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RCCG Miracle Land Dundalk
Thursday, September 30 2021

Contributor: Wale Abiona

INTRODUCTION: In 1 Cor. 10, the apostle Paul reminded his readers of the things that had happened to the people of Israel during the Exodus. He highlighted their unfaithfulness to God, and the things they suffered as a result. And then he told his readers, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

God preserved the Old Testament stories for us so that they would serve as illustrations to us—in that case, illustrations of what to avoid.

As we come to Hebrews 11, we find some other great Old Testament examples given to us. But in this case, they are illustrations of what to embrace. The writer of Hebrews had stated his main proposition in verse 1—“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

And in order to illustrate that proposition, he took his Jewish readers back to those Old Testament stories, highlighted the acts of the Jewish patriarchs, and asked them to learn from their examples of faith in the promises of God. He wanted his readers to see how these Old Testament saints embraced the promises of God from a distance, and looked ahead to their fulfillment—even if the fulfillment of those promises would be past their own lifetimes. As he wrote in verse 13;

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).
In the passage before us, the writer continued this theme. He taught his believing Jewish readers about the need to keep true to God’s promises in Jesus Christ. And he illustrated this lesson to them through the faith of the four most important patriarchs of the Jewish Scriptures—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

One of the most powerful of all illustrations of faith in the promise of God is found in these verses.

A. The writer would have immediately captured the interest of his readers when he reminded them of one of the most important stories they had ever learned. A story that would have been taught to them from the earliest days of childhood:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son . . .” (v. 17).

It was to Abraham that God made the promise “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” That was a promise that found its ultimate fulfillment in the birth of his biological descendant Jesus the Messiah—even though, at the time, Abraham was childless and far along in years. In due time, God kept His promise to Abraham, and his wife gave birth to a son from his own body. But after many years—when the boy was thirteen, and when there was no other son—God put Abraham to the test. He commanded him, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).

B. This must have been a dreadfully difficult command for Abraham to obey. God had finally given him a son through whom the great promise He made to him would be kept. But was He now commanding that his only son be sacrificed by him on the altar and put to death?—the one, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’” (see Genesis 21:12)? If Abraham obeyed, and sacrificed his only son—and he himself being well over 100 years old—what then would happen to God’s promise? Yet we find no evidence that Abraham resisted or delayed. We’re told, “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3).
He did this by faith in the God who made the promise. As James 2:21 puts it, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
That is to say, didn’t his faith in the promise of God prove itself by the fact that he obeyed God’s command? And wasn’t he then proven righteous by the fact of his active obedience?

C. The greatness of Abraham’s faith was hinted at in what he said to the young men who travelled with him. As they came to the place that God commanded the sacrifice to occur, Abraham told them, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5).

Note carefully that he said, “we will come back”. How could this be? The writer of Hebrews explained that he said this, “concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead . . .” (Hebrews 11:19).

Abraham had so trusted in the promise of God that, if God commanded that he sacrifice of his only son through—whom the promise must be fulfilled—he believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead; “from which”, the writer explained, “he also received him in a figurative sense.” As Genesis 22:12-14 says, the Angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham just before he was about to sacrifice his son and said;
“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (verses 12-14).

D. Later in time, it would be near that very spot that the Lord Jesus Himself would be crucified.
In this respect, then, the ram caught in the thicket by its horns was a picture of Jesus Himself; and this would give special meaning to the writer’s words concerning his trust in God regarding Isaac, “from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (v. 18). Isaac became a picture of God’s sacrifice of His only begotten Son for us—whom also God literally raised from the dead. This may even explain Jesus’ remarkable words to the Jewish leaders;
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
That is, perhaps, the greatest example that can be pointed to of an Old Testament saint’s faith in God’s New Testament promises regarding Jesus. But there are others. The writer also points to the example of . . .

A. No doubt Isaac never forgot the event of his father’s faith on the mountain of sacrifice.
And as he grew, he surely would also have remembered the promise that God renewed to Abraham concerning him after the event was over:
“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:18).

Isaac lived as the inheritor of this great promise from God; and he knew that he must also pass that promise on to his children.

B. But like Abraham, Isaac lived for a time without offspring. He pleaded with God that his wife Rebekah would bear children. In due time, God answered the prayer in the births of the twin sons Esau and Jacob. When they were in the womb, they struggled together; and God told Rebekah,
“Two nations are in your womb, And the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other,
And it was with respect to these two sons that the writer of Hebrews said, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (v. 20).

C. But the promise only applied to Jacob. He—not Esau—was the ascendant of the Lord Jesus. How then did Isaac’s blessing to both sons relate to the promise? It helps to remember that Isaac originally intended to give the blessing to his firstborn son Esau—in spite of the fact that God had told Rebekah that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). As it turned out, through the encouragement of Rebekah, Jacob deceived his father and pretended to be Esau; and Isaac, thinking he was blessing Esau, passed the blessing on to Jacob instead. He told him—in words that clearly reflected the promise God had given to Abraham; And nations bow down to you.

"Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you," (Genesis 27:29).

By deceit, then, Jacob usurped and received to himself the blessing that Isaac was placing on Esau. But even though it was through the misguided intent of Isaac and the deceit of Jacob, God nevertheless fulfilled His promise to Rebekah concerning Jacob. And Isaac—without realizing it—demonstrated a faith in God’s promise to the son that God had appointed with respect to things to come. For Isaac, the promise was sure; even if his application of it was mistaken.
The writer next points to the example of . . .

A. After the event, Jacob lived many years with the fact that he had deceived his brother. Nevertheless, he went on to have twelve sons who were the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The last two of his sons—from the wife of his first choice, Rachael, were Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph, through the providence of God, became the Prime Minister of Egypt; and he made it possible for Jacob to live out his final years in comfort and prosperity. But he lived in a foreign land—far from the land that God had promised Abraham.

B. The time finally came for Jacob to die.
And perhaps it was the remembrance of his deception that led him to do what he did when it came time to bless his grandsons. Jacob called the sons of Joseph to himself, and placed his right hand on the younger son Ephraim—instead of on the older son Manasseh; and passed the blessing on to the younger. Thus the writer of Hebrews wrote;
“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (v. 21).
He made sure that they too were included in the promise of God to Abraham. And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth (See Genesis 48:15-16). 15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, 16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

C. The significance of this might be seen in what the writer says at the end of verse 21 That Jacob passed on this blessing, “and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff”. Genesis 47:31 tells us that before he died, he asked Joseph to swear to him that he would not bury him in Egypt, “but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.”

Jacob wanted to be buried in the land of promise—not in the foreign land of Egypt (see also 49:29-33). Joseph swore to do as his father Jacob had asked; and indeed kept that promise (see 50:1-14). And at the time when that promise was made, we’re told that “Israel [that is, Jacob] bowed himself on the head of the bed” (Gen. 47:31). This same faith was also expressed by the next generation; as we see from . . .

(Verse 22). A. The writer tells us that, “By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones” (v. 22).

Joseph had lived for many years in the highest position possible in the land of Egypt. And yet, his heart was inclined to the land of promise. Just as his father wanted to be buried next to Abraham and Isaac in the land of promise, so also did Joseph. He told his brethren; “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:24-25).

B. Joseph requested this because he had faith in the promise of God and knew that God would do as He said. As God had told Abraham;
“Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:13b-16).

And when that promise to Abraham finally came to pass, and the people of Israel departed from Egypt under Moses’ leadership, they made sure to take the bones of Joseph with them (Exodus 13:19).
Those bones were passed on to the stewardship of Joshua, and then to the leaders of Israel who—after they took possession of the land—buried his bones in Shechem; “in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph” (Joshua 24:32).

Each of these patriarchal fathers placed their faith in the promise of God from afar. They didn’t see the fulfillment of these things in their own lifetimes; but trusted that God would do as He said. And their faith proved justified; because God did indeed fulfill His promises—not only concerning the land, and not only concerning the offspring, but also concerning the Lord Jesus who is the blessing to all the earth.

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