Advent Devotion for January 3
Candle Lighter says: “All these people died still believing what God had promised them.”
Response: "They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it."
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 11:13-22
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.
21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.
22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.
SOME THOUGHTS: Sometimes when we exercise faith, we believe it will come in our lifetime. That’s natural. We have faith we will get a job and eventually we do. The core of faith, though, is in the abstract, if you will. Think about it. I have faith that someday, I will have a child. When I am holding that child in my arms, I cannot say, “I have faith that someday I will have a child.” It makes no sense; the child is in my arms. I am not exercising faith. Faith always involves not having the thing for which you have faith. That perspective comes out in the first verse of today’s reading. The people mentioned in the early part of this chapter, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah were exercising faith beyond their lifetimes. Though promised a whole nation and millions of descendants, when Abraham and Sarah died, they had exactly one son, hardly a nation! One kid, that was it! Yet they believed and took God at His word. When Abraham offered Isaac as a blood sacrifice on the altar in Genesis 22, don’t you wonder what he was thinking? Honestly, was Abraham going to slit Isaac’s throat as a sacrifice because God told him to? Really? Two thousand years later, the writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us exactly what Abraham was thinking at that life and death moment in verse nineteen. If he went through with what God had told him to do, namely kill Isaac as a sacrifice, he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead, because Isaac was a promised child, promised to Abraham and Sarah by God. Abraham had absolute faith in God keeping His word. Abraham acted in faith doing what God told him to do. In theory, in his mind, Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, it’s just that God intervened in the process. What is also apparent is that the faith exercised by Abraham carried on to his son, Isaac, his grandson, Jacob, and his great-grandson, Joseph. Evidently, the story of God’s promise of the land of Israel being given to Abraham’s family carried on because Joseph requested his bones be carried back to Israel when living in Egypt. Some 600 years after Abraham, the bones of Joseph were carried back and buried in Israel in the great Exodus. What is hoped for, does not always happen in our lifetime. The issue is faith in a faithful God who has never not kept His word. Trust Him for this coming year.
MUSIC: He Is Born, The Divine Christ Child by Disney Candlelight Celebration (YouTube)
PRAYER: O faithful Lord, grant us, I pray Thee, faithful hearts devoted to Thee, and to the service of all men for Thy sake. Fill us with pure love of Thee, keep us steadfast in this love, give us faith that worketh by love, and preserve us faithful unto death. Amen.