“Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, it declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you all the nations will be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8)
St Matthew’s gospel begins his version of Christ’s family tree by emphasising how he was the “son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Abraham, who was originally named Abram, was the great father of the Jewish people and an ancestor of Christ. Through faith, he is also the father of us all (Romans 4:16).
Abram lived in the city of Haran, in Mesopotamia, with his wife Sarai. There God commanded him to leave his country and his relatives, to start a new life in the land of Canaan. God also promised Abram that he would become the father of a great people and that through his family line, all of the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; cf 22:17-18).
After he moved to Canaan, God changed his name to Abraham, which means ‘father of many nations’. At the same time, his wife Sarai was renamed Sarah (‘princess’) – and the couple were miraculously blessed with a son in their old age, named Isaac. God then made a covenant (deal) with Abraham and said that through Isaac, he would have royal descendants (Genesis 17:1-6;15-16).
From the New Testament, we learn that this promise of worldwide blessings through Abraham’s family line was a cryptic reference to the coming of Christ (Galatians 3:8-9,16). Christ, as a royal descendant of Abraham, was the one who God appointed to bring these blessings to the whole world.
This stained glass scene of Abraham is found within Downside Abbey, in Somerset. It was created by Sir Ninian Comper in the period 1908-1926. It’s found in the Lady Chapel at the far end of the abbey church, along with other biblical scenes in stained glass. The Latin caption for the window is from Genesis 22:8 and reads: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” This has a prophetic reference to the death of Christ, as we shall see tomorrow.
See the full image: