Pastoral Ministry
in the Real World Click Now to Order

Intentional Acts of Obedience

Hebrews 11:8-22


“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was going. [9] By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs of the same promise. [10] For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. [11] By faith even Sarah herself, when she was barren, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful. [12] And therefore from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as innumerable as the grains of sand by the seashore. [13] These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. [14] Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [15] If they had been remembering that land they came from, they would have had opportunity to return. [16] But they now aspire to a better land—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. [17] By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; he who had received the promises was offering up his unique son, [18] about whom it had been said, In Isaac your seed will be called. [19] He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, from which he also got him back as an illustration. [20] By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. [21] By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and, he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. [22] By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the sons of Israel and gave instructions concerning his bones.” (HCSB)

 Most ticks of the clock are no different than the others.  Time passes.  We wake up.  More time passes.  We work, play, study, eat, relax and return to bed.  The clock ticks.  We inhale, exhale, and then inhale again.  But then there are those moments when our hearts skip a beat and the clock forgets to tick.  Moments that are frozen in time—defining moments.

 Abraham had two such moments in his life, both of them requiring him to use the kind of faith we studied last week—the kind of faith that allows people to believe in something not seen, and stake their lives on it.  God told Abraham to move to a land that He would show him.  God didn’t give any details, except to say that He would show the land to Abram.  Look at the promise that God made to him in Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” I’d call that a significant promise, wouldn’t you? It was huge. Would Abram follow God even though God didn’t tell him the details?

It is common for us to begin a conversation with strangers by asking, “So where are you from?” Like Abraham, most of us are sojourner. California is primarily comprised of people from somewhere else. At one time, it was people from back East and the South that were moving here. Now it is people from all over the globe. People from the East are likely to be from China or Korea and people from the South are likely to be from Mexico or South America. They are sojourners, and so are we.  Most of us know where we are from, and when we move, we know where we are going.  Abraham didn’t.  All he knew is that he was to leave the comfort and security of his home and move.

The clock stopped ticking.  Abraham faced a defining moment.  He didn’t blink.  He gathered up what he needed for the journey and he left.
That was Abraham’s defining moment, not mine, but I wonder what I’d do if faced with the same choices.  Perhaps I’d want to play 20 questions with God.  Or maybe I’d freeze and say something like “I need to talk it over with my wife and I’ll get back to you.”

Abraham didn’t do any of those things.  He obeyed.  But he did more than that—He believed God.  He gathered what he needed for the journey and he left.
After Abraham arrived, God blessed Him and after many years gave him a son, which was the first step in fulfilling the promise.

Later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice that son on an altar to Him.  It was one thing to go to a place that God would show Him, it was quite another to take a son and sacrifice him.  Why would God ask Abraham to do that?  Especially since it would be unraveling the promise He’d made to him.

Three days into the journey, Abraham left his servants with the donkeys and he and his son Isaac walked up the mountain.  Curious, Isaac said, "Father?"   "Yes, my son," Abraham replied.   "We have the wood and the fire," said the boy, "but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?"   [8] "God will provide a lamb, my son," Abraham answered. And they both went on together. (Genesis 22:7-8 NLT)

I am impressed with Abraham’s faith, but I’m utterly amazed at Isaac’s faith. Walking up the hill, the child trusts his Daddy as His father trusts in his God.  When they reached their destination, Abraham put his son on the altar.  He raised his knife, ready to score the deathblow when the angel of the Lord stopped him and provided a substitute sacrifice.

How could he do it?  Killing his son was completely illogical.  It made no sense.  Why would God promise him a son, and then require that Abraham sacrifice him?  Besides, it would have been immoral if God didn't provide a substitute sacrifice at the last moment. 

This was another defining moment in Abraham’s life when time stood still.  Once again, he responded in faith.  Abraham did not argue with God when He told him to sacrifice his son on an altar-a son that was born in his old age in fulfillment of a promise God made to Abraham.  He didn’t play twenty questions with God.  He believed and he obeyed.

When I think about this story, I ask myself, "Could I walk by faith like Abraham?  Could I trust in God even when He asks me to do something that seems completely illogical?  Is this simply a matter of following intuition, or is it more?
I know that some people are sensorial and others are intuitive. The one makes decisions by the information they gather from their five senses, the other makes their decisions by what their "gut" tells them. We know that Abraham wasn’t being sensorial.  Abraham understood that Isaac's miraculous birth was in fulfillment to a promise that God gave him that through his seed, the world would be blessed. How could Isaac fulfill that promise if he didn't live?

But neither was he being intuitive—it was something greater than that.  Abraham couldn’t have been following his heart.  Abraham couldn’t have entertained spilling his own son's blood for even a moment-not unless he had a sick, dark heart.

Walking by faith is the ability for a sensorial person to lay aside empirical evidence and an intuitive person to go against their heart because they sense what God's will is and refuse to go against it. It isn't the result of an irrational person "hearing voices" that leads him to commit a crime; instead, it is a Spiritual person, in tune with God's will, who commits intentional acts of obedience.

Just as Abraham before him, Isaac has his moment of truth and blessed Jacob instead of Esau, and like Isaac before him, Jacob had his moment of truth and blessed Joseph’s children and like Jacob before him, Joseph had his moment of truth and told his descendants to take his bones from this place and put them in the land that God will give them.

What about you?  Have you had your moment of truth yet?  Are you ready for it?  Are you prepared to exercise your faith in an intentional act of obedience? 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
one-pointexpositiory sermon