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The bond between God and Abraham was so close that God paid Abraham the great compliment of calling him His friend (Isaiah 41:8). The idea of Abraham as a friend of God points to some fascinating and far-reaching implications, when we compare Abraham's relationship with God to our Christian calling. .
Jesus Christ also views us as His friends, saying to His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard of My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).
Jesus also mentioned a precondition before He could call His disciples "friends". "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14). Obedience to God was the key for Abraham to be known as God's friend. Paul highlighted Abraham's faithful obedience (Hebrews 11:8-10 and 17-19), and his example of faith was demonstrated in three main ways throughout his life:
1. Abraham's call: Hebrews 11:8 tells us Abraham went out into a strange land to obey God, not knowing where he was going or what awaited him there: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going."
Similarly learning to depend on God is an important step for a Christian to take. Abraham looked to God for guidance, direction and protection. Had he lived by sight, he would never have obeyed God's call to go into a foreign land.
2. Abraham's sojourning: By faith he sojourned in a strange country (Hebrews 11:9)
Another element of Abraham's obedience is evident in his sojourning: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Hebrews 11:9). Abraham would surely have preferred a permanent abode and a more stable home life instead of living in a tent. He was a stranger and pilgrim in a strange land, but he knew his citizenship was reserved in a heavenly city built by God, and he remained faithful to God and did not return to his homeland (Hebrews 11:10-16).
3. Abraham's trial: By faith, when Abraham was tried, he was prepared to offer up his only begotten son (Hebrews 11:17). God commanded him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as an offering, although God had made a covenant with Abraham to bless future generations through Isaac (Gen 17:19).
This was, without a doubt, Abraham's most severe trial, but Abraham decided to obey God. His belief in God’s faithfulness was so strong he was convinced God would resurrect Isaac and keep His promise to bless his descendants. Abraham’s confidence can even be seen in Genesis 22:5 when he tells his servants, “Stay here with the donkey, the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” indicating that he and Isaac would return.
It is also important to remember that Abraham was not the only one being tested. Isaac was being tested as well. When Isaac realised father’s intentions and that he was to be the sacrifice he had the choice of struggling against his father’s wishes or submitting to them. Isaac’s response was submission.
At the point when Abraham obediently raised his knife to slay his son an angel cried out: "Do not touch your son Isaac, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not held back your son, your only son from Me" (Genesis 22:12). God didn't want Abraham to kill his son; He was testing Abraham's faith in Him, and it was Abraham’s faith in God that inspired others to call Abraham the father of the faithful (Romans 4:12 and 16).
Abraham’s obedience to God and total and complete trust and faith in Him is why God called Abraham His friend. In the same way, Christ calls us His friends because of our faith in Him, which is proven by our obedience to His holy commands. The clear admonitions of James chapter 2 teach that faith without works is dead and we are told in Hebrews 11:6: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
The Good News Magazine (Jan-Feb, 1996)