By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,  of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.  By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:17–22)
We stand in awe of these heroes of the faith, of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph. As outlandish as it might sound, we have something very important in common with them.
- We marvel at Abraham’s courage, leaving his extended family while not knowing exactly where God was leading him.
- We’re amazed at Joseph because we forgive his brothers decades after they sold him into slavery.
- We’re awed by Moses for confronting Moses and leading God’s people from slavery in Egypt.
Then we look in the mirror. We cannot fathom being considered even in the same breath with an Elijah or a Ruth. We know our questions, our doubts, our sins. To us, the comparisons are laughable.
The comparison isn’t laughable to God. The author of Hebrews says Abraham and Jacob and Joseph lived “by faith.” We know from Romans 4:1-3 that this faith was not a good work exercised Abraham, but the faith given by God. This is the same faith we received when we were brought to faith in Christ, whether in baptism or hearing the Gospel.
It is humbling to know that God’s love extends to us the same way it did to those who were integral to the coming of the Messiah. It also bolsters our confidence, knowing that God can and will work in us as He desires.
(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)