I must have sung “Father Abraham” thousands of times. With extravagent arm-flailings as a six year old. With shivering high steps when warmth was the motivator. With matter-of-factness as our annual Family Camp ritual. And yes, even with inner sighs and begrudgings at 6 am for family worship.
And in perhaps five of those thousands of chantings I’ve wondered briefly, “What does this mean? I’m not Abraham’s son--at least as far as I know!” just before effectively eliminating any intelligent wonderings with “nod your head, turn around” performed in fast and dizzying succession. So I never reached a conclusion, for I never devoted much thought to the aerobics-highlighting children’s song. Never, that is, until one day last fall when I was in the car listening to a radio preacher.
Somehow his topic led him to mention the song “Father Abraham,” and the handful of words he used to expound on the song set my mind spinning, and not because I was going in circles. The preacher moved on to the next bullet point in his sermon, but my mind was securely fastened on “Father Abraham.”
Abraham, of course, is the father of the Jews, the “father of many nations. (Gen. 17:5)” If you, like me, have not a drop of Jewish blood in your veins, then you read the references to “Father Abraham” and sing the songs with gratitude and appreciation for Abraham’s great faith and godliness, but not with the same pride that a Jewish descendant would. So you see, we Gentiles really miss out on the unique emotions that come from reading the record of your great-great x 500 grandfather’s conversations with God. We Gentiles miss out on the preciousness of the verses that say “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac (Gen. 28:13)” because Abraham is simply not our father! We Gentiles miss out on this storm of emotions and tower of heritage that Jews glean from the Old Testament, because, quite frankly, our father’s name was not Abraham. We are seemingly disqualified from ever singing “Father Abraham” again, because although we have right arms and left arms, the genetic code behind those arms is not at all related to Abraham. We (most of us) are Gentiles, after all—not Jews, and thus our sad lot in life is to read the accounts of him in Scripture not as a beloved son but as a bystander, an onlooker, an outsider.
So joy! joy! joy! when I realized otherwise. Excitement and ecstasy bubbling over from every part of my being! Bliss of the most charismatic kind and intense elation so great that, well, it kind of makes me want to stand up, pump each limb, and turn around in circles until I’m dizzy!
For the mystery beyond mysteries is that even DNA is superseded by grace. Yes, the Jews still are God’s own special people with their own promises from God and a love from Him that is beautiful beyond human understanding (Deut. 7:6-8). But in Luke 3:8 Jesus declares that one who is not possibly a descendant of Abraham can be more of Abraham’s son than his great-grandchild: “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” John MacArthur writes, “To trust one’s physical ancestry is to shift the focus of faith away from God Himself—and that is spiritually fatal….God can sovereignly turn a heart of stone into a believing heart. He can raise up children to Abraham from inanimate objects if he chooses—or even from stony-hearted Gentiles."
And the cherry on top of all this joy is Romans 4:16-18:
“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations" ) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, So shall your descendants be.’” (emphasis added)
We Gentiles who are saved through Jesus Christ then have reason to sing “Father Abraham” with perhaps even more gusto and fervor than the Jews, for we are partakers of a great mystery. Galatians 3:7 declares, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” We are not descendants of Abraham, and yet we may shout from the rooftops that he is our father as surely as we gloatingly brag that we are related to the likes of John Adams, John Wayne, or Jesse James. And because of that, there will be no more begrudging performances of “Father Abraham” from me. So let’s just praise the Lord! Right arm, left arm; Father Abraham had many sons…
 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: Commentary on Luke 3:8. Word Publishing,
, 1997. Nashville TN
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: tyler.wainright