Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
October 30 2003 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience

By Ken Vandergriff
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-22
Obedient faith is an adventure. Faith should never be boring.

One reason we study the heroes of faith found in the Bible and in church history is to experience their sense of adventure and hopefully to have that sense take root in us and blossom. Abraham exemplifies the adventurous journey that faith can become.

Too often we lose the sense of adventure because we want to know the end at the beginning. When God called Abraham to "go to the land I will show you," Gen. 12:4 states bluntly, "so he went, as the Lord had told him." Although he traveled well-used caravan routes (not blazing a trail through the wilderness), he did not know the destination. He simply followed God's leading. The life of obedient faith became a life of pilgrimage, of following but never quite knowing how the journey would end (Heb. 11:8-9). That's adventure!

Verses 10 and 13-16 are difficult. The writer of Hebrews interprets Abraham's journey in a way that moves significantly beyond the Genesis narrative. According to Genesis, Abraham and his family lived in the land of Canaan, the promised land, but they did not possess it. Only centuries later would their descendants actually own it. Nevertheless, they trusted God's promise that even after their deaths, God would give that land to their descendants.

According to the writer of Hebrews, however, Abraham "looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (v. 10). In the Old Testament, the city founded by God was Jerusalem (Ps. 87:1; Isa. 54:11), but for the writer of Hebrews, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were "strangers and foreigners on the earth," whose real destination and hope were for "a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (vv. 13-16).

Therein lies the problem: throughout most of the Old Testament period there was not a concept of heaven, and nothing in Genesis suggests that Abraham looked for anything other than an earthly home. We might resolve the tension like this: the promises Abraham received from God (Gen. 12:1-3) engendered in him a hope that God would bless him wonderfully. From Abraham's limited vantage point, surely that meant possession of the promised land. However, the writer of Hebrews, having much fuller revelation than did Abraham, realized that Abraham's destination was greater than he could have imagined - a heavenly home. That is often how the adventure of faith turns out - the reality far surpasses what we hoped for.

Another reason we lose the experience of faith's adventure is that we want everything to make sense. But adventurous faith often doesn't. The birth of a child to a hundred year-old man and a ninety year-old woman does not make sense. The writer of Hebrews ignores the frustration voiced by the childless Abraham in Gen. 15:2-3 and the attempt to fulfill the promise of children through the surrogate mother, Hagar (Gen. 16). It is enough that Abraham did not give up on the promise of fatherhood, no matter how ludicrous it seemed. His adventurous faith enabled the miracle to occur.

A third reason we lose the sense of faith's adventure is that we want faith to be safe. It wasn't for Abraham, as verses 17-19 assert (cf. Gen. 22). Obedient faith meant offering Isaac, the son of promise, as an offering to God. Interpretation should proceed with great caution here. What is important is the recognition that faith often places us into uncomfortable, even dangerous, situations. We will not assume that all believers should test their faith in this way, but we will acknowledge that adventurous faith might take our families and us into danger.

There is no adventurous journey without faith, hope and obedience. All three work together, like the three legs of a tripod. When we envision what can be, then trust that in fact it will be, despite any evidence to the contrary, and then live our lives accordingly, we are living out hope, faith and obedience.

A student once asked professor Ralph Wood to state his main objection to atheism. Wood replied, "It is so bloody boring." Obedient faith, on the other hand, is always an adventure.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments




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