Author: Ron Graham
The Faith of Abraham
—Faith among the ancients
This lesson continues in Hebrews chapter 11, which reminds us of the faith of Abraham and other courageous Old Testament believers.
In our previous lesson we studied what the Hebrew writer says about faith, and his first three Old Testament examples, Abel, Enoch, and Noah. The Hebrew writer now presents other inspiring examples, of Godly men and women in Old Testament times, Abraham in particular, who believed in Christ and thereby sought eternal life.
The Old Testament provides us with inspiring examples of faith even unto death. Time might not permit all their stories to be considered, but to be reminded again of some of these men and women of God, helps us to share in their faith.
1 Abraham’s Faith
Abraham showed great faith in God. The Hebrew writer reminds us of some examples of Abraham’s fait.h
- When God called, he obeyed, left his home and set out for an unknown destination (Hebrews 11:8, cf Hebrews 11:13, 1Peter 2:11).
- As a consequence, he lived as a nomad, in tents in a foriegn land, with his sons and family (Hebrews 11:9, cf 2Corinthians 5:1, 2Peter 1:13-14).
- He was willing to live like an alien, because he believed in a better home in a better world (Hebrews 11:10 cf 2Peter 3:13).
- He received and believed promises from God, and God rewarded him and Sarah with a son in their old age and many descendants (Hebrews 11:11-12, cf Hebrews 6:13-20).
- Abraham was even ready to obey God’s command to sacrifice Isaac his only son, although this seemed to contradict the promises God had made about Christ being a descendant of Isaac. Abraham left matters up to God, and simply did what God said. He reckoned that even if Isaac died, God could bring him back to life (Hebrews 11:17-19).
The story of Abraham is found in Genesis chapters 12 to 22. Few have ever shown such faith in God as Abraham showed. He is an inspiring example of the full and unswerving committment of self to God.
2 Faith in Abraham’s Family
Sarah —It was through faith that Sarah conceived although she was old and had always been barren. After some initial difficulty in accepting the "impossible" she trusted in God’s promise, thus Isaac was born (Hebrews 11:11, Genesis 18 & 21).
Isaac —Isaac himself showed faith in the promises God had made to his father Abraham, and repeated to him. In the light of those promises, Isaac accepted, as the will of God, the blessing he had inadvertently given to Jacob, disappointing his favourite son Esau who had foolishly lost his birthright (Hebrews 11:20, Genesis 27).
Jacob —Jacob followed in the footsteps of his fathers, and in turn blessed each of the sons of Joseph with a view to the promises of God (Hebrews 11:21, Genesis 48).
Joseph —Joseph also had the promises of God in mind and looked toward the future. At the end of his life he showed faith in the coming of the promised land (itself a symbol of Heaven) by instructing in advance that his bones should go there with God’s people when God’s promise was fulfilled (Hebrews 11:22, Genesis 50)
Moses —The story of Moses is also one of faith, beginning with the faith of his parents who were willing to disobey Pharaoh. His life demonstrated a belief in the future suffering Christ and in the eternal life that Christ would bring (Hebrews 11:23-24).
Note: You will observe that the Hebrew writer looks into the mind of Moses and sees an understanding in Moses that he was "choosing rather to suffer the reproach of Christ".
This is not an invention of the Hebrew writer, but a revelation of what was in the minds of Moses and his ancestors. Although they saw these things from a distance, nevertheless they believed and sufficiently understood them. Their faith was therefore a faith in Christ and in eternal life through him (Hebrews 11:13-16).
The Hebrew writer, conscious of how the stories of Old Testament saints symbolize the sufferings of Christ, also speaks of those who suffered opression and mistreatment, yet still, like Abraham, showed faith in God.
3 Faith Among the Mistreated
Rahab —Rahab was a prostitute, and then as now most prostitutes are abused and enslaved women, and many have never even chosen to be what they are. Rahab although a harlot and not an Israelite, was still recognised by God for the faith she demonstrated, and God rescued her (Hebrews 11:31 Joshua 2).
Others Afflicted —The Hebrew writer describes the oppression and suffering of other women and men who clung to their faith in God through much tribulation (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Our Faith —The Hebrew writer concludes that this "great cloud of witnesses" demonstrated faith in the promises without having yet seen them fulfilled. How much better off are we, even though we too might suffer mistreatment because of the powers of darkness. We are still better off because Christ has now come. Many of the promises that the ancients believed in, that were future for them, are now history for us.
That faith of Abraham and his like should strengthen us to believe in what is yet to come, eternal life with Christ in heaven, and to make this the whole point and purpose of our lives (Hebrews 11:39-40, Hebrews 12:1-2).