************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:8-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 22, 2017
Abraham is a hero of faith. Do you realize he receives more space in Hebrews 11 than any of the other saints that are mentioned? Abraham occupies a bigger section of Genesis than anyone before or after him. One whole chapter of Romans as well as Galatians is preoccupied with him. Why? Because of the inspiration of the Spirit, of course. But also because Abraham is a hero of faith.
I A Faith that Comes from Grace
A So let me ask, where did Abraham's faith come from? Why is he such a hero of faith? Because of a godly father and mother? Because of Christian teachers? Because he attended a God-honoring school? Because he was mentored by a true prophet? No, no, no, no; none of these.
Let me review with you a bit of Abraham's history. Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, in what is now Southern Iraq. At the time of Abraham, Ur was one of the world's great cities with a population of over 300,000 people. We know it was a center for education, culture, science, business, and trade. It was a polytheistic city with many gods and many temples.
We know Abraham was not a good man when he was called by God. He was a man of Ur: a man of his culture and his time. The book of Joshua tells us he was a pagan man raised by pagan parents and serving pagan gods (cf Josh 24:2).
B So where did Abraham's faith come from? How did he go from paganism to true faith? The answer is the grace of God. Out of grace, God called Abraham (cf Gen 12:1). In his sermon in the book of Acts, Stephen tells us that "the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia ..." (Acts 7:2).
But now let me ask another question: of the more than 300,000 people in Ur, why did God appear to Abraham? Was Abraham a seeker? Was Abraham seeking for truth? Was Abraham seeking for the one true God? Did Abraham realize his life was empty and he was searching for meaning? No, no, no, no; none of these because those who are sinners don't seek for God and can't seek for God. We need to speak, then, not only of the grace of God but also of the sovereign grace of God. As Paul tells us, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden (Rom 9:18).
What was true for Abraham continues to be true today. Grace, sovereign grace, is responsible for your faith and my faith and the faith of everyone who believes. No one believes because they are smarter, better, wiser, stronger. No one believes because they are searching. No one believes unless God, by grace, calls them with the effective power of His Word.
Because of grace, sovereign grace, Abraham is one of the heroes of faith. So, what can we say about his faith? Three things: he has a faith that obeys, a faith that prevails, and a faith that expects.
II A Faith that Obeys
A First, Abraham has a faith that obeys. Listen to how verse 8 puts this:
(Heb 11:8) By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.Abraham heard and Abraham obeyed. Technically, in the Greek, Abraham answered the door.
Do you remember the time an angel of the Lord released Peter from prison? Peter went to the house of Mary the mother of John and knocked at the outer entrance. A servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" (Cf Acts 12:13-14). Rhoda did not answer the door. Rhoda left Peter standing at the door. Abraham had a faith that answered the door. Abraham had a faith that responded to God's call. Abraham had a faith that immediately obeyed. God came. God spoke. And Abraham answered as soon as humanly possible. Faith that is a product of grace responds this way.
Abraham heard. Abraham obeyed. And Abraham left. He left the people he knew and loved: family, friends, business associates, contacts. He left his home; don't forget, Abraham was a wealthy man for his day so we can assume he lived in an opulent house. He left his culture. He left his city and country. He left his religion and his gods. He left it all behind. At the age of 75 -- when most people in our culture think only of retirement -- Abraham's faith led to a brand new beginning.
B What do you think Abraham said to Sarah and to Lot and to the rest of the family?
"Gather around family. I have an important announcement to make. We are moving!"
"Moving?! Why? For a slower pace of life? To a better neighborhood with better schools? Are we downsizing? Because of a business opportunity? Why are we moving?"
"God told me we were moving."
"Why does God want us to move?"
"I don't know why. I just know we are moving."
"Where are we moving to?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, "I don't know"?"
"I don't know."
"How will we get there? What route will we take?"
"I don't know that either."
"Well, then, what do you know?"
"All I know is that the Word of God told me to move and all I can do is obey."
C A faith that is the product of grace obeys. A faith that is the product of grace wants to obey. A faith that is the product of grace delights in obedience. A faith that is the product of grace is thankful to obey. By faith Abraham obeyed and went.
Does this describe your faith? Keep in mind what Jesus said to His disciples. "If you love me, you will obey my commandments" (Jn 14:15)?
III A Faith that Prevails
A Second, Abraham has a faith that prevails.
God called Abraham to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, as his future possession. So, remember how in the Promised Land God told Abraham to look north and south, east and west. All the land that he saw the Lord promised to give him. God even invited him to walk through the length and breadth of the land, checking it out, looking over what someday would be his (cf Gen 13).
B "Abraham, all of this is yours." What was the reaction, then, of Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela? Did they throw open the gates of their cities when Abraham arrived? Did they give Abraham the key to their cities? Did they tell Abraham to help himself to whatever and whomever he wanted because it was all his?
Listen to what happened when Abraham arrived in Canaan:
(Heb 11:9) By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.Abraham was the owner. Abraham had been given the land. Yet, by faith, he lived in the land "like a stranger in a foreign country."
More specifically, we are told that by faith Abraham lived in tents. He didn't live that way in Ur. He didn't live that way in Haran. But in Canaan he lived in tents.
In the Ancient World, you lived in a tent when you were on the move. No motor homes back then. No Motel 6. No cruise ship with a 1000 rooms for 2000 passengers. Back then you lived in a tent when you were on the move. So what do we see when we look at Abraham? We see him always on the move, always packing up, always going somewhere else: Shechem, Bethel, Egypt, Negev, Bethel again, the hill country above Sodom, Hebron, Mamre, Negev again, Gerar, Beersheba. On and on it went.
Do you think Sarah ever complained about this? "Abraham, we are on the move again? I just got to know the other ladies in the neighborhood. I just found a dressmaker I like. I just found a merchant with the spices I used in Ur."
C "Abraham, all of this is yours. All of this belongs to you and your descendants after you." Yet, when he died how much of the land actually belonged to Abraham? One little piece of ground. A piece of land with a cave. A place where he buried Sarah.
So the years marched by: 5, 10, 20, 40, 80, 500 before Abraham and his descendants actually took possession.
D Always on the move. Never taking possession. How did Abraham do this? How did Abraham put up with this? By faith. It was all by the faith that comes from grace. Because of his faith, Abraham put up with inconvenience. Because of his faith, Abraham put up with the relocations. Because of his faith, Abraham put up with the packing and moving and unpacking.
Faith makes you willing to do this. There were many reasons to move back to Ur. There were many reasons to move to the cities of the plain, like Lot and his family did. Business, culture, language, school, opportunities -- they were all better at Ur or Sodom. But if your concern is your eternal well-being then, by faith, you see that the tents of Canaan outshine the palaces of Ur and the mansions of Sodom.
E A faith that prevails. A faith that endures. A faith that puts up with difficulties. Does this describe your faith? Do you have faith that allows you to endure a difficult marriage when our world bombards you with options like divorce and adultery? Do you have faith to prevail as a Christian single when the opportunity comes to be married to an unbeliever?
Do you have faith to endure as a Christian student when the academic world taunts your views on creation, abortion, gay marriage, and morality? Do you have faith to prevail as a Christian businessman when the opportunity arises for much gain with injustice? Do you have faith to be a witness for Jesus in a hostile work environment?
That was Abraham's faith. A faith that prevails. A faith that endures. In spite of difficulties.
IV A Faith that Expects
A We end with a faith that expects. A faith that anticipates. A faith that hopes. Listen to how Hebrews describes this aspect of Abraham's faith:
(Heb 11:10) For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
God made promises to Abraham about the land. Yet, year after year went by without their fulfilment. Year after year, Abraham and Sarah continued to lived in tents as nomads. We need to ask why was Abraham able to prevail? Why was Abraham able to endure so long without seeing the fulfilment of God's promises in his life?
Here is the reason: Abraham was able to endure because by faith he "was looking forward" to something. Because by faith he was anticipating something. Because by faith he was expecting something with absolute confidence.
B What? What was he expecting? What was he anticipating? By faith he was expecting the city.
Abraham understood something about the Promised Land. He understood by faith that the land of Canaan was not his final destination. He understood that the land of Canaan pointed beyond itself to something greater and better and more wonderful. Canaan pointed to the city. The city!
Living in Visalia and area we have a hard time appreciating and understanding this. Cities are way too crowded and dirty and noisy. We watch the news and read the newspaper and in our minds the city is a place where evil is concentrated. The city is a place we visit once in a while but it is not a place where we would want to live and raise our children. In the Ancient World, however, the city was regarded as the highest expression of civilization and culture, the highest advancement of the human race. It is this view of the city that Hebrews has in mind. It is this view of the city Abraham was looking forward to by faith.
The city was not just a place of culture and civilization. It was also a place of permanence. Don't forget, Abraham lived in tents. Something temporary. Something transitory. Something set up and taken down and moved and set up again. But, says Hebrews, he was looking forward to the city "with foundations." Something fixed. Something permanent. Something rock solid. No more moving. No more tents and tent pegs and tent poles and setup and take down. By faith Abraham was looking forward to a place of permanence.
I have yet to say the most important thing about this city Abraham was looking forward to. Hebrews tells us its "architect and builder is God." God is the city planner, the general contractor, the site manager. He has planned out every single detail and leaves nothing to chance.
C I want you to notice how this city is described later in Hebrews: a better country -- a heavenly one (Heb 11:16); something better (Heb 11:40); Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God (Heb 12:22); a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28); an enduring city (Heb 13:14). Do you hear these descriptions? Do you know what they tell us? They tell us this is the perfect city. This is the height of human civilization and culture. Because life in this city is life under God. Because life in this city is life with Jesus. This is the city Abraham was looking forward to by faith.
Faith that comes from grace is faith that expects, faith that anticipates, faith that looks forward. Faith that comes from grace realizes, like Abraham, that the promised reward is in the life to come. Faith that comes from grace realizes that we, like Abraham, are nomads and pilgrims. Faith that comes from grace makes investments in eternity. What do I mean by that? It means you direct your children to the future life. Yes, schooling, work, business, marriage, and retirement are all important. But you and your children need to realize all of this is part of this temporary world. All of this is part of the earthly tent that someday will be uprooted. Far more important is our heavenly dwelling with Jesus.
Faith that comes from grace is faith that obeys, faith that prevails, faith that expects. This is the faith Abraham had. Is this also your faith?
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