Online Bible Commentary
The Power of Faith
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (NIV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews is writing to Hebrew Christians in this letter. He is encouraging them to persevere in the Christian faith, and not to return to their roots in Judaism. In this chapter, he is writing of faith. He is giving examples of great people of faith. He has already written of Abel, Enoch, and Noah. These are men of faith according to God. We might call them members of God’s Hall of Faith. In this passage two more people are added to God’s Hall of Faith, Abraham and his wife Sarah.
Abraham and Sarah were examples of the astounding power of faith. Abraham was raised in a land called Ur, in the Chaldees. It was located in present day Iraq, near the Euphrates River and not far from where the Tigris and Euphrates meet, which is thought to be the area of the Garden of Eden. Although the area was bountiful, God “called” (v. 8a) Abraham to move to an unknown land, the Promised Land. It was some 500 miles to the west, through the desert and over the mountains, an extremely long journey for the times.
The land was to be the “inheritance” (v. 8b) of Abraham and all his descendants. In a giant leap of faith, Abraham “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (v. 8c). His family and friends must have thought him to be crazy, or reckless at the least. But Abraham followed God’s calling for his life.
“By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country” (v. 9a). The literal translation of the original Greek is: “By faith he tenanted the land.” Abraham lived on the land as a tenant, a renter, even though God had given him the land. As Mother Francis did, he held everything loosely, in case God wanted to take something back. The only permanent structure Abraham placed on the land was a tomb for his dead. Otherwise, he and his family “lived in tents” (v. 9b). He was always ready to move again if God called.
Abraham considered himself a foreigner, or alien, as one who was just passing though this life. He knew that his real home was in Heaven. He was “looking forward” (v. 10a) to Heaven, “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (v. 10b).
Even though Abraham knew he was just passing through, God promised him that He would make a great nation from the seed of Abraham. Again, this must have seemed to men to be a crazy idea. Both Abraham and Sarah were advanced in years, far beyond the age of conception. Abraham was about 99 years old and Sarah was about 90.
However, “by faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise” (v. 11). Abraham fathered a great nation, the Hebrews, because he considered God faithful. He had faith in God. He believed in the trustworthiness of God’s promises. Faith is trusting God. It is believing that God is worthy of trust.
And so, even though Abraham was “as good as dead” (v. 12a), he fathered a great nation. God gave him “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (v. 12b). By all rights Abraham and Sarah could not have had children. Again, their friends and family must have thought them to be crazy for even thinking of such an outlandish idea. They were out of touch with reality. In this day and age they might well have been diagnosed with dementia and be institutionalized. While the world told them there was no way, God made a way. All things are possible with God.
So Abraham moved far from his home and fathered a great nation. This is the power of faith. How many times did Abraham and Sarah question God’s calling? Whether they did or did not, one thing is clear. In the end, they followed God’s calling for their lives. They had a great faith, so great that they were included in God’s Hall of Faith. And for all their faith, they were greatly blessed.