Hope (Part 3)
1 Cor 13: 13 puts faith, hope and love together; with the greatest being love, but hope and faith alongside each other.
It is because of what Jesus has done for us in living, dying, rising and ascending that we have hope. It is our privilege to be hope-full, whilst around us the world is hope-less.
For me these lines from a song by Wendy Churchill capture in a few words a great deal about hope
Jesus is king and I will extol Him
Give Him the glory, and honour His name
He reigns on high, enthroned in the heavens
Word of the Father, exalted for us
We have a hope that is steadfast and certain
Gone through the curtain and touching the throne
We have a Priest who is there interceding
Pouring His grace on our lives day by day
We come to Him, our Priest and Apostle
Clothed in His glory and bearing His name
Laying our lives with gladness before Him
Filled with His Spirit we worship the King
O Holy One, our hearts do adore You
Thrilled with Your goodness we give You our praise
Angels in light with worship surround Him
Jesus, our Saviour, forever the same
Hope is: CERTAIN … and … FUTURE-FOCUSED
Hope is centred on: THE CROSS … and … GOD’S PROMISES
Hope brings: EXPECTATION … DIGNITY … and … SELF-ESTEEM
I am on a mission this morning, in which I want to focus on Abraham, but this mission is called:
Operation Restore Hope!!
Romans 4: 16-25 (New Living Translation)
So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.
Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
Matthew Henry Complete Commentary: Verses 17b-22
Having observed when Abraham was justified by faith, and why, for the honour of Abraham and for example to us who call him father, the apostle here describes and commends the faith of Abraham, where observe,
I. Whom he believed: God who quickeneth. It is God himself that faith fastens upon: other foundation can no man lay. Now observe what in God Abraham's faith had an eye t-o that, certainly, which would be most likely to confirm his faith concerning the things promised:-1. God who quickeneth the dead. It was promised that he should be the father of many nations, when he and his wife were now as good as dead (Heb. 11:11, 12), and therefore he looks upon God as a God that could breathe life into dry bones. He that quickeneth the dead can do any thing, can give a child to Abraham when he is old, can bring the Gentiles, who are dead in trespasses and sins, to a divine and spiritual life, Eph. 2:1. Compare Eph. 1:19, 20. 2. Who calleth things which are not as though they were; that is, creates all things by the word of his power, as in the beginning, Gen. 1:3; 2 Co. 4:6. The justification and salvation of sinners, the espousing of the Gentiles that had not been a people, were a gracious calling of things which are not as though they were, giving being to things that were not. This expresses the sovereignty of God and his absolute power and dominion, a mighty stay to faith when all other props sink and totter. It is the holy wisdom and policy of faith to fasten particularly on that in God which is accommodated to the difficulties wherewith it is to wrestle, and will most effectually answer the objections. It is faith indeed to build upon the all-sufficiency of God for the accomplishment of that which is impossible to anything but that all-sufficiency. Thus Abraham became the father of many nations before him whom he believed, that is, in the eye and account of God; or like him whom he believed; as God was a common Father, so was Abraham. It is by faith in God that we become accepted of him, and conformable to him.
II. How he believed. He here greatly magnifies the strength of Abraham's faith, in several expressions. 1. Against hope, he believed in hope, v. 18.
There was a hope against him, a natural hope. All the arguments of sense, and reason, and experience, which in such cases usually beget and support hope, were against him; no second causes smiled upon him, nor in the least favoured his hope. But, against all those inducements to the contrary, he believed; for he had a hope for him: He believed in hope, which arose, as his faith did, from the consideration of God's all-sufficiency.
That he might become the father of many nations. Therefore God, by his almighty grace, enabled him thus to believe against hope, that he might pass for a pattern of great and strong faith to all generations. It was fit that he who was to be the father of the faithful should have something more than ordinary in his faith-that in him faith should be set in its highest elevation, and so the endeavours of all succeeding believers be directed, raised, and quickened. Or this is mentioned as the matter of the promise that he believed; and he refers to Gen. 15:5, So shall thy seed be, as the stars of heaven, so innumerable, so illustrious. This was that which he believed, when it was counted to him for righteousness, v. 6.
And it is observable that this particular instance of his faith was against hope, against the surmises and suggestions of his unbelief. He had just before been concluding hardly that he should go childless, that one born in his house was his heir (v. 2, 3); and this unbelief was a foil to his faith, and bespeaks it a believing against hope.
2. Being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body, v. 19. Observe, His own body was now dea-ecome utterly unlikely to beget a child, though the new life and vigour that God gave him continued after Sarah was dead, witness his children by Keturah. When God intends some special blessing, some child of promise, for his people, he commonly puts a sentence of death upon the blessing itself, and upon all the ways that lead to it. Joseph must be enslaved and imprisoned before he be advanced. But Abraham did not consider this, sy katenoeµse-he did not dwell in his thoughts upon it. He said indeed, Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? Gen. 17:17. But that was the language of his admiration and his desire to be further satisfied, not of his doubting and distrust; his faith passed by that consideration, and thought of nothing but the faithfulness of the promise, with the contemplation whereof he was swallowed up, and this kept up his faith. Being not weak in faith, he considered not. It is mere weakness of faith that makes a man lie poring upon the difficulties and seeming impossibilities that lie in the way of a promise. Though it may seem to be the wisdom and policy of carnal reason, yet it is the weakness of faith, to look into the bottom of all the difficulties that arise against the promise. 3. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief (v. 20), and he therefore staggered not because he considered not the frowns and discouragements of second causes; sy diekritheµ-
he disputed not; he did not hold any self-consultation about it, did not take time to consider whether he should close with it or no, did not hesitate nor stumble at it, but by a resolute and peremptory act of his soul, with a holy boldness, ventured all upon the promise.
He took it not for a point that would admit of argument or debate, but presently determined it as a ruled case, did not at all hang in suspense about it: he staggered not through unbelief. Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God's promises. It is not the promise that fails, but our faith that fails when we stagger. 4. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, enedynamoµtheµ-he was strengthened in faith, his faith got ground by exercis-rescit eundo. Though weak faith shall not be rejected, the bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched, yet strong faith shall be commended and honoured. The strength of his faith appeared in the victory it won over his fears. And hereby he gave glory to God; for, as unbelief dishonours God by making him a liar (1 Jn. 5:10), so faith honours God by setting to its seal that he is true, Jn. 3:33. Abraham's faith gave God the glory of his wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and especially of his faithfulness, resting upon the word that he had spoken. Among men we say, "He that trusts another, gives him credit, and honours him by taking his word;" thus Abraham gave glory to God by trusting him. We never hear our Lord Jesus commending any thing so much as great faith (Mt. 8:10 and 15:28): therefore God gives honour to faith, great faith, because faith, great faith, gives honour to God. 5. He was fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform, pleµrophoreµtheis-was carried on with the greatest confidence and assurance; it is a metaphor taken from ships that come into the harbour with full sail. Abraham saw the storms of doubts, and fears, and temptations likely to rise against the promise, upon which many a one would have shrunk back, and lain by for fairer days, and waited a smiling gale of sense and reason. But Abraham, having taken God for his pilot, and the promise for his card and compass, resolves to weather his point, and like a bold adventurer sets up all his sails, breaks through all the difficulties, regards neither winds nor clouds, but trusts to the strength of his bottom and the wisdom and faithfulness of his pilot, and bravely makes to the harbour, and comes home an unspeakable gainer. Such was his full persuasion, and it was built on the omnipotence of God: He was able. Our waverings rise mainly from our distrust of the divine power; and therefore to fix us it is requisite we believe not only that he is faithful, but that he is able, that hath promised. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness, v. 22.
Because with such a confidence he ventured his all in the divine promise, God graciously accepted him, and not only answered, but out-did, his expectation. This way of glorifying God by a firm reliance on his bare promise was so very agreeable to God's design, and so very conducive to his honour, that he graciously accepted it as a righteousness, and justified him, though there was not that in the thing itself which could merit such an acceptance. This shows why faith is chosen to be the prime condition of our justification, because it is a grace that of all others gives glory to God.
A book that has become quite a constant companion for me during the preparation on hope has been: “Abraham: or The Obedience of Faith” by F.B. Meyer. If you want more on this passage in Romans and on the origins in Genesis then Chapter 10: “The Firmness of Abraham’s Faith” may help.
Hope and faith go hand-in-hand in this reflection on Abraham. Let’s look at this passage in some detail:
NB: most commentators estimate that the time between God’s first promise to Abraham concerning children and descendants to the birth of Isaac is about 25 years; with Abraham ageing from 75 to 100.
Against all hope = when all natural hope was gone; contrary to the normal nature of hope; not according to reason
He believed God = a focus on the person who has promised first and foremost
He recalled the promise = did not focus on the circumstances but on the promise
He considered his body and Sarah’s womb = did not forget the realities, and the impossibility
His faith did not weaken = even though he did try to take the natural approach, Abraham accepted it had to be God’s way