The Building of Faith

I’ve had a little disconnect lately trying to figure something out. In the 11th Chapter of Hebrews, there is a whole list of people who we think of as the hero’s of faith.

Abraham and Sarah are mentioned in verses 8-12:

8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. 11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. NLT

We pick up the story of Abram (his name was later changed to Abraham) in Genesis 12. God tells him to “1 Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you. 2 I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing. 3 I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.” Abram did just this and all that God said happened just like He said. But the road was a twisted, strange one.

In verse 11, Abram ended up heading towards Egypt because of a famine in the land. I’m going to make an assumption here; Sarai must have been drop dead gorgeous! Why do I say this? Because as Abram got near the Egyptian border, he told Sarai to tell everyone that she was his sister. He knew that her beauty would be noticed and was afraid that he would be killed so that Pharaoh could take her as his own. Now, as someone who is mentioned in the book of Hebrews as a hero of faith, this, to me, doesn’t sound like a lot of faith. Later in scripture, we find that Sarai was Abrams step-sister, so while what he told Pharaoh was true, it wasn’t the whole truth, which in turn, makes it a lie (there is a lesson there).

Then in Genesis 15:1, the scripture says: “1 Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” Do you see that? “Do not be afraid” and “I will protect you.” But when you look in chapter 20, you see Abraham (his name had been changed at this point) flat out lying again to Abimelech, King of Gerar. Once again, he says that Sarah (her name had been changed too) is his sister. Again, her incredible beauty caused her to be brought into the harem of another king.

So, how could this man that we look up to today be a man of faith one day and a man of fear the next. I mean, this was no little thing he did. His fear of death and man caused him to deny his own wife. It also kind of makes me wonder how this made Sarah feel! The man who had pledged his life to her was suddenly telling her to lie about their relationship. I’m thinking that a trip to see Dr. Phil might have been on their calendar.

I’m also thinking that Abrahams lack of faith might have rubbed off on Sarah because there is a section in Genesis 16 where Sarah takes matters into her own hands and suggests that Hagar might be the one to bare Abraham a son so that the promise of God might be fulfilled. We see the fruit of this faithlessness even today with all the tension and trouble that is taking place in the Middle East.

In Genesis 21:33, Abimelech comes to Abraham and says, “”…swear to me that you won’t do anything underhanded to me or any of my family. For as long as you live here, swear that you’ll treat me and my land as well as I’ve treated you” Gen 21:23 (The Message). Other versions use the word “deceive” or “deal falsely”. Are you seeing the picture here? Abraham was perceived as a devious, sneaky, underhanded liar by those around him. And unfortunately, he passed that down to his son Isaac who tried the same “she is my sister” act in Geneses 26.

Then we read in Genesis 21:34 that “Abraham lived in Philistine country for a long time.” And it is right after this long period of time that we see a change in Abraham. In Genesis 22, God instructs Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him on one of the mountains. I’m sure that Abraham had some serious questions about whether he had heard God correctly or not, but the Word goes on to say that the next morning he got up early and started the journey. Most of us know that in the end, God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac and he ended up not having to sacrifice his only son, the son of the promise that God had given him years before.

So, what happened to cause Abraham to immediately and unquestioningly accept this Word from the Lord and be obedient? This is where my disconnect comes in. What happened during this long period of time between when Abimelech basically accused Abraham of being a devious, sneaky so and so and his instant, unquestioned obedience? Obviously something happened. We are left with more questions than answers and that is something that I don’t like. But that is the way it is. The only conclusion I can come to is that when Sarah became pregnant when she was well past the age of one able to have children, Abraham began to see the power and promise of God a whole lot clearer. Then he had a few years to reflect on this and really learn to trust God fully. There are times when God takes us into the shadows of life and when we finally come back out into the light, we are a changed person; A person who will be listed along with those in Hebrews 11. What, you say, how can my name be on that list that was written so long ago?

Hebrews 12:1 (The Message) says, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.” Abraham blazed a trail for you and I. He taught us that no matter where we are, that isn’t the place that we have to stay in. He is an example to us and we are the fruit of his labor. The hero’s in Hebrews 11 were not perfect at all. They all had shortcomings. They all had imperfections. Every one of them failed God. But they persevered and became the “root” for you and I so that we could bear fruit today and hopefully become an extension of the root for those who will come after us.

Take heart! Realize that you won’t always get it right, but keep turning your face towards Jesus. Keep your heart humble before him and don’t give up. Run the race and don’t give up. No matter how bad it seems, the God who gave the promise to Abraham is the same God giving promises to you and me.

Woooooo Hoooooooooooo! That is so awesomely exciting! I must say that writing this has blessed me so much. I started out with a major disconnect and lack of understanding and it appears that God has used this to teach me something about faith. Thank you, Lord! I stand amazed before You.

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