“You, O Israel, are my servant, you, O Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham my friend.”—ISAIAH 41:8.
1, 2. (a) How do we know that humans can become God’s friends? (b) What will we consider in this article?
FROM the moment we are born to the moment we die, we need love. Humans need close and loving friendships, not just romantic love. But most of all, we need love from Jehovah. Many people do not believe that humans can have a close and loving friendship with God because he is invisible and almighty. But we know the truth!
2 We know from the Bible that humans have become God’s friends. We should learn from their examples. Why? Because friendship with God is the most important goal we can have in life. So let us consider the example of Abraham. (Read James 2:23.) How did he become God’s friend? Abraham’s close friendship with God was based on faith, and he is known as “the father of all those having faith.” (Romans 4:11) As you consider his example, ask yourself, ‘How can I imitate Abraham’s faith and strengthen my friendship with Jehovah?’
HOW DID ABRAHAM BECOME JEHOVAH’S FRIEND?
3, 4. (a) Describe what was likely Abraham’s greatest test of faith. (b) Why was Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac?
3 Imagine Abraham at about 125 years of age walking slowly up a mountain. (See endnote.) Behind him was his son Isaac, who was about 25 years old. Isaac carried firewood, and Abraham carried a knife and the things needed to start a fire. That journey was probably the hardest trip of Abraham’s life. But it was not because of his old age. He still had a lot of energy. Instead, that journey was difficult because Jehovah had asked him to sacrifice his son!—Genesis 22:1-8.
Abraham did not blindly obey God, that is, obey him without thinking
4 That was probably the greatest test of Abraham’s faith. Some people say that God was cruel for asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. And others say that Abraham was willing to do this because he did not love his son. People say such things because they do not have faith and do not know what true faith is or how it works. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16) But Abraham did not blindly obey God, that is, obey him without thinking. He obeyed because he had true faith. He knew that Jehovah would never ask him to do anything that would cause permanent harm. Abraham knew that if he obeyed, Jehovah would bless him and his dear son. What did Abraham need in order to have such strong faith? He needed knowledge and experience.
5. How may Abraham have learned about Jehovah, and how did that knowledge make him feel?
5 Knowledge. Abraham grew up in a city called Ur. People there worshipped false gods, and his father did too. (Joshua 24:2) So how did Abraham learn about Jehovah? The Bible shows that Noah’s son Shem was Abraham’s relative. And he lived until Abraham was about 150 years old. Shem was a man of great faith, and he probably talked to his relatives about Jehovah. We do not know for sure, but it is possible that this is how Abraham learned about Jehovah. What Abraham learned made him love Jehovah, and that knowledge helped him to build faith.
6, 7. How did Abraham’s experiences strengthen his faith?
6 Experience. How did Abraham gain experience that strengthened his faith in Jehovah? Some say that thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to actions. Abraham’s heart was moved by what he learned about God, and that gave him deep respect for “Jehovah the Most High God, Maker of heaven and earth.” (Genesis 14:22) The Bible calls such deep respect “godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7) In order to have a close friendship with God, we need to have godly fear. (Psalm 25:14) It was that quality that motivated Abraham to obey Jehovah.
7 God told Abraham and Sarah to leave their home in Ur and move to a foreign country. They were no longer young, and they would have to live in tents for the rest of their lives. Even though Abraham knew that there would be many dangers, he was determined to obey Jehovah. Because of his obedience, God blessed and protected him. For example, when Abraham’s beautiful wife, Sarah, was taken away from him and he was in danger of being killed, Jehovah miraculously protected both Abraham and Sarah more than once. (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:2-7, 10-12, 17, 18) Those experiences made Abraham’s faith stronger.
8. How can we gain knowledge and experience that will strengthen our friendship with Jehovah?
8 Can we be close friends with Jehovah? Yes, we definitely can! Like Abraham, we need to learn about Jehovah. And we too can gain the knowledge and experience we need. Today, we have much more than Abraham had. (Daniel 12:4; Romans 11:33) The Bible is full of knowledge about the “Maker of heaven and earth.” What we learn makes us love Jehovah and helps us to have deep respect for him. This love and respect for God motivates us to obey him. When we do, we see how he protects and blesses us, and this gives us experience that makes our faith stronger. When we serve Jehovah fully, we will gain satisfaction, peace, and joy. (Psalm 34:8; Proverbs 10:22) The more knowledge and experience we gain, the stronger our friendship with him will become.
HOW ABRAHAM KEPT HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD
9, 10. (a) What is needed for a friendship to become stronger? (b) What shows that Abraham cherished and strengthened his friendship with Jehovah?
9 A close friendship can be like a valuable treasure. (Read Proverbs 17:17.) It is not like an expensive vase that is used only for decoration. It is more like a beautiful flower that needs water and care to bloom. Abraham cherished and maintained his friendship with Jehovah. How did he do that?
Friendship is like a beautiful flower that needs water and care to bloom
10 Abraham continued to strengthen his godly fear and obedience. For example, when he traveled to Canaan with his family and his servants, he continued to let Jehovah guide him in making decisions both big and small. A year before Isaac was born, when Abraham was 99 years old, Jehovah told him to circumcise all the males in his household. Did Abraham doubt Jehovah or try to find an excuse for not doing what he was asked? No, he trusted in Jehovah and obeyed “on that very day.”—Genesis 17:10-14, 23.
11. Why was Abraham concerned about Sodom and Gomorrah, and how did Jehovah help him?
11 Because Abraham always obeyed Jehovah even in little things, their friendship became stronger. He felt that he could talk to Jehovah about anything, even asking for help when he struggled with difficult questions. For example, when Jehovah said that he would destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham was concerned. Why? He was afraid that good people would die along with the bad. He was probably worried about his nephew Lot and his family, who lived in Sodom. Abraham trusted in Jehovah, “the Judge of all the earth,” so he humbly talked to Jehovah about his concerns. Jehovah was patient with his friend and showed him that He is merciful. Jehovah explained that even when he brings judgment, he searches for good people and saves them.—Genesis 18:22-33.
12, 13. (a) How did Abraham’s knowledge and experience help him later? (b) What shows that Abraham had confidence in Jehovah?
12 It is clear that all the knowledge and experience Abraham had gained helped him to keep his friendship with Jehovah strong. So later, when Jehovah asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, he knew that Jehovah had always been patient, merciful, trustworthy, and protective. Abraham was absolutely sure that Jehovah had not suddenly become cruel or harsh! Why do we say that?
13 Before leaving his servants, Abraham said: “You stay here with the donkey, but the boy and I will go over there and worship and return to you.” (Genesis 22:5) What did Abraham mean? Was he lying about coming back with Isaac, knowing that he would sacrifice him? No. The Bible says that Abraham knew that Jehovah was able to resurrect Isaac from the dead. (Read Hebrews 11:19.) Abraham knew that Jehovah had given him the power to have a son even though he and Sarah were very old. (Hebrews 11:11, 12, 18) So he realized that nothing was impossible for Jehovah. Abraham did not know what would happen that day. But he had faith that if needed, Jehovah would resurrect his son so that all of God’s promises would come true. That is why Abraham is called “the father of all those having faith.”
Abraham had faith that if needed, Jehovah would resurrect his son so that all of God’s promises would come true
14. What challenges do you face in serving Jehovah, and how may Abraham’s example help you?
14 Today, however, Jehovah does not ask us to sacrifice our children, but he does ask us to obey his commands. Sometimes we may not understand the reason for these commands or we may find them hard to obey. Do you ever feel like that? For some, the preaching work is difficult. Maybe they are shy and find it hard to talk to people they do not know. Others are afraid to be different at work or at school. (Exodus 23:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:2) When you are asked to do something difficult, think of Abraham’s outstanding example of faith and courage. When we meditate on examples of faithful men and women, it can motivate us to imitate them and to draw closer to our Friend, Jehovah.—Hebrews 12:1, 2.
A FRIENDSHIP THAT BRINGS BLESSINGS
15. Why may we be sure that Abraham never regretted his loyal obedience to Jehovah?
15 Did Abraham ever regret obeying Jehovah’s commands? The Bible says that Abraham “died at a good old age, old and satisfied.” (Genesis 25:8) When he was 175 years old, Abraham could look back on his long life and feel satisfied. Why? Because his friendship with Jehovah was always the most important thing to him. However, when we read that Abraham was “old and satisfied,” this does not mean that he had no desire to live in the future.
16. What joys will Abraham experience in Paradise?
16 The Bible says that Abraham “was awaiting the city having real foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) Abraham believed that one day he would see that city, the Kingdom of God, ruling over the earth. And he will! Imagine how happy Abraham will be to live on a paradise earth and to continue strengthening his friendship with God. He will be happy to know that his example of faith has helped God’s servants for thousands of years! In Paradise he will find out that the sacrifice on Mount Moriah illustrated something much greater. (Hebrews 11:19) And he will learn how the pain he felt when he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac has helped millions of faithful people to understand Jehovah’s pain when he gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as a ransom for mankind. (John 3:16) Abraham’s example has helped us all to have even more appreciation for the ransom, the greatest act of love ever shown!
17. What is your determination, and what will we consider in the following article?
17 May each of us be determined to imitate the faith of Abraham. Like him, we need knowledge and experience. As we continue learning about Jehovah and obeying him, we will see how he blesses and protects us. (Read Hebrews 6:10-12.) May Jehovah be our Friend forever! In the following article, we will consider three more examples of faithful ones who became close friends of God.
^  (paragraph 3) Abraham and Sarah were originally called Abram and Sarai. But in this article, we will use the names that Jehovah later gave them.