(Heb. 6 : 13 – 20)
The Church always encourages us not to lose our strength and fall away and puts before us the example of Abraham, a courageous and persevering man of God, whose faith in One God was undefiled to the end of his life.
We, the Christians living in an anti-Christian era, find ourselves in much the same circumstances as the Christians of the early Church. The Christians who came to Christ from Judaism were under tremendous pressure from their kin, the officials and everybody else, to abandon the Path on which they had embarked and to return to Judaism. The Holy Apostle encourages them and gives them strength to go on in the Faith. He warns them not to take this lightly in the verses of Chapter 6 of his epistle.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 4:4-6). You have endured many torments and afflictions, it has not been easy, but do not look back (Gen. 19:17). If you look and go back, it will be worse than if you had never embarked on your journey. Remember Lot’s wife: she looked back and became a pillar of salt.
The Apostle then implores his contemporaries not to become lazy but to inherit the Promise through faith and patience (Heb. 6:12). This is why he brings into their hearts the remembrance of Abraham, the great hero of the Faith, so that he may serve as an example to them. At the end of all our troubles and afflictions is the Lord “who cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2). “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying ‘Surely blessing I will bless you and multiplying I will multiply you.’
And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:13-15).
The newcomers to Christ, the early Christians who had come to Christ from Judaism, knew very well who Abraham was, better than we do today. In their souls the image of Abraham was clearer and more distinctive than it is to us today. Therefore, let us remind ourselves and learn who Abraham was and the greatness of his faith.
We meet him for the first time at the beginning of the Bible, in his tribe, in the company of his father, Terah, and his brothers, his wife and nephew. Of Sarah, his wife it is mentioned briefly that she was barren (Gen. 11:30). Suddenly, without any warning, the Lord made His intentions clear to Abraham: he was to cease living his quiet life tilling the land and to leave everything behind in order to dedicate himself to the service of the Lord. “And the Lord said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house unto a land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shall be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3).
Let us set aside, for the moment all these blessings, brothers and sisters, and let us first see what was required of Abraham in order for these blessings to come upon him.
“Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women” (Gen. 18:11). It is true than in those days people lived longer lives, but these lives were by no means easy. Suddenly the Lord plucked the two of them in their old age from their relatively secure surroundings and sent them hundreds of miles away into the land of Canaan, with all their belongings and with the souls they had gathered in Haran (Gen. 12:5). Needless to say, Abraham did not hire a moving company to help him move, he did not load his things onto his truck, turn on the ignition and head for the highway with his family and belongings. No; he walked in the dust under the scorching sun over the hills and mountains, through deserts and dry places, meeting tribes who were unfriendly, in order to reach a strange, unknown land.
“And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).
When we moved to this continent we came by airplane and we knew, more or less, what to expect in our new country. We knew where we were going, but we still felt uncertain and full of anxiety. After all, immigration is no easy feat.
Abraham, however, did not say a word, but “believed God” (Jam. 2:23) and went obediently. That was the first test of his faith.
The second test was not easy either, but the third was the hardest and the most decisive. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee… and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). Any one of us would have asked, ‘How, O Lord, do You expect us to do this, both my wife and I are old?’ Yet Abraham said nothing, but “after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:15).
Twenty-five years of anxious waiting are condensed into the sentence “He patiently endured.”
Finally, after so many days and years of uncertainty, “The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which god had spoken to him” (Gen. 21:1-2).
The trials that were set before Abraham did not end here. The child, Isaac, grew into a young boy, soon to be of age. “And it came to pass that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom though lovest. And get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Gen. 22:1-3).
They walked for three days. Three nightmarish days and countless moments and opportunities for Abraham to turn around and change his mind. But Abraham did not look back.
And the boy asked him, “behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, ‘my son, God will provide Himself a lamb for the burnt offering” (Gen. 22:7-8).
“And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven and said, ‘lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do anything unto him: for I know now that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen.22:10-12).
Then the Lord confirmed this with another blessing. “And He said, by myself have I sworn, for because thou hast done this thing… that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies (Gen. 22:16-17).
Through the example of Abraham the holy Apostle Paul sends a clear message to the early Christians, as well as to us, the lukewarm ones and says: yes, you are assailed by many trials and tribulations. It is not easy, but nevertheless, compare your troubles with those of Abraham and you will see exactly where you stand
And always remember: God does not change. His mercy is the same as it was in the time of Abraham.
Our faith should at least be similar to Abraham’s.
God fulfilled His promise to him and sent upon him many blessings. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Tim. 2:13). He will bless us too, and fulfill His promise to us, “if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb 3:14)