Heroes of Faith / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Hebrews 11:1-16

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.

In the name of Jesus dear Christian friends, for the past few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with what my call to Bethel entails. But, even further back in my ministry here, I remember the Sunday of my ordination/installation, when my uncle asked me how long I was required to stay here, and I told him there wasn’t a set time limit, at least not one set by men. I could receive a call to another church during my first day here, accept it, and be on my way. That, of course, didn’t happen, but it leads into the point of tonight’s hero of faith; Abraham. What is a call? Do I, as the Pastor here, have the only call? No, I am not the only one with a call. I have a call to be Bethel’s pastor, but I also have a call to be Georgann’s husband, Jennifer’s father, Ireland’s grandfather and also a call to be a Christian.

Martin Luther once said something like this, a garbage man who does his job to the glory of God is greater than a thousand priests who don’t. That isn’t the exact quote, the point is that God has called us all to do something for His kingdom of grace, the church on earth, and we are all to do that to the best of our ability. Today we hear of a hero of faith who, when called, obeyed and went. In fact, Abraham’s life could be summed up in those three verbs; called, obeyed, went.

Abraham is known for his great faith throughout the Scriptures. We know of Abraham as the one who believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) Paul continues this to show the righteousness that saves. Abraham’s faith is also shown in his willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac, believing God would raise him from the dead if he did. But, today, we go back to the first meeting between God and Abraham, before the name change, before he even recognized God as God.

Hebrews 11:7 talks about the great hero of faith Noah. Both Noah and Abraham are great heroes of faith, and both are chosen to lead the people of God at a starting point. Noah, after the world is destroyed, but Abraham is chosen to lead God’s people out from the world. Abraham and his descendants are separated by their life of faith and hope to “walk with God.”

God did not call Abraham because of his own merits. He had none. In Joshua, we learn that Abraham’s ancestors worshipped idols, just like their neighbors. Abraham was a citizen of an idolatrous city, Ur of the Chaldees. Had not God revealed Himself to Abraham, he would have died an unbeliever. From a human point of view, God’s choice of Abraham and Sarah, who had no children, was a foolish one. But ultimately it brought great glory to God and great blessing to the world.

Yes, God picked Abraham out of an idolatrous nation to be the Father of His people. Why? And God chose the Jews, in the person of Abraham. And that choice comes in the form of a sevenfold call.

  1. “I will make you a great nation.”
  2. “I will bless you,” and yet Abraham did not even possess a foot of land.
  3. make your name great,” and yet Abraham was a stranger in a strange land.
  4. and you shall be a blessing.”
  5. “I will bless those who bless you.” God promises to be a friend to His friend, to take kindnesses shown to Abraham as done to Himself and bless those who show kindness to Abraham.
  6. “I will curse him who curses you,” that is, I, the Lord God, will be the big brother to you if anyone picks on you.
  7. “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This was the promise that crowned all the rest. It points to the Messiah through whom all nations of the earth are blessed.

That was the call, and the part that makes Abraham a hero of faith is that, after God called him, he obeyed. Obedience is something that we talk about in children and pets as a nice quality, but it’s also a wonderful quality for a believer to have in their relationship with God. Jesus once told a parable of two sons, there was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ’Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ’I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ’I will, sir,’ but he did not go. (Matthew 21:28 – 30)”

After telling this parable to one of my confirmation classes, I asked, who did what their father wanted? And they all say the 1st son. But that’s only partially correct, yes, he went and worked in the field, but not after saying no. Abraham didn’t hem and haw about this call, he heard it and obeyed it.

And that leads us to the third part of Abraham’s heroic deed, he went, by faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he didn’t know where he was going. Without a clue of what to expect, Abraham goes out to do God’s will.

That’s a great picture of a hero of faith that we, too, need to follow. We’ve all been called. God has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we’ve done but because of His own purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:9a) We’ve been called by God’s Sacrament of Baptism to be His child. Through the working of the Holy Spirit in these waters through the Word of God, we’re made God’s children.

Having been called, we then obey, right? Yes. We do God’s will in our lives. We follow His commands to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul. And we follow God’s command, also, to love those around us in our lives. This we can see in the lives of those around us here, and also in our own lives.

Having been called, we then ALWAYS obey, right? That’s a different matter altogether. Do we always obey God? We all know the answer to that, because that’s not possible. We’re all sinful, and even our hero of faith, the great Abraham, sinned in deceiving people into believing that Sarah wasn’t his wife.

But it’s not right to rationalize our failure, my failure, by saying, well everyone’s doing it. It’s the old question from, normally, mothers, if your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you? And when it comes to sin, most of the time, we’d all say, “Yes.”

But, in those moments that we’re living under the care and watchful eye of the Spirit, we’re able to not only hear the call of God and obey, but to also follow-through and go out and do what He called us to do. Not always, and never on our own, are we able to do God’s will in our lives.

I tell people that my life is normally quite good, but when it seems to be going great, I tell God, I’ll take it from here and that’s when I take a nosedive. Being called by God to live as His own child also has with it the promise, as with Abraham, I will bless you. It’s God doing the blessing, and when we try to take credit or try to live on our own, that’s when the trouble starts.

Of course, Abraham is a hero of faith because he points us to the greatest hero of all who was also called, obeyed and went.

Jesus was called, and He had to be called, because only Jesus could fulfill such a task for His Father. Peter wrote, for you know that it wasn’t with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, [like Abraham] but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18 – 21)”

Jesus obeyed, in the Garden of Gethsemane, this was His prayer, Abba, Father, [Jesus] said, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will. (Mark 14:26)

And He went, It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. When He had said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44 – 46)”

And because Jesus was called, obeyed, and went, we’re able to hear the call, obey, and ask for the forgiveness of our sins, and the strength to live our lives for God. And when it comes time for God to call us home, we will also obey, and we will also go to be with Him in a land far greater than the land promised to Abraham.