How he loved family! Even before having children, Abraham and his wife had a sizable household with a huge staff of helpers (Genesis 13:2, 6-7).
Abraham had a remarkable relationship with his servants. Where Genesis 12:5 says he had “gotten” these individuals, Lange’s Commentary says that refers not just to him having them work for him, but also teaching them to be “obedient to the law of the true God.” Other scriptures confirm this statement. Abram thought like a father even toward his servants! He instructed them in God’s truth and ensured that they walked in God’s way. He treated them as family. He was a grand patriarch.
Genesis 14 relates an incident where Abraham rescued his nephew’s family after an Assyrian attack. Verse 14 says “he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen.” This was quite a large army at the time. But these weren’t just any people. These were individuals born in Abraham’s house—children of his servants—who had grown to military-service age. He’d had these servants for many years—to the point where multiple generations lived together under his fatherly influence. These 318 men were Abram’s retinue, his personal staff, such as would accompany a ruler, diplomat or dignitary. The fact that these 318 men had been born in Abram’s house indicates that his household must have had several hundred people—maybe a thousand or more! And this was before Abram had a single child of his own!
In Genesis 18, God personally appeared to Abraham. These verses show a beautifully personal relationship between God and Abraham (e.g. verses 17-18). God loved His friend and really wanted to share His plans with him. In verse 19, God makes this statement about Abraham: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
This verse shows that Abraham’s calling was linked to the fact that God wanted a man who would teach and train his children and his household to keep God’s way. God saw how Abraham worked with his servants. This was one of the foremost qualities that excited God about this man! God said it was because Abraham was so diligent to teach his household that he could be chosen to become the father of many nations!
Abraham seized his opportunity and responsibility to be a teacher for God. He didn’t just enjoy being God’s friend; he wanted to bring others into that wonderful relationship.
When God said this, Abraham had only one son, Ishmael. But God said, I called him because I want a man who will command his children and his whole household! And I know Abraham is up to the job! He will teach them the truth about my way of life! God knew Abraham’s children would grow up right—even those who hadn’t been born yet—simply by observing how this man dealt with his family.
What powerful testimony of the importance of how we conduct our marriages and raise our children! God wants them to keep His way, to do judgment and justice. And if we command them His way, they will.
The fact is, there is probably no better training for the job God is calling His people to fulfill! Like Abraham, God wants a large family, and a lot of children!
If we make educating our children a priority as Abraham did, we show God that we want to be part of that future! Abraham’s story shows that God truly gets excited when He sees us making it a priority to train our children—when He sees a father take the lead in conducting regular family Bible studies—when He sees a mother talking to her children about God throughout the day—when He sees parents getting children into the habit of praying when problems arise. This is exactly what He is looking for to help Him build His Family!