Advent Devotion for January 2
Candle Lighter says: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for;”
Response: “it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 11:1-12
1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.
6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
SOME THOUGHTS: The passage you have just read, I would guess you’ve read many times. I know I have. We’ve probably heard a dozen sermons on it. Yesterday we focused in a bit on “faith” and then today this passage comes up in the lectionary. (By the way, for the most part in the Advent Devotionals this year we’ve been following the Revised Common Lectionary Year B for those of you who care). I had the thought, what more is there to say here and I asked the Lord for help. I read it again and lo and behold, some thoughts emerged, things I had never before seen. One of the principles I fall back on in studying Scripture, is this simple question. “Why are those words there in that specific place? What’s the connection to what’s around them?” The first verse helps with the definition of faith. Faith is a certainty of something when we cannot see it, or when it has yet to happen. Faith is a complete confidence; in another way we’d say, “You can bank on it.” There is zero chance it won’t come to pass. The writer then gives a short example. He hearkens back to people in the past who had faith in something that had not yet happened. But from the perspective of the writer and the reader of this epistle, they both knew how things had turned out. And so the writer said these people were exhibit A of what faith is. I would expect him to then move right into the list of examples of Old Testament saints, but he doesn’t. Why? That was my question and the thought that captured my interest. Why this verse? Why these words? Why here? Before listing people of faith, he goes to the foundation of faith. In the opening chapter of Hebrews, he reminds us of the various ways God has spoken to people through the ages but that now God has spoken through Christ, the one through whom He created the universe. Why say that here? He is using Christ creating the universe as an ultimate example of faith. It was created from nothing that can be seen. The reference harkens back to Genesis 1:1. There was a moment when the universe was unseen, when it did not exist. Now it does. You can see it. In Christ creating the universe, we can see both the before and the after of faith from the vantage point of the reader. I think the author is also underscoring the centrality of Christ in the exercise of faith. He then moves on to the example of Abel. What struck me in this verse is the use of the present tense, “he still speaks.” Faith is ever living; there is nothing static about it. It is not a “one and done” operation. The end of the sixth verse is an assuring promise from God that dare not be overlooked. “Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Our God is perfectly faithful. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends, his mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23
MUSIC: Mary’s Boy Child by Andy Williams (!) Back when you could understand the words, when there was a melody, and a beautiful voice to listen to!! The “old” people will remember him! Younger people, I introduce you to Andy Williams! (YouTube)
PRAYER: Teach me, O God, not to torture myself, not to make a martyr out of myself through but rather teach me to breathe deeply in faith.
—SØren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855