The “Role Call of Faith” continues in Hebrews 11. After the “antediluvian” examples, we reach Abraham. He is such an important example, there are four instances listed where he shows great faith. We’re going to look at three of them:
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.Hebrews 11:8-12 NASB
The first is the call. Abraham responds when Yahweh calls him to leave Haran and head to Canaan (Gen. 12:1-4). He responds by obeying, and this meant leaving the comfortable and known and going to the uncomfortable and unknown. There was a promise involved, so, obedience was to be rewarded. But there had to be belief involved, trust in the One making the promises. You and I are called. And there are promises involved. Will we obey, leave the known for the unknown, the comfortable for the uncomfortable? Will we trust the One making the promises?
And then we have the demonstration of faith in Abraham living as a sojourner in the land promised to him. Here the other patriarchs are mentioned, along with a reason for living this way. They were “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder are God.” Really? Is that why they lived in tents in Canaan? Reading the Genesis account of these men may not leave you with that impression, but what does become clear is that they lived in tents in a land they believed was theirs.
Living in a land believed to be theirs, meant living among cities of stone, and those who lived in them. It meant pasturing flocks around tilled fields of others in a land you knew was yours. It was an act of faith that waited for the timing of the One making the promise rather than taking matters into your own hands (except possibly for Simeon and Levi at Shechem).
How willing are we to faithfully persevere in obedience, even not seeing the promise? How long will we wait for the promise, while being obedient? Abraham sometimes waited more than a decade before another recorded conversation with the One making these promises. How long will we live in tents, temporary houses, waiting on the promise of real permanent mansions? The writer of Hebrews is pushing his audience to persevere to the very end.
And Abraham is used again, along with Sarah, in faithfully conceiving Isaac. Think about that, though. How much faith did that take? We tend to skip by the uncomfortable consideration of intimacy between spouses here. But, really, is it surprising they conceived? Abraham had been promised, and specifically promised that one from Sarah would be his heir, not Ishmael. He laughed, as did Sarah, but the “mechanics” of the process hadn’t changed. It’s just that this time it worked. And yet, the writer of Hebrews calls it faith.
And, I suppose, it was faith. After Sarah dies, Abraham has other kids, so it wasn’t Abraham who had the difficulty, it was Sarah who was barren. That’s not a criticism, it’s an important detail. Abraham doesn’t “jettison” his wife at any point along this process. She’s not the “problem”, from his point of view. He is dedicated and devoted to her even though she cannot, in herself, provide the promised child. In a way, her barrenness is what brings God to the forefront. Unless He steps in, nothing changes. But, even as long as he doesn’t, Abraham is faithful to this barren woman, and is for her whole life. That’s faith.
You see, we can become so pragmatic about how God’s promises are fulfilled. We can “see” His work, only under certain parameters, as if He can only work in certain ways. And yet, Abraham simply obeys God, remaining faithful to this woman who cannot provide him a son, an heir, the one thing he needs to see what he has been promised. And in remaining faithful to her, he remains faithful to the One promising.
Let’s pay close attention to the example of faith provided in Abraham. Let’s be uncomfortable, persevere without seeing our hope fulfilled immediately, and live faithful to the ones our Savior has provided to us. Being cooped up with people around the ones we love can strain that love. But it can also build it, renovate it, rejuvenate it, and make it new again. Your choice. Like Abraham, let’s choose faith.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation
One of the things about Abram that I always found interesting is that he started out an atheist. The family business was turning out idols for the various deities in Mesopotamia and he became so disenchanted with the pantheon of gods that he stopped believing in any. It was on this blank slate (so to speak) that the One True God spoke to him and wrote the salvation of mankind.
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I have heard that before, but where does that tradition come from?
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Ah, got it.
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