man standing in front of rainbows created by waterfalls

Things Hoped For, Things Unseen

Sunday Scripture – August 11, 2019

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16


This text from Hebrews 11 forms the basis of the question we are asking ourselves for the next four weeks: What does it mean to have faith, to trust in things not seen? Hebrews tells us that our faith assures of things we hope for and helps us trust in that which we have not yet or will never be able to truly see. The difficulty with this passage lies in our temptation to turn our selfish hopes and dreams into reality through a fuzzy magical thinking we call faith, rather than using faith to rely on God’s goodness as we follow God’s will.

Fortunately Hebrews gives us a concrete example of what this faith has looked like in one person’s life, Abraham. Yes, God promises Abraham many descendants, despite his wife Sarah’s so-far-barren womb, which is good news to Abraham (and Sarah). But, it is not for Abraham’s sake that God is doing this miracle, but rather that God is choosing to create a people from Abraham and Sarah’s offspring to bring God’s goodness and love to the whole world.

Before any of this, God asks Abraham and Sarah (then Abram and Sarai) to follow God’s path for them, far away from the family they knew and loved, into a new place. They follow because they have faith. They had no idea what was waiting out there in a new home among new people, but they trusted in God. This is even more powerful when you realize that they have not received anything from God yet. No land, no child, no wealth. These are to come, but they do not know that yet.

Wow! The voice of God is so powerful to someone who is ready to believe that Abraham leaves all he knows and just goes. We see in Abraham’s story that his faith is rewarded with all God has promised, and probably in ways Abraham never imagined. And we see in Abraham’s story that there are times he struggles with believing God’s promises and tries to make them come true on his own, which leads to complications.

One of the most difficult things we will wrestle with in the next few weeks is referenced at the end of this Hebrews text – God makes some promises that we may not see come to completion. For Abraham, he only has two sons, and only one of those sons is part of the chosen people God promises. Abraham does not see the many descendants that make up the nations that are created through both of his sons. He only sees the beginning of the story of a promise fulfilled.

Faith means believing in promises we may not actually benefit from, but someone down the road will. We do not believe simply for our own benefit, but for the completion of God’s kingdom in this world. And we have deep hope that some day the world will get to see the kind of peace, justice and joy God promises to us. If we keep following faithfully, perhaps that day is closer than we think.

Reflection Questions

  1. Why do you think Abraham was so prepared to follow God’s call? Was it personality traits, his actions and attitudes toward others, how he was raised, a combination, or something else? What might that be?
  2. What is one thing you can do to try to be more open to God’s call?

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