improve harmony in his tent
As a holy man of God, Abraham worked hard to keep harmony in his family, and at times he surely was disappointed. When the herds of Abraham and his beloved nephew Lot grew too large for the available grass to feed them, coupled with the quarreling between the herdsmen, Abraham acted to end the strife. He generously allowed Lot to have first choice in the division of the grazing land. Lot chose the best, well-watered plain (Genesis 13:10). Discord in his own tent was even more challenging. The familiar account of Sarah’s sorrow at not giving birth, and the ensuing developments with Hagar and Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham, brought conflict, even jealousy and hatred. Abraham’s family was not immune to heartache, anger, and difficult decisions.
The richly detailed account of Abraham’s life is a gift to us on a personal level. He is such a major figure in the Lord’s plan for the salvation of us all. He had to prove himself in unfathomable ways to become the worthy recipient of the Abrahamic Covenant. It is easy to overlook how Abraham’s example can help us with the everyday difficulties of life.
Abraham knew what sacrifice meant
Abraham coped with his challenges because early in life he said to the Lord: “I will do well to hearken unto thy voice” (Abraham 2:13). Furthermore, he continued to do just that regardless of the consequences. He knew what sacrifice meant. The account of Isaac being taken up the mountain to be sacrificed is also about Abraham’s sacrifice. Imagine what Abraham was willing to sacrifice for Jehovah. If his hand had not been stayed at the moment of Isaac’s death, Abraham would have probably lost his wife’s love, as well as his precious son.
Abraham is the essential, foundational prophet for the Lord’s covenant people. He literally walked and talked with God (Abraham 1:16; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 18:22). Jehovah was a reality to him. His willingness to listen did not eliminate the problems of life, but it did enable him to remain steadfast, and to move forward in obedience, always seeking righteousness.
This is Abraham’s example for us.