Why was Abraham called the father of faith? What makes him stand apart from the rest? Twelve of the forty verses in Hebrews 11 feature him.
To start, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8) …Not knowing where he was going – now that part I can relate to. That I can understand. I bob and sputter in this terribly messy, beautiful time of life where most days I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s usually a struggle just to keep my head above water.
And yet, like Abraham leaving behind the land where his family name meant wealth and security to follow where God led, I know that out here in the middle of this ocean – past all my planning and control – is exactly where God has me. God called Abraham up and out of wealth and security into complete dependence, out of houses into tents, out of the established into the unknown. And he blessed him there. Here, in today’s uncertainty, my self-reliance ends and God’s provision begins. Out here, the rope of works falls achingly short while the anchor of grace holds me fast.
Abraham’s enduring faith, his continual response to God’s tests, radiates through history. It wasn’t an all-out sacrificial martyrdom for the sake of rote obedience. It was an unshakable mindset that moved him, a reasoning in sync with his faith in a boundlessly powerful God. Even in the blessing and bounty of previous obedience, God asks him again to sacrifice everything. Take his son of promise, his answer to prayer, this hinge of dreams, and kill it and burn it on an altar. Give it up and hand it over. Completely. (Gen 22)
And early the next morning Abraham sets out. He doesn’t wait for another confirmation. He doesn’t ask his friends and family if he heard God correctly. And for three days he walks under the staggering weight of this new turn of events. We aren’t privy to the tumult in his heart and head during those three days. All we see is that obedience was never a question and disobedience was never an option.
Somewhere on that journey, Abraham reached the point where he had to choose between seeing the fulfilment of God’s promises and God himself. He had to place his faith in the unwavering goodness of God instead of what God had done for him in the past. His faith did not limit God. Faith never requires full understanding, only full surrender. Authentic faith holds nothing back – especially that which He has given us in the first place.
Faith never requires full understanding, only full surrender.
And the son and the sacrifice and the three long, dark days foreshadowed the Son and the once-for-all sacrifice and the three days that changed everything. But God, rich in grace and mercy, provided the ram for the burnt offering and the Lamb for the offering that washes away our sins. And by faith, Abraham receives his son back from the dead and Son rose from the dead so we can receive this gift only by faith.
I sift through my own heart and think hard about the things I need to put on my own altar like my desire to be married and have a family. And I don’t want to admit the struggling and the longing and the wrestling to hold on to the things I already have and count as blessings. In an ongoing battle, I put my dreams and treasures on the altar and over and over they somehow end up back in my hands. Do I want God or do I want what I wish he would do for me?
God cares more about my heart than my comfort level. Vintage faith calls me out of ease and into the unknown. It requires everything. I can hold nothing back. It’s a hard lean, a long obedience in the same direction. It’s my first, my best, my all, my reserves.
And I lean on Abraham’s example as I try to let go of the promises I pin my hope and look instead to the God who makes them. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” (Rom 4:20-21). By faith. Fully convinced.