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In our study of Hebrews 11 (our theme scripture for this year) we have encountered the O.T patriarch, Abraham. Throughout the scriptures the name “Abraham” is nearly synonymous with the word faith in the scriptures, as he is called the father of the all those who believe (Rom. 4:11). The writer of this chapter utilizes 8 verses to describe for us the exceptional faith of Abraham.
Previously, we studied the initial promises that God mae to Abrham, and noticed the extraordinary faith of Abraham (then called Abram) as he left his home in Ur, “not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8)
There are two other clear tests of faith for Abraham that come as a result of God’s standing promises. In the remaining lessons for May we will consider these events.
I. The Son of Promise: Consider Heb. 11:11-12 – By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (NIV)
A. God had great plans for Abram. Included in God’s plans was the promise of a seed, or a child, through which God would issue great blessings for all people. We can look back from our perspective and see the fulfillment of these promises in Christ, THE seed (Gal. 3:16). But Abram’s perspective was more limited and more personal. He was called upon to believe in what had not yet happened; what was unseen. It was a test of faith and a test of patience. Realizing that his wife, Sarai, was 75 years old and they had no children when the promise was made , how would God keep His word? Abram wondered as well.
B. Turn to Genesis 15:1-6 – 1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him,”So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
1. In order to confirm the promise, God took him outside and had him look up at the sky. I think that the force of God’s argument goes further than just the vastness of innumerable stars. It rested in who made the stars. Could Abram look up at the stars and not believe that God could do what he said He would do?
a. God showed Abram more of the future in the later part of chapter 15 – how his descendants would be stranger in a foreign land, but that God would bring them out with “great possessions”.
2. The Genesis text tells us that , despite God’s assurance, Abram could not see how these things could happen. In chapter 16 he takes things into his own hands and has a child with Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid. This was not what God desired and not how He would fulfill the promise. Abram & Sarai’s collaborative efforts are an eternal example of what happens when we try to accomplish God’s work in our own way.
C. So God speaks to Abram again Gen 17:1-6 – Then Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,”I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. What does God tell Abram here?
1. “I am Almighty God” – God was in control. He could keep His word. The Hebrew is “El Shaddai” – God, the Might One. This title is most often used in the book of Job.
a. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says this title is “describing Jehovah, the covenant God, as possessing the power to realize His promises, even when the order of nature presented no prospect of their fulfillment, and the powers of nature were insufficient to secure it. God is telling Abram that He can keep His promises. Matthew Henry says God’s message here is “He is a God that is enough” God did not need Abram’s ideas or schemes to get it done. Job came to recognize that God was enough, and He was in control.
2. God called on Abraham to “walk before Him” and “be blameless”. Faith demanded that Abraham be always cognizant of God’s watchful eye and strive to obey Him in all things.
3. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham (father of multitudes). The new name was both a sign of God’s faithfulness and prophecy of His intentions. (Abraham was 99 and had one child with his wife’s servant. The name must have evoked some discussion if not derision.)
a. Notice the confirming language of God – He tells Abraham, “I have made you a father of many nations” – as if it were already true. It was. Abraham could count on it – He could count on God. That is how the Hebrew writer expresses the nature of Abraham’s faith – he considered him faithful who had made the promise (Heb. 11:11)
b. In Genesis 15:6 Moses tells us that Abraham “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” That statement is repeated 3 times in the N.T. by both Paul and James. We will consider this in a future lesson, but consider one occurrence in Romans 4
II. “Being Fully Convinced” – Rom. 4:16-22 – 16 “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed– God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
A. Paul is describing the consummation of a promise that hinged on the birth of Isaac. The divine prediction of that improbable birth was a true test of faith. Abraham’s patient faith was grounded it what Paul describes about God here: “…God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (We will see how his faith in God’s ability to raise the dead comes into to play in the next event) But God certainly spoke of things as existing that did not at that time exist – such as a son. Notice how Paul describes what Abraham did:
1. “contrary to hope, in hope believed” (v. 18) – consider other translations of this phrase:
- NIV – “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed”;
- ASV – “Who in hope believed against hope”
a) The though here is that he believed when there seem to be no reason (hope) to believe. Hope involves expectation. It is not just wishful thinking, but a real expectation that something will happen. Abraham hoped God would give him an heir, but even when the hope grew thin (the expectation was hard to hold on to) He continued to have faith. How? Through continuing to obey God and rely on His working. Through the power of patience.
b) His only reason was that God had spoken. This is the essence of faith – it is not blind faith – it is pure faith. Not based on anything other than God’s word. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17)
2. “And not being weak in faith” (vs. 19) This indicates that Abraham’s faith was not a fixed asset, but could become weaker through the experiences of life. The age of his body and Sarah’s inability to have children were obvious reasons to question the outcome.
a) Considered not his own body, ..and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” notice the NIV rendering of this verse – “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead– since he was about a hundred years old– and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.”(NIV) He faced the facts. Believers need to be realistic about life (not pollyanna or naïve). But He was able to temper the “facts” with God’s promise. Have you ever prayed for someone that the doctors said was terminal? On what basis? On the basis of faith.
3. “He did not waver at the promise of God” The word for waver here is “diakrino” which means to stagger, withdraw from, or to hesitate.- It implies the temptation to give up in the process of time.
a. Abraham did not vacillate between believing and not believing. Sometimes we are constantly looking for God to verify what He has plainly told us in scripture. If he doesn’t keep convincing us we will quit believing.
- Those who place their trust in experiences of religion, and not the word once delivered.
- Those who are judging God’s integrity by how much He is blessing their lives, not what He says.
- The Christian who seemingly can’t stay faithful for very long at a time because he lacks the patience to “not grow weary in well doing”. Satan is always able to derail their continuing obedience.
b. Because he continued to obey God, his “faith was strengthened” and his faith “gave glory to God”. (vs. 20) Faith confirms God’s trustworthiness (He has never lied to you), and therefore when you live by your faith you bring glory to God.
4. “being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” – He recognized who was in charge of his life. That God could do whatever He said he would do. He was fully convinced. Are you? Jesus was constantly challenging his disciples to have stronger faith – to be more fully convinced, not matter what the circumstances, and to respond the His words with obedience.
Conclusion: In Acts 2, on the day when God poured His spirit on the Apostles and the gospel was made known and the promises of God were officially extended to all people Peter said, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) When He was asked by those who were there what they could do in response to that promise he said, Acts 2:38-39 “.. Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” God called them to respond to the promise through obedience in repentance & baptism.