This is a reprint of a popular article published in 2011.
In very ancient times, God chose Abraham out of all the men on earth, to become the father of His chosen people, the nation of Israel. God spoke to Abraham and commanded him to leave his homeland and move his household to a place God would show him. In Genesis 12, God makes this incredible promise to Abraham:
“I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and IN THEE shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed.”
To think that the God of heaven and earth, the eternal God, would speak such a promise to an individual man is fascinating. God tells him that He Himself will be a friend to all of Abraham’s friends, and that He Himself will be the enemy of Abraham’s enemies. What better promise might any man possibly receive than this? Abraham was most blessed among men and because of this, the most important man in the ancient world.
The question we must ask, though, is not WHAT was promised to Abraham, but WHY was it promised to him? Why Abraham? When God looked down upon the earth at all the men of the world, why did He choose Abraham?
Most Christians who are familiar with the Bible, will respond, “Because Abraham had faith.” That is certainly true, but it’s not the answer to the question. We all know that “faith without works is dead”, as St. James has made painfully clear to us in the New Testament. There is no such thing as a hidden faith “in one’s heart” that is not manifested by living actions. Our Lord taught us that a tree is known by its fruit and that if there is no fruit, or if the fruit is bad, then the tree itself is bad–no matter what it might think or say about itself. If it was true that God chose Abraham because of his faith, then we would still be pressed to ask what the actions were that proved this faith?
God Himself answers this question for us and tells us why He chose Abraham:
“He shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…For I know that he will command his children, and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, and do judgment and justice.” (Genesis 18:18-19)
Yes, Abraham had faith, but it wasn’t kept hidden from his wife, children, neighbors and co-workers. He didn’t have private religious beliefs. He didn’t worship God “in his own way”. Abraham’s faith was alive and visible. It was seen not so much in his attendance at occasional religious ceremonies as in his faithful administration of everyday affairs.
When God looked down from heaven, He saw a man who would be faithful as a husband and father–commanding his children and his household. He saw a man who would take personal responsibility for those placed under his influence and make sure they did what God willed. He saw a man who would enforce the way of the Lord in his household and lead that household in doing justice. He did not see a man making excuses for disorder and disobedience. He did not see a man seeking his own personal pleasure at other people’s expense. He did not see the man so typical in modern American society.
Now, Abraham wasn’t a monk or hermit, leading a single life free of worldly distractions. We cannot excuse ourselves because of business or responsibilities around the house. Abraham was a father, a husband and a master who had to manage all the affairs of life as any other man must do today, when we consider the similarities between managing household servants and managing a business. What separated Abraham from all other men was that he managed all of those responsibilities in a unique way. His faith in God translated into rules, standards, methods and lessons that all the members of his household were required to obey. He handled all the pressures of a father and husband, but not as a fool obsessed with worldly gain or with making sure his children thought he was “cool”. Rather, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own child if God asked him to! Abraham sought–above all else–to be faithful to God, and saw to it that his power on earth affected those under him to do the same. His faith and his life were inseparable and, for this, he was chosen by God to be the man by whom all nations came to be blessed.
As husbands and fathers, we have been given great power on earth. God has made us His governors on earth and has marked out for each of us a portion of the earth to govern–some entire countries, some only a small graduate school apartment, but a portion nonetheless! God has given us the freedom to gain wealth and many unique gifts to do so successfully (if we use them well). He has commanded our wives to obey us. He has commanded our children to honor us. We’ve been given great privileges.
However, many men want the privileges without bearing the corresponding responsibilities. God has given us these powers that we might use them to do His will on earth, as Abraham was eager to do. He has commanded us to love our wives and care for them as for our own bodies that through our care for them they may understand well the love of Christ for His Church. He has commanded us to love our children, to generously provide for their needs, to fill them with wisdom, to exercise them in justice and to chasten them with carefulness that they may understand well the love of God for His children. Through the faithful exercise of our responsibilities on earth, we don’t merely pay the bills. We evangelize all of the people under and around us and allow them to grow and live in an environment where they can breathe and bathe in heavenly truths. It is a mysterious and beautiful calling God has given to us and we must fulfill it. Otherwise, the powers and privileges God has given us will be squandered. We shouldn’t want to serve God “in our own way”. We should want to serve God as Abraham did–the right way–doing the deeds of Abraham.
MEDITATING AS A HUSBAND/FATHER
Wise men throughout history have gained Wisdom not by hearing the words of the wise as we hear the evening news, but by meditating on the details of such words and searching out all of the ways in which wisdom might be applied to their lives. There is no better source for our manly meditation than the Sacred Scriptures. This, men, is what they were meant for.
While every line of Scripture can enrich us, there are many great men in Scripture whose lives God has recorded to help us–but we must study them. We can look, of course, to Abraham as I have above. We can look to Joshua who, as his countrymen wavered in their commitment to God, said to them:
“If it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve, whether the gods which your fathers served in Mesopotamia, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24)
We can study Job, who, concerned about the spiritual welfare of his children, offered sacrifices and prayers for them. Read what kind of man Job was as he describes his relationship to the poor and imitate him. We can study pious Tobit, who married and fathered a son, “and from his infancy taught him to fear God, and abstain from all sin.”. This is written for our encouragement.
We can study David, who raised wise Solomon. Many know that God offered Solomon anything he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom to rule well. However, few are aware that it was his father David who prepared him to answer that question because they don’t read the details of the story. Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs:
“For I was my father’s son…and he taught me, and said: “Get Wisdom…Take hold on her, and she shall exalt thee: thou shalt be glorified by her, when thou shalt embrace her. She shall give to thy head increase of graces, and protect thee with a noble crown. Hear, O my son, and receive my words, that years of life may be multiplied to thee.” (Proverbs 4)
We must also meditate on David’s last words to the same son Solomon and ask whether we might speak to our sons as David could:
“Take thou courage, and shew thyself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways.” (3 Kings 2)
Furthermore we can study the life of St. Joseph, who sacrificed all for his holy Wife and Child, and is today our living patron saint. We can study St. Peter, who was a husband himself when Our Lord called him to leave everything and, eventually, give his life for the sake of the Gospel. We can spend our entire lives meditating on entire books of divine wisdom, intended to help us live well! The Scriptures are sitting idle and unopened on our bookshelves while we stumble about through life without answers.
Sacred Scripture is filled with instruction and encouragement for us men, but we must make the effort to study it. Nothing on television will make us better husbands. Nothing in a sports arena will make us better fathers. Our children don’t need us to teach them video game tricks or to introduce them to the latest Nike basketball shoe. Our wives don’t need to become expert chefs and bakers as though we are some gluttonous Persian kings. One thing is necessary for us, for our wives and for our children. Our families need us to model for them the goodness, wisdom and power of God in managing our households well and making our homes as a heavenly oasis on earth. The means are all before us. We have the Scriptures. We have the Sacraments. We have everything we need to do all that we should. We simply must stand before God and say, “Thy will be done.”
May God be able to say of each one of us what he was able to say of Abraham:
“I know that he will command his children, and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, and do judgment and justice.”
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy