The Book of Hebrews #51 chapter 11:8-19
The Book of Hebrews
Abraham: An Example of Faith,#1
Hebrews 11:8-19
 
We are studying the list of heroes of faith found in Hebrews 11 and tonight we come to one of the most well-known in the list.  His name is Abraham and he is an example of faith.
 
Listen to what is written of him in verses 8-19
 
Abraham lived from about 2165 B.C. to about 1990 B.C.  That means we’re two thousand years now past creation and with Abraham, a new era of human history begins.
 
After the flood, it appears that God maintains sort of a general relationship to the human race,  But with Abraham everything changes because God reveals to Abraham that He is about to get intimately and personally involved in the affairs of man.
 
In fact, His promise to Abraham is going to be the father of the people of Israel.  And in very specific ways, Gods plan is to send His Word to this people called Israel, the children of Abraham, and they will hear His Word, they will possess His Word, they will inscribe His Word in a written fashion and they will proclaim His Word to the nations of the world.
 
They’re going to be the evangel to proclaim that salvation is available, that sinners can be reconciled to God through faith. And because of that, Abraham is the central figure in salvation history and as such, he stands as a vivid example of faith.
 
In fact, his life is a pattern of all who come to God by faith.  In fact, the paraphrased testimony of his life is found in Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Throughout his life, he believed God. That’s what set him apart. He lived by faith. He accepted the Word of God and acted on it.
 
And certainly that is what is in the mind of the writer of Hebrews as he writes about the faith of Abraham.
 
Now if I measured correctly, Hebrews gives us more information about the faith of Abraham that any of the others who are mentioned.  And because of that, it’s going to take us a couple of weeks to cover it.
 
Now what I want us to see from the life of Abraham is how it parallels the faith life of a New Testament believer.  And to do that, I want to try and answer a question. What characterized Abraham as a man of faith? What were the components of his faith?”
 
 Now remember, we’ve already seen that Abel was a man of faith but only in a partial sense. Abel offered a right sacrifice and that’s a part of living a life of faith.  In fact, it’s an important part.  In fact, it’s the it’s the initial part or the beginning point of living a faith life.  But we need to keep in mind, beginning a thing is not all there is to it.
 
And unfortunately, many believe that since there was a point where they got saved, that’s all they need.  But getting saved is just the beginning point of living a life of faith. So Abel shows us how to begin a life of faith.
 
 
Then we looked at Enoch and this man’s faith wasn’t just limited to a beginning point.  Enoch had the reputation of walking with God.  So if Abel teaches us about justification, Enoch demonstrates sanctification.
 
Then we come to Noah and we see another dimension of faith and it involves the future.  Noah was a man who was obedient tot the word of God, so much so that he obeyed in anticipation of something to come in the future.
 
And with the first three, we see that living a life of faith has a starting point with the recognition of sin and sacrifice.  It has an ongoing point in terms of walking in faith, and it has a future dimension in that we live in obedience to God for something that is coming that you cannot see. Those are all elements of faith.
 
But when we come to Abraham, the whole thing comes together. We get the full picture.  And to illustrate that, I want to show you five features of faith that are illustrated by the completeness of Abraham’s faith.
 
Let’s begin with
 
1. The Pilgrimage of Faith
 
verse 8
 
Key in on the little phrase, “by faith Abraham when he was called obeyed.” When he was called, obeyed. There’s something interesting here. What the verse is telling us is that the response is going on at the same time the calling is coming.
In other words, his obedience is immediate.  Maybe a better way to say it is “Abraham, while being called, was already obeying.”
 
And that is noteworthy because he went out not knowing where he was going. He was told that he would be receiving an inheritance. He didn’t know where it was. He didn’t know what it was. He was clueless!  He had no concept, no idea of where this calling and his obedience was taking him.
 
How strong is this faith? Strong enough that when he has no idea where he’s going and he is leaving everything familiar and everything he knows, he never even bothers to think about it, he just obeys.
 
He didn’t look over the travel brochure that described the beautiful land of Canaan.  The travel agent didn’t set down with him and describe the joys of the journey and all the arrangements that could be included in the travel package. He doesn’t get a free concert and bbq grill thrown in if he just comes and looks at the available condos. 
 
He just obeys by faith.  And that is especially remarkable because as far as we know, Abram is a pagan.  He is a part of the dispersion that occurred after the Tower of Babel.  He winds up in the land of Ur.
 
He is not a secret believer in the true God. We don’t have any evidence of that. He is just a pagan like a lot of other pagans. And by the grace of God, he was chosen to be the father of God’s people.  And by faith, Abraham responded.
 
 
In fact, he was in the act of obeying when God was still in the act of calling him. And that’s the pilgrimage of faith. He made a break with everything that was comfortable and secure and logical and he chose to trust God.  That’s how it starts for Abraham and that’s how it starts for us.
 
That is a beautiful picture of the beginning of every salvation experience.  If and when you get saved, you make a break with everything else other than God, and choose to trust Him and Him alone for salvation.
 
A life of faith demands a break with everything that is familiar, everything that is old. It’s a new world and even though you don’t know what it is because you don’t really inherit it until you leave this one. It starts with a willingness to separate from everything that is familiar and visible. This is where every Christian’s pilgrimage begins.
 
That was Abraham. And in that sense he’s a figure for us, he is an analogy that we can see, a man of faith separates himself from the world to go toward an inheritance which he is promised but which he will not see or inherit until a future that is at that point unknown to him.
 
That is the pilgrimage of faith.
 
Next, let’s look at
 
2. The Patience of Faith
 
verses 9 and 10
 
Now the pilgrimage of Abraham took a long time.  First he went to Haran and spent five years going in the wrong direction.  He is identified as a stranger and alien.  He doesn’t own any land. He’s just a nomad. He has gathered up everything he owns and all the people he owns and while he was in Haran, he accumulated a whole bunch more of them.
 
He is in the land of promise but he’s an alien. He never really takes possession of anything. It’s like living in a foreign land. He’s a tent dweller.  He travels in transition.  He’s a foreigner living alongside the people who live in the land. It is promised to him but it is never really possessed. You can read more about that in Genesis chapter 23. And those who came after him shared that same kind of life, Isaac and Jacob, the heirs of promise.
 
And it wasn’t very long till all his family was hauled off into Egypt. And Abraham’s descendents would spend 400 years in captivity.
 
So he is separated from his old life, living in a land that he really doesn’t yet possess as a stranger in the world. He is living in a tent. He is a nomad.
 
He doesn’t fit.  He’s not at home.  He is in transition.  And all of that is to remind us of ourselves.  How he lived then is how we live now.  Some day this world will be ours.  There is coming a day when the Lord Jesus establishes His millennial Kingdom on the earth, when the earth is renovated from east to west and north to south, when the curse is reversed and there will be glory that fills the earth and Christ will reign. And a lion will lie down with a lamb and the desert will blossom like a rose.
And all the things that the prophets talked about will come to pass on the earth and we will inherit the earth. But right now, we’re just tent dwellers here. We don’t really see the possession of our inheritance. We are pilgrims living alongside the people in this world without ever taking possession of what is promised to us.  We don’t fit.  We are not at home.  We are in transition.
 
So here’s Abraham, God’s promise never seen by him in his life, he never owned land, wandered through Canaan-land as a tent dweller, but never abandoned his faith in a future promise.
 
I think the hardest time of all is the time in between. When the journey begins, there’s a lot of excitement! After all, od came to me!  God in His glory came to me, the true and living God came to me, a pagan man. He spoke to me. And by His power I believed what He said and it was all so wonderful, it was all so glorious.
 
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!
 
And one of these days, the Lord returns and makes everything right and every romise is realized and all the pains and hurts and disappointments are gone!  What a day that will be. . .
 
But then there’s that in-between time.  Here sits old Abraham in Haran for five years.  That means he’s 75 when he leaves there and he still hasn’t realized the promise.  So he migrates all the way back southwest to the land of Canaan and finally arrives.
 
But in reality, he’s never anything more than must a stranger there. He doesn’t own a house.  He doesn’t fit in.  He doesn’t get to see the end result of any of it.
 
But this is the patience of faith. This is the challenge. This is the challenge for us as well. It’s a reminder for us to remain faithful and to keep our faith strong and joyful and full of anticipation in the long period between the glorious moment of our salvation and the ultimate moment of our glorification. He didn’t give up his hope.  He continued in faith and that’s what drove him. It motivated him. It pressed him forward.
 
The man of faith is not the man whose faith is always blazing like some shooting star or meteorite.  The man of faith is the one who’s faith is like a light that just keeps shining when there’s nothing to do but wait and when maybe there’s pain in life and disappointment in life, and fear sets in and faith is sustained and they just keep shining.
 
Abraham never grows impatient.  His faith never failed.  That’s the patience of faith. That’s the faith that endures and that’s the true kind of faith. Enduring faith is the only real saving faith.
 
How do you do that?  What keeps a man faithful in the difficult times?
 
verse 10
 
Both the word “city” and “foundations” has a definite article. He was looking for THE city which has THE foundations. Abraham looked for the city which was built by God.  That’s what he was looking for!
So how much did God disclose to him? When God came to him, God must have told him who He was and what salvation meant, that there was not only a land to which he would go that God would give him but that there was a city that God Himself would build that God would lay the foundations and be the architect and builder and this was the heaven of heavens.
 
That’s why he could be patient in the land of Canaan living as a nomad spending his days wandering around the countryside and sleeping in a tent.
 
He did that for all those years because his sights were set on the heavenly city. Ezekiel 48:35 says, “The name of that city will be “The Lord is There”.  It is named for the main occupant. The Lord is There.
 
He did what Colossians 3:2 says we have to do, “He set his affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” He was patient with things below, and he had lots of struggles below. He was patient with all of it because his mind was not fixed on satisfaction that comes in this life.  He was looking for something far beyond this.
 
And Abraham stands as a reminder that if your focus is on heaven and God’s promises, then you can live in any circumstance in this life. He patiently endured.
 
So what do we learn about the life of faith from Abraham?  It begins with a pilgrimage of faith.  That means when God calls, you drop everything, separate from the world and you follow, even if you don’t know where God is going to take you.  You just know He has promised you fellowship as you travel and and a future with Him, so off you go.
And secondly, the pilgrimage of faith is going to require you to have some patience as you endure the issues in this world by keeping your eyes on the world to come.
 
Next week, we’ll see the next three characteristics of Abraham’s life of faith.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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