Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 / Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 / Luke 12:32-40
The Meaning of Faith
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The Faith of Abraham
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going.
By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
By faith, with Sarah’s involvement, he received power of procreation, even though he was too old, because he considered[a] him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better homeland, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
— Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16,NRSVUE
Promises to Keep
In Genesis 15, we find Abram just out of battle. He’s recovered his nephew, women from his community, and loads of property. But there is still something missing: He has no children of his own to carry forward his name.
Abram is a visionary.
But without God’s promise to bring the vision to fruition, he’s only dabbling in wishful thinking. How else can one cope with that moment when death is knocking, and the vision is still far off? “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” preached Dr. King. “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.”
But sometimes a vision and promise isn’t enough. We live in a world of instant gratification. The expiration dates on our visions feel as if they are creeping up on us. The best visionaries struggle with this and with “promises.” We live in a time of increasing divorce rates, declining church memberships, and hate-filled campaign rhetoric. In our day it seems deception and fear trump the keeping of promises. We’ll need something more. Abram and the psalmist felt this, which is why the author of Hebrews has taught us to know Abraham not by his visions or promises made to him, but by his faith. The psalmist calls it trust (33:21). King saw it too. “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! ... Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” Either way, in order for vision and promise to stick in the face of death, we need the gift of faith to trust in “the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
— Brandon Wrencher