For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 15, 2007
Wow, where do I start on this one? I guess we will just see where it goes. This is of course the great chapter of faith. Faith is taking God at His word and acting on it, or at least biblical faith is.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (11:1-6)
There is so much right here. I guess the first thing that really jumps out at me is the fact that it takes faith to recognize God for who He is. That is the saddest thing about the fact that evolution is accepted as fact by the world. It has created millions of smug people who figure they don't need God. I have met lots of them, and I know you have too. But the problem is that in order to be saved, you have to believe that God exists, and that He can be found if you seek Him with all your heart.
"By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." (11:7-10)
Notice in all these people that the sign of faith is action. Faith is not some esoteric thing. It is like Noah, believing that God was going to destroy the world and building a huge boat to carry his family and all the animals through the flood. Or like Abraham who obeyed when God told him to go to a new land.
I also want you to notice that Abraham was looking for a spiritual blessing, not just an earthly home. A lot of dispensationalists (and I am one, generally) de-emphasize the spiritual aspects of Abraham's faith and emphasize the land and the national aspects. This is disrespectful to Abraham.
"By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." (11:11-12)
This is an encouragement to me, because a lot of times my faith isn't very strong. Certainly Sara's faith was not strong. She laughed when she heard the Lord tell Abraham that she was going to have a son. But yet the Lord describes her here as being a woman of great faith. God overlooks our temporary lapses of faith and sees our hearts that truly do believe God, and that is a great encouragement and confidence builder.
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones." (11:17-22)
This passage gives us insight into Abraham's faith that we would not have otherwise. He was going to go through with sacrificing his son, even though he believed God's promise that Isaac was the child of promise.
The Bible also mentions the other patriarchs briefly. I guess I had never thought of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau being an act of faith. It seems to us that Isaac was intent on going against God's will and giving the primary blessing to Esau. But then Jacob did something similar, giving the primary blessing to Ephraim, Joseph's younger son. Joseph, of course, had lived his whole adult life in Egypt. He did not want to remain buried there, so he made his descendants promise to bring his casket (at least that would be our word for it) out of Egypt and bury it in Canaan.
We will get as far as we can tomorrow.