By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced 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 even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
What an amazing thing Abraham did when God told him to sacrifice Isaac! The author brings this out in these verses, and let’s just stop and think about it for a moment. God’s big promise to Abraham was that he would have offspring greater in number than the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore, pretty amazing considering his age. The greatest promise of all was that through his seed, all nations of the earth would be blessed, and when the son of promise finally comes along, nothing short of a miracle in itself, God tells Abraham to sacrifice him… and Abraham was about to do what God had told him to do; now that is putting faith into action!
I can’t imagine what Abraham must have been thinking… I really can’t; but our author tells us, and apparently it occurred to Abraham that if God made this promise, and then told him to kill the boy, God must have a plan to raise Isaac from the dead. His faith was so strong, he wasn’t thinking that God had changed His mind. So, in a way, he did receive Isaac back from the dead, for at that critical moment, poor Isaac was a dead boy walking.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Take a close look at these “by faith” verses…. very close. What do they all have common, other than “by faith”? It’s no trick, there is a clear pattern…
Each one of these “by faith” incidents is directly related to covenant faithfulness. The main things mentioned about Abraham related to the land promise. In the verses above, it’s the son of promise. Isaac and Jacob verses are referring to their covenant birthrights. Joseph was concerned about the exodus, also a promise of the covenant. Moses was no ordinary child, because God would make another covenant with him… and later we’ll see more about Moses.
All of these people were imperfect, and the truth is that some of them were very imperfect. All, however, placed their priority on their covenant relationship with God, over all else, and when things were tough, that’s where their hearts were to be found. The really big question is this: What does that tell us about God’s priorities in relation to our sins?
In case I haven’t made this quite clear enough, let’s go about this in a slightly different way. None of the patriarchs was a saint. A few of them were a mess, and I’m including Abraham in this group. How many times did he allow Sarah, the woman who was to bear the son of promise, go into the harem of a pagan king? Not once, but twice! Now I haven’t been so perfect in my lifetime, but I most certainly have never done anything like that, have you? Probably not… Yet Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, because Abraham, in spite of his faults, placed his highest priority on his covenant with God; in this area, he was faultless. The same can also be said of his son and grandsons.
Back to the original recipients… Everything in this letter is in the context of covenant. Just think about all of the amazing things we’ve learned about the New Covenant in Hebrews. Think about what we’ve learned about our relationship with God in Hebrews. With all of that in mind, can you see what an insult it would be to God if we, after all He has done, and after all He has given to us, would turn our backs and walk away from this covenant relationship when the going got tough? You see, these warnings aren’t so much about our petty sins which are already forgiven anyway, they are about protecting and maintaining our covenant relationship with God.
It’s something to reflect upon, I should think.