Interestingly, an excellent summary of the patriarch Abraham’s faith is found in the New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter 11. Abraham’s life is recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis, starting in chapter 12. Within this summary are two powerful principles about faith that are helpful to each of us on our faith journey.
The author of Hebrews opens this faith drama with a definition that has been made widely known by Christ-followers since its proclamation, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). From this definition, we understand that faith is the solid certainty of that for which we hope, based upon reality and solid existence that has been tested and is essential. Therefore, our faith does not create reality but is based upon the reality of God’s sovereignty and power. This was the faith exhibited through the life of Abraham and his wife, Sarah.
Hebrews 11:8-12 speaks of the faith of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham’s faith was demonstrated when he obeyed God when He said, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1). Abraham went, although he did not have any clue where he was going. There would have been those who had thought Abraham had lost his mind. Abraham left what was familiar to him, the land and people and family that he loved for years, and journeyed to a place unknown to him. When Abraham reached his destination, he lived as a sojourner, not an owner or possessor, but in tents of temporary nature. By faith, Abraham looked into the future. He saw with a faithful eye a city whose buildings had foundation stones, a symbol of the permanence of the promise of God, which contrasted with the portable and unstable tents of his current living space. Abraham foresaw that the builder and maker of that city would be God.
Sarah, Abraham’s aged wife, having long past child-bearing years, received the message that she would have a son. Her first response was not faith but laughter. She responded, “Imagine, I who am called barren, I am going to have a baby!” (Gen 18:12). It’s as if she is questioning if God’s messengers didn’t know her female condition or don’t understand about bearing children. However, the messengers persist in their promises with an intensity and honesty that put aside all doubt. Finally, she yielded, and a wave of belief swept over her whole being. What a work of God. By faith, Sarah received the power to conceive, and she bore the promised child – the promise came through obedient faith. In both accounts, we learn a powerful principle of faith, that genuine faith leads to obedience. Otherwise stated, by faith, both Abraham and Sarah walked in obedience.
The second powerful faith principle is found in Hebrews 11:17-19. We read that Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Imagine the anguish Abraham must have felt as he wrestled with the rationale of such a command. He had to have thought, “But Isaac is the son of promise, the one whom God is going to fulfill His promise” (Heb 11:20). But, Abraham acts in faith. We are told Abraham believed “that God was able even to raise Isaac from the dead.” This is genuine faith! In the very process of the sacrifice, God provided by other means, sparring Isaac and showing the importance of obedience but at the same time His glorious provision for our needs. The second powerful faith principle is that God gets into the act when we act in faith.
So, we have learned two powerful principles from Hebrews about faith that can impact each of our faith journeys. They can be combined and understood that when we place our trust, our belief, our faith in God, it leads to obedience that releases the resources of heaven in and through our lives. When we act in faith, God, Who exists, is present and always working, is glorified, we are blessed, and others are blessed through us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!