SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #12
“Living by Faith"
March 21, 2015
The title of this week’s lesson, “Living by Faith,” sparked great hope in my heart that we would find in this lesson some beautiful gems of truth clearly related to the gospel. However, a quick glance at the title of each lesson section for the week brought a keen sense of disappointment. As I read the lesson, it seemed to say to me that we must keep the law, and seek the Lord, and do what is right. This is our duty. And I would never suggest that this is not our duty, nor would I suggest this it is not the natural result of “Living by Faith”. Nevertheless I must confess, the lesson reminded me of what Joshua said to the children of Israel.
Everyone remembers Joshua saying,
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served there on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
We often see part of this famous verse of scripture on beautiful wood carvings hanging on walls or printed on posters that Christians seem to appreciate. Everyone, it seems, is familiar with this inspiring statement from Joshua. But no one seems to know or remember what Joshua said to the people shortly after making this statement. When the people said, “We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God” (Joshua 24:18), the Bible says Joshua responded saying, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins” (Joshua 24:19).
What could Joshua have meant by these startling words? Evidently, Joshua wanted the people to realize the seriousness of what they were saying. He wanted them to realize what they had not realized when they encamped at Mount Sinai and said, “All that the Lord has said, we will do” (Exodus 19:8). At that time the people had failed to realize they could not “establish their own righteousness” (PP 373).
The same realization should be clear in our minds when we speak or write of our need to “keep the law” and “seek the Lord” and follow the counsels presented in Proverbs and other biblical books. Joshua spoke the truth when he told the children of Israel, “You cannot serve the Lord.” The only hope of our living lives that is pleasing to God is “Living by Faith.”
There is a very good reason the Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6). Faith is the key to living a life well pleasing to God. Unfortunately, many fail to correctly understand what the Bible teaches concerning what it means to live by faith.
The Bible repeatedly states, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). What does this expression mean? One of the clearest examples of what this expression means is revealed in the life of Abraham. The Bible says, “By faith Abraham when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Heb. 11:17 -19).
This is an inspiring and interesting story. The Lord awakened Abraham one morning saying, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2). Consider the turmoil, the questions, and the agony, this command had brought upon Abraham.
The Lord had promised that He would make of Abraham a great nation. This promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac. Now (Gen. 22) the Lord comes back and tells Abraham that he is to sacrifice Isaac! Abraham did not understand. This command involved a profound mystery. Not only was human sacrifice contrary to God’s religious order, but it must have seemed to Abraham that the Lord was about to break the covenant that He had made with him and his descendants. For three long days and three long nights, Abraham proceeded by faith toward the mountain upon which he was commanded to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
Again and again Abraham pleaded with the Lord, asking that He confirm the word that had come on the morning of the start of his journey. No confirmation came. Abraham hoped for a reprieve from this strange command. For three days and three nights, no reprieve came. It was an excruciating test of faith. Yet Abraham continued his journey, by faith. As he did, he thought through what was about to take place.
Despite the lack of any response from God, to his earnest petitions, Abraham clung to the promise that had been given before this trial had commenced. He clung to God’s promise to make of him a great nation through Isaac. And little by little, by faith, by believing what God had promised, Abraham was able to put the pieces of this strange puzzle together in a logical order. At this point in history, no one had ever been resurrected from the dead. Yet, by faith Abraham concluded that there would be a resurrection. God had promised to make of him a great nation, through Isaac. God had commanded that he should sacrifice Isaac. Therefore, Abraham concluded there was only one way the promise could be fulfilled. God was going to resurrect Isaac.
This is a clear example of what it means to live by faith. Abraham chose to cling to God’s promise, even when things did not make sense. He moved forward to do what God said, when that made no sense. And he agonized, and struggled, and reasoned, based upon what God had said. Finally, he reached a logical and reasonable conclusion based upon what God had said, even though the conclusion was completely beyond his human experience.
His conclusion, based on his faith in what God said, enabled him to say to his servants, “the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and WE will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5, emphasis supplied). The only way Abraham could honestly say this is that he firmly believed what God had said.
Abraham was living by faith. He reasoned through a difficult situation by faith. He acted by faith. He spoke to his servants by faith. It was faith that enabled him to obey the command of God. Without faith, it would have been impossible for him to please God. Clearly, those who have faith are the only ones who can live lives that are pleasing to God.
It is in this context that we must understand the instruction to “Keep the Law,” “Seek the Lord,” and all the biblical counsel to the rich and to the poor. We must live by faith. Remember, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). And, “Faith is the victory.”