The Letter to the Hebrews: a commentary & meditation 
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By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out"

Scripture: Hebrews 11:8-19
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where  he was to go. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by  the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that  they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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 for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,18 of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." 19 He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Meditation: Abraham is the greatest model of faith in the Old Testament. Paul the Apostle calls him the "father of all who believe" (Romans 4:11). What made him great? Exceptional gifts, leadership skills, wisdom or experience? God chose Abraham to be the father of a mighty nation because he was faithful -- every ready to believe what God spoke to him and ever ready to obey his commands without hesitation. Abraham was evidently a good listener.  He was attuned to God's voice and hungry for God's word. He trusted even when God told him to do something he didn't fully understand. Genesis 12 tells us the story of Abraham's journey of faith to an unknown land of promise. What must have gone through the minds of Abraham's relatives and friends?  "There goes that dreamer again, in search of adventure and fortune."  Abraham was willing to forsake everything he had and cherished for the sake of the God who called him.  God was evidently pleased with Abraham and called him his "friend" (2 Chronicles 20:7, James 2:23).

How did Abraham grow in faith?  "In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations" (Rom. 4:18).  Abraham's wife Sarah was too advanced in age to conceive. No wonder she laughed when three angelic visitors told Abraham he would have a son by the following year (Gen. 18:12-14). Abraham hoped where there was no human hope because his trust was not in human capability but in divine power. The supreme test of Abraham's faith was the sacrifice of his son Isaac to God.  Abraham not only obeyed.  He trusted that God could bring his back to life again!  Now that's trusting, believing, expectant faith!  True faith takes God at his word.  Abraham fulfilled the definition of faith given by the author to the Hebrews: "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). God strengthened Abraham in faith much the same way a metallurgist strengthens iron and forges steel.  He hammered away at Abraham's character until there was nothing left but pure metal, refined, molded, and shaped into a perfect instrument for his purposes.

Abraham had to learn the way of faith in the same we learn it.  Faith grows by consistency, taking daily steps of obedience and trust in God's word. If we want to grow in faith and allow the Lord to use us as his instrument, then we must cooperate with God as Abraham did.  He will test us, not to make us fail, but build into us the character and strength of will that does not waver in the face of doubt, trial, and affliction. Paul describes how Abraham grew in faith:  "No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised" (Rom. 4:20-21). Do you trust that God will be faithful to you and accomplish everything he has promised you?

"Lord Jesus, in love and obedience to your Father you gave your life for my sake.  Strengthen my faith in your promises and give me courage to always say yes to your will for my life."


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(c) 2001 Don Schwager