Here’s the truth: I can’t stand this song. When I was young, I thought it was a subversive plot to force exercise upon us unwitting children. Now that I’m older, I think it’s boring and lacking in significant theology. Plus, I have an aversion to looking foolish, getting dizzy, and falling down. Because a friend requested it, however, I now include it in this series. You’re welcome, JV.
There’s just one refrain for this song, sung to various additional body motions. No reason to repeat ourselves here. We’ll walk through it only once.
Father Abraham had many sons Many sons had Father Abraham
At first, this seems contradictory. From what I recall in Genesis, Abraham had only two sons: Ishmael and Isaac (respectively, the son of flesh and the son of promise, according to Galatians 4:22-23). That’s not “many.” Turns out, there were more biological children. In Genesis 25, we learn that Abraham took another wife/concubine, Keturah, who subsequently had six sons. Neither the chronology nor the terminology are clear in this case, but we know that Abraham actually had eight sons and who-knows-how-many daughters, since they weren’t usually listed. All these sons ended up fathering whole people groups, just as Isaac became the progenitor of the Hebrew people.
So there’s a not-very-exciting but true statement in this song: Abraham actually did have many (on the lower end of many, by Biblical standards, but still…) sons. Maybe this fact will help you win a Bible trivia competition. For the song, we sing it in a traditional grammatical structure, then in Yoda-speak.
But here comes the weird, wild, and interesting part!
I am one of them, and so are you…
One of my relatives recently did the DNA test to discover his/her global ancestry. Turns out, we’re part Jewish! Who knew?!? I have not, however, suddenly developed a taste for gefilte fish.
My DNA is not why I am one of the “sons of Abraham,” though.
[Abraham] is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them… -Romans 4:11b
That would be everyone who isn’t Jewish and who believes what God promised Abraham.
And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. -Romans 4:12
And that would be Jewish people who believe as Abraham believed.
What did Abraham believe? First, he trusted God when God said he would have descendants even though it looked virtually impossible. But even more importantly, Abraham believed that his descendants would bless the whole world (Genesis 12 and 15). We now know that one of those descendants—a great-great-great-etc.-grandson—was Jesus, which makes faith way easier for us than it was for Abraham. He trusted a promise. We trust a Person.
Short version of Paul’s argument here: Circumcision was the main sign of following the Law. Jewish people thought the Law was the way to be holy or righteous (considered right by God), so getting circumcised (just the boys) put you on the path to holiness. It was about what people did. Paul, however, said they missed the point. Abraham already believed God before he was circumcised. In fact, God said Abraham was righteous way before He told Abraham to get circumcised. Therefore, circumcision couldn’t be the path to righteousness. It had to be straight-up faith!
But still, how are we Abraham’s children? In the Old Testament, there were these sort-of apprenticeship programs, and the apprentices were called “sons of [whatever trade they were learning].” For example, Amos said, “I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14), meaning he wasn’t even studying to be a prophet. This is the way in which we are sons/children of Abraham. We follow in his faith footsteps as an apprentice would follow in the footsteps of his master.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the Law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. -Romans 4:16
And later in Romans…
It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. -Romans 9:8
So let’s just praise the Lord!
What is your response to this idea that we belong to the lineage of Abraham because we believe God has created a way for us to become righteous? Don’t you want to “just praise the Lord”? Me, too.
The words “it was credited to him” were written not for [Abraham] alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. -Romans 4:23-24
I said in my introduction that there’s not much theology in this song. I was wrong! There is theology, you just have to dig into Romans to find it. And I’ve only scratched the surface. Not in the middle of a Bible study or quiet time plan right now? Spend the next week in Romans 4. I’m serious—the whole week. Oh, it’s just so deep and rich!
I hope the next time you’re forced to sing this song it will be a little easier for you as you remember the theology behind the simple words. Take a few minutes to explain it to your children, while you’re at it! Maybe they’ll have a better attitude than I did.
Do you have memories of singing this song as a child…or an adult? Do you skip it on the children’s Bible songs playlist? (I always did.) You’re welcome to share your memories or observations in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
Attribution: (public domain)
Previously in this series:
Still to come:
- My God is So Big
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
- He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands