HEROES OF THE FAITH - PART FOUR
Pastor Frank W. Dowsett (Australia)
WITHOUT any doubt, our forefather Abraham occupies a unique position in our history, and indeed, in the entire Bible. When one studies the Scriptures, the one name that seems to predominate whenever the faithfulness of God is mentioned, is Abraham. He represents the epitome of what a "man of faith" should be. He was a believer in impossibilities. He automatically accepted, without question, the most amazing statements and promises made by God, simply because it was God who made them. If we really want a hero for these days, then surely Abraham is our man. We read in Romans 4:1-3, and 13-22;
"What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. "
"For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
(As it is written, 1 have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. "
The faith of Abraham literally raised up an entire nation. And what a nation. It was to become the pivotal point of the entire Bible account. From the twelfth chapter of Genesis, to the last verse of the Revelation, it dominates the Word of God. This was to be the nation which would change and control the destiny of the entire world for ever. It was this same nation that became the Kingdom of God on earth, bringing forth the Great King, even our Lord Jesus Christ, who is finally to rule and reign over this Kingdom in righteousness and justice, even for ever. No man in the entire Bible has been so greatly honoured, culminating in being referred to as "The Friend of God". Many people can rightly refer to God as their friend, but when Almighty God refers to a particular person as HIS friend, then that is something else again.
It is very obvious from the Scriptures that Abraham was a very influential and intelligent man. For instance, in Genesis 13:1-2, 5-6 we read;
"And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
And Abram was very nch in cattle, in silver, and in gold
And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.
And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. "
He even had his own army. Genesis 14:12-16 tells us;
"And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner. And these were confederate with Abram.
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. "
He was clearly a man who would not be "blown about by every wind of doctrine". He was a born leader, and God rightly selected him, through His foreknowledge, to be the progenitor of the nation that was destined, long into the then future, to become, on a national basis, "The Sons of God". This is why God referred to them in Exodus 4:22 in the following terms;
"And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn. "
The original command to Abraham was that he should move from where he then dwelt. Genesis 12:1 reads;
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that 1 will show thee. "
In Hebrews 11:9-10 we find this rnove recorded as an initial act of faith on Abraham's part;
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. "
This first act of faith brought forth one of the first great promises made to Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 13:14-18;
"And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward.
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD. "
But there was a potentially serious problem, which Abraham probably didn't realise. We read in both Genesis 12:6, and 13:7, that the Canaanite was then in the land. How prophetic of the position regarding his modern day descendants. They, through their descendants, have been constantly in the land that the Lord had set aside for His people Israel. And as then, they have been a real thorn in our sides.
Despite theological reasoning (?) to the contrary, these promises were to carry on to Abraham's seed. A Baptist minister once tried to convince me that these promises applied only to the individual persons to whom they had originally been made. And to think that I once applied for entry into their Theological College, and was rejected on the basis of my Israel Identity beliefs. The Lord certainly put His foot down on that idea. We read of the progression of Abraham's development in Genesis 17:1-8;
"And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, 1 am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
And 1 will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have 1 made thee.
And 1 will make thee exceeding fruitful, and 1 will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
And 1 will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.
And 1 will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and 1 will be their God. "
There is an interesting thought regarding the first verse of the above extract, where God said to Abram, "walk before me, and be thou perfect. " This phrase means literally, "be transformed into My presence." Followers of this series will no doubt recognise the fact that this is essentially the same phrase used of Enoch, where it is stated that "he walked with God".
This promise is developed further in verses 19 and 21;
"And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac and 1 will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him."
"But my covenant will 1 establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."
In Genesis 21:12 we read that "In Isaac shall thy seed be called", thus confirming the continuance of this covenant. In His subsequent appearance to Abraham's son Isaac, as recorded in Genesis 26:3-5, God made this statement;
"Sojourn in this land, and 1 will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, 1 will give all these countries, and 1 will perform the oath which 1 sware unto Abraham thy father,
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. "
Thus we see that it was as a result of Abraham's faith that these great and precious covenants were continued through his descendants, not through any act of his children. Then in verse 24 of the same chapter we read;
"And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, 1 am the God of Abraham thy father. Fear not, for 1 am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake. "
But the consequences of Abraham's faith did not stop even here. We now have Isaac's son Jacob coming into the picture. The covenants are still being continued in the name of Abraham. We read in Genesis 28:1-4; and 13-14;
"And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.
And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee, that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. "
"And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, 1 am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will 1 give it, and to thy seed,
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
One can never afford to underestimate the effects of FAITH! It is amazing to realise how the effect of just one person's faith, be it Abraham, or one of our friends or relatives, can change our entire life. You see, these people all had a vision, a vision which sustained them, regardless of how impossible it appeared to be, or of the consequences. If it was God's plan, then it just had to happen. There was nothing to argue about. How times have changed. Modern day faith seems to be based almost entirely on our conviction that God will do anything and everything that we want to happen. Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. Our forefathers had a real vision which sustained them through all trials. Of Abraham it is said in Hebrews 11:10;
"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
The word 'city' means "a dwelling place enclosed with a wall". This indicated "Divine Protection". But what do we get today. What are the present hopes, if any, of so many people today? Perhaps the following readings from Psalrn 74:9 and Proverbs 29:18 may explain our position;
"We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet. Neither is there among us any that knoweth how long."
"Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
The difference is that our forefathers had something real and firm to aim for.
But there is one very important feature that we should not overlook about Abraham's faith.
The outworking of God's wonderful promises required the faith, and full co-operation and obedience of his wife Sarah!
We read in Genesis 17:15-16;
"And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shaft not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
And 1 will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, 1 will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations, kings of people shall be of her. "
The name 'Sarah' means, "captain; commander; to rule".
How very significant when we compare the situation of Abraham and his wife, with Jehovah and His wife. The name "Israel", as we know, means, "to rule with God'. Surely there is a lesson here for our nation today. The Sacred Account never once records where Sarah did not implicitly co-operate with, and obey, her husband. They lived in what we might call continual marriage bliss. What a difference it would have made, and still would make, if we, as a nation, had separated ourselves from all the other worthless god/husbands we have taken to ourselves over the thousands of years since our forefathers, and remained faithful to our intended husband, The Lord God Jehovah! But let us not despair. It is the stated intention of the Lord God of Israel to achieve just this. He has promised that He will be remarried to His former wife, as a result of having died to redeem us. His Law required that the former husband must die for the wife to remarry, and that is exactly what happened at Calvary.
But the account of Abraham's faith doesn't end here. The supreme test was yet to come in Abraham's life. We remember that God had promised Abraham that His seed would continue in and through Isaac. Now Isaac himself was the product of a very special miracle. God went to no end of trouble to provide for his birth. It was one of the great miracles of the Bible. His wife, Sarah, was well past the age of bearing children, as was AbrahaM in becoming a father. Let us look at the evidence. In Genesis 17:15-17;
"And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
And 1 will bless her, and give thee a son also of her. Yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations, kings of people shall be of her.
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"
Then we look at Genesis 18:10.
"And he said, 1 will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well shicken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall 1 of a surely bear a child, which am old?
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed 1 will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."
This is confirmed in Hebrew 11:11-12;
"Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. "
It is of great interest to note that the wives of all three Patriarchs of Israel, Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachael, were barren, and gave birth as a result of a special miracle by God. No wonder their progeny became a miracle nation.
The point to be noted however, is that after going to so much trouble to produce Isaac in the first place, God now gave Abraham instructions to slay him and offer him up as a burnt offering to Himself. We can well ask, how on earth could Abraham's seed be called in Isaac if Isaac died before becoming a father? Remember, he was only a lad when this incident took place, as recorded in Genesis chapter 22.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Abraham intended to carry out this command. And this is where Abraham's faith reached the ultimate heights. He knew that God would supply a sacrifice, but had no idea as to how this would happen. But one thing was for sure. He never ever doubted the fact that God would carry out His covenant through this lad who he was about to kill. We only find out what sustained Abraham in this situation when we read of the event in Hebrews 11:17-19;
"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac. And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called;
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure. "
Abraham knew what most folk even today find it difficult to accept; that is, that God will even raise people from the dead in order to accomplish His purposes for this world.
And it's just about to happen again, and for the very same reason!!
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