09/21/16

God's New Culture?
Heb 11:8-19

As we proceed in Hebrews, we need to keep in mind the purpose of the letter. Its purpose was to warn those who were tempted to go back into Judaism as practiced in the temple. Evidently, some had already departed from the “Christian faith”. Chapter 10, had been a very stern warning that when one understood the mediation work of Christ yet turned their back on the Mediator and went back to the mediation work in the temple, they had closed the door behind them.

It has also been made clear that faith to come to Christ as well as the grace to remain true to the “faith” is the supernatural gift of God. That gift is given to those who were chosen in Christ according to his good pleasure before the foundations of the earth. Hebrews 11 shows how that supernatural gift works out in real time.

The author has shown God’s supernatural gift of grace at work up through the Flood. Now the author starts on this side of the flood with Abraham. Abraham lived in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran where the Lord spoke to him, Acts 7. Mesopotamia consisted of the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was made up of an area primarily occupied today by Kuwait, Iraq, parts of Turkey, and Iran.

Mesopotamia was the home of the world’s most highly developed culture, and lasted until the fall of Babylon, 539 BC. The 60 minute hour, 24 hour day, and the 360° circle originated here, as well as the wheel, the domestication of animals, advanced math such as trigonometry, advanced astronomy, advanced metallurgy of all kinds, weapons of war, irrigation, hot and cold running water, houses with roofs, medical care, and even the world’s first battery was developed in this region. Their artisan ability in stone, ivory, gold and silver which has been found in modern times, is beyond compare even to this day. When we lived in Maryland, we were able to go see an exhibit of gold work from Mesopotamia at a museum. The skill required to do what we saw there is beyond compare even today.

There are Biblical archaeologists who say that Abraham brought the advanced knowledge, particularly mathematics, from Mesopotamia to Egypt.

Some time ago when we had broadband, my wife and I watched a series on ancient cultures that was available on Netflix. Abraham probably live in the time of the pyramid builders in Egypt, which was the land of Ham. One of those shows examined the technology that existed during that period in Egypt. Something they pointed out that we certainly do not hear from the evolutionist was that various stones left in a quarry had to be cut by lasers. The holes in many of those stones could not be more accurately cut today. The show offer no clues as to how those stones were cut in such an accurate and intricate manner. All they showed where the visible evidence in the quarry. Modern science today cannot even begin to understand Egypt’s, nor other ancient cultures ability with stones.

All of that to say this: Abraham was a very rich man who lived in the most advanced culture of his day, probably not much unlike ours today, except for the advanced electronic technology. In some way, God spoke to him, and Abraham left all the luxury behind, and dwelt in tents

V. 8. Abraham went out at God’s command not knowing where he went. He went in the direction indicated by God, leaving friends and family behind except for Lot.

With Abraham, God established a new culture. The old culture had death built in it, for it was built on man’s wisdom ? that is, faith in himself. The new culture based in Abraham was built on God’s grace through faith.

I found Mackintosh's notes interesting here. First published over 100 years ago (pg. 63). "The Canaanite was then in the land," and lest Abraham's eye should rest upon the Canaanite, the present possessor of the land, Jehovah appears to him as the One who was going to give the land to him and to his seed forever. Thus Abraham was taken up with the Lord, and not with the Canaanite. This is full of instruction for us. The Canaanite in the land is the expression of the power of Satan; but, instead of being occupied with Satan's power to keep us out of the inheritance, we are called to apprehend Christ's power to bring us in. "We wrestle not with flesh and blood... but with spiritual wickedness in the heaven lies." The very sphere into which we are called is the sphere of our conflict. Should this terrify us? By no means. We have Christ there--a victorious Christ in whom we are "more than conquerors." Hence, instead of indulging "a spirit of fear," we cultivate a spirit of worship. "And there builded he an alter unto the Lord, who appeared unto him." "

When we emphasize the strength of the surrounding pagans, we only build fear in God’s people. We must keep our eye and service on the one who is preparing the city for his people.

Another thing we notice about Abraham, Heb. 11:9, 10, 13-16. As we compare these passages in Hebrews with Gen. 12:8 we find that Abraham (and the rest of the fathers of our faith), spent their time building alters and pitching tents. They invested their time, talents and effort in serving and worshiping God. They based their present activities upon the eternal.

I'm afraid that most of 'Christianity' does just the opposite today. We build houses and pitch up alters to man. Our efforts, money, time and talents go into making us more comfortable here rather than laying up for the eternal.

Throughout history, people have immigrated to escape persecution or for economic reasons. However, today’s immigration policy is designed to destroy any evidence of Christianity, particularly from the West. On the other hand, Abraham left a highly developed civilization to go he knew not where. He left a life of ease to live as a nomad living in tents. Faith separates from family, friends, community, and at times even from what little luxury a person might have. God established his faith through the line of Abraham to destroy paganism. Hebrews plainly tells us that the final promise of victory over the enemy of man was fulfilled in mediation work of Christ.

When Abraham came to the land of promise, he came as a stranger dwelling in tents. The heirs to the same faith that caused Abraham to move according to the promise, Isaac and Jacob, also dwelt with him in tents.

V. 10. God’s faith worked in one man Abraham, and through this one man, God laid the foundation for His New World Order. That is, a country built by God, a new city that would glorify God. Over time, God’s purpose with His New World Order would replace the city of man established to glorify man at the failed Tower of Babel. The old order shall be completely overturned, and replaced by the new order for the Glory of God. (Dan. 4. Though Ezekiel 21 is against Jerusalem, it clearly applies to our modern, rebellious society.)

Ro 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

It was by supernatural grace through faith that caused Abraham to move, not knowing where he was going.

Paul is proving to the Jews that the doctrine of grace through faith is no new things: it was clearly spelled out in the Law that Abraham was justified well before he was circumcised.

Still further, the apostle shows that if men were to be justified by works, faith would be of no use; and the promises of God would have no effect. The law works wrath, (Ro 4:13,14) but the conferring of the favour by faith is demonstration of the highest favour of God, (Ro 4:16.) Abraham, moreover, had evinced a strong faith; he had shown what it was; he was an example to all who should follow. And he had thus shown that as he was justified before circumcision, and before the giving of the law, so the same thing might occur in regard to those who had never been circumcised. (Barnes)

We look back on Abraham with awe that he would take such a bold step, but he did it because of God’s work of faith and grace in him. He and the heirs of the faith all looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. They were promised more than a land for themselves, they expected a new society founded on God’s law and word, and it was this they longed for.

V. 11. It was quite remarkable, even incredible that Sarah should have a child. This may be a reference to Gen. 18:11, 13, where Sarah laughed at the announcement, for the promise was so far beyond reason. After all, she is around 90 at the time. This would be comparable to a 60-65 year old having a child today.

Even with the initial laughter, God gave her the faith to overcome her unbelief. She is credited with great faith. We see here that even though things are impossible with man, all things are possible with God. What I like about Sarah here is that even though initially she saw the promises of God beyond attainment, she later moved into faith that God would move as He promised He would do.

Supernatural faith and strengthening grace go together: Because of faith, Sarah herself received the grace, or supernatural strength, to bear a child at 90 years old, and Abraham 100 years old. Though she initially laughed at the promise, she judged him faithful who had made the promise.

Out of Isaac was given to Abraham a progeny in time as innumerable as the stars and the sand of the seashore:

“so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable; as was promised to Abraham, Ge 15:5 22:17 which has been fulfilled, Isa 10:22 and will still have a further fulfilment, Ho 1:10.” (Gill)

The promise to Abraham was expanded in Christ to include those who were “afar off”; that is, the Gentiles.

One of my passages of Scripture is,

Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

That is, the faith that was given to them by the Spirit of God persuaded them of the coming expansion of the kingdom of God over the whole earth, and they were part of that new country. Though there were a great many difficulties and very discouraging circumstances they had to endure, they stood fast in the faith in the promise of the better country given to them by God.

They sought the city whose builder and maker was God. And they sought it knowing that it is a future city. For their faith God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city. The question the church must ask of herself today is, is God ashamed to be called our God?

Ro 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

This new city or social order would be the reverse of the tower of Babel, for its purpose would be not the glory of man but the glory of God. The world around them was deteriorating, so their faith looked ahead to the rule and reign of Christ.

Note that though the saint of old did not obtain to that city, we are told thus about the saints since Christ, who are the heirs to the promise mentioned in Romans 4:13:

Hebrews 12: 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

That city to which the saints of old looked was the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven. Those whose names are written in heaven are citizens of that great city of which the foundation is Christ, 1 Corinthians 3.

God tested Abraham’s faith severely, and shows us how God’s faith enabled Abraham to withstand the refining fires of afflictions.

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Thus faith is the gift of God, and ALL who received it were tested and refined, so that both they and the city may truly be of God.

Abraham waited a long time for the birth of his promised son, Isaac, only to have God ask that he sacrifice his only son. This was a perfect picture of the Father giving His Only begotten Son in due time as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Abraham had no knowledge of the picture he was drawing of the coming sacrifice, but he obeyed because his faith said that God would raise Isaac from the dead if necessary.

Notice two points:

First, Abraham’s obedience without complaint or ingratitude. Obviously, we are not told what took place in Abraham’s spirit, but he moved ahead confident that the Lord would keep his promise.

Gal 3:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

Second, notice his son’s obedience even to the death as a sacrifice without complaint.

Php 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

In Abraham, we see that God singled out one man to be the foundation of the great type of faith. In Abraham we see the example of remarkable obedience with very little if any complaining or in gratitude. All those to whom God has given faith are called the children of Abraham, and His faith given to His people enables them to obey Him with very little if any complaining or ingratitude. They know that all things work together for good for them who have been called, and he is conforming them to the image of His Dear Son.

Abraham introduced a New Period of History as he looked forward to “that city”. In Genesis 12, we see that instead of cursing a world of sin, the faith of Abraham establishes a new world of patience, faith and grace to be a blessing to the world of sin. That blessing is the gospel of Christ. Obedience and sacrifice is the foundation of the New World Order, the Kingdom of God.

The place to where God sent Abraham, Palestine, was a primitive wilderness quite unlike the area from where Abraham journeyed. His faith did not question God as he looked to the future promised by God.

Abraham obeyed God, and he was content with where God placed him. He knew that what God had prepared would be far more glorious than what the fallen men of his day could even imagine.

God has given to His people His gift of grace through faith. The author of Hebrews issues this warning:

Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

V. 29 must not be dismissed as an empty warning with no teeth in it. Maybe not on this earth but certainly when we stand before the Lord, we will be rewarded either good or bad as to how we use the supernatural gift we have been given.

1 Co 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.