11th Sunday after Pentecost August 21, 2022
5, 304, 377:1,7,9-10, 40
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Editor’s Note: Sermon Video 📺 https://tinyurl.com/CLC-MxM-20220821
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and merciful God, it is by Your grace that we live as Your people who offer acceptable service. Grant that we may walk by faith, and not by sight, in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (ESV)
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
I’ve often been amazed at friends who buy used cars online. When I buy a car, I want to see it in person and look it over thoroughly. I want to sit in it and see how much leg room it has. I want to start the engine and listen to it. I especially want to test drive it and even take it to my mechanic to have him look it over. So the first time I heard a friend of mine buy a car on E-Bay, sight unseen, it made no sense to me. “Don’t you want to see it for yourself before you invest all that money?” I’d ask. Their reply, “Oh, I trust them.”
How do you feel about buying something “sight unseen?” At least if you buy something online, you have a chance to look it over through pictures—assuming the pictures are legitimate.
As Christians, we are people of faith. The Holy Spirit has used the Word to bring us to faith in Jesus. Through faith we are buying into things “sight unseen,” if you will. How many of the things that you believe have you ever seen? Almighty God? The only-begotten Son of God? The resurrection of the dead? The life of the world to come? We haven’t seen any of these things, yet we are sure and convinced that these things are real.
Today we hear the writer to the Hebrews talk to us about faith. He defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” These are parallel thoughts. Things hoped for are things that are not seen. And though unseen, faith is sure of them and convinced that they are real. As we consider faith’s assurance and conviction, we’ll look at the life of Abraham and see that this assurance and conviction is based in the faithfulness of God of His promised inheritance through His promised Son. May God the Holy Spirit increase our faith that we may be ever more sure and convicted about the promises of God.
Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes called the “Heroes of Faith” chapter of the Bible. Throughout Hebrews 11, you can read of the various Old Testament believers and what they endured because they believed in the promises of God. I’d encourage you to read through this “Faith Hall of Fame” later today.
In the verses before us, the writer directs our attention to Abraham, whom Paul calls in Romans the “father of all believers.” The writer points out some of the promises God made to Abraham:
Abraham died never seeing the fulfillment of any of these things. Yet Abraham was assured and convicted that all these things would occur, even though they were “sight unseen.”
How could Abraham be so sure and convicted that he would do these things? Take a look at the end of verse 11. Speaking of Sarah and Abraham conceiving a child in their old age, the writer speaks of how they “considered Him faithful who had promised.” While they saw nothing about themselves that made them sure or convicted them, they considered God faithful who had promised.
Next, let’s talk about the promised inheritance of heaven. Just this week one of our retired pastors and one of our widows expressed this hope of the inheritance of heaven. The retired pastor spoke of it because of what he sees in the world around him. The widow spoke of the inheritance of heaven because the aches and pains she has in her body.
Abraham too, had an assurance and conviction about his eternal inheritance. Though Abraham may not have spoken about it like that retired pastor or that widow, his assurance and conviction was seen in his life. The writer points to that in verses 9 and 10 in our text. “By faith (Abraham) went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, LIVING IN TENTS…for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
Abraham lived in tents. Tents are temporary dwelling places. While Abraham certainly had the funds and the opportunity to acquire real estate in Canaan, his nomadic life demonstrated that he knew he was a “stranger and exile on the earth.” If his heart was set on things of this world, he could have returned to the home of his ancestors in Ur of Chaldeans any time he wanted. But he didn’t go back, instead he looked ahead to his eternal homeland in the city of God in heaven. Though sight unseen, Abraham was sure and certain of that “better country, that is, a heavenly one,” the promised inheritance of heaven.
So, most of the things God promised Abraham were never seen by him. Our text says in verse 13, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised.” Abraham never took possession of Canaan, though God promised it. Abraham never saw his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, though God promised it.
One promise God made to Abraham was seen by him—the promise of a son. And yet, even that promised son required faith—an assurance and conviction that God was faithful. God did not give Abraham and Sarah a child during their childbearing years. No, God waited…and waited…and waited. God waited until Abraham was “as good as dead” before the son of promise would be born—Isaac. Verse 11, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceived, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” Twenty-five years after God’s first promise to Abraham, at age 99 and Sarah at age 90, conceived and gave birth to Isaac.
From Isaac would eventually come another Son of promise—THE promised Son. This Son was first promised to Eve, even though it would be 4,000 years before that promised Son was born. That Son was promised to David, even though it would be another 1,000 years before this Son would be born from the house and lineage of David. That Son was promised to be born of a virgin through Isaiah, even though it would be 700 years before the virgin birth would take place. All along the believers of the Old Testament had the assurance and conviction that God who had promised this Son to save them was faithful and He would keep His promise.
Though they had to wait, at the fulness of time the angels announced to the shepherds that the promised Son had been born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
But the waiting for those believers wasn’t over. When Jesus, the promised Son died on the cross, His followers thought that was the end of the promise. Even though Jesus had promised to them that He would rise from the dead, they had no assurance or conviction that He would truly rise.
But God is faithful. Christ did rise from the dead on the third day. His resurrection is a declaration that God keeps all His promises. His resurrection means your sins truly are forgiven. The resurrection of the promised Son means that you can be sure and convicted that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection means that you can be sure and certain of your eternal inheritance through Him.
Our text concludes with this remarkable phrase, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” God calls Himself “the God of Abraham.” What a remarkable thing for almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, to connect the name of a man with His divine name. And it wasn’t as though Abraham was perfect. Abraham struggled with weakness of faith. When he was in Egypt he lied about Sarah being his wife. When he and Sarah hadn’t had a baby, they came up with a plan to have a child through Sarah’s Egyptian servant, Hagar.
So too with all those “Heroes of Faith.” Moses gave countless excuses why he couldn’t be God’s spokesman. The disciples feared their boat was going to sink, even though Jesus was on board with them. Peter walked on water, until he took his eyes off Jesus. Thomas refused to believe eyewitness testimony that Jesus had risen from the dead until he could put his fingers in the nail holes in Jesus hands.
The point is, these “heroes of faith” all were weak sinners with weak faith—just like you and me. They, like us, needed a Savior. We are not always “assured and convicted” about God’s promises. We often tremble in fear or doubt, or we just plain forget about God’s promises. Like sinking Peter, we need Jesus to reach down and lift us up.
That is why we need to hear those promises again and again. I can imagine that in the twenty-five years that passed for Abraham between God’s promise and the birth of Isaac, that Abraham frequently looked up at the stars to remind himself of the promise God had made about his descendants. Let us also look to the light of God’s Word to hear those promises again and again. Hear about the coming of the Promised Son to be your righteousness and your salvation. Hear about the sure and certain promise of heaven for all who believe. Hear about the faithfulness of God who has promised an eternal inheritance in heaven for you through His promised Son. And then rejoice that God is not ashamed to be called your God and you His child of faith. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.