Faith of Abraham

Hebrews 11:8

Good morning, Saylorville! It’s my honor to be sharing God’s Word with you again this Sunday morning.

And if you have a copy of the Bible, you can find Hebrews chapter 11, verse 8 as we continue in our sermon series, God’s Hall of Faith as we examine all these amazing Old Testament characters and the faith they showed in God. And if I’m honest, today we have a real contender, a man who the Apostle Paul calls the Father of our faith. That’s right, today we’re talking about Father Abraham.

Now, if you’re a Children’s Ministry worker, you know that Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them… Yeah, we’re not, we’re not gonna go there. I actually thought about doing the dance, but then I realized that I actually wanna do another sermon after this. I wanna, like, actually be an intern for a while! For those of you who don’t know, that’s just a classic children’s song about Father Abraham. And even though I haven’t done children’s ministry for like three years, it’s still stuck right up there. Yes, Father Abraham.

Abraham is a name that’s synonymous with the word “faith.” In fact, if you look at Hebrews chapter 11, none of our characters are afforded more verses than Father Abraham. So our question today is pretty easy. What made Abraham’s faith so special? What does the author of Hebrews want us Christians today to emulate? You see, when you first meet Abraham in the biblical story, it’s in Genesis chapter 12, and he’s far from being a pillar of the faith. Him and his family live in the city of Haran which would be kind of in the basically ancient Babylonian empire. And Joshua, chapter 24 verse two…

[Joshua 24:2 (NASB), “And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.”]

… it says that Abraham, before his calling by God, was a pagan. That means he worshiped false gods. He worshiped idols. He probably also had a pretty materially comfortable life, probably a fairly rich family, probably pretty comfortable. But one day, when Abraham was 75 years old, the living God entered into his life and everything changed! In Genesis 12, we see the Lord’s calling to Abraham,

[Genesis 12:1-2 (NASB),

1 “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;

2 And I will make you a great nation,”]

‘Come out of Iran, away from your comfort, away from your family to a place that I will show you.’ So Abraham is called and his journey of faith begins. And so we go to Hebrews chapter 11, verse 8.

Hebrews 11:8, 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.”

So what does the author of Hebrews want us to see first about Abraham’s faith? First, we must understand that faith embraces mystery. Faith embraces mystery. I mean, just look at the text. The author intentionally tells us that Abraham left Haran, left his comfort, left his family without knowing where he was going. And then if you connect that to what we see in Genesis, chapter 12, (which will be right up here) when the Lord calls Abraham, the Lord actually says, “Go to a land that I will show you.” That word “will” in the ancient Hebrew, which is what Genesis was originally written in, it denotes “an action that is not yet complete.” So what’s going on with Abraham? This is the picture that the author is kind of painting for us. He literally leaves the city. He uproots his life. He leaves the city gates. And he just kind of wanders around… doesn’t know where he’s going. Right? You’re like… it’s like when you put your phone up for a GPS and then your phone dies. Yikes! That’s Abraham. Doesn’t know where he’s going, and yet, look again at verse eight. When Abraham’s called, he obeys. You see in the original Greek, If you were to translate that literally, it would translate “as he was being called Abraham obeyed.” It’s almost like when God comes and invites him into God’s story, while God is still speaking, Abraham’s like, ‘Yep, I’m in!’ You know what Abraham doesn’t do? He doesn’t… when the living God comes into his life and calls him out of Haran, he’s not like, ‘Well, I don’t know. I mean, you know, like, it seems like a lot of work. It’s still… gotta pack, probably should talk to my wife. I wanna buy a new donkey.’ No! We talked about this. This entire sermon series, we see a fundamental principle. Believing God requires obedience. So Abraham believes God and he obeys Him. He embraces the mystery of just wandering out and letting God guide him.

Speaking of mystery, a couple weeks ago, my community group and I got together as we sometimes do during the summer, and we did something I haven’t done for years. We played the game of Clue. Ever played Clue before? It’s a mystery. It’s a murder mystery. And you’re trying to find out who done it? — Where did they do it? — And what was the murder weapon? The way the game works is all the players are given cards, just randomly shuffled. But you take three cards, the actual murder, and you put them in the middle of the board. And so you’re making accusations, you’re trying to figure out who did it. My good friend was sitting next to me, a member of my community group, and he made an accusation. “Professor Plum, in the conservatory, with the knife.” I had the knife, and so I sheepishly take it from my hand and I hand it to my friend. He takes it, he looks at it. “Ah, the knife!” — he said it out loud…! — And of course, we all just laughed! it’s kind of funny, but why is that funny? — Because if you have all the evidence, it kind of defeats the purpose of playing Clue.

Why bring this up? — because you and I do that all the time in our faith. We want all the evidence before we start the game. We want to be assured by God before we jump, we want guaranteed success, guaranteed approval… but that’s not faith! Look at verse 1 in chapter 11.

Hebrews 1:11, “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

‘Sure, I’ll give to the church and to the ministry when my savings is ready.’ ‘Oh yeah, yeah, sure. I’ll serve the church, but man, I gotta wait for my schedule to open up first.’ ‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll share the Gospel, but I’d rather get a little bit more training,’ and ‘What if they don’t like me?’ ‘What if they’re offended?’ Is that faith or is that safe? Friends, I’ve said all those things, but you know what the Lord has been teaching me lately? If we are not willing to obey God or serve Him until we have all the answers, until success is guaranteed, then we never will. Faith is not a formula to be solved. There is no silver bullet. Faith requires mystery. Abraham went out of his city, left his old life, everything, behind without knowing where he was going. But why all the mystery… I mean, can’t God at least give us a little assurance? Right? Why does He have to leave us in suspense? If you fast forward to Genesis 15…

[Genesis 15:1-6 (NASB),

1 “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”

5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”]

Abraham’s doing the same thing. He’s been … wandering around, and then the God of the universe comes to him again. And it’s kind of interesting what He does. He doesn’t really say much. In fact, He actually gives Abraham another mystery. He says, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, his 90 year old wife, will conceive a child, Isaac. And through that child, he will have descendants as numerous as the stars. What’s Abraham do? He believes God, and the scriptures say that God credits him as righteous. Theologians call this chapter, “the Abrahamic Covenant.” It’s an agreement between the God of the universe and Abraham based on God’s faithfulness and Abraham’s faith in Him.

So why does God require mystery in our faith? I got another covenant for you, one you probably know more about. Marriage. Marriage is a covenant.

My wife and I have been married for six years now. We got married on July 28th. Last service, I almost got it wrong. So don’t err that one, please! But six years ago, my wife and I got married, and I will always remember, we were getting marriage counseling as many of you have before you got married. And our marriage counselor, a godly old man, looked at me straight in the eyes and he said, “Colton, I want you to realize something. When you marry Rachel, you’re not just marrying the woman she is now. You’re marrying the woman that she will become throughout the rest of her life.” — And so on July 28th, I committed myself via covenant with Rachel. I said, “I’m yours in sickness or health, in riches or poverty. Whatever God wills for you I am yours.” If I only vowed myself to Rachel, knowing all the stuff we would go through, knowing all the changes we would have to make, is that love? No! I embrace the mystery of marriage because I love Rachel, because she loves me.

Christian, listen. You have a better covenant than Abraham did! You have more evidence. Ephesians 5 [Ephesians 5:22-33] says that we, the Church, are the Bride of Christ!

The Lord Jesus Christ has pursued us and called us out with His blood from sin and death. And He asks you and I, if you’re a Christian, to join Him in this mysterious relationship. It’s a covenant that we’re gonna celebrate with the Lord’s Table. Abraham embraced the mystery with limited evidence. How much more evidence do we saints in Christ have? I love the way the Apostle Paul puts it. Check out 2 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 20. Paul writes,

2 Corinthians 1:20, “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him (Jesus) they are YES!

For all the mysterious what-ifs in your life, Jesus is your definitive “YES!” Friends, if you’re a Christian, the biggest questions in your life have already been answered! ‘Can I trust God to take care of me and my family if I give generously?’ Yes. ‘Is it good for me to die to myself and love my kids even when they’re hard to love?’ Winnery was up at 3 a.m. this morning. Yikes! Yes! What about, ‘Will God be there when my Christian life seems weird to my friends and family, when they abandon me?’ Yes! They are all YES in Christ! In Christ, God is for you. God is for you! Trust that today. Faith embraces mystery.

But that’s not all. Abraham’s faith shows us that faith requires mobility. Faith requires mobility. Verse 9:

Hebrews 11:9-10 (ESV)

9By faith he (Abraham) 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.

10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose (architect) designer and builder is God.”

Now there’s a lot there, but I really want to focus in on that dichotomy. You probably saw it in the text. Right? Abraham’s wandering around, waiting on God, embracing the mystery, but he’s living in tents. But he’s looking forward to a city which God will make for him. This is intentional from the author.

You been camping lately? I mean, come on! It’s like fourth of July last week. Right? Some of you might have been camping for that. There’s really two kinds of people. People, that are… ‘I love camping! Give me the s’mores!’ ‘Give me the fire!’ — and then there’s everybody else! I’m in the everybody else category. In fact, when Rachel I first got married, we took a vacation. Our first vacation, and we were taken a vacation down to go see the Grand Canyon. (Rachel doesn’t know I used that picture, so excited for the 11:00 service!) But anyways, we were going down the Grand Canyon. We were going to go see Arches National Park as well. And so me, being a newly married man, I want to show her how manly her husband is! I’m like, “Honey, why don’t we camp while we’re down there?” And notice it’s in July. Okay? So Rachel’s like, “Okay. Sounds good!” — a dutiful wife! So we drive down. We pitch up our tent. It was 102 degrees! Now, I’m a geography teacher and I said, “Wait a minute! Deserts cool down at night. We’ll be fine!” At midnight, it was… 102 degrees! (audience laughing) I literally took three showers trying to cool down! Finally, I got in the tent. We’re [unclear] I got on my phone, I bought five hotels… dropped like 500 bucks — not my best moment! (audience laughing)

What’s the point? Camping, that is, “real” camping, isn’t meant to be comfortable. Ask our youth kids or the men who went on the wilderness trip. You ever heard about this? This is a crazy thing we do here at Saylorville! In the wilderness trip, they live in tents! And what’s crazy about the wilderness trip is the pace of it. You get to a camp spot. You put down your tent. You rip it up! You go to the next one. But that’s why we use tents, because tents are very mobile. Are you mobile? Does your faith move you? Can it?

Abraham was looking for a city built by God. Now, to understand that, we have to understand how Abraham would view a city. He doesn’t view it how we would. To Abraham, an ancient person, a city is the picture of security. A city had walls to keep out invading armies, to keep out wild animals. A city had guards. It had merchants. It had plenty of food. It had water. A city was permanence. It was comfortable. It was safe. Now Abe’s just wandering around. He could have easily just went to a Canaanite city. Why not? Because embracing the mystery of his faith required that he be on the move!

And the Lord Jesus requires the same of us today. When Jesus leaves this earth, he ascends to heaven, he says,

[Matthew 28:19a]Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

When Jesus calls Peter, he says,

[Matthew 4:19] ““Follow Me, and I will make you (a fisher) fishers of men.”

Do you see it? Both denote mobility. Speaking of tents, check out this picture. Some of you youth kids are gonna know what this is. This is S.O.S. It’s when some of our high school kids, they go out and they serve the community, but just the little cherry on top, while they’re serving they literally camp out behind the church. Now why do I show you this picture? I think that is a figurative picture of what it means to live like a Christian. Notice the tents and then notice around them. They’ve got these nice fancy houses. Christian, we are temporary tents in the city of the world. But we know this. Not every camper is created equal. Right? Some of you love camping! You love the thrill of it! Some of us, though, we like “glamping.” You know what glamping is? You roll up the RV, send out the awning, turn on the air conditioning, you have a fire… on your TV! You make s’mores… in the microwave! Is that camping? Some of you say, “Amen!” Not quite.

What kind of camper are you? That is, what does your Christian life look like? Are you camping or are you glamping? How deep are the stakes of your life in this world? —Because we do know one thing. Comfort and mobility rarely coexist. It’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, but when needed, can your faith move you out of your comfort?

Abraham was camping while he’s waiting for God’s promises. And camping is uncomfortable. But what do you do when you’re done camping? You rip those stakes out, you roll up your tent, and you go home. But what happens when your camp is more comfortable than your home? — When your stakes are so deep in the earth, so deep in this present world that you can’t move anymore? You lose interest in your home. I have too. Saints, some of you have become blind to God’s working in your life and the needs of your neighbors because you’re just not willing to move for them. You’re staked down by your schedule, by your savings, by your reputation, and you’re missing it. You’re missing the great adventure that Christ offers you, that He’s won for you! You’re missing the freedom of not living for things that will vanish away. What am I saying? What are you going to do? What do you have to do? My friends, rip up those stakes. Trade the comfort of this temporary, perishing world for the assurance and the permanence of your heavenly home!

Abraham was looking for a heavenly city. He was looking for the same city that you and I, Christian, are looking for, a city that is being prepared right now by the Lord Jesus Christ, a city whose builder and architect is God, a city that is unshakable, — But until then, Abraham and us, we live in tents. Faith requires mobility.

But finally, faith is moldable by God. Faith is moldable by God. Let’s go down to verse 17. Here’s what it says.

Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV),

17By 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;

18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (as a type).”

And so we arrive at Abraham’s ultimate test, the thing that he’s honestly probably most famous for. In Genesis chapter 22, God asks the impossible. ‘Abraham, the son that I’ve given you, the son which the promises were supposed to come through, sacrifice him on the altar!’ God asked Abraham to kill the very son through which He promised to bless him! Don’t miss the gravity of this moment! Abraham was walking in faith. He embraced the mystery. But now God just seemingly just turns the tables… turns it over! Abraham had already given up his past. Now God’s asking to give up his future!

You ever feel that way sometimes? I have. Abraham’s willingness to offer up Isaac begs a huge question for you and I today. Are we willing to trust and obey God even when it challenges our current view of Him? Friends, listen. If you read the Bible long enough, if you do this Christian thing long enough, your view of God and of yourself, it will be challenged! I love how the way the prophet Isaiah puts it. Speaking of dealing with the idea of struggling with God, what do you do in that moment? Do you deconstruct your faith as so many people have done? Do you just try to poke holes into it, or do you do what Abraham did? You don’t deconstruct your faith, but you reconstruct your faith. Again, the prophet, Isaiah, puts it, — he says this:

[Isaiah 64:8] “…O Lord, You are our Father; we are the CLAY, and You are our POTTER;”

Friends, if you’ve never been challenged in your view of God, then you have unwittingly made yourself the potter. You’re molding God into your image. But contrary to our culture’s view of God, we don’t get to mold the living God into our image. No, He molds us into His image, through faith in the Lord Jesus!

How does Abraham make the impossible decision to sacrifice Isaac? He just looks back on what God had already done! And what had God already done? He guided Abraham when he left his comfort. He did the biologically impossible and allowed the 90 year old Sarah to conceive. So what’s the next step? What’s the next logical step, that God could do the physically impossible and raise Isaac from the dead. Jesus once said that those who are faithful in a little will be faithful in a lot.

[Luke 16:10a, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…”]

Abraham and all the characters in Hebrews 11, they didn’t become those men and women of faith overnight. They took small steps of obedience. They embraced the mystery at the moment it was given. Are you moldable? — or are there some things that God’s not allowed to do in your life, or to be in your life? You see Abraham did receive back Isaac. Right as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his beloved son, the Lord God provided a lamb to be sacrificed instead. So how does Abraham’s story end? Was his faith rewarded? Check out Genesis chapter 25, here’s what it says.

Genesis 25:8, “Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age. (Watch this) an old man satisfied with life, and he was gathered to his people.”

How can Abraham die satisfied? He never saw the thing that God promised him. He never saw a great kingdom. He never saw those descendants. He was just living in a tent. How does this man walk away from life satisfied? He just took the next logical step! ‘God was with me when I left comfort. God did the biologically impossible… allowed me to have a son. God could have done the physically impossible and raised my son.’ So what’s the next step? Abraham believed that God would keep His promises even after he died! He believed that His promises were eternally possible! He declared what we must declare today, that God was faithful then, He is faithful now and He will be faithful forever.

Have you taken the next logical step in your faith? What is that step? Look at Hebrews 11:19 one more time. The author says that Abraham received back Isaac as a type. Some of your Bibles might say “figuratively speaking.” The actual word there in the Greek is the Greek word “parabolae.” It’s where we get our word “parable.” What am I saying? Isaac is a parable of a greater truth. And what is that truth? That a greater Father gave up a greater Son to make a greater sacrifice! The scriptures say that…

Romans 6:23, “…the wages of you and I’s sin is death (That’s eternity separated from God in hell) but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Abraham didn’t have to give up Isaac, but God did give up Jesus for YOU! — To rescue you, like the lamb that was given to Abraham, Jesus was slaughtered on the cross, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord rose again! And He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, preparing a city for all those who hope in Him!

What’s your next step? For some of you, it might be as simple as accepting the Gospel for the first time. Like Abraham, you have to embrace a mystery. And what is that mystery? — That God loves you even though you’re a sinner. Admit that you are a sinner, that you’re unable to save yourself and put your full faith in Jesus alone for your salvation. And if you do, He promises, and will, take you home to that city that he’s prepared for you. Paul put it this way.

2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if our earthly tent, which is our house (that is our body, we know that if our body) is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.”

My friends, believe this today, if you are in Christ, you have a resting place. Embrace the mystery today that God has for you. Be mobile with your faith. Don’t be tied down to a world that is perishing, and let the Lord of all comforts mold you into the person that you were created to be.

Would you pray with me?

Father God, Lord, we thank You for Your Word, a Word that is sharper than a double-edged sword piercing to the very heart. (Hebrews 4:12) And Lord I thank You for Abraham’s story. It’s really not his story, Lord. It’s Your story! He was faithful only because you were faithful first, Lord. Lord, would you build the faith of Saylorville Church? Help us be a people that embrace the mystery. We’re willing to jump because we love you. Help us be mobile in our faith, to see the hurts of this world, to see the needs, to see people that need the Gospel and to go Lord and not be tied down. And Lord, help us be molded into your image. Help us be More People, More Like Jesus. And Lord, how do we do this? — By resting in the truth, God, that You have prepared a city for us. We have a resting place. And there’s some people in this room that don’t. They don’t have a resting place. They have no peace. They have no rest. They have… they’re just constantly tossed to and fro from this world. Lord Jesus, You said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Would you do that today? We love You, Lord. In Jesus name. Amen.


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