Sunday, July 31

By Faith Abraham

This is the fifth post in a series from Hebrews 11. You'll find all the posts done so far in this series listed here.

Next up is is Abraham, who gets more space from the writer of Hebrews than anyone else among the faithful ancients. He was, of course, the most prominent figure to the Jews, and honored as the father of their race; but he had a special place to the New Testament Christians, too, for he was also the father of all believers. Here's what the first three verses of the section on Abraham's faith say:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10 NET)

Remember in Genesis 12 when God tells Abraham to get up leave everything behind for a destination unknown? God tells him,

"Go out from your country,
your relatives,
and your father's household
to the land that I will show you."
(Genesis 12:1 NET)

Look how much Abraham was asked to leave behind. These were familiar things that he already possessed--solid things, things that brought security, things seen, if you will--and God asks him to leave them all. And Abraham does what God asked of him, his obedience grounded only on God's command and God's promise--the promise of God's blessing and of land in a place not known to him. God was asking him to act on the surety of things he couldn't see, to give up things visible for things yet invisible to him, and Abraham obeyed. The sort of conviction that is required to act on nothing but the command of God is real faith, and it is by faith that Abraham obeyed God's command without knowing what was in store for him.

Even when Abraham reached the land promised to him, he didn't really settle there, but he lived as if he were a resident alien. When Sarah his wife died, Abraham had to purchase a field so she could be buried, and that was the only piece of land he ever owned there. Even Abraham's son and grandson, who were heirs to the promise from God just as Abraham was, continued to live in tents and did not possess the land of promise.

If you think about it, Abraham had every reason to be disillusioned, and yet he was steadfast in his faith. The writer tells us that the reason he remained steadfast when his earthly circumstances gave him no grounds for it was because his hope was not grounded anything earthly, but in "the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

This city, of course, was not any existing earthly city, but a city yet to come (Hebrews 13:14), a heavenly one (verse 16). It's the "city with firm foundations"--the sort of city you can count on to always be there, unlike a temporal city that passes in and out of existence over time. This city is unlike any earthly city because this one has God as both the architect and the builder. This city is planned and constructed by God alone, and is an eternal one.

Abraham understood that there was an eternal realm that God was working in, and God was building according to his promises. Abraham could keep on trusting God and obeying him even though he didn't see the fulfillment of God's promises to him in his own lifetime, for he was sure of what he hoped for, and what he hoped for was not something that could be fulfilled by good things in this earthly life, but only by eternal life. What Abraham longed for above everything else was eternal life with God, life in a heavenly country, in the city built by God.

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