Hebrews 11. Part 27. The last post in this series, The Faithful, is here.
Our Jewish forefathers settled in the land God had promised them. Four thousand years later, their descendants still clash with the descendants of the Canaanites. This will continue until Christ returns and peace reigns.
Unfortunately, we will never achieve lasting world peace through human efforts, for we are seriously flawed. We see that playing out all around us. God’s will for us is to continue to do good, to seek the welfare of others, even while knowing that perfect peace will not arrive until he returns.God's will for us is to continue to do good, to seek the welfare of others, even while knowing that perfect peace will not arrive until he returns. #LoveOneAnother Click To Tweet
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6 ESV).
Will we dawn near to the Lord, seeking him with all our hearts?
The people of God who lived in times of old stretched toward the Creator and what he had promised, longing for the Redeemer to come. They wanted peaceful, unbroken communion with God and an eternity in his presence. And yet, this was still true:
”All 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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—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 NIV).
The people of old believed in the Redeemer who was to come. We believe in Messiah Jesus, the Redeemer who has come and is coming again. God praises those who long for him, admitting we’re foreigners and strangers on this earth, working for the good of others while longing for the peace that only he can bring.
We feel this longing for Jesus to come again strongly during this pandemic when coupled with global racial strife. As followers of Christ, we seek ways to live out our Savior’s love for all of humanity as we interact with others.As followers of Christ, we seek ways to live out our Savior's love for all of humanity as we interact with others. #LoveOneAnother #BlackLivesMatter Click To Tweet
In Hebrews 11, we’re given examples from the lives of people of faith who went before us. What did they do? How did they live?
Abraham’s son Isaac was one of these who longed for the Redeemer, who welcomed him from a distance. Isaac was the son of promise, the only son. Hebrews 11:17 uses the Greek word monogenes to describe Isaac: “the ‘one of a kind,’ Abraham’s only heir and the only recipient of covenant promises” (ESV Study Bible).
Isaac was Sarah’s son, she who went out with Abraham from Mesopotamia. “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11 ESV). God wanted his people to trust in him, not in their own abilities. Therefore, the significance of Sarah’s faith is emphasized here, for the Scriptures record Abraham’s numerous offspring, first Ishmael and then, after Sarah’s death, other children. Yet, Isaac was “the only son.“
Thus, when God made a strange request of Abraham, still he knew that God would preserve his only son Isaac, the one necessary for God’s promises for the redemption of humanity to be fulfilled. This story mystifies us. Why was this necessary? Abraham’s thought processes and God’s intentions are revealed:
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, even though God had said to him, ‘IT IS THROUGH ISAAC THAT YOUR OFFSPRING WILL BE RECKONED.’ Abraham reasoned that GOD COULD EVEN RAISE THE DEAD, and so in a manner of speaking HE DID RECEIVE ISAAC BACK FROM DEATH” (Hebrews 11:17-19 NIV).
With complete certainty, Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac. With utter conviction, he trusted God to keep his promise of making his one and only offspring, Sarah’s son, to be a blessing to the world, and thus the God who can raise the dead stayed Abraham’s hand, preserving Isaac.
The angel of the LORD said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, YOUR ONLY SON, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:16b-18 NIV).
God swears upon himself, thus making the most solemn and divine oath possible in our universe. He promises that the Messiah will be born of Abraham’s lineage, through Isaac, his only son, Sarah’s son.
This event was not only an affirmation of Messiah and a test for Abraham, but it was also a test for Isaac, foreshadowing that God would offer his own Son to pay for our sins and would bring him back from the grave.
Consider Isaac. In pictures, Isaac is typically portrayed as a child, yet he would have been a young man when this occurred. Sarah died at age 127 (Genesis 23:1)—when Isaac was 37 years old. Sarah was still living when Abraham and Isaac headed for Mount Moriah on this mission, a three-day journey.
When Isaac carried the wood, a large quantity too great for a child, he would have been about the same age Jesus was when he carried his cross. Isaac was an active participant, as was Jesus. Isaac asked questions about God’s provision and trusted the answers his father gave. Jesus questioned his Father and trusted him as well. Isaac displayed faith through his involvement and his yielding to this unique experience, as did Jesus.
Afterward, Isaac meditated on these things, his faith strengthened. In timely, God-ordained fashion, Abraham next received a message from Nahor, his brother, listing children born into the family, including Rebekah.
And then Isaac’s mother Sarah died. An entire chapter is devoted to the death and burial of this significant woman, who believed God and bore a child in her old age, the matriarch of Messiah’s family. To bury Sarah properly, Abraham drove his first permanent stake into the Promised Land in Hebron, near the Oaks of Mamre.
Afterward, Abraham sent a trusted servant back to Nahor in Padan-aram to find a wife for Isaac. The miracle of answered prayer in obtaining Rebekah demonstrated the goodness of God, a kindness that touched Isaac’s heart.
“Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, ‘Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?‘
“’He is my master,’ the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:62-67).
God intervened in Isaac’s life on numerous occasions. Isaac held tightly to his faith until the day he died. The faith journey of the first three generations of God’s chosen family was significant. The Lord laid a foundation, making an eternal covenant. Each one individually placed their confidence in God. Each one still lives in God’s presence.
8 “He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
9 the COVENANT HE MADE with Abraham,
the OATH HE SWORE to Isaac.
10 He CONFIRMED it to Jacob as a DECREE,
to Israel as AN EVERLASTING COVENANT:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit” (Psalm 105:8-11 NIV).
Each of these generations carried the seed of Messiah.
“The Lord appeared to him [Isaac] and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.’ Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well” (Genesis 26:24-25 NIV).
Jesus Messiah confirmed the reality of their faith: “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32).
As this is true of them, so also it is true for all believers in Messiah Jesus. All of these still live. God is the God of the living. Regardless of the messiness of their human existence, still they lived by faith.
As followers of the Messiah who descended from this family, the One who fulfills all of his promises, we may also believe with a whole heart in the solid bedrock of our faith. Don’t lose heart as harmony often slips through our fingers. While still striving for peace, we look for a better country, a heavenly one with life forever in God’s presence.
From their life stories, we know that the Lord loves the broken, the ones who are afraid, the ones in need of repeated promises, the ones who run. Thank God for recording all of their flaws! None of these believers of old were perfect, and neither are we, and yet we all share faith in Messiah.
How does the history of our forebears strengthen your faith? How does their steadfastness amid their human failings give you hope?The Lord loves the broken, the ones who are afraid, the ones in need of repeated promises, the ones who run. None of the believers of old were perfect, and neither are we, and yet we all share faith in Messiah. #Jesus Click To Tweet