Tuesday, 5 March 2019
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. Hebrews 11:8
The author next turns to Abraham. He is noted in twenty-seven books of the Bible, and is often used as an example of great faith. Even the Lord Jesus spoke of him on several occasions. He has already been mentioned eight times in Hebrews, mostly in Chapter 7, but it is obvious that he is a pivotal figure in the scene of redemptive history.
Paul uses him in critical sections of his writings to explain profound theological matters, particularly because he predates the law of Moses, and thus sets an example which demonstrates that righteousness, by default, comes apart from deeds of the law. Even James, who is cited by countless scholars as supporting justification through works, actually speaks of Abraham in a unique way which – it is true – involves works, but the works are based on something entirely different than what those scholars conclude. That will be noted in the coming verses of Hebrews as well.
So far, three men prior to Abraham have been noted for their faith, Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Abraham has an interesting parallel to each of the three. Abel “offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” whereas Abraham offered the most excellent sacrifice possible in his son Isaac (coming in verse 11:11). Enoch walked with God; Abraham walked where God directed him to walk. Noah “became the heir of righteousness” through faith, whereas Abraham became the model of righteousness by faith.
In his beginning thoughts, he says again, “By faith.” The author is ensuring that the pattern which is found pleasing to God continues on unabated. And so, “By faith Abraham obeyed.” In a manner similar to Noah, there is an obedience to the directive which has been given. Noah was told to do something incredible, and he did it. Abraham is told to do something which would lead to a life of pilgrimage, and yet he did it. He “obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.”
As a technical note, Vincent’s Word Studies shows that the thought of going out is to be construed with “obeyed.” A present participle is used which “indicates Abraham’s immediate obedience to the call: while he was yet being called.” Thus it should be translated as “when he was called obeyed to go out.” He was called, and he did not hesitate to respond as called.
The calling is recorded in Genesis 12:1. It needs to be understood that the promise of inheritance is not found there though. The translation makes it sound like the inheritance was promised at the call. But the inheritance is not noted until afterwards. Further, it is not an immediate inheritance, but one which follows in his seed –
Genesis 12:1-3 is the call to leave his country and go.
Genesis 12:4-6 is the departure and travel through the land.
Genesis 12:7 is the promise of the inheritance to his descendants.
Acts 7:5 calls attention to this order and the fact that Abraham did not personally receive the inheritance, but that it would only come upon his descendants.
With this understanding, the author continues with, “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham wasn’t an explorer looking for adventure. Rather, he was a man with a home and family who was called to pick up and leave his land and go somewhere he had never been, and without having any specifics at all as to why until after he got there. And yet, by faith, he did as instructed.
Life application: Abraham demonstrated faith, and God was pleased with that. We too are pleasing to God when we demonstrate faith in Him. The first act of faith that we can accomplish which will please God is to believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ. After that, we can continue to please God by accepting His word as authoritative in our lives. Along with that comes faith that His word is, in fact, the authoritative word of God. Accounts such as creation, the flood, and the tower of Babel (among countless others) are written as simple statements of fact. Do we accept them in that manner? Or do we look at them as allegorical representations of other things? The answer we make really matters concerning our faith in what we consider to be the word of God. We are saved by faith in Christ, but we will be judged based upon our lives in Christ, particularly in relation to how we understand, accept, and apply God’s words in our lives. If you struggle with parts of the Bible, talk to God about it and ask Him to reveal to you what you are struggling with. That alone is an act of faith.
Thank You Lord God for the lesson of faith we find in the person of Abraham. Though we don’t always know the path that lies ahead of us, we have been assured in Your word that You are with us and will guide us all our days. Grant us faith like Abraham – to step out and follow where You direct. To Your glory, and to a walk which is pleasing to You, we pray. Amen.