Weekly Meditation: 7th August 2016
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Hebrews 1:1). Faith is precious because it enables us to hope and trust in God even when – to all outward appearances – everything is failing. Abraham was called by God to leave his home together with all that was familiar, and to live in tents, ‘like a stranger in a foreign country’ (1:8). He neither understood God’s purposes nor knew where they would lead him, but he had faith. Later, when Abraham was promised a son from whom would come a great nation, again he trusted God even though he and his wife were long past the age of procreation (1:11-12). His faith was rewarded, ‘credited to him as righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6), fulfilled in the birth of Isaac and subsequently in the establishment of the nation of Israel.
The writer of Hebrews lists Abraham among many faithful Old Testament people who served God’s purposes and performed his will. God’s plans for human salvation were long in the making, and so these patriarchs ‘did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance’ (Hebrews 1:13). Their longing was for ‘a better country – a heavenly one’ (1:16) for which they were prepared to wait.
Faith like that is rare these days. We have been conditioned to expect instant answers, quick solutions. Credit cards have taken ‘the waiting out of wanting’, and the concept of enduring for a whole lifetime for the future fulfilment of a promise sounds unrealistic.
The problem is not new, though. People become tired of waiting, and, if nothing seems to be happening or things go wrong, their patience wears thin. It happened with the people of Judah. Like a loving father with rebellious children, the Lord grieved over his people who had ‘spurned’ and ‘turned their backs’ on him (Isaiah 1:2-4). Although they were chosen by God, rescued from Egyptian slavery and brought into the Promised Land, they had found life hard. Their unfaithfulness soon after entering their land meant that they did not reap the rewards that God had promised them (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and by the time of Isaiah their worship had become lip-service. Even though enemies were succeeding against them and their land was becoming desolate (28:7-8), instead of turning back to God, their offerings to him had become perfunctory – negated by their evil deeds (28:15-17) – and a burden to the Lord (28:11-14).
The situation could not have been further removed from the patient devotion of the patriarchs who put their trust in the future kingdom.
The kingdom is the hope and goal of all God’s people. For that reason, Jesus assured his followers – his ‘little flock’ – that they already possessed the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 12:32). He encouraged them, therefore, to take risks. Rather than relying on earthly, material benefits for their security, he encouraged them to sell what they had and give to the poor (12:33), so that their real treasure would be where they had set their hearts – in heaven (12:33-34). This is not a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ promise. Jesus made no secret of the fact that to follow him was not to be a picnic. His disciples were to be ‘dressed for service’ with their lamps lit (12:35), like servants waiting to minister to their master on his arrival. The rewards would be great for those whom the master found ready (12:37), and Jesus’ emphasis is on watchfulness and preparation (12:39).
These words of Jesus could be taken as an end-time prophecy, preparing his disciples so that they would not be caught unawares by his return, but they are just as relevant to ensure that Christians are ready and prepared for the changes and circumstances of life can that suddenly overtake them, and prepared for their own end.
Faith is what will see us through all challenges, into the Kingdom of God, and we have a Bible-full of examples of individuals who have exhibited exemplary faith, for our encouragement.
By Susan Thorne