“When God summoned Abraham, faith enabled him to obey and go forth into a land which he would eventually inherit. He departed, unsure of his destination. By faith he made his temporary home in the land God had promised him. He lived a nomadic life like Isaac and Jacob who were joint heirs of the same promise. He was seeking a celestial city with solid foundations, designed and built by God.” (paraphrased)
From verse eight to the end of the chapter, the writer provides insight into the lives of those who emulate endurance and hope. Abraham was the progenitor of all “who are of faith” (Gal. 3:7). Previously he has only referenced Abraham’s endurance and his inferiority to Melchizedek (6:13-15 & 7:4-10). Beginning with Abraham, he commences to illustrate faith via a synopsis of the patriarchal heritage. Believers become “Abraham’s descendants and heirs of the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
In this passage, the writer tells what Abraham left behind (v .8), how he lived (v. 9), and what he anticipated (v. 10). The terms he agreed to severed family ties, caused him to abandon the land of his birth (Gen. 12:1), and begin a pilgrimage. Following the Lord’s instructions made it impossible for him to continue his former lifestyle. As the “father of all who believe,” his obedience exemplifies a complete break with the old life (Rom. 4:11). Like Abraham, we cannot be true disciples until we forsake everything and focus on future goals (Lk. 14:33 & Col. 3:1).
Abraham is known as “the friend of God” and is referred to more than three hundred times in Scripture (Isa. 41:8 & Jas. 2:23). He is first introduced to us as a descendant of Shem, Noah’s son (Gen. 11:10-27). Abraham was originally from the city of Ur in Chaldea, about 220 miles southeast of present day Baghdad. His father, Terah, was an idolater: there is no mention of any communication with Jehovah (Josh. 24:2). Why he relocated in Haran we are not told, but there Terah died and Abraham received his divine commission.
At age 75, God told him to leave Haran (Gen. 12:1-4). Faith drew him toward an unknown land and he became a nomad for over a hundred years. His story proves God depends upon the obedience of individuals in order to carry out His plans. Because of his positive response to the call of God, the world was blessed with the Jewish race. Abraham was a great man, but he was absolutely nothing without the One who called him. Although he risked everything on a pilgrimage only the results would justify, he never lived to see everything his faith helped to produce.
He was called to a life of separation. He lived by a principle already established – trusting God to receive “things not yet seen” (Heb. 11:1). There was no incentive to leave Mesopotamia other than divine commands and promises. Though his given name was Abram (“God is exalted”), God changed it to Abraham (“father of multitudes”) in Genesis 17:5. The dynamics of his faith are best illustrated by his ignorance of his destination. No ancient tribal tradition drove him to migrate to another country. He did not waver or vacillate, but unquestioningly and unhesitatingly followed God’s instructions. He willingly undertook a mysterious journey of uncertain duration to an unspecified location.
“Sojourned” (paroikein) means “to dwell among people as a transient.” The term refers to a foreigner who lives in another country as a resident alien. “Strange” is allotrian and identifies Canaan as a land which belonged to others. Although Abraham migrated to Canaan, he never received the title deed to the Promised Land. He did not attempt to possess it, either by conquest or by entering into an alliance with its inhabitants. He did not buy an estate there, even though he was very wealthy (Gen. 13:2). In fact, the only parcel of ground in Canaan we are sure Abraham owned was the cave he bought in which to bury Sarah. When he purchased this tomb, he confessed to the sons of Heth, “I am a stranger and sojourner among you” (Gen. 23:4). Only after Joshua crossed the Jordan River could the nation of Israel lay claim to the Promised Land.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are mentioned as a trilogy, for they represent the entire patriarchal period in Canaan. The word “tabernacle” is “tent,” the emblem of a migratory people. The frail composition of tents makes them adequate as temporary housing. They have no foundations and offer little shelter from either weather or enemy attack. The nomadic lifestyle of these three patriarchs was a daily reminder of their common hope. Abraham died when Isaac was seventy-five and Jacob was still a teenager. Neither his son nor his grandson inherited the promise from Abraham, but each later received the same promise directly from the Lord (Gen. 26:3 & 28:13). Although Abraham was assured he would inherit the land and father a great nation, he died without seeing either promise fulfilled.
Jesus affirmed Abraham demonstrated his faith through obedience (Jn. 8:39). James reaffirms how and why this patriarch put his faith into action (Jas. 2:21-22). His obedience is also epitomized by what he sought. He looked past the promised terrestrial inheritance, anticipating a celestial inheritance as well. Seeking such a city means Abraham saw far beyond the future history of Israel. It is referred to as “the city of the living God” or “the New Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22; Gal. 4:26; Rev. 3:12 & 21:2). The permanence of this city is compared with the impermanence of the patriarchal lifestyle. In contrast to the sandy floors of Abraham’s tents, the city he anticipated had a firm foundation.
The Lord alone is the Builder and Maker of this city. “Builder” is technites; an architect, designer, or craftsman. “Maker” is demiourgos, a worker who frames or constructs. Humans neither planned nor constructed the heavenly city. The hope of all Believers is a land of rest beyond the material realm. Heaven is a place prepared for those prepared for heaven.
QUESTIONS: THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM
1. In 6:15, the writer referred to Abraham’s endurance. True or False?
2. In this passage, we find that Abraham:
A. severed many family ties
B. abandoned the land of his birth
C. traveled toward an unknown destination
D. only A and C
E. A, B & C
3. Abraham’s obedience to the call of God is symbolic of a Believer’s complete break with his former life of sin. True or False?
4. What title is given to Abraham? (James 2:23)
5. Terah, Abraham’s father, was known as a man who served Jehovah with all his heart. True or False?
6. Abraham was called by God at age:
7. Abraham was a:
B. resident alien
E. all of the above
8. What two titles does the writer give to the celestial city in 12:22?
9. Abraham anticipated heaven. Dream a little. Write a list of things you hope to see in the New Jerusalem.