Hebrews 11:8-22 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Faith of the Patriarchs
Comments for Study 9

Hebrews 11:8-22
Memory Verse 11:6a


I. Faith that Believes in God's Promise (8-16)

>1. What was Abraham's situation when God called him? (Gen. 11:27- 32; 12:1-4; Joshua 24:2) Describe Abraham's response to God's call as described by the author of Hebrews. (8)

Hebrews 11:8 "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."

* Genesis 11:27-32 records the account of Terah when God first called Abraham.

* Terah, Abraham's father worshipped idols. "Joshua said to all the people, 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.'" (Joshua 24:2) Abraham became a great man of God, known as the father of faith throughout the ages. But he was not always that way. The Bible tells me that he was a sinner and his family was idol worshipers when God called him. He was just an ordinary old man living in a easy going culture where idolatry was the way of the town. God called this man and used him to be a blessing to many.

* The area Terah lived in was Babylon (modern day Iraq/Iran). The culture and society was advanced. Few people worshiped the true God. Terah should have had the faith of Noah his father, but he melted into the idol worshiping society.

* When God called Abraham he and Sarah was old. Old people don't like leaving their security, especially the security of a home. Sarah had not had children, a sign of not being blessed by God in that society. Then God said to Abraham, ""I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." (Genesis 12:2-3)

* When Abraham obeyed, left his family, and arrived in the promised land "The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.'" So he built an alter there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.'" (Genesis 12:7)

* Three responses to God's call are:
    1) accept and obey
    2) accept and do not obey
    3) do not accept and do not obey

* "obeyed and went" -Why is action necessary? To help us grow spiritually. (James 2:17-18)

* "he would later receive as his inheritance" -He is still waiting. His wait will end when Jesus comes and establishes his Millennium kingdom.

* "he did not know where he was going" -Abraham was not told were he was going. When the people asked Abraham, "By the way where does God want you to go? Where are you going?" He would have to answer them, "I don't know. But when I get there I will know." Nothing seemed possible nor reasonable in God's promise and direction to Abraham. So it was not easy for Abraham to believe God's word and go. We often are not told by God where were are going. However, we do know the long term effects/rewards.

* We don't have to make long range plans because God has made them. It is OK to have plans as long as they are in God's will and understand that God is not bound to our plans. Our plans may be wrong.

* Humanly Abraham didn't have security when he left. In fact he left human security for security in God.

>2. On what basis did Abraham obey and go even though he did not know where he was going? (Gen. 12:2,3,7)

Hebrews 11:9 "By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise."

* "he made his home" -He did not intend to go back.

* "in the promised land" -The Israelites called Canaan the promised land.

* "like a stranger in a foreign country" -He never owned land to live in. He did not blend in with the Canaanites. As long as the Canaanites worshiped idols and lived hedonistic lives Abraham knew the land was not his yet. He waits for God to cleanse the land of sin and sinners. Then he and those who have faith like him will inherit the earth.

* "he lived in tents" -A sign of his faith as the ark was a sign of Noah's faith. The life-style of the patriarchs was not easy. They were always ready to move. They were always ready to go.

* Abraham believed God in heaven and a heavenly reward.

* "as did Isaac and Jacob" -Abraham passed down his spiritual outlook and faith to his children and grandchildren.

* "heirs with him of the same promise" -We to can be heirs of the promise of a home in the kingdom of God when we live by faith. Romans 9:6-8 states, "It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring."

* God calls ordinary people.

* You don't have to be holy to be called by God; just believe God's words and obey God's words.

* To inherit the promise we have to have practical faith in God and his words and to live in this world like a pilgrim. We should not have roots in this world. Our roots should be in God's promise for a greater reward.

* When God called Abraham he did not know what God had planned. He slowly grew to know what God had planned. Has your faith grown? Do you want it to grow?

>3. What enabled Abraham to live in the promise land like a stranger in a foreign country? What did he believe? What does "he lived in tents" imply about the life-style of the patriarchs? What can you learn from their faith?

Hebrews 11:10 "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

* Jesus said that he is preparing a place for us. This is the city Abraham looked forward to.

* Similar to Abraham we live on the earth like strangers in a foreign land even though we will inherit the earth. How are we aliens? The kingdoms of the world make this a foreign land to us.

>4. To what promise does verse 11 refer to? What does Abraham's faith, as seen in verses 11 and 12, teach us about faith?

Hebrews 11:11-12 "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore."

* 'was enabled" -Abraham's faith made the impossible, possible. I should see God as faithful in keeping his promises. God blesses faith.

* God puts a situation, a scenario, a challenge that seems totally irrational and impossible to test his people. We are to decide if God is right and faithful or not. He does not test us beyond what we can handle. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 states, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

* "and he as good as dead" -He was very old.

* The promise of a son was fulfilled twenty-five years after given.

* God often reminded him of the promise. Abraham always believed though it was hard. In his conversations with God Abraham confessed it was hard for him to believe, especially after twenty-four years. He even laughed. Sarah laughed too. However, they believed.

* We need to see God as faithful in keeping his promises.

* God blesses faith.

>5. What were the unfulfilled promises in verse 13? How could these aliens and strangers endure in a foreign land? What was their hope? (13-15)

Hebrews 11:13 "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth."

* "were still living by faith when they died" -They did not receive and they still believed. They did not give up. They did not back down. They trusted to the end.

* "saw them" -by faith, not in a vision or dream. They believed their descendants would be as numerous as stars in the skies and the promise land was theirs.

* "welcomed them" -They believed the promise was better than what they had in this life or could obtain in this life.

* "aliens and strangers on earth" -They knew that they were of heaven. They saw the sinful actions of people and this world and realized that they were not to be here. They were not perfect, but they realized that God had other plans for them and they accept those plans even though they didn't know the details.

* These strangers endure in a foreign land. They obeyed and believed God. They wanted to please God. They had faith in God and his promises. They had hope in eternal life in paradise. Jesus told the man on the cross next to him when he asked to be remembered in his kingdom, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

>6. Why is God not ashamed to be called their God? (16)

Hebrews 11:14-16 "People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

* "for a country of their own" -A country has people and culture.

* "they would have had opportunity to return" -God did not force faith on them. They chose to have faith.

* "a heavenly one" -Not on this earth now.

* "God is not ashamed" -If we have faith his is not ashamed of us; if we don't have faith God is ashamed. Jesus said, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)

* "for he had prepared a city for them" -Jesus said, "I will go and prepare a place for you." (John)

II. Faith that Overcomes Death (17-22)

>7. In what sense was it so difficult for Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering as God commanded? (Gen. 22:1-2) According to Hebrews 11:17-19, how did Abraham overcome the seemingly total contradiction between God's promises and his commands? (17, 19)

Hebrews 11:17-19 "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death."

* "when God tested him" -See above note on verses 11-12.

* "to sacrifice" -Stab with a knife and burn him on a wood pile.

* "Abraham reasoned" -Faith goes beyond conventional reasoning or perhaps better stated changes our reasoning.

* "figuratively speaking" -The author new figuratively speaking, and other than what he points out as such, is not figuratively speaking. He is speaking literally. So how did he know Abraham reasoned that way? The Holy Spirit inspired.

* "Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.'" (Gen. 22:1-2)

* Isaac was the son of promise, given to him by God. He had waited for him for twenty-five years. He had received him at a very old age.

>8. How did Isaac and Jacob each plant hope in the hearts of their descendants? (20-21) Explain the meaning and the significance of blessing the descendants.

Hebrews 11:20 "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future."

* "blessed" -Blessing and cursing are primary Biblical emphases, as reflected in the 516 uses of words such as bless (132), blessed (285), blesses (10), blessing (70), and blessings (19); and the 199 occurrences of such words as curse (97), cursed (74), curses (19), and cursing (9).

* "in regard to their future" -How did he know the future? How does any prophet know the future? The Holy Spirit reveals all things.

* "Isaac" -was the son of promise to Abraham.

* "Esau" -was not the son of promise to Abraham.

Hebrews 11:21 "By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff."

* "blessed each of Joseph's sons" -He talked about each of this sons. However, the blessing to Joseph's sons is the only one noted. The emphasize is on them, not even Judah, whom the Messiah came from. Why? They have to do with the future too.

* "and worshiped as he leaned on his staff" -Worship is to honor and speak well of another. Worship is obeying. Worship is acting in faith.

* "leaned" -He was very old. He died after this.

>9. What was Joseph's hope? What instructions did he give about his bones? (Gen. 50:24-26)

>10. What hope can we share with the Patriarchs? How can we be certain of our hope?

Hebrews 11:22 "By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones."

* "Joseph' -not Judah is discussed concerning having faith.

* "gave instructions about his bones" -Joseph wanted to be buried in the promised land where his forefathers were. He was showing his home and heart was not in Egypt.

* "gave instructions" -He gave instructions to his brothers, the same who betrayed him and sold him into slavery.

* "about his bones" -Over four hundred years and four generations later, they kept this promise.