Study 4 “Faith and a Promised Land” Hebrews 11:9-10
by Bob Burridge ©2020
About 4000 years ago (about 2000 years before Christ was born) a family lived in the land of Kaldu in a city called Ur. It was a major city near the western bank of the great Euphrates River. It’s population was about 24,000 people, with mostly single family houses build very close together.
It was far from being primitive. It was an advanced culture center for its day. From there archaeologists have recovered collections of writings, art, and advanced metal tools of copper & bronze.There were also some great buildings and temples which were seats of worship for the Sumerian moon-god. They found clothes styled out of fine woven fabrics with intricate patterns. The women used makeup made from imported dyes. Business was conducted with written receipts. Strict laws demanded fairness in business to protect the poor, orphans, and widows from those who would take advantage of them.
In the city of UR, lived the family of Terah [TErakh]. He had three sons named Haran, Nahor, and Abram [haRAN, naHOR, avRAM]. They were descendants of the godly family of Shem, one of the sons of Noah, but Terah and his family worshiped the Chaldean idols (Joshuah 24:2).
At some point, God changed them! The salvation of Terah’s family was another example of God’s saving grace at work in undeserving hearts. The Bible tells us that sin has so effected our fallen hearts, that no one will come to God in true repentance and faith aside from the sovereign work of God’s grace. John 1:13 says that those reborn into a true faith, are those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
When Haran, the oldest son, died, God directed Terah’s family to leave all they knew and go to a new land. Abram brought his wife Sarai [saRAI]. Nahor brought his wife Milcah [milCAH] (Haran’s daughter). Lot, Haran’s son, went with them. They stayed for a while in Canaan where Terah died. Then God called Abram to continue on into the new land. So Abram left to be led as God promised to a land that he would show him. God’s promise is recorded in Genesis 12:2-3, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
When he was 75 years old Abram and his family left Haran. They came south-west to a place named Moreh, an area of Sheckem.
The LORD told Abram that he would give the land to his descendants. So Abram built an altar to worship the LORD. They later moved a little more south to a place east of a mountain near Bethel. There they pitched their tents and again built an altar to the LORD. The Bible says Abram “called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8).
Abram is another example of how we as God’s people thousands of years later, ought to live by faith.
Hebrews 11:8-10 tells us about Abram’s faith.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Abram trusted what God told him.
God’s command was clear. He was to leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s house. This meant he had to leave all that had given him security and order all his life til than. He was already 75 years old.
God’s promise was also very clear; He would bless Abram. He would eventually become a blessing to all nations. “… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The promised Messiah would be born to his descendants, and redeem people from many nationalities. Abram’s example would be a testimony all through the ages.
In Genesis 12:7 God promised him a new land, “Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.”
With his heart changed by God’s grace, Abram knew he could count on God. He didn’t know where God was going to lead him, but he believed that God would lead him where he should be. He also believed God that this new place would be a blessing. The faith God had given Abram gave him hope.
There is also a wrong thing people call “faith” that doesn’t bring us hope. There’s a lot of confusion about how we know what God wants us to know.
Some today think they need to hear God’s voice, or get some supernatural sign to know what God wants them to do. They want God to specially reveal what job to take, what house to live in, what car to buy, who to get married to, how many children they should have, how much they should give to missions and the church, or what clothes to put on in the morning. They often take their “feelings” as direct signs from God. But they can be deceiving. What we interpret as God’s voice or signs, or God sent feelings can lead us in foolish or sinful ways.
Some speak of “stepping out on faith.” They often mean they’re going to just do something and trust that it’s what God wants them to do. There’s the “Name it and Claim it” idea that if you have enough faith in wanting something, God will honor it.
These aren’t the kinds of faith we see in the godly examples in Hebrews 11. They acted by faith in what God had clearly revealed. Today we hear God speak in the Bible. Abram didn’t just decide to go to Canaan and then step out on faith. God told him to go, and he promised to bless him if he obeyed. Abram simply trusted what God actually said, and he obeyed.
Try this test: When you’re tempted to say “I’ll step out on faith”, see if you can replace it with “I’ll step out on God’s promise.” then name that promise given in God’s word. Where God hasn’t spoken, there’s no act of true faith. God gives us his promises today in Scripture.
There are three steps to follow when we walk by faith:
1. We need to be familiar with the promises God has given us in his word. We trust that he will bless us when we obey his word, that he will give us inner peace and joy when we make sure our thoughts are dominated by pure things, and that he will bring families and spouses closer when they treat one another the way he teaches us. Daily Bible reading is the only way we can know the many commandments and promises God has given us.
2. We need to consider God’s principles when we make decisions. We should consider which movies, books, and music will be most likely to meet God’s standards, which job will least interfere with our families, church, and personal spiritual growth, where we spend our money that will most help us be a good steward of the what God entrusts to us, and what political choices will give us leaders who care about what pleases God.
3. We need to pray that God will help us consider all these things. This demonstrates our dependence upon the Holy Spirit to help us apply God’s word to our decisions.
We generally follow the principles in practice around us. We should make our homes godly places where we and our children grow together striving to obey God’s word. We should surround ourselves with places and friends that will help us think and live in ways pleasing to God.
To overcome bad habits, we need to take time to rebuild godly ways in our lives:
– learning and repeating Bible verses,
– studying good examples preserved for us in Scripture,
– praying to ask God’s help in making decisions that most promote his glory in our lives,
– attending worship on Sundays focused on honoring our Creator who is also our Redeemer and Good Shepherd.
The big choices in life can be complicated. When it comes to issues like marriage, occupations, big purchases, solving crises …
– We should take the time to learn all we can about what Biblical principles might apply.
– We might talk to our Pastor or Elders, and talk it over with friends.
– It’s important to get friends to pray for us to have wisdom.
Like Abram, when we make decisions we wont know all the details of where it will lead us. But if we’ve taken care to consider God’s ways first, our choices can be made with more confidence. We’re going to make some mistakes. God also tells us how to deal with them.
We don’t have specific personalized details. But we don’t need them. God’s word is sufficient to guide us along the way day to day. In all our decisions, it’s our duty is to know, believe, and trust God’s written promises.
But Abram’s faith was more than just believing God’s promise as truth. He had what the Bible calls a living faith, a true faith, because …
Abram obeyed what God told him.
He left everything he had known, not knowing where he was going. If he held on to the comforts and false security of UR, he wouldn’t have known the blessings of going to Canaan. God called him to live as an alien in a strange country. There were hard challenges in the Promised Land too:
– He had to leave his memories, resources, and recreations.
– He would own no land there, only a burial plot he purchased.
– He would never build a permanent home or city.
– He would live in tents without floors or foundations.
– He would face dangers from wicked men in the land.
Abram had a reason for leaving to wander in a strange land God had given him a heart to see a city whose builder and maker was God! Hebrews 11:16 tells us that those like Abram look for a heavenly city, “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one”.
Abraham wasn’t looking for just an earthly place. The place God leads us to has firm foundations. The city of God continues to give shelter to his people forever. Its designer and maker is God. He understood that the heart of the promise was of God’s spiritual presence, and a future inheritance for his descendants, and a kingdom that would one day bless all nations by a promised Messiah. Abraham looked for, expected, trusted in, counted on, and lived by this yet unseen promise. His faith was proven to be real, because he acted on what God said. He obeyed.
God promised to bless Abraham when he obeyed in faith.
In Psalm 105:11-15 the writer tells about God’s promise to Abram’s descendants; “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!”
To be blessed with Abraham, we need to walk with God, as Abraham did. Our daily decisions, both the small ones and the big ones, need to consider the warnings and promises God has given us. Having learned them and considered them, we need to act on them, even though we might not know what the outcome will be. Our trust ultimately is in the God who knows what is best for us. Then, having chosen in a way that honors God, we should stand with confidence that what God brings our way is best.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Hebrews 11 index: “Faith and What Flows From It“