Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 45

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Abraham and Isaac

The Writer is still not done with Abraham:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, Â?In Isaac your descendants shall be called.Â? He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11:17-19, NASB 95)

Abraham is the perfect Father of Faith.

  • He heard and obeyed when the Lord asked him to leave his country and walk the length and breadth of a foreign land.
  • He heard and believed the covenant promises and righteousness was added to his life's ledger.
  • He found favor with Goin spitete of debilitating weakness. He had a fear that his wife's beauty would lead to his death at the hand of a city-king. Twice that we know of, he allowed his wife to be taken into another man's household. His fears show that his faith was not always perfect.
  • He reasoned with the Lord over the destruction of Sodom and the status of Ishmael. His faith made God personal and close.

The incident with his son Isaac shows Abraham's faith perfected. It has driven away fear and brought forth a stalwart confidence in the promises of God's word.

  • Isaac is the link to all the promises God had made and on which Abraham had based his life.
  • For Isaac to die childless nullifies everything that Abraham had lived for.
  • Abraham was going to unhesitatingly slay his son, because this God whom he had followed commanded it.

The Writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed that the Lord would raise his son from the dead. The Genesis account does not say this--the Writer is drawing a conclusion. But what other belief would sustain and drive Abraham to carry out such an act.

Paul and James both refer to Abraham. Paul uses an earlier account wherein Abraham believes God and finds salvation. Paul uses this early story to promote justification by faith. James uses the offering of Isaac wherein Abraham shows the man that hhashs become. He uses this later story to say that Abraham's faith was perfected. Between both tales is the history of God's faithful actions in Abraham's life--teaching him about who God was and teaching him to trust.

I have written at length on this. See Thdynamicscs of Abraham's Faith

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 44

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.


Up to this point, the Writer of Hebrews has given short pithy synopses of early men of faith. With Abraham, we get a few substantive paragraphs.

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.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:8-16, NASB 95)

The central theme is the City of God.

As I read the account of Abraham, I note that the land of Canaan, in his day, contained several city-states. This is why you have references to kings, which today would be no more than mayors of towns. There was no central government of the country and seemingly few tribal territories.

This is significant, because when we read of Abraham's entourage, we find that he had an army of "trained men, 318 born in his house" (Genesis 14:14) Think of this. 318 men born in the household of Abraham. They had mothers and they probably had wives and eventually would have children.

In the sparsely populated Canaan of his day, Abraham could have, at any time, told his people, "Today we create the city of Avram. Lay the foundations and build your houses. We dwell and travel in tents no more."

But God had told him to walk the length and breadth of the land--and in so doing he gained lasting and ultimate possession of it for his descendents.

The Writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to have the same attitude about our lives. I live in the United States and I am a legal citizen here. From an eternal perspective, I should consider myself to be an alien in the United States and a eternal citizen of the City of God. My day to day life should be colored by my connection to my real home. I am a stranger to this world--someone whom the world should look at and say, "He is a strange one." There should be a substantial part of me that feels like I don't fit or belong here--that I really belong somewhere else.

As I have watched the United States leave its nominal Christian foundations, I begin to wonder when we Christians, who live here, give up on the idea that we live in a Christian nation--and begin to live as Christians in this nation. I think that we might do better doing so.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.