THE DIVINE RECORD OF THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM BEGINS IN MESOPOTAMIA, WHERE HIS FAMILY ‘SERVED OTHER GODS’1 It was ‘the Lord God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham’.2 It was at that meeting in Mesopotamia that ‘the God of glory appeared’ to him. That is, He was visibly seen by Abraham.3 Though this is recorded in the New Testament, the event of which it speaks took place during the period that closes Genesis chapter 11. Thus, it becomes the first mention in scripture, chronologically, of the pre-incarnate Son of God in human form visiting a person. What a meeting that was! What effect it was to have on Abraham! So we want to trace his life to see the impact that the ongoing revelation of the God of glory had on him.
We start with the fact that it was the Lord who spoke with Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, Gen. 12. 1.4 This One who was Lord was also the God of glory! No wonder Abraham departed, as the Lord had spoken to him, vv. 1-4. This is the evidence of faith in Abraham – that is, to act because of who God is and because of His word to him.5 That response by Abraham led to the second pre-incarnate experience, as the Lord appeared to him at Shechem, Gen. 12. 7, this time with a promise concerning the future for Abraham’s seed. This, too, produced worship in Abraham, and would remind us of what the Lord Jesus said, ‘For to the one who has, more will be given … and he will have an abundance’.6
About seven years later, Melchizedek introduced Abraham to another of God’s names, ‘God Most High’, Gen. 14. 18-20.7 It is quite evident that this name that Abraham heard from Melchizedek had a profound impact on him at that time. In verses 22 to 23 he spoke out of a heart and mind that rested on God, and His character as the mighty One who is supreme, over all. He was learning that he could count on God to take care of him, and he also knew, by God’s revelation to him, that Christ would someday reign over this earth as possessor of it.8
In response to what Abraham said to the king of Sodom at the end of chapter 14, the Lord revealed to Abraham that He was Abraham’s ‘shield, your exceedingly great reward’, Gen. 15. 1. The children of God lose nothing but gain so much when they respond by faith to what God reveals to them. Upon hearing what the Lord said to him, Abraham spoke to God as Lord God, thereby acknowledging Him as his Master as well as the One who is always available to help, vv. 2-3.9 Abraham asked about a very personal matter which concerned him and the future, but about which he saw no satisfactory way of accomplishment. But the future is all known to the One who is in complete control, and Abraham got a promise which went far beyond his and everyone else’s greatest hopes, vv. 4-5. What a response from Abraham, v. 6! And what a response, then, from God to all of us, for we read, elsewhere, His Spirit-led commentary ABOUT THIS, LETTING US KNOW THAT THIS HAS BEEN WRITTEN NOT ONLY FOR ABRAHAM ‘BUT ALSO FOR US’10 How are we responding to God’s revelations?
Fifteen years later, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared for a third time, Gen. 17. 1. On this occasion, God introduced another of His names to him,11 ‘Almighty God’, for God wanted him to know that He was not only the first great Cause of all, but also ‘all-sufficient’ for all of Abraham’s needs. What grace! The Lord made an unconditional, everlasting covenant with him and, at this time, changed his name from Abram, ‘exalted father’, to Abraham, ‘father of a multitude’. This, too, resulted in Abraham falling on his face in worship, and having further communion with God, v. 3. But, alas, as Abraham, we too ‘have this treasure in earthen vessels’ and do not always live in the enjoyment of that communion.12 Abraham responded in unbelief, vv. 17-18, which God had to correct. What compassion on His part! God then finished talking with him and went up from him, and a restored-to-fellowship Abraham then did what God told him to do.
Several years later the Lord appeared for the fourth time to Abraham in Mamre, a place where he had lived several times. It was associated with Hebron which means ‘communion’, and this time it was to be a very momentous occasion, 18. 1. Once again, Abraham was a worshipper, addressing God as his Master, Lord, v. 3.13 Notice that the four appearances of the pre-incarnate Son of God marked Him out as ‘God’, the ‘Lord’, Jehovah, ‘Almighty God’, El Shadday, and ‘Lord’, Adonahy. All are names of Him who is our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only did Abraham get a renewed promise of a son by his wife Sarah, cf. Gen. 17. 21, but he was also privileged to discuss with the Lord His plans concerning Sodom. Abraham knew the Lord’s character, ‘not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance’,14 and therefore he asked Him six times to spare the city on behalf of his nephew Lot. It is here that we learn of Abraham’s wonderful assurance in his expression ‘shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Gen. 18. 25. So, while we ought to be earnestly praying for souls, we also need to keep in mind God’s sovereignty and righteousness in all that He does.
Some years after this, Abraham witnessed God’s fulfilment of His promise to give him a son through his wife Sarah. This was followed by his encounter with Abimelech at Beersheba, Gen. 21. It was then that Abraham called on the name of ‘the Lord, the Everlasting God’, v. 33. This was yet another name for God, and this one does not appear anywhere else in scripture. The word ‘everlasting’ in this verse means ‘concealed, what is hidden’ – that is, the beginning or the end not defined. Abraham had learned that God has more in store for him than what he had experienced so far in his life, though he did not know what that might be, and he needed to wait on God’s time to tell him. We, too, have God’s word to remind us that ‘now [we] know in part, but then [we] shall know just as [we] also [are] known’.15
This name becomes the introduction to that marvellous and momentous chapter, 22, in which we read for the first time in scripture of the word ‘love’, and that in connection with the father and the son, v. 2. What Abraham learned there was that ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb’, v. 8. This is another descriptive name of God.16 He is the One who will provide in one of the greatest events in Abraham’s life! Later, Abraham called the place ‘the Lord will provide’, v. 14.17 Abraham knew that the One who is Elohim is also Jehovah! We see Abraham’s spiritual growth, as he learned these names of God and their meanings. All of this matters to God. Are we learning and growing too? For example, do we only pray ‘in Jesus’ name’, or have we learned that ‘God has made this Jesus … both Lord and Christ’?18
Fittingly, this ends the revelation of the names of God in the life of Abraham. One part of the truth of God in the Old Testament is that of the love of a father for his son, and here it is pictured as a reference to God the Father and His Son. The Father was the One who sent His Son as Saviour. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was and is ‘the Lamb’ who brought infinite delight to His Father by willingly laying down His life.19
In addition to these names, God also revealed to Abraham truth beyond that which pertained to his personal life on earth, such as we read in Hebrews chapter 11 verses 13-16. This, too, should be our attitude, for our place and privilege now is to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.20 As to Abraham, God was pleased to call him ‘the friend of God’. How He delights to make Himself known to His people! How we ought to be seen by others as those who love Him!
These are but a few of the many names or titles of God in the Old Testament, revealing His person and His character. How fitting that we fear and honour His name, give Him the glory as we worship Him, and trust in Him,21 for God’s name is at the heart of every blessing.22
Acts 7. 2; Josh. 24. 2.
Gen. 17. 5; Neh. 9. 7.
The word ‘appeared’ means ‘visibly seen’ in all of the referenced occasions of His appearing.
Lord = Jehovah – He who is to come, who always is, and who always was – emphasizing His continuous existence.
John 3. 33.
Matt. 13. 12 ESV.
Most High = Heleyon – God’s supremacy over all.
John 8. 56; Ps. 83. 18; Rev. 10. 1-2.
Lord = Adonahy – Master, Lord. GOD = Jehovah – as note 4 above.
Rom. 4. 16-24.
Almighty = Shadday – All-sufficient; God = El – as note 6 above.
2 Cor. 4. 7.
Lord = Adonahy – as note 9 above.
2 Peter 3. 9.
1 Cor. 13. 12; Eph. 2. 7.
God = Elohim – Creator, the plural of majesty – trinity acting in unity. ‘Will provide’ = jireh – He will see, provide.
Lord = Jehovah – as note 4 above. ‘Will provide’ = jireh – as note 16 above.
Acts 2. 36.
1 John 4. 14; John 10. 17.
Phil. 3. 20; Eph. 2. 6.
Deut. 28. 58; Pss. 29. 2; 9. 10.
Num. 6. 27; Ezek. 39. 7.