Today's lectionary reading: Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45; Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19
Selected passage for reflection: Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (NIV)
Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (…)
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Whenever I read the story about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice the only son that God gave him (the child he literally had to wait 100 years for to receive), I am always surprised at the ease with which Abraham is ready to obey what God has asked him to do. Abraham heard the Lord and immediately built an altar, tied up his young son Isaac and took out his knife. He did this without questioning or doubting. It was only at that moment that God made it clear to Abraham that it was a test and he was able to spare Isaac. Hebrews 11:18 reminds us that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, even though God had promised Abraham that he would become a father of many nations through Isaac.
Abraham must have had an incredible amount of faith that God knew what He was doing, and that what He was doing was good. Hebrews 11:1-3 tells us what it means to have faith: to have confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. The Amplified Bible describes this assurance as “the evidence of things unseen and the conviction of their reality.”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to have that kind of conviction, to feel assured of things that I cannot see. I don’t always feel like I have that deep confidence that things which seem impossible or at very best a far stretch will come to pass, just because I believe God has spoken to me about this.
And yet: I am so challenged by what I read in Hebrews 11: 13-16. Some of the Biblical examples mentioned in this chapter died only seeing God’s promises (the things they had faith for) from a distance, without ever truly setting foot on the promised land themselves. It would have been so easy for them to stay in their homeland, where they knew what life was like and what to expect. Or they could have become discouraged during their faith-journey, only to turn around to travel back to the safety of their old home. Instead, they lived their lives in the assurance that no matter what the promises of God would look like in their lifetime, walking forward in faith was better than staying where they knew what to expect (or perhaps more accurately: where they didn’t have many expectations at all).
Ultimately, it is the choice we must all make: are we going to trust in what we can see, understand and control for ourselves or do we have the assurance and the conviction that God has the best in mind, even when it doesn’t (yet) make sense or when it requires sacrifice on our part (whether that be to our own comfort, to a dream, to whatever it is that we may have built up for ourselves)? Do we believe that He can lead us into a different kind of world?
Think of an area where you believe God wants to bring a change in your life or a way in which He wants to bring a change through you. Pray and ask Him how you can take the next step toward where He is leading you. Are there things that are keeping you back from walking in faith in this area of your life?
Lord, today I choose to have faith in you - the assurance and confidence in what I cannot see (yet). I choose not to follow my own understanding or live in my own comfort zone but to trust in Your unfailing character and Your love for me. Amen.
About the Author
After traveling the globe for most of her life, Marcia de Vries has now settled in her home town of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She has worked as a missionary and aid worker for many years until her heart for justice led her into the legal field.