August 30: Isaac

Read: Genesis 27:1-46

I wonder what it was like growing up in Abraham’s household. You know,  “father Abraham” who “had many sons.” (Remember the song “. . . right arm, left arm, nod your head . . .”?)

Although he had a half-brother, Isaac basically grew up as an only child. He grew up as the only child of the man who would become the father of the entire nation of Israel, the man whose faith led him through foreign lands. The man who had been chosen by God to receive promise after impossible promise only to see each fulfilled by the One True God. I wonder at what moment Isaac’s faith became his own.

I wonder what it was like to walk down that mountain after having been bound by his father as an almost- sacrifice and then saved by the very voice of God (Gen. 22). I’ll bet that was some worship service they had, just the two of them, thanking and praising God as they offered the ram that He so perfectly provided. And then Isaac got to witness firsthand the reaffirming of the LORD’s covenant promise to his own father, the promise that began the nation of God’s chosen people (Gen. 12:2-3).

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Gen. 22:17-18).

Indeed, “Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac” (Gen. 25:5), Not the least of which was his faith in the I AM God.

So when it came time for Isaac to pass on a blessing to his own son, he did not leave anything to chance. For the blessing came from the promise.

“I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed . . .”  (Gen. 26:4).

And in faith Isaac spoke his faith in his blessing.

“May God give you . . . an abundance . . .”

“. . . May nations serve you . . .”

“. . . May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

“May God . . . give you and your descendants the blessing . . . so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien . . .” (Gen. 27:28-29; 28:3-4).

He trusted Him who had made the promise and passed it on to the next generation.

Makes me stop and think about what I am passing on. How about you?

brw

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised

August 29: The God Who Provides

Read Genesis 22:1-24

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He…reasoned that God could raise the dead . . .” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Goatskin hardly seems like something interesting enough to have on display. But it is perhaps the most suitable object for our next exhibit as we travel through the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.

Did God really ask what I think He did? As if reminding Abraham of the incredible value that Isaac had, He told this dad what we can neither fathom nor expect to hear, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there . . .”  (Genesis 22:2). It was a test. Was Abraham’s trust in God implicit?

I mean, think about a couple of key questions that went unanswered.

  1. “Who in his right mind would ask a father to sacrifice his son?”
  2. “Just exactly how are you going to fulfill your promise of a nation through Isaac if he is no longer in the picture?”

We have no evidence that God provided an answer to question #2 in advance. By faith, however, Abraham drew his own conclusion.

Isaac had been the product of a miraculous birth. Beyond the age of childbearing, God had allowed Abraham and Sarah to conceive. Surely God could bring about a miracle at Isaac’s death . . . a resurrection. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary. God provided a goat in Isaac’s place. That’s significant. God has a way of providing for those who obey Him by faith. There is a mountain, Mt. Moriah, whose name reminds us of that . . . and a goatskin that gives testimony to that.

As to question #1? Who in their right mind would ask a father to sacrifice his son? The same One, who as a Father, would later allow His own Son to be sacrificed. Motivated by extreme love for people like you and me, our Heavenly Father, gave His Son Jesus Christ.

Abraham’s story was a foreshadowing of another Father/Son sacrifice . . . God’s miraculous provision for us. But though this sacrifice wasn’t interrupted in the final seconds, it ended miraculously. It ended in resurrection!

Both stories speak of God’s provision. Both point to the promise of life through Jesus Christ. And both require faith.

sbk

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised

August 28: Home

Read Philippians 3:1-21

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

Where was “home” for Abraham and Sarah? Abraham grew up in Ur of the Chaldeans. In fact, he and Sarah spent the early years of their married life there. They likely had some fond memories of Ur. But it wasn’t “home.”

Haran had a special place in their heart, too. They had not only lived there but had also buried Abraham’s dad, Terah, there. But Haran wasn’t “home.”

Then God promised them a vast land. They headed out not knowing where they were going, but they were fully informed once they arrived. “This is it!” God said. Still, that wasn’t “home.”

A famine took them to Egypt. Not only did they find food there, but they also acquired great wealth there. But the land of the Nile did not become “home.”

There was the place where their son Isaac was born and Machpelah near Mamre where Sarah and Abraham were buried. But even those locations within the land God had promised did not earn the name “home” for them.

Truth is, Abraham and Sarah, like you and me, were aliens and strangers on earth. They didn’t settle in where they were or try to return to where they came from. By faith, they had their eyes set on a heavenly home.

If you are a follower of Christ, you can make that same claim. You don’t belong here. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are just passing through.

The challenge is to move those statements from the realm of Sunday morning realization to Thursday evening reality . . . to make it more than a matter of understanding and allow it to become a way of life. Your ultimate satisfaction is not found on earth or in what this world has to offer. It will be experienced in a home prepared by Jesus (Jn. 14:1-6) found in a city prepared by the Father (Heb. 11:16).

Aliens and strangers still have to live in the foreign country. They have to work and eat and sleep and laugh and relate to others. But there is an inner longing that keeps them focused their real “home.” Do you live with that inner longing?

sbk

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised

August 27: Don’t Laugh

Read Genesis 18:1-15 and 21:1-7

“By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise” (Hebrews 11:11).

Imagine a sign in front of a house: “Sarah’s 90th birthday party and baby shower.” One person celebrating both events…in the same year? They seem somehow incongruent . . . and impossible! Adding Abraham’s stats to the sign . . . 100 years old . . . certainly wouldn’t make it any more believable!

If you laughed, smiled, or raised your eyebrows at the thought of such a sign, Sarah predicted that you would. It is pretty unbelievable. In fact, Sarah herself even laughed internally.

Eavesdropping from just inside the tent, she overheard a conversation between three men and her husband. “Sarah…have a son”? She could hardly hold back her response.  In her mind, she saw herself as “worn out” and Abraham, a soon to be centenarian, was just plain “old!” So, she muffled a chuckle.

Laughter at the thought doesn’t sound much like the faith that Hebrews 11 applauds, does it? Something must have happened between that laugh and the day she gave birth. There must have been a turn-around for the two of them. Somewhere along the way, Abraham’s and Sarah’s doubt turned to faith. Their amusement at the thought turned to confidence in the promise. 

I find that encouraging.

Maybe faith can grow. Perhaps there is room for people like you and me who sometimes waffle between belief and hesitation. Maybe it’s OK to be like the man who brought his mute son to Jesus. When encouraged to have faith, the man responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mk. 9:24)!

Maybe there is room for me somewhere on the continuum between extreme disbelief and implicit trust. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pleased with my periodic doubt . . . and neither is God. But perhaps He is patient with me like He was with Abraham and Sarah, even as my faith grows stronger.

sbk

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised

August 26: Map or No Map?

Read Genesis 11:27-12:9

“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”  (Hebrews 11:8).

A map on the wall . . . that is what I would put on display in the “Hall of Faith” if I were the curator in charge of the first Abraham exhibit.

The journey depicted on my map would begin in Ur, head east-northeast to Haran before heading south into Israel and a location called Shechem. This is the trip Abraham made.

But, here is the irony of my exhibit . . . while I would portray Abraham’s travels with a map, he had none. His was a journey of faith. Abraham did not know where he was going.

He only knew that God had called. So he answered. He only understood that God said, “Go!” So he set out. He only grasped that there was a destination that God had in mind.  So he packed up his wife, his nephew, a few others, along with all their possessions and began the wagon train trip.

“Where are we?” his wife Sarah must have asked as they traveled. With words uncharacteristic of men behind the wheel of a car, Abraham might have responded, “I’m not sure. God is leading us.”

You see, without a map or a GPS, Abraham had to be tuned into the voice of God and His leading day-by-day. At every fork in the path must have come the question, “OK, which way now? Right? Left? Straight?”

What exactly would come around the next turn, Abraham didn’t know. He only knew and trusted the One who led them. Confidently, by faith, he continued the journey until God said, “This is the place!” Once there, Abraham built an altar and worshiped.

Meanwhile, I have a map . . . or at least I think I do. I woke up today with my agenda, my plans, my destinations, and even the turn-by-turn directions of how to get there. But, have I paused today to listen, by faith, to the One who has called me? Have I asked Him if our destinations and objectives for today are the same? Do I trust Him enough to head into new areas for which I have no map, when He leads me there? I think I need to stop again and listen.

sbk

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised

August 25: Faith That Doesn’t Stumble

Read Genesis 6:9-8:19

Our next stop in this great Hall takes us to a man named Noah. Like his great-grandfather, Enoch, Noah also “walked with God.” But his walk didn’t lead straight to heaven without passing go. Instead, God walked Noah through throngs of unrighteous people and straight to the construction site where he would build a boat — a boat big enough to house each member of his grown family as well as a pair of every kind of animal on earth, plus some extras for a sacrifice when all was said and done.  It’s hard to imagine. But Noah trusted what he did not see.

He had yet to experience rain in his lifetime. Until that first raindrop which God used to begin the great flood, the earth had not seen rain. Still, “Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark . . .” (Hebrews 11:7).

It’s a story many of us learned as young children. Still, it’s a truth many of us have yet to fully grasp. The truth of taking God at His Word and acting on that alone.

In the same way God commanded the universe into existence, so He commanded Noah into action. And God uses that same voice, coupled with the same kind of faith, the faith He gives His followers through Jesus Christ, to continue His work with a word.

Unlike the boat that undoubtedly rocked back and forth with the the rising waters, Noah’s faith stood firm on God’s unshakable word. So with the faith of His man Noah, God started over with a small remnant of people. Then He gave His rainbow-covenant word.

His word, Noah’s faith, God’s plan. Covenant.

“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come . . . Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Gen. 9:12,15,16).

Like a string around God’s finger, everytime He makes a rainbow, He remembers His promise. We humans sure give Him plenty of reason to forget and to second-guess that promise. Nevertheless, He remains faithful to His promise.

Can we say the same about our faith when rain falls and wind blows and the ground on  rattles and rolls like the ark that Noah stood upon? Are you standing firm on God’s promise, in faith?

brw

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised

August 24: How Enoch Walked

Read Genesis 5:1-24; Jude 14-15

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.  For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5).

We know little about Enoch. Of all the verses in the entire Bible, we have a total of seven from which to gather any information about this man. Yet here he sits among patriarchs like Abraham, Moses and Jacob in this, the Hall of Faith. We find Enoch counted among those men and women whose lives help us know faith as God sees it.

Here is what we know about this man of faith. We know Enoch became a father at the young age of 65 when his first son, Methuselah, was born. We know he was around another 300 years after that. Jude 14-15 tell us he prophesied against ungodly men about God’s undeniable justice.

But the Word of God uses four simple words to sum up this man’s life. “He walked with God.” Then, 300 years later, “he was no more, because God took him away.”

That must have been some walk, huh? I mean, for some reason, God chose to fetch His man Enoch from this earth and take him unto Himself in an incredibly uncommon way.

Only one other time in Scripture do we see God do this. We can read about it in 2 Kings 2 when God took Elijah up in a whirlwind. All these two men knew were life here and life there. No death experience for them.

We find a few more words to help clarify. “(Enoch) was commended as one who pleased God.” And the way he walked with God was his legacy. This walking he did, this walking with God, Enoch did in such a way that his life was known for it. This one truth summed up Enoch’s life: He walked with God. The end.

What more do we need to know? He trusted God to lead his every step. He walked wherever God did.

And God was pleased.

I wonder if, at the end of my life, others might sum me up in such a mightily profound way. Imagine your own memorial service. The pastor stands up for the eulogy and simply states: “He walked with God” or “She walked with God.”  Then he closes his books and sits down. The end.

Because what more is there, really? The walk of faith starts with God Himself. Being sure of what we hope for. Being certain of Him, which we do not see. So certain, in fact, that our every step starts with Him. Will you walk with Him today?

brw

Posted in Hall of Faith Revised