(It’s been a few months since I’ve reflected on Hebrews Chapter 11, I’m going to pick it back up.)
“Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants ‘as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.’ ” Hebrews 11:12
God brings life out of death; Abraham at 99 years old was “as good as dead” in terms of having children and yet God confirmed and fulfilled His promise that Abraham would have a son with Sarah (Genesis chapters 17 & 18). (Abraham would encounter the God who brings life out of death once again when he took the son of promise, Isaac, up Mount Moriah as a sacrifice.) Paul writes (Romans 4:19-21) concerning Abraham, “Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”
The picture Paul paints in Romans 4 is not one of Abraham holding onto faith, grasping not to let go, with fingers straining to not lose their grip - not only did he “not become weak” but he “grew strong in faith.” In other words, in face of the naturally impossible Abraham’s faith grew. This however was not a nebulous faith, it was not “faith for the sake of faith” the way some might have “love for the sake of love” or “hope for the sake of hope”. Put another way, some of us may be in love with the idea of love, or of hope, or of faith - but faith, hope, and love for their own sake...as isolated experiences...as undefined ideas without Biblical context...these are akin to physical intimacy outside of marriage; promiscuity is not limited to the physical - our hearts and souls and minds are to belong to God; this is one reason why the primary image of idolatry in the Bible is adultery.
Abraham’s faith was wedded to God, His character, and His Word. Abraham gave “glory to God” and he was “fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to perform.” When elements of the professing church bandy faith around as an ATM card, as a means to get what we want, as a way to consume things on ourselves - we take what is holy and profane it. Abraham’s faith was faith that was tried, not for a week, a month, or a year - but for many years. Those of us who make merchandise of faith, who use it as a plaything, as a self-help method, as a way to attract others to their “best life now” seek instant gratification - “have faith and you’ll get it now and if you don’t get it now your faith isn’t strong enough”.
What would we say to Abraham? What would we say to those of Hebrews 11:13, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
People of the earth, of the current age, insist on instant fulfillment, they want it “now!” - but those who have been drawn and called by Christ to a pilgrimage to Himself and into His Kingdom, they learn to see life as a tapestry, they see Christ as the Sun who enlightens this life and shines on the path that leads them from here to there. Since to know Him is the desire of the Christ-follower, He is the object of faith, the desire of faith, the ground of faith, the heartbeat of faith.
Abraham was “as good as dead.” Isaac would be as good as dead on Mount Moriah. The House of David was as good as dead when Jesus was born - in the “natural” there seemed no way the promises of God to King David could be fulfilled, the lineage of David was not even part of the leadership of Judah and Jerusalem. And yet there was a “root out of parched ground,’ a “tender shoot,” (Isaiah 53:2; 11:1), nothing to look at, nothing to take notice of, nothing to attract us, nothing to make us think that there could possibly be anything about the root and its shoot that we should pay attention to. “He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him.”
And if we had any doubt about the root out of parched ground, His Crucifixion should have convinced us that it was all for nought, for nothing, that we were fools to have followed Him, fools to have hoped in Him, fools to have loved Him, fools to have had faith in Him. We should have listened to the religious teachers and leaders, they knew better. The root that came out of the ground was crucified and put back in the ground. Dead.
But...but...we can’t leave Jerusalem, something is keeping us here. Yes, we are afraid of the religious leaders and Roman authorities, now that they’ve killed Jesus they may go after us - maybe we should flee the city, though the gates may be watched. But still, there is something else keeping us here, keeping us together. Ah, the women...they are going to His tomb to care for His body, leaving early, how will they move the stone to gain entrance to the tomb? We thought Jesus was the promised Davidic deliverer, the Messiah - but now He is dead and the seal of the Empire is on the tomb certifying His death and prohibiting anyone from moving the stone from the entrance - plus there are guards there. Maybe the women should rethink their plan.
Abraham’s body was as good as dead. Isaac was as good as dead. David's lineage was as good as dead. Jesus Christ was dead.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat fallis into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” (John 12:24).
We are called into the fellowship of the impossible. This isn’t so much that we believe the impossible can happen, though there is that element; it is more importantly that we believe that it is impossible for God to lie - that is truly the impossible thing, the only impossible thing - and since we know that is impossible we know that all in His Word is more than possible...we know it is true and is being fulfilled. When we believe in the impossible all things are possible - all of His promises are sure and certain.
God cannot lie, therefore all of His promises are true and certain.
“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Paul wrote this when he was good as dead (see 2 Corinthians 1:9).
Perhaps we should rethink what we think is impossible and remind ourselves that the thing that is really impossible is that God cannot lie - let us join our faith to the faith of our father Abraham, growing ever stronger in our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.