Summary: Abraham is such a great man of faith that at times its hard to relate to him. God knew that, so He told us few things about this super-hero of the faith that help us understand how powerful his faith really was.
OPEN: A man once told a story about his 84 year old grandmother. Apparently, she fiercely maintained her independence and lived alone in the old family home. Her 4 children lived in the same town, but she rarely called them except in emergencies. It was with some apprehension, therefore, that he drove to her house one morning in answer to her phone call. When he arrived, she said she suspected that there was a burglar in her bedroom closet, since she had heard noises in there the night before.
"Why didn’t you call me last night?" the man exclaimed.
"Well," she replied, "it was late and I hated to bother you, so I just nailed the closet shut and went to bed."
APPLY: That’s an example of the type of faith Hebrews is trying to describe. A faith, that nails the doors of doubt shut and then calmly leaves the rest to God. That’s the kind of faith that God tells us Abraham had, and it so impressed God that Abraham earned the title: “The father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11)
Here in Hebrews 11, we’re repeatedly told why Abraham was so highly regarded by God:
He believed in an inheritance, he himself never received.
He believed in a child he was too old to father.
And when asked to sacrifice this son as an offering, Abraham believed God could and would raise that boy from the dead.
That’s pretty impressive stuff.
In fact, these reports about Abraham are so impressive that we might find it difficult to relate to him. We might be excused if we said: “well, it was easy for Abraham … he was DIFFERENT than me. I could never BELIEVE like that! I struggle too much with doubt!”
(pause) God knew that. He knew we find it hard to relate to a “super-hero” of faith – this Abraham. And so God told us a few things about this man, this Abraham, that Abraham might have preferred God had not revealed. For example:
* God told Abraham to "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)
Notice the part that says “leave your father’s household?” Well, Abraham didn’t quite fully obey that part of the command. He took his nephew Lot went along with him.
Granted it was a “little” disobedience… but this little disobedience resulted in family conflicts all along the way. Conflicts between Lot’s sheepherders and Abraham’s. It got so bad that the time came that Abraham attempted to settle the matter by giving Lot a choice of pasture land. Lot, you take one way and I’ll that another. So Lot chose the green grass close by Sodom… and of course, you know the rest of the story.
* Then there was the promise God made that Abraham would have a son. Now, Abraham may have believed that, but he had a hard time convincing his wife Sarai. After all, they were both getting on in years. And so Sarai talked Abram into observing a quaint custom of the day. She asked him to have a child by her handmaid – Hagar. The resulting offspring was Ishmael and before long his presence brought conflict and strife to Abraham’s home. Eventually Hagar and Ishmael’s were asked to leave, and the boy grew into a man who became the father of many nations… nations whose descendants have been enemies of the Jews from the days of Moses until this very day.
* And of course, no story of Abraham would be complete without the tale about the time he passed his wife off as his sister.
Genesis 12:11-13 tells us “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’”
God was not pleased with Abraham’s decision and made it clear that He wasn’t pleased. But Abraham didn’t do this just once… he did it twice: once in Egypt, and later in the city of Gerar!
WHY? Why would this great man of faith try to pass his wife off as his sister? Because he was afraid!!! The man who would be called the “father of all those who believe” was so scared that he was willing to give up his wife in order to live!
That’s all very embarrassing. Why would God tell us all those embarrassing stories about Abraham?
ILLUS: Was God kind of like the parent that threatens their teenage son or daughter that (when the kid graduates) that they’re going to display all those embarrassing photos the kids would just as soon were burned years ago?