A Legacy of Faith

Hebrews 11:17-22

Sermon # 213

“A Legacy of Faith” 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Abraham along with everyone in this chapter of Hebrews lived in such a way worth writing about. Of course, as we have looked at already these men and women are not the ones on display. It is our wonderful God, the Lord Jesus Christ who is on display. Our God has left a legacy worth writing down and indeed it has been! His precious Word to us. It instructs and trains us for godly living and cuts into our souls showing us who we really are and who He really is. It is this heart work that God is working in the Hebrews as the author writes this epistle to them, and it is this same God who is writing His story in us and through us. His majesty is displayed from beginning to end. Have you ever asked yourself, “what does it take to leave a legacy of faith?” Look to the Lord Jesus Christ and never take your eyes off Him. Learn from Him, consider Him, humble yourself before Him. It is these characteristics that describe Abraham a man who left a legacy of faith because His faith was in The Lord Jesus Christ! As we look at these following verses we will see some aspects of Abrahams’s faith and the legacy it left to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and beyond, even to us.   Let’s look at this text in four points: 

I. Abraham’s faith was a Tested Faith

II. Abraham’s Faith was a Reasonable Faith 

III. Abraham’s faith looked beyond his life 

IV. Abraham’s Faith (And that of his progeny) Embraced Death as part of God’s Plan

I. Abraham’s faith was tested.(17)

Verses eight through 16 we looked at the beginning and call of Abraham and his belief in the promises of God. As we looked at last week Abraham’s faith is notable in scripture as an example of biblical faith. Abraham believed God and was willing to follow him wherever He leads. The author of Hebrews is trying to encourage first-century Jewish Christians to continue in the faith he says in verse 17 “by faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac”… this faith of Abraham that was willing to go wherever God called him, was going to be tested. The Genesis account of this occurrence is in chapter 22:1-14. Turn with me there, let’s read it together: “After these things, God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now, I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”;2 as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Faith is not a one-time thing. Faith is a lifestyle that God calls us to live. If you notice when God called to Abraham Abraham answered and obeyed. And here in this passage, it is no different.  God asked Abraham to take his son and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountains which he would tell him. Verse three tells us that he arose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac. This implies, the Abram obeyed God immediately. You see, Church yesterday‘s faith will not do for today. We are called to look and listen and obey God today. For Abraham, he arose and did not question but went out to obey God. Verse four tells us that Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. He had been traveling for three days. The text does not tell us this, but what must he have been thinking about during his travels? His thoughts are revealed in verse five when he makes an amazing statement and tells the young men to stay with the donkey and I and the boy will go over there and worship and come back to you. Abram was certain about something; that God would fulfill his promise through Isaac just as he said. So, this was not some blind faith. And it certainly was not just reason. In fact, there was much that seems contradictory to what God had already said to him, that through Isaac many generations would come.  And God doesn’t offer an explanation beyond what He had already spoken to him. Have you ever desired that God would explain what’s going on in your life? Perhaps you have gotten angry and demanded that God answer you concerning your circumstances. We do not see this with Abraham here. We certainly see Abraham’s failings in the narrative of Genesis but he does not fail in faith here. Here he understands that God was going to do something in this situation. And he trusted Him. Verse six says he took Isaac and the fire and the wood and the knife and it’s then in verse seven that Isaac says to his father “my father” and Abraham answers “here I am my son” and Isaac says, “ behold the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And again Abraham makes a statement of faith that God would provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering. The text does not tell us that there was wrestling of any kind between Abram and Isaac but we know that Abraham loved his son and yet the text tells us that he loved God more in the sense that he was willing to obey and sacrifice his son as God said. Not to mention the supposed willingness and possible faith of Isaac even at this time. Since it is mere speculation to think that Isaac fought Abraham as he intended to sacrifice him, it could equally be said that Isaac as well submitted to his father and trusted that God would indeed provide a sacrifice. And in the dramatic climax of verse 10 were Abraham reaches out his hand and took a knife to slaughter his son it is then that Divine intervention happens to call out to Abraham who told him not to lay a hand on the boy. Abraham’s faith had been tested. And God did provide a ram in the thicket. We know from the Scriptures that God does not tempt us but as we see displayed clearly hear that He does allow our faith to be tested and tried. True faith endures through such testing and trials. Going back to our Hebrews text concerning Abraham’s testing it says when he was tested he offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son of whom it is said through Isaac your offspring shall be named. Biblical faith then is tested and tried faith in the One who is able to do what he promised. This leads us to our second point:

II. Abraham’s Faith was a  reasonable faith. (17b-19) And just as we were wondering what Abraham possibly was thinking about for those three days as he went to the mountain where he would sacrifice Isaac verse 19 of Hebrews 11 tells us “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” This word for considered in the Greek is where we get the word logarithm in other words, it was a calculated, logical even mathematical reasoning that God was able to do what He promised even if it meant to raise Isaac from the dead. In a way, Isaac was as good as dead. And we know this because Abraham was following through and this is why God stopped him. The author of Hebrews is interpreting Genesis telling us not only of God‘s ability to raise the dead but that in a figurative way or a Parabolic Way, Abraham really did receive his son back from the dead. Isaac was as good as dead but God made a way. This is so important for the Hebrews here. If they were to endure persecution and propagate this message to another generation, they were going to be tested and tried. We are no different. These words should be instructive to us. Abraham looked to the reality of resurrection! Up to this point in history, there had not been a resurrection. But Abraham believed that God could do this. It was an expectation for God to act regardless of the circumstances. Do we look to God in expectation that He will accomplish what He promised even in us? Do we doubt his goodness in His providential plan in putting us where we are, married to whom we are, having the job that we have, the children that we have, and yet He even knows our soul’s disposition? Is the God who created life unable to resurrect the dead? And if we as believers have trusted Christ and his death and resurrection on our behalf as an atonement making us in right standing with God, why is it that we find it so troublesome to trust Him with our daily lives? Of course, this Hebrew passage is beautiful and reminding the Hebrews that God had indeed sent his own Son and He did not withhold his hand but sacrificed Him willingly in our place.  If he was willing to do this on our behalf as Paul says, “How will he not freely give us all things?” So we see that biblical faith is tested and tried, it is reasonable as it looks to God as its author and finisher and now for our third point:

Faith Looks beyond our lives (20)

Let’s look at verse 20 it says “by faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau“ the life of Isaac is chronicled in the book of Genesis and gives us some detail about His life and marriage to Rebecca and then the birth of his sons Jacob and Esau. It is with reference to this that the author of Hebrews goes to the end of Isaac’s life referring to the blessing that he speaks before his death. In this summarization, the text does not mention Jacob’s deception or the way that Esau sold his birthright but reveals that Isaac was looking beyond his own life and considering the promises that God that were given to his father Abraham and invoked them upon his sons. As we spoke of last week all of these men and women of faith looked beyond their lives to see the fulfillment of God‘s promises. In a similar way, we look back on the cross of Christ in the great assurance of our standing before God by faith. However, our faith does not just look backward on the cross but looks forward to our redemption. Do you look forward by faith as much as you look backward in faith? Do you look only to the day of your death and not beyond? What about the wonder of what He will do in your children and grandchildren or in those you disciple? What about how He will use your life of faith to weave into the tapestry of what has come before you and what or who will come after you. In this way, Faith looks at today with tomorrow in mind. Truly faith looks beyond our lives as it did with these patriarchs. So we’ve seen that  faith is tested, Faith is reasonable (because it reasons that God is able), faith looks beyond our lives and now for our final point:

IV. Abraham’s Faith Embraced the reality of Death (20-22)

Read verses 21 and 22 with me by Faith Jacob when he was dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph bowing in the worship over the head of his staff.  By faith Joseph at the end of his life made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and give directions concerning his bones.” Faith not only looks beyond our lives but embraces death as a necessary link in the progress of redemption. Faith perseveres to the end of our physical lives to see God work in the next generation. The end of Genesis gives an account of Jacob blessing his sons the tribes of Israel but the author of Hebrews takes note of the blessing on the sons of Joseph. The Genesis account tells us that when Joseph brought Ephraim and Manasseh to Jacob that Jacob crossed his hands and blessed Ephraim as the firstborn and not Manasseh. The Hebrews passage says that his blessing happened while he was bowing in worship over the head of the staff. In other words, he was old and not able to get into a posture to worship but passed the blessing on to these grandsons in faith that God will fulfill what He promised. Verse 22 then says that by faith Joseph at the end of his life made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave direction concerning his bones. Joseph just as his father had done looked beyond his life and embraced that his death and God’s working in future generations was all part of His plan. But, his assurance that God would keep his promises is revealed in that he reminded those he was leaving behind,  that an exodus out of Egypt would one day happen. It would be hundreds of years in the future but we know that Joseph believed it that he gave directions that they would carry his body out of Egypt and into the promised land. We know that in the days of Moses this indeed happened and they did take his body out of Egypt and bury it in the promised land. 

     Truly we have seen in this chapter a legacy of faith. Why is this so important for the Hebrews? They had to understand God continues his redemptive plans through each generation. Their generation was suffering so that the Gospel could be advanced. As the end of Chapter 10 tells us that they were not to be those who would shrink back but those who have faith and preserve their souls.  But, it’s not only their history, but it’s also our reality. God works His wonderful redemptive plan through this generation just as He will do in the next and the next and the next until He returns. Do we believe God’s word? Further, do we believe God‘s word concerning his Son and His gospel? Do we believe what it says about judgment and salvation and the end of all things? Do we believe what it says and that it is sufficient to give us all we need for life and godliness until our King returns? “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing is the gift of God not a result of works so that no one may boast for we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Amen. Let’s pray.