By David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman

When Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy come together to engage in interfaith dialogue, they often seek to find common ground through the figure of Abraham, since his faith is revered by all three religions. And indeed, the Bible encourages those who “seek the Lord” and “follow after righteousness” to “look to the rock from which you were hewn… Look to Abraham your father… For I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him.” (Isaiah 51:1-2) 

In looking to Abraham, there are enduring lessons and truths we can take from his faith walk which have a direct bearing on the current conflict between Israel and those radical Islamists who seek her destruction. 

First, the prophet Isaiah says the Lord called Abraham alone, meaning he was the first person called by God to carry out His redemptive plan. After the Flood of Noah, the world was still lost and did not even know how to find God. So, the Lord decided to come save mankind. And he deposited within Abraham great promises: to bless him, multiply him, make him a great nation and even a father of nations, to give him a land, and most importantly that through him God would “bless all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3) 

This last promise is the most important one, because the Apostle Paul calls it the first preaching of the Gospel (Galatians 3:8). That is, through Abraham and his seed, the Lord would offer a blood covering for sin (Genesis 28:14; Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:1-8). Note that this redemption would come via Abraham’s natural descendants through Isaac and Jacob – the children of promise – and not through Ishmael or Esau. So whatever revelation Mohammed had to offer, it had nothing to do with God’s calling over Abraham to save the world. And Jesus himself said “salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22) 

We see this same truth affirmed early on when the mysterious figure Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God, came and “blessed him who had the promises.” (Hebrews 7:6) Abraham alone carried within the promise of world redemption. There is no question then that we should all “bless,” or speak well of, both Abraham and his descendants the Jewish people. Melchizedek did! Yet much of the world curses Israel, to their own harm. 

Interestingly, the writer of Hebrews makes a point to say that Melchizedek came out to bless Abraham as he was “returning from the slaughter of the kings” (Hebrews 7:1). He could have come to Abraham at any time, so why right as Abraham was coming back from battle? 

The lesson here is that, unlike Mohammed, Abraham never lifted up his sword to spread his faith in God. But he did take up the sword to take back that which had been stolen and abducted – his nephew Lot and the people and goods of Sodom (Genesis 14:14-24). This was a just act of war, and Melchizedek, a forerunner of Yeshua the Messiah (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:14-22), came out to bless him at that very moment. This does not sound like a pacifist, and indeed neither is the Lord. 

In the very next chapter, the Lord told Abraham: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) God was really the One who protected Abraham and gave him the victory in the battle. And the Lord was promising to always be a shield over Abraham. The Lord knew He would always have to guard over the Jewish people to protect His redemptive mission. This has been necessary, as Israel has faced so many enemies down through the centuries. 

Today, radical Islamists claim to have a different way of salvation. They have raised the sword to spread their extremist faith. Even worse, they have raised the sword against a particular people they should be blessing. And they have raised the sword against a people God has vowed to protect. In all these things, they do not “look to Abraham” as a father of godly faith, and they certainly do not “follow after righteousness.” 

Israel, on the other hand, has taken up the sword to justly defend the nation and return those violently abducted into Gaza. May they succeed in bringing them home soon! 

Main photo: Painting by Jan van’t Hoff “Melchizedek blesses Abram” –