Why were these men so faithful?
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God made promises to Abraham concerning the ‘Land’ and his ‘Seed’ or offspring.
The promise of the Land
Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Genesis 13:3 And he (Abram) went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
Assurance: The Land was shown to him
Genesis 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram... Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever... 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Possession of the Land ‘forever’ demands eternal life and resurrection from the dead for fulfilment. This Abram understood from the start; he did not expect possession of the Land in his lifetime.
Hebrews 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God...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.
Assurance: God made a sacrificial covenant with him
Genesis 15:7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 8 And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. 12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. 17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. 18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
Assurance: God made a covenant sign of Circumcision and changed Abram’s name to Abraham to begin a new nation.
Genesis 17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
The promise of the Seed
Genesis 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Abram’s offspring would be numerous.
Genesis 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Genesis 15:5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
Abram’s offspring would one day possess the Land forever.
Genesis 15:18... Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
Genesis 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
Genesis 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore...
One special descendent of Abraham would gain the ascendency over all enemies and be a source of blessing for all nations.
Genesis 22:17... and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
This was the gospel preached to Abraham.
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Acts 3:25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
Galatians 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
The seed was to come through Isaac not Ishmael.
Genesis 17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
Assurance: Isaac’s birth was a promised miracle which came to pass.
Romans 9:9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
Ishmael was rejected
Genesis 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Hebrews 11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
Because Abraham believed God that the promises would come through Isaac he was prepared to offer him as a sacrifice; believing that God would certainly raise Isaac from the dead to fulfil the promises.
Hebrews 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Assurance: Because of Abraham’s faith (belief) God swore an oath to him.
Genesis 22:16... By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Hebrews 6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
His belief was counted to him for righteousness.
Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Assurance: The promise of the Land and the seed was repeated to Isaac.
Genesis 26:2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; 4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Unlike Esau (who despised his birthright), Jacob appreciated the value of the promises and went to great lengths to ensure that they went through him and not his brother. He bought Esau’s birthright. Esau did not have Abraham’s belief in the resurrection of the dead.
Genesis 25:32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
Isaac’s wife Rebekah moved and assisted Jacob to deceive Isaac to obtain the blessing. She knew and believed the prophecy that the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).
Genesis 25:23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
Romans 9:12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
After the deceit, Isaac recognised the truth in his blessing on Jacob.
Genesis 28:3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
Hebrews 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Jacob left Canaan with the firm intention to return.
Genesis 28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Assurance: In his tribulation with Laban, Jacob saw the hand of God at work in his life and God spoke to him.
Genesis 31:3 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee. 4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, 5 And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.
Assurance: God intervened with Laban
Genesis 31:24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
Genesis 31:29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
Assurance: The angels of God met Jacob.
Genesis 32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
Assurance: His spiritual wrestling with God for the blessing was enacted out in his literal wrestling with the angel. God enabled him to prevail and his name was changed to Israel ‘A Prince with God’. Here was tangible assurance, although Jacob’s fear of Esau was not easily assuaged.
Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
Hosea 12:4 Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;
Assurance: The promise of the Land and the seed was repeated to Jacob.
Genesis 35:9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. 11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; 12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
We have seen that the assurance that Abraham Isaac and Jacob had was that God spoke to them giving specific promises and they perceived his hand working through the tribulations in their lives. As a consequence they had the same faith.
Hebrews 11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
When we come to Joseph, he has no direct communication from God. He was a more upright character than his brethren. He had dreams that indicated future ennoblement, but without any assurance that it would happen.
Genesis 37:5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
When his brethren sold Joseph into Egypt his life became an example of patient endurance sustained by his belief in the promises of God made to his fathers. God caused him to prosper and gave him favour in the eyes of those he served. He withstood the wiles of Potiphar’s wife. God brought about his rise to power by giving him the ability to interpret dreams. Throughout his time in Egypt it is clear that he understood and believed the prophecy given to Abraham concerning the sojourn of his offspring in a land other than Canaan.
Genesis 15:13... Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance...16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
In time, he saw that God has turned the malice of his brethren into deliverance for his father’s house in the land of Egypt.
Genesis 45:4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
He knew that Israel would leave Egypt in the fourth generation.
Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
In the fourth generation God brought Israel out of Egypt by Moses.
Exodus 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.
The instruction was the evidence of Joseph’s belief.
Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
God did not speak directly to Joseph; he had no tangible assurance in the early part of his life other than the promises and prophecies made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Like Joseph those who believe the gospel and are baptised into Christ become Abraham’s seed and heirs of the same promises.
Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
We have no tangible assurance other than the integrity of the word of God which God requires us to believe. Our belief in the promises and the prophecies should be as evident in the way we live our lives as it was in the conduct of Joseph.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:6... without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Romans 10:17... faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We live in an age when there is no direct communication from God. What we have is the recorded promises and prophecies and the examples of those who believed and died in faith. We have the advantage over Joseph in that we have the record of the first advent of Jesus Christ, the promised seed, and understand how redemption was achieved. In reality Joseph’s assurance was the same as ours; we must believe God’s promises and live accordingly.
2 Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
I hope you have found this helpful.
May God bless you,