Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
This is the Biblical definition of faith and mankind has not as yet created a better definition. The Bible gives many obvious examples of Faith:
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. (Hebrews 11:8)
God made a covenant with Abraham. Abraham's commitment to the covenant was to pack his belongings and depart on faith that God would lead him to the Promised Land. If Abraham fulfilled his part of the covenant, then God would fulfill the following promise:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:2-3)
So Abraham set off for something hoped for -- for something he had never seen. He had faith that God would keep His part of the covenant. Other stories of faith in the Bible are not as obvious. Possibly the greatest story of faith is when God commanded Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:1-2)
Abraham did not question God, but arose the next morning and set off to Moriah. When they reached the place God showed him, he instructed the two men who accompanied them:
And Abraham said to his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Genesis 22:5)
On the way up the mountain, Isaac asks his father:
Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:7-8)
Abraham and Isaac reach the top, build an altar, lay the wood, and Abraham binds Isaac and lays him on the wood on the altar. Then:
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. (Genesis 22:10-13)
Upon reading this scripture the first few times it seemed to be a barbaric tale like the sacrificing of children by idol worshipers during that period or the misguided child sacrifices by depressed Christian mothers of today. Then the truth finally struck me while reading verse five of chapter twenty-two for what seemed like the hundredth time. Abraham knew God would not allow Isaac to be killed! Notice in verse five Abraham instructs the two young men who accompanied them on the journey to:
Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship; and come again to you. (Genesis 22:5)
Did you catch that? It's rather subtle. I and the lad will go and worship and come again to you. In other words, we will go and worship and then we will return to you. Abraham knew Isaac would return with him! Why? Because God promised Abraham that He would make an everlasting covenant with his son Isaac and Isaac's seed. This is a story of incredible faith! Abraham had faith that God would keep his promise. Abraham was one hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety when God said:
Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:19)
Now, here was Isaac on the altar. If he were killed the above promise could not be fulfilled. God could not establish his covenant with Isaac and his seed if Isaac was dead! Abraham did not know how God would accomplish it, but he had faith that Isaac would not be killed that day. God was testing Abraham's faith.
There is an obvious dualism and prophecy at work here. Abraham was instructed to offer his only son as a sacrifice. Later, God would offer his only begotten son as a sacrifice for mankind's sins. In both instances, God supplied the sacrificial lamb, a ram with his horns caught in the thicket and Jesus. Mankind could then gain eternal life through faith in Jesus. That is, through believing in Jesus, mankind's reward is something in the future which we cannot now see. That reward is eternal life. We are not born with our reward!
You just have to love Abraham. Every time the Lord called him, his simple answer was "Here am I." That is very unusual among Bible characters. Many called by God resisted or even attempted to run away. Look at what Jesus taught about faith:
Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)
Does mankind have faith that mountains can be moved today? Sure, given sufficient time, large earth moving equipment, explosives, manpower, and vast amounts of money. However, no man has ever moved a mountain through faith alone as described above in Matthew 17:20.
Mankind's faith has generally been weak. There is a saying among athletes that, "The mind quits before the body." That is, the mind will stop the body from hurting itself. "I am too exhausted to run another step," or "There is no way I can lift that much weight." Thus, one is oftentimes defeated before making the attempt.
Then, there is the story of that wonderful old grandmother, who seeing the jacked up car fall on her only grandson working underneath, ran over and lifted the car sufficiently for her grandson to crawl out from under the vehicle. With adrenaline rushing, she did not even consider that her frail body could not lift the weight. Thus, it could!
Proceed to the next chapter.
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