Faith in a Promise or Faith in the “Promiser”?

Name and Place for August 12 (’14)


Here’s another snippet from our ongoing series (see the others here, here, and here) of quotes from David WellsGod in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients Our World.  Today’s is from chapter 2, “The Gospel Across Time” (pgs 50-51):

The most striking thing about Abraham’s faith at this moment is this: he knew himself to be utterly incapable of bringing about any of these things himself.  Only God could do this.  And Abraham was counting on this.  Consider the elements in the promise made to him.

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“As many as the stars in the heavens…”

Clearly, an heir was entirely beyond the bounds of possibility for him.  Abraham was, at this point, an old man, and his body was ‘as good as dead’ (Rom 4:19). Sarah was ‘past the age’ of being able to conceive (Heb 11:11). Abraham therefore initially stumbled over this promise.  It seemed impossible (Gen 17:17).  And there were ramifications to this.  Without an heir, how could he have a ‘seed’?  How could his ‘offspring’ be as numerous as the stars (Gen 15:5)? This, he came to see, was a promise that only God could bring about, and that is exactly what happened.

So, too, with the other parts of the promise.  The land of Canaan was swarming with hostile tribes, and Abraham never did take possession of it.  Indeed, he was quite incapable of doing so, and he stumbled initially over this promise as well (Gen 15:8).  And, as we know from later history, the conquest of these peoples did entail a fierce and protracted struggle.  This promise had to be held in faith.  Abraham, against everything that he saw, against all the odds, against the impossibility of it all, believed that the time would come when God would deliver on what he had said.

So too for the other blessing that God had promised.  It was staggering in its proportions.  As Paul put it later, ‘in you shall all the nations be blessed’ (Gal 3:8; cf. Gen 12:2-3; 15:5; 18:18; 22:17-18).  Far beyond an heir was this extended blessing into a multinational people as numerous as the stars in the sky.  What, one wonders, went through Abraham’s mind when he heard that promise?  Whatever he thought, he also knew that this was far, far beyond the bounds of human possibility.  All he could do was to entrust himself to the Promise Maker that he would bring about what was promised.

Here, then, are the two sides to faith.  Credence—believing the promises—and commitment to the One making the promises. Abraham would not have entrusted himself, indeed would not have believed what he had been told, had he not been fully persuaded of the utter sufficiency and trustworthiness of God (cf. Heb 11:11).  To say, then, that Abraham was a man of faith was to say that he was God-centered….

This was true of Abraham as it is for us today.  However, this truth had to be inferred by those in the Old Testament period.  For us today, it is truth that is historically grounded.  We now look back on the cross.  Its truth is something that we no longer need to infer but, rather, we joyfully and confidently declare.

 

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