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Hebrews 11:8-10 part 1 - Abraham Walked By Faith

Hebrews 11:8-10 says, “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. He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

This morning we will only spend time addressing one point that is made in verse 8, ‘Abraham obeyed God by faith when he was called’.

By Faith Abraham Obeyed God When He Was Called

Our text begins with these words, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.

Can you recall a time when you listened to someones testimony and you marveled at the power of the call of God that came upon their lives?

This happened to me on three separate occasions this week with a church planter, a nursing home minister, and from Abraham’s testimony in Hebrews 11:8-22.

The first encounter was on Monday when I met with a church planting pastor and he shared with me about how God called him into the ministry. He was a student in college and he only needed to take three more classes to graduate with his degree. At that same time he was engaged to be married and they were making plans for their wedding and their new life together.

It was at this time that God called him to be a minister. This call surprised him because he never thought that he would be in the ministry. He felt inadequate and unqualified.

When this calling came he and his fiance began to pray and God confirmed to both of them that this was what he was to do. His fiance, however, did not feel called to be in the ministry so they called off their engagement. The calling into the ministry became so strong that he did not finish his three remaining classes to get his degree and instead he enrolled in a college that would train him for the ministry and he began his education all over again.

The second encounter happened on Wednesday when I met with a pastor who has been doing church services at the nursing homes. He began doing this ministry at one place and soon the doors began to open for him to minister at four more locations.

When this man talked I could see that two things were happening.

  • First, God had powerfully called him to do this ministry.

  • Secondly, through his ministry God’s powerful gospel call was impacting others.

The power of the Gospel call upon people became clear as this man told us about how he is ministering to people who are old and frail. Many of these people are suffering from different issues like hearing loss, tiredness and dementia. Because of this he has to depend upon the powerful call of God to make a difference in their lives.

As he ministers he often sees how things look on the outside. He sees them as they sit slumped over in their wheel chairs and it would be so easy to conclude that they cannot listen or understand what is being said. However, he has learned that as he speaks the scriptures to them he is speaking to the spirit of the person and not to the physical man (1 Cor. 2; 2 Cor. 3-4).

He gave an example of a time when a woman was in one of his services and she was slumped over in her chair the whole time and appeared to be asleep and unaware of all the things going on around her. However, when this pastor was finished this woman sat up for a moment and thanked him for ministering to her soul. That is a picture of the powerful call of God.

The third experience that I have had this week regarding the powerful call of God in someones life was in our text today. In our text we see that the call of God comes to Abraham with great power. One day Abraham was living a certain way and in a certain land, but when the call of God came his life was dramatically changed. From that moment on Abraham’s life was characterized by a sincere saving faith that believed God and the promises. At one time he did not live by faith but after this call his life was characterized by faithful obedience and in the New Testament he is called ‘the man of faith’.

This powerful call was not given to Abraham because God saw some goodness or righteousness in him that qualified him for this call. Abraham did not deserve to be called more than anyone else around him. Abraham had not earned the privilege to be called by God. This was a sovereign and merciful act on God’s part that came with great efficacious power. Along with this call came great promises that God promised to fulfill.

  • God promised to lead Abraham to a new land 12:1c

  • God promised to make Abraham a great nation 12:2a

  • God promised to give Abraham His Personal blessings 12:2b

  • God promised to make Abraham a great name 12:2c

  • God promised to cause Abraham to be a blessing 12:2d

  • God promised to give Abraham special protection 12:3a

  • God promised to honor Abraham universally 12:3b

What was Abraham’s life like before the call of God came?

According to Joshua 24 Abraham was part of a culture that was idolatrous and ungodly. Joshua 24:2-3 says, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan…

In Hebrews 11 we have seen how the powerful call of God saved Enoch from the wickedness and godlessness of his day. In Hebrews 11:8 we see this same powerful call go fourth and bring Abraham out of the idolatry of his day. Therefore, there is hope for you and I as we live among our idolatrous culture!

Our text describes the time when Abraham’s faith began (Philippians 1:6)and he responded in faith and obedience. In Romans 4:20 Pauldescribes this faith that characterized the rest of Abraham’s life from that point on. Paul says that Abraham ‘did not waver concerning the promises of God, but grew strong in his faith (The text literally says, “He was strengthened (by God) in faith”)and he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.

So after Abraham was called by God he responded in faith and obedience and he continued from that point on to be ‘made stronger in faith as he kept trusting in God and His promises.’. The call of God upon Abraham’s life necessitated that Abraham was to use the faith every day. Abraham was to walk by faith and learn to trust in God and His Word more and more. Like physical exercise, the more we walk by faith, and exercise our faith, the stronger in faith we will be. Most importantly, our flesh may weaken but our spirit’s can grow stronger and our faith can continue to increase (Psalm73:26, 2 Corinthians 4:16; Luke 17:5).

Before this call came Abraham worshiped idols like his father and all of the people did. But when the call of God came to Abraham the LORD separated him in two ways.

  • First, his heart was separated from idolatry and he worshiped the True and Living God.

  • Secondly, the LORD separated him physically from the land, the culture and from the his family who served other gods.

Let us praise the LORD that our hearts and lives have been touched by God in this same way!

The heart change that God does in a person must happen because we can never escape the idolatrous and godless culture that we are living in. Idolatry was in the land where Abraham was called out of and there was idolatry in the Promised Land where he was going to live; however, our faith has victory over the world (1 John 5:5, 21).

Let’s look at a passage of Scripture which will show us how Abraham would have spoken after this powerful call came to him and he was delivered from such idolatry. The text is found in Psalm 115.

This passage begins by showing us that Abraham would have praised God and given Him all of the glory for what had been done. Psalm 115:1 declares, “Not to us, O LORD, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (1) Abraham would not have boasted in himself as if he deserved these blessings and the promises that God had given to him. Abraham would have praised God for His steadfast love and faithfulness which had saved him and separated him from the idolatrous world in which he lived.

When this call came to Abraham and he began to respond in faith to those around him and they would have responded by saying, “Where is Abraham’s God?” (2) They would have said, “We cannot see this God.

When they said this Abraham did not question and doubt God, or the call he had been given, or the promises that God had made. Abraham did not doubt because he walked by faith, trust, confidence in God.

Abraham could confidently declare, “Our (My) God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” (3) The idolatrous culture around him probably would have laughed at these things but Abraham had his faith set upon God and His throne in heaven. We know that this is true because of Hebrews 11:10 which says, “Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

When the powerful call of God came to Abraham he would have seen for the very first time the futility and vanity of all the idolatry that is around him. Therefore, he would have boldly said with the psalmist, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.” (4-7)

After this powerful call of God comes to Abraham he would have seen for the first time the profound effects that worshipful idolatry has upon the people who engage in it. Abraham would have said with the Psalmist, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” (8)

Those words are shocking. Idols that are made by men and they cannot speak, see, hear, or smell. They cannot feel, walk, or make any sounds. They cannot give wisdom of counsel. And yet, those who make them and trust in them become like them. Until this powerful call of God came to Abraham he would have been one of those who was idolatrous and becoming more and more like the things he was worshiping.

Listen carefully, it is only the powerful call of God that can free us and deliver us from an idolatrous heart that is being twisted, warped and made into those vile things with every passing day. Apart from the powerful call of God a person would not even see their great bondage to these things. Nor would they desire to be free from that idolatry.

Once Abraham saw the danger that is associated with such idolatry he would have said with the Psalmist, “O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.” (9-11)

In the past weeks we have seen that all of these Hero’s of Faith in Hebrews 11 were preachers. Abel was a preacher. Enoch was a preacher. Noah was a preacher. And Abraham would have been a preacher who called upon the people to live by faith and trust in God and His promises. Abraham would have preached faith with his words and with his actions.

Abraham blessed by God because of such faith and all those who live by faith and trust in God and His word will be blessed. Psalm 115:12-15 says, “The LORD has remembered us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great. May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the LORD, who made the heavens and the earth!

  • Any person who trusts and believes the LORD and lives by faith will be blessed!

  • Any family that trusts and believes in the LORD will be blessed!

  • Any church that trusts and believes in the LORD will be blessed!

  • Any community or nation who trusts and believes the LORD will be blessed.

Abraham was once spiritually dead and unable to praise the LORD but now he would say with the Psalmist, “The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (16-18)

This morning we have considered the powerful call of God that called Abraham. This call came and Abraham’s heart was separated unto the LORD. Like Abraham, have you responded to the Gospel call by faith? Has this call separated your heart from the bondage of idolatry and from the sin that is so rampant in this world? You do not have the strength and power to free yourself; but the grace of God can free you from this bondage.

  • What is your idol?

  • What are you in bondage too?

  • What are you trapped by?

Our testimony is not that different than Abraham’s. Consider what Paul says in Titus 3:3-8. In Titus 3:3 Paul speaks to all believers when he says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Like Abraham, all of us have a sinful nature and a sinful past. Therefore, Paul does not say that ‘some’ people have this testimony. He does not say that only ‘a few were foolish, disobedient, and led astray’. Paul does not say that there were just some people who were NOT slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing their days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

No, all of our hearts were idolatrous and trapped and enslaved, to these things. After the Fall every person is by nature ‘foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

However, notice that Paul speaks of these things in the past tense saying, ‘we ourselves were at one time’ this way. Something has happened to save God’s people from these things. Something has happened which has separated our hearts and our lives unto holiness.

Paultells us what happened when he says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us…”. (Psalm 115:1)In other words, the gospel call comes to a person and it saves people from these things.

  • First, in the heart.

  • Secondly, our whole walk is changed more and more over time (Romans 4:20).

Again, someone might ask, ‘Does God save someone because of some goodness and righteousness that He has seen in them?

Paul answers, “...He saves us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Like Abraham, you and I are saved, not by works, but by grace through faith. And this faith is not of ourselves, but it is a gift (Ephesians 2:1-10). We are shown great mercy and God washes us, regenerates us, and renews us by His Holy Spirit. It is the LORD who Justifies us so who can condemn us?

How important is this message? Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable to all people.” (7-8)

  • Paul says that the things he has just said regarding the gospel are trustworthy.

  • He says that every minister should insist that the gospel ought to be faithfully taught and responded to with faith.

  • Then he says that to do this is excellent and profitable to all people.

Abraham Obeyed God Even Though He Did Not Know Where He Was Going

Consider these words from our text, “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham obeyed the LORD and left his family, home, community and nation. He obeyed even when he did not know where he was to go. God’s call had come and separated Abraham’s heart from idolatry and now the natural by-product would be a life that followed God into the Promised Land while looking to an eternal kingdom.

I am sure that this was scary for Abraham to do.

  • Hebrews 11 gives us Abraham’s perspective which was that he did not know where God was asking him to go.

  • Joshua 24, however, gives us the perspective we should have by faith. The LORD says in Joshua 24:2-3, “...I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and (I) led him through all the land of Canaan…’”

  • These two perspectives are always present but faith looks at God and His faithfulness to do these things.

The last part of Hebrews 11:8 says, ‘And Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going.’ This is the part of faith that scares us the most. We do not always have all of the details that we might like and that scares us.

Abraham’s faith will teach us two things that may help with this. First, we are to consider the powerful call of God and how it effects the heart. The heart is freed to follow God long before our feet learn to walk in the LORD’s footsteps. The heart is freed to know God and His ways long before we mature in our understanding and wisdom.

We often struggle in our sanctification until we hear and believe the things that Paul told us about the dramatic internal graces that are at work in our lives. God’s Spirit has washed us, regenerated us, and renewed us.

We don’t feel this happen with our senses. Nevertheless these profound works happen and we are increasingly changed by them. So face the uncertainty of today by considering the profound work that God has already worked in you. You can walk by faith today because of what God has already done in you and because of the grace that continues to work in you.

Secondly, we can walk by faith today because we have been given the ability to accept that there is an eternal kingdom and that is now our real home. Hebrews 11:10 says, ‘Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.’

Faith considers that we have been adopted into the King’s family by faith and now we are looking forward to that kingdom. The work that God has begun in us has made us pilgrims and sojourners. We are exiles and strangers in this world.

If we can keep these two things in perspective I think that we will find that we will be able to obey God by faith today in whatever way He may direct us.

As we come to Communion this morning we look back at what God has done which has given us salvation and Life. We also look forward to Christ’s return and His kingdom will be consummated. As we consider these things pray that the LORD would increase your faith to walk in faithful obedience today because of these things.


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