Sunday, February 23, 2014


(Continued from the previous two posts. Please scroll down to read those first)

Most pertinent to our discussion is the life of Abraham, whose story begins in Genesis, chapter twelve. Abraham had been given great promises by God. God told Abraham to leave his home and relatives and go to an unknown land that He would show him.
          “I will make you a great nation,” God told him, “and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 NAS).
On the strength of these promises, Abraham obeyed and journeyed toward this unknown destination.  Once he arrived, however, he did not see the fulfillment of the assurances that God had given him.  Abraham’s life in this “promised land” was not an easy one, and as for becoming a “great nation” – that is difficult to do when one must wait until he is one hundred years old before he has his first child, as Abraham had to do.
One would think if there were anyone who would grow tired of the same old “spiritual pie in the sky,” it would be Abraham.  That was not the case, however.  Instead of his faith failing (it did falter a bit from time to time), Abraham became increasingly strengthened:

“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”
(Hebrews 11:9-10 NIV).

Accompanying Abraham through all of the trials was his dedicated wife, Sarah, who at times showed a greater ability to demonstrate her faith.  Nevertheless, in the account in Genesis, we read that Sarah laughed when she heard that she would conceive a child in her ninetieth year.  She may have laughed, but the writer of Hebrews tells us, “By faith she received the ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11 NAS).
Abraham and Sarah took their little baby Isaac in their arms and in his eyes they saw “as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (Hebrews 11:12 NAS).
          Was it that this old couple was delusional when they thought that this one little baby was the answer to the promise of a “great nation” and that their cotton tarp tent was the fulfillment of the great land that they were to inherit?  Given much of our present-day teaching, many would say that they were deluded.  But the writer of Hebrews says that they were not.

“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 11:13-16 NAS).

In other words, Abraham and Sarah were willing to forgo the immediate fulfillment of the promises of God for the assurance that they would receive in their future existence all of those things which had been promised to them.  Some might even put it that they were looking to “spiritual pie in the sky.”
This same chapter of Hebrews contains several other instances of men and women who lived by faith, some seeing a token of what had been promised to them, but others – seemingly only hardships.

“Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated  (Hebrews 11:35-37 NAS).

The writer of Hebrews adds an interesting editorial comment to all of these accounts of men and women whose vision extended far beyond what eye can see. I can imagine that as the writer thought about all of these people, their faith loomed ever greater and greater in his estimation.
          As he recounted their stories, he inserts a somewhat extraneous thought. He says of them, “these of whom the world was not worthy” (vs. 38).  Indeed, the world was not worthy of them, nor is the world worthy to be the recipient of the full promise of God.

“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect”  (Hebrews 11:39-40 NAS).

There will always be those who will follow Jesus only as long as He gives them bread to eat. There will always be those who will ridicule a life of faith that is willing to relinquish present day fulfillment for that which is to come.  There will always be those that say we are simply singing a foolish song about “pie in the sky.”
          That may be.  But I will cast my lot with those who look to above for fulfillment.  No earthly breakfast can ever have such flavor.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God  (Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS).

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