Abraham’s Pilgrimage of Faith

Let’s return to Hebrews 11:8-108 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Abraham’s faith is impressive.  It was more than just mental agreement or sentiment. He obeyed God. The intensity and level of his faith is described in the nature of his obedience:

  • He obeyed immediately:  As we noticed last week, he responded immediately to God’s call to leave his home in Ur, of the Chaldees.  His instant obedience stands out in against those who rationalize and procrastinate out of doing what God clearly demands.
  • He obeyed not knowing where he was going: He believed that God would give him what was best for him. He had confidence in Jehovah’s words; and they were enough for him.

I.   The Pilgrimage of Abraham’s Faith:  Heb 11:9 – By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; verse 9 opens with the same words as the previous one – “by faith”. Abraham’s faith went further than his swift exit from Ur.  He continued to “dwell” in his new home by faith.  The New Living Translation says… “and even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith”. In what way was his subsequent life in Canaan a life of faith?

A. He lived like a stranger in a foreign country. (NIV)   Some translations use the verb “sojourned”. The word here in the Greek is paroikeo (par-oy-keh’-o); It means to  dwell or reside as a foreigner.    Later in vs. 13, the writer describes all the patriarchs as strangers and pilgrims.  The word for pilgrim in vs. 13 means a “resident alien”.

1.  Although he left with the firm promise of an inheritance of land, he did not immediately receive it. In fact, Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob, never owned the land that God promised. They died before the promise was fulfilled. The Bible indicates that only property in Canaan that Abraham ever owned was the small parcel of land he used to bury Sarah, his wife.

a.  But the description of Abraham’s pilgrimage goes deeper than just land ownership. He lived detached from his presence residence, in anticipation of a better place.  Just as Abraham’s faith is a prototype of what God expects of us, so too, we are called to live as sojourners.

B.    The Pilgrimage of Our Faith – Abraham was called to leave behind what he was most familiar with, and trust God to show him a new way. Every person who comes to God in faith is called to leave behind his past lifestyle through genuine repentance and follow God. God calls us to a commitment to leave sin behind and not return.

1.  Rom 6:2-6How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

2.   This pilgrimage of demands that we live in this world without becoming like it. Rom. 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” 2 Cor. 6:14  “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” Paul tells us that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” Gal. 1:4.

a.  The pressure to conform to the world around us and settle in here is sometimes called “worldliness”. There are certain activities that characterize worldliness, but it is primarily an attitude.  It is the desire to stop sojourning and begin to take up residency here. It is giving into the flesh and living by the desires that characterize the world around us.

  • Consider John Mcarthur’s comments: – “Worldliness is not so much what we do as what we want to do. It is not determined so much by what our actions are as by where our heart is. Some people do not commit certain sins only because they are afraid of the consequences, others because of what people will think, others from a sense of self-righteous satisfaction in resisting–all the while having a strong desire for these sins. It is the desire for sin that is the root of worldliness, and from which the believer is to be separated.

3.  The apostle John presents an undeniable dichotomy. He tells us that we cannot “love the world nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 ) There is no point of compromise, ever. The world we live in will always oppose Christ, and thus His people.

a.  The challenge for us is to retain our “pilgrim status” and not be enamored with what this world offers. To defeat worldliness we must grow spiritually to the point where we do not desire the world. The things of the world lose their attraction.

b. I am impressed with Abraham’s faith because he was not a poor man who had nothing to leave behind, or nothing to become attached to. He fully participated in the world, and did it successfully. But he lived detached from the world around him because of his faith in God’s promises. He still considered himself a stranger and longed to go somewhere else.

II.  The Patience of Abraham’s Faith: Heb 11:10 –  “for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” The life of a pilgrim requires patience. Abraham waited.  It must have been tempting for Abraham, and his sons to just give up on the promises of God and settle for just “homesteading rights”.  But he was convinced that God would be true to His promises.

A.  The secret of Abraham’s patience was his hope in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises.  His eyes were on the “city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (v. 10) I am not sure how much God had revealed to Abraham about heaven, but these verses certainly tell me that God’s promises to Abraham went beyond the land of Canaan. Abraham lived in anticipation of living with God in His city. He had faith in heaven.

1.  The city he looked for would be secure and everlasting (with foundations) and free from the moral decadence of the cities he saw around him (architect and maker is God). Do you believe in this city? Do you believe that you will go there one day?

a.   If we truly believe in heaven, then why do we get so upset with everything that happens here? There are many so-called Christians today who are absorbed in the changing political landscape and the fate of democracy; who believe that God’s purposes and his blessings for us are dependent on who is president, what bills get passed, or the fate of the ozone layer.  “This world is not my home, I am just passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” The Christian, who learns by faith to live as a pilgrim, is much less troubled by the changing world around him.  He is able to stay focused on the spiritual task before him.  “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” Paul tells Timothy. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim 2:3-4).

2.   In addition, only those who are truly heavenly minded will continue to obey God, and walk by faith, when it becomes hard and difficult. I do not apologize for believing in heaven. It is what motivates us to go on, and keeps us from settling down here. Col.3:2-6 “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,

3.  Later in verses 13 and 14, the writer says that all the patriarchs, Abraham included, lived their entire lives by faith.  Heb 11:13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. (NIV)  They never saw the promise fulfilled before they died. Faith is truly tested over time. Saving faith is not the conviction of a moment, but the stamina of a lifetime.

a.   If you knew that Christ was returning in a month, what would you spend the next month doing? We would give full attention to forsaking sin, praying, telling others about Jesus, and doing our Father’s business.  To devote a whole month entirely to the Lord would not be so hard if we knew that it would all be over that soon, and the promise would soon be fulfilled. But that is not what faith demands. Faith demands that I focus on His business  month after month, year after year, for an entire lifetime – waiting for the city. It requires patience.

b.   But notice what they did while they were faithfully waiting:  Heb 11:13“embraced them (the promises) and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” The word confessed here is a strong word. It indicates that Abraham and his sons were willing to openly express to others the content of their faith and hope. They were unashamed to be on the outside, to be strangers.

  • (Note: this is hard for us. I am convinced that this is one reason so many Christians today are focused on social change and desiring to legislate morality. We realize that this world is becoming less accommodating all the time and we do not feel comfortable on the outside.)

c.  Let me remind you of one of God’s sure promises, that will help us in these difficult days: Jesus said,…  18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19

Conclusion:

There is a habitation, Built by the living God, For all of ev’ry nation, Who seek that grand abode

A city with foundations, Firm as th’eternal throne, No wars nor desolations, Shall ever move a stone

No night is there, no sorrow, No death, and no decay, No yesterday, no morrow, But one eternal day

Within it’s pearly portals, Angelic armies sing, With glorified immortals, The praises of it’s King

O Zion, Zion, I long thy gates to see O Zion, Zion, when shall I dwell in thee?  (# 227)