In our last session, we talked extensively about the discipline of waiting patiently on the Lord, the endurance of the saints. Today we’ll discuss the discipline of trusting when it doesn’t make any sense to us. The believers the writer was addressing were probably wondering why God was delaying in rescuing them from their ongoing persecution. And most of us, if we are being honest want to know the “why” behind the trials we’re facing while they are still ongoing. In today’s presentation, the writer will take on the task of teaching us the discipline of trusting when our finite minds can’t understand the ultimate purpose of God in our trials.
Discipline Of Trusting
The Passage- Hebrews 11: 17-22
17 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. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
- Verses 17-19
First, it’s important for us to read the Scripture that relates to these verses. Let’s go to Genesis 22:1-2
”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.”
This was the ultimate test of faith for Abraham, but once again we must recall that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. So it is God who produces the faith in us that pleases Him according to Isaiah 55:10-11. It is very important for us to mention this at the outset. But humans aren’t robots or automatons; while God is the author of faith in us, His Word meets resistance within our hearts, but because God is Love, that resistance is overcome and the saints eventually triumph in faith. A good account that explains love overcoming our hearts of stone is the account of Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob eventually realized who he was wrestling with and made the following statement” I won’t let you go until you bless me” . And the Lord answered him, “what is your name”. At that point Jacob had the choice to again pretend he was Esau, but he told the truth and said his name was Jacob ( the supplanter, the human engineer). The blessing Jacob wanted wasn’t material possessions or prosperity. He realized how corrupted his heart was and wanted God to change his heart, so the blessing he was begging for was a change of his identity. And God gave him the name Israel.
What does this have to do with Abraham? Everything. The command of the Lord was “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love”. Abraham probably wrestled with the command all night long. He couldn’t conceive why God would ask him to offer the child of promise, the child through whom God said, his offspring would be named. But verse 19 tells us how his resistance was overcome,
19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
I like how the verse reads in the NIV version. Abraham reasoned!!!!!! So while he was wrestling all night ( I’m sure he couldn’t go to sleep ), the Lord granted Him the ability to reason and consider the power of the God he was serving. Again the Scripture tells us that spiritual truths are only discerned by those indwelled by the Spirit of God. I don’t think Abraham considering that God could raise the dead was a thought that came to him through human reasoning. It was a supernatural act of God by which God worked in Abraham to will and act according to the purpose of God. We need to remember that at this time, Abraham didn’t have any evidence about a person being raised from the dead, it had never happened before. So the only way for him to consider the resurrection was through the Spirit of God granting him this wisdom.
I’m saying all this to say that Abraham couldn’t have trusted God without the Spirit of God working in him. So the faith Abraham displayed was authored by God, and God was pleased by it and made the following oath
16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[d] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.
I want you to zero in on the highlighted phrase. This is so important, Abraham obeyed the voice of God because God granted him the grace to obey. Again let’s go back to Isaiah 55:10-1110
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
The word of God went out from the lips of God and achieved its desired purpose in Abraham, that is obeying the voice of God and carrying out the command to offer Isaac by faith ( a faith granted by God).
The writer was in some ways reassuring his readers, in the sense that the same way God granted Abraham the grace of reasoning and trusting God, the same God who doesn’t change will grant them the same ability to trust HIM in the midst of their own trials. What a great word of encouragement!!!!
- Verses 20-21
We read about the blessings in Genesis 27:26-29 and 39-40. Isaac didn’t utter those words in the blessings by his own clever mind. Those words were given him by God. He trusted the words and pass them on to his children. Notice that Esau didn’t receive favorable words. Even though Isaac’s favorite was Esau , Isaac couldn’t do a thing but obey God’s word. Isaac trusted that God’s judgement on Esau was righteous even though as a father he was hurting, yet he trusted that God did what was right.
In the same way, we read about Jacob’s blessings to Joseph’s sons in Genesis 48:13-22. Jacob put Ephraim ( the younger son) ahead of Manasseh ( the firstborn). Jacob’s blessings came from the Lord and he also trusted that God’s judgement was good ( he himself was the recipient of such a favor as a young man). Joseph tried to correct his father but Jacob had to tell him that the decision came from the Lord. And Joseph had to acquiesce to his father’s words, once again they had to trust God even though in their finite minds, they wanted to put Manasseh ahead of Ephraim. But God had other plans in mind. And this account ends with Jacob bowing in worship over the head of his staff. This is incredible, after everything that Jacob went through in his life, the last thing we hear is that He bowed in worship over the head of his staff. He finally came to realize the goodness, the justice, the righteousness, the love of the Lord. His life was filled with challenges, yet he ends in worship. May that be said of all of us.
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