December 2007

After talking about the heavenly promise, The author of Hebrews continues to quote examples of faith, this time, the story revolves around Gen 22.

Before we talk about this, there are some background information about Abraham’s beliefs before we read this

Beliefs of Abraham so far
1. Isaac is a very special child, as God mentioned that to Abraham much earlier
     a. Gen 15:4-5 : 1st Mention of Isaac (Although Abraham did not know who yet)
     b. Gen 17: 15-18 : God emphasise that the promised child is to be born by Sarah (Although Abraham thinks it impossible for Sarah to bear a child)
     c. Gen 17:19  : God gave the name Issac personally
     d. Gen 21:12 : God Assures Abraham that it is through Issac, that his seed shall be called

    All these things are revealed to Abraham over time, A (75-86 years old, date unknown)B&C  (99 Years old), D( 100 Years old). Hence Abraham’s faiths that Gods promise on Issac is build up over time.

    Abraham is a a person close to God, and he knows God hated the evil practice of the Canaanites, which are full of sexual immorality, and wickedness, and they sacrifice children on the altar and all these does not pleases God.

With these 2 beliefs in mind, then begin reading the story of Abraham sacrificing Issac.

Story Background and Summary

After sometime, God wanted to test Abraham’s faith, and he spoke to Abraham saying

“Take now your son, your only sonIsaac, 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.”

Mount Moriah is at the present day Jerusalem, as believed by most people, so Abraham bought Issac, prepared the wood, knife and fire, and saddled the donkey, went on a 3 days journey with his servants. Abraham told his servants to wait some distance away saying

“Stay here with the donkey; the lad[a] and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Now Abraham travelled with Issac to the mountains alone, and Issac still innocently asked the father

“Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
and Abraham replied
“My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

When they got there, Abraham really set up the Altar, bound Issac up, and laid him on the altar, just when Abraham is about to land the knife onto Issac, an Angel of the Lord spoke

“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

There, Abraham found a Ram caught in the thicket by its horns and he sacrificed the ram, this is where Jehovah Jireh (“The lord will provide”) is first seen. There God blessed Abraham saying

“By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Abraham’s mind, and Issac’s obedience

One may read this story being unfeeling, but I guess this is a very tough period for Abraham, knowing the feel beliefs that he had at that point. Gods order was completly against what he knew, and the order is very clear.

I do not know how he should be feeling as he is preparing the fire, cutting the wood as well as sharpening the knife. Knowing that these will be used to kill his son later.

But Abraham too held on to what God said about Issac mentioned earlier. and is confident that God will allow Issac to live no matter what. This is mentioned by the Author of Hebrews in Heb 11:17-19. This gives him the courage to tell the servant that both of them will return (Gen 22:5).

The feeling of Abraham must have been cut deep when Issac innocently ask, where is the lamb. Issac must have seen Abraham sacrificing many times, and did not understand where there isn’t a lamb at this time.

However, it i can also draw the fact that Abraham must have taught Issac about the same things i mentioned earlier, and Issac must have know that Gods plan is on him. Issac submissiveness to his father bounding him up and laying him on the Altar, also demonstrates the faith of Issac. Issac can run away anytime and I doubt Abraham can catch up.

Just when Abraham’s faith, and feeling is at its height, and Issac’s faith and obediance is at its height, God interfered and stopped them.

The results of their faith

God promised even more blessing to the both of them
1. Beside being many like the stars in heaven and sand in the sea (Which is true till today)
2. They will process the gate of their enemies (Which is true till today)
3. All nations will be blessed (Since Jesus christ came from this lineage)

What we can learn about Faith from here

1. Faiths is an absolute obediance to God, when God gives us an order, we must hold on to our faith, and our belief that God is good. We must continue to hold our beliefs that all things work together for those who loved God. In this example, God gave Abraham an order that doesnt sound logical, especially when God detest the practice of the Cannanites. Yet Abraham and Isacc obey it totally.

2. Some through test in life, God allows us to demonstrate our faith, this is then where blessings are abundant.

After talking about Abraham and Sarah, the author of Hebrews commented that, the through the faith of Abraham and Sarah, and through their faith and their actions. God manage to accomplish a important deed, that although Abraham and Sarah are past child bearing age, they produced off-springs that are indeed  as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore, and most importantly to produce the lineage for the Messiah to come.

Heavenly hope of the Heroes of Faith
As the author moves his attention to the patriarchs, he emphasise that they all hold the same type of faith. They all believed in Gods promise to them, that they will eventually inherit the Promise land. 

However, they all died without receiving that worldly promise,  but yet they declared for themselves that they are just mere Pilgrims and travellers in the world. Because they seek a better homeland. At any point of their lives, they can choose to return back to their old ways.

The main reason, why Patriarchs persist in their walk with God is because, they knew at the moment that they met God, that God is more then just a set of worldly blessings for them. That there is a a better, that is, a heavenly country. One which surpass much more then any of the worldly promise that God has given to them.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Conclusion for now
For the time being, the author of Hebrews emphasise what faith is, and the faith of Ancient saints, and what they did to show their faith. And the main reason for all their faith, is not because of the worldly blessings that God can give. Rather, they saw the more important side of God. Which are blessings which are much more superior, a place in heaven.

With this, we will continue our study on the heroes of faith.

Earlier on we are talking about Abraham, how he held on to the faith, that God will give him the land, although now he is staying in it as if its a foreign land. And We also learn that Abraham’s hope is in the city that is built by God. And how he willingly stayed in like a nomad all his life, living in tents. The Author of Hebrews talks about Sarah next.

Sarah early life
Sarah married Abraham when he is in the land of the Chaldean’s. (Gen 11:29-30). She was barren, unable to bear a child for Abraham. She must have been quite beautiful, as she caught the eyes of the Pharaoh(Gen 12:10-20) and Abimelech (Gen 20:1-18). The trip in Gen 12 got Sarah a maid servant called Hagar.  Sarah is 10 years younger then Abraham (Gen 17:17)

God’s promise to Abraham, and Sarah’s initial response
In Gen 15, God promised Abraham, that he will have an Offspring, (Gen 15:2-5). God promised him the following,

 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
(Gen 15:5)

 “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  (Gen 15:13-16)

“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Gen 15:19-21)

Sarah initial reaction is that she must have a huge amount of unbelief in her. This is because she know for herself she is barren. Judging from the fact that Abraham left Haran at the age of 76 (Gen 12:4). And they are out in the wilderness for almost 10 years. We can guess Sarah must have passed the age of child-bearing long ago. Hence Sarah initially tried to resolve the problem by giving Hagar to Abraham, as the result, Ishmael is born to Abraham when he is 86 years old. (Gen 16:16). This resulted to war in the middle east till today 😉 .

 God’s promise to Sarah, and Sarah’s faith
God wasn’t pleased with Abraham for that matter, and only appeared to Abraham around 13 years later, when Abraham is 99 years old. (Gen 17:1). This time God promised Abraham even more, God promised that Abraham will have many descendants and God establish his covenant with the rest of the descendants of Abraham. It is a long agreement, which is recorded in (Gen 17:1-14)

God renamed Sarai (which is Sarahs former name) to Sarah, meaning a Woman of high rank or princess. God said this to Abraham “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”  (Gen 17:15-16).

At this point Abraham started to laugh and have unbelief, but God insist on this promise. (Gen 17:17-21).

God later visited Abraham and Sarah personally to reassure them of this promise. God was en-route to destroy the city of Sodom and Gommorah then. (Gen 18:9-15).

Sarahs faith is shown here, as although the bible did not specifically mentioned. But i believe that Sarah must have the faith to begin any sexual activity with Abraham although she should be around 90 years old and have long passed child bearing age. (Gen 21:5).

What we can learn from Sarah
Sarah is just like anyone of us, sometimes when we listen to God promises made to us. We may find it ridiculous and do not have faith. There are even occasion when we try to accomplish Gods will by using our own methods (Similar to Sarah giving Hagar to Abraham).

We must learn to have faith. And we can see how God helped Sarah to built that faith. Sometimes we must understand that Gods will and ability is beyond our comprehension at times, and his orders to us may sound impossible. This is when we choose whether we can have faith or remain in unbelief.

In conclusion, Sarah faith is shown, when she received Gods assurance of a child, and she backed her faith through her actions.