Agonizomai: Heb 11 - 17-19 - Christ - The Tester of the Faith He Gives Us

Monday, April 05, 2010

Heb 11 - 17-19 - Christ - The Tester of the Faith He Gives Us

Heb 11 - 17-19 - Christ - The Tester of the Faith He Gives Us

Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 he considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

This is not the place for a digression into the poignant typology contained in this story. The writer is using it not for typology, but to illustrate faith in action. It wasn’t the work itself, but faith in the God of the promise that availed. So we leave for later the type of both Christ and ourselves in Isaac and the Father in Abraham - as well as the concepts of a wooden burden, burning, sacrifice and all such things.

Instead, the mechanism of faith in action is given for the faltering Hebrews so that they might be encouraged by examples from their rich history and heritage. Abraham did not so much as blink when commanded to offer up Isaac. In fact, he arose early on the day commanded, to do all God’s will. He did not drag his heels to steal a few more hours with Isaac until the day had almost passed.

It would be a mistake to even entertain the idea that either Abraham’s compliance or his "haste" implied a lack of love for Isaac. Rather, it exhibited a superior love for God. And that is the point. It is Biblical faith to love God above what we cherish the most in this life. It is Biblical love to hold the things of earth, the relationships, the joys and pleasures and hopes of earth so lightly that we would sacrifice them to His love.

By this standard it is not the recluse, the monk nor the eremite that glorifies God in his life, but the person who lives and loves life, nevertheless deferring all things to God’s will. If we eschew the pleasures of living altogether then is God truly glorified? If we refuse to dance, to laugh, to take a drink of wine or beer, to have friends who are lost - if we wear skirts down to our ankles or hats on our heads - and if we do these things (or don’t do them) because we think that of themselves they make us more spiritual then we have missed the point.

Where in all of that is the Jesus who celebrated at a wedding - even making more wine for those who were already having a good time? Where is the Jesus who was the friend of sinners such as tax collectors and whores? Where is the Jesus who enjoyed the great religious feast days of his nation, partaking enthusiastically with a thankful heart? And all of this without sin.

Thus Abraham, a man of wealth; a man blessed with a large household and many flocks and servants; a man blessed with a beautiful wife whom he loved; a man with a son of promise in whom all his hopes for posterity and for future salvation were vested - this man moved swiftly to do God’s will even though it seemed it would cost him much.

So greatly had God worked in Abraham’s heart to bring him to this ultimate act of faith that Abraham was ready to put God before his most precious hopes and dreams. This is sanctification in the raw. This is God working and then testing in order to show the fruit of His work. God already knew what Abraham would do. He had not only ordained it from eternity, but had been at work in him from the moment of his justification, and before even that, to bring forth fruit to the praise of the glory of his grace.

But now Abraham himself would know the work and the power of God in him. He would obey. He would believe. He would take the action based upon faith in the God of the promise. But he would also see that what God promised to him, God also had power to bring about - and he would rest upon that. God cannot lie. God is omnipotent. So if Isaac was put to death as a sacrifice Abraham knew full well that God not only could, but would bring him back to life.

How could the promise of earthly seed through Isaac by realized apart from Isaac’s living to marry and procreate? How could God’s promise of a future Messiah from Abraham’s line through Isaac be realized unless Isaac lived? So God would have either to be a liar or to be impotent to do all his will in order for the death of Isaac to ruin what had been promised by God. But that is not the God that had revealed himself to Abraham and it was not the God that Abraham had learned.

Again, how did Abraham arrive at this point? Was it because he was different from all the other moon worshipping idolaters in Ur? Did Abraham have latent propensities toward the One True God that recommended him as a candidate for this great foundational work for the Jewish system of belief? Was he a "seeker" that aroused God’s empathy and elicited a response from God proportionate to his own hard wrought efforts?

To believe such things is to put the cart before the horse. God can commend Abraham. In a certain sense we can appreciate and commend him. But Abraham had better not. Abraham was such as we all are and had the attitude that we must all come to {1Co 4:7, 2Co 4:7} - that whatever we do that commends itself to God is solely on account of God. He justifies us. He sanctifies us. He will glorify us. Anything in us that transcends the corruption of humanity is there to show that God is at work reaching down and in, in order to bring forth Christ in us.

Abraham is, therefore, a great example and encouragement to us and to the Hebrews of the first century. He shows where our confidence should lie, which is not in ourselves, nor yet in our faith - but In God alone.


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