Old Testament roots of faith
All though the word, “faith,” occurs only twice in the Old Testament (Deut 32:20 and Hab 2:4), the faith exhibited by people of old is held before us in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible.
The roots of faith in God go back to Genesis. God created Adam and Eve in His own image to relate in harmony with Himself, one another and His creation. Adam and Eve thrived in the Garden of Eden. Then, they fell into sin and mankind’s harmonious relationship with God was fractured. So God governed His people as natural man. He was known to them as God Almighty (Ex 6:3).
Adam and Eve had residual knowledge of God. They and their descendants who walked in the way of God were examples to those around them. He called them My people. Over the years revealed more of His will and His way. God talked to some of His people in dreams and visions, angelic visitations and with His audible voice. He told some of them of miracles to happen in their lives and brought them to pass. He gave others blessing and promises of things to come. They shared these things as part of their culture.
The time from the creation of man to the Flood was about 1,700 years. People during that time lived to a very great age and passed on what God had revealed to them by word of mouth, from generation to generation. The family tree from Adam to Noah is presented in Genesis 5. Adam, lived 930 years. Enoch walked with God. “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen 5:21-24 ASV). Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. He was the father of Lamech, who was the father of Noah. Adam lived for fifty-six years after Lamech had been born.
So people knew about God Almighty. They spoke of God to one another. Parents taught their children about God, mostly by word of mouth and by how they lived. Until God brought Moses forward with the 10 Commandments and the Law around 2,500 years after creation, in 1446 BC, those were the ways people knew about God.
Families nurture faith
God has always worked thru families oriented to Him and families nurture faith. Families with the same ancestors stuck together geographically and were there for one another. Family name and roots were important to the identity of God’s people and to God. God’s Word records 11 genealogies in Genesis. Seed, meaning offspring and descendants, occurs aver 215 times.
In Genesis, we see many graphic examples of mankind’s ups and downs in following God. It shows both God’s love for His people and His wrath against sin. As the population had grown immensely, wickedness disproportionately increased. God’s wrath was raised to the boiling point at the wickedness on earth. “And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (Gen 6:7 ASV).
“But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations: Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:8-9 ASV). God told Noah to build and Ark and stock it with pairs of animals. Then He sent the flood. God blessed Noah and his three sons to repopulate the earth, made covenant with them to never to destroy the earth by flood again and gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant (Gen 9).
The faith of the patriarchs and their wives
About 400 years after the flood, God began His work through the patriarchs and their wives. God pronounced blessings on the patriarchs Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob, also named Israel. Ten of Jacobs sons and two grandsons became the 12 tribes of Israel. Their wives are known as the matriarchs. Sarah was the wife of Abraham, Rebekah the wife of Isaac and Leah and Rachael the wives of Jacob. God is often identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Genesis 12–24 is devoted to the ways God Almighty worked with Abraham and Sarah and the blessings God bestowed upon them and future generations. Genesis 25–27 with Isaac and Rebekah, 28–36 with Jacob, Leah and Rachael, 37–47 with Joseph, 48 Jacob blessing Joseph and his sons, 49 Jacob blessing his and Joseph’s sons, and 50 mourning and burial for Jacob.
The Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic Covenant is the greatest blessing of the patriarchs. Abram’s father Terah first settled his family in Harran (Gen 11:27-32 ASV). Then God called Abram and gave him the beginnings of the covenant.
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: 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: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. Genesis 12:1-3 ASV
God gave much explanation and affirmation and several covenants and signs to that blessing over the years. “So Abram went, as Jehovah had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran” (Gen 12:4 ASV). “And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him” (Gen 21:5). Life of Abraham overview.
God repeated the promises. made blood covenant with Abram, told of the future bondage of Israel in Egypt and told of the land He would give Abram’s descendants. God made covenant with Abram (Gen 15).
As recorded in Genesis 22, God proved Abraham. Abraham obeyed. God affirmed the Abrahamic Covenant. Character of Abraham overview.
And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah. And offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. Genesis 22:1-2 ASV
And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Because thou hast obeyed my voice. Genesis 22:15:18 ASV
Jesus was Abraham’s seed. “Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16 ASV).
Abraham in the faith chapter of the Bible
It begins: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval” (Heb 11:1-2 NASB). Then, continues by exemplifying the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and many others. Their faith was an example to generations as it is to us.
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised: wherefore also there sprang of one, and him as good as dead,’so many as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand, which is by the sea-shore, innumerable.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city. [That city is the New Jerusalem Rev 21]
By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten’son; even he to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence he did also in a figure receive him back. Hebrews 11:8-19 ASV
The Faith of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was nigh, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. Hebrews 11:20-22 ASV
Those who respected the LORD
One of my favorite portions of God’s Word given to God’s old covenant people concludes the Old Testament. It has immense implications about our long term view.
“You stubbornly oppose Me in what you say” says the LORD.
You ask, “How did we talk against you?”
You said, “It’s so disappointing to serve God. What did we get whenever we did what He wanted and walked in mourning before the LORD of armies? According to our experience people are happier if they forget about God, more successful if they do wrong. Yes, you can challenge God and get away with it.”
Then those who respected the LORD talked to one another. And the LORD was interested and listened. And a record was kept to remind Him of those who respect the LORD and think highly of His name. “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of armies, “on that day when I act they will be My precious possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then you will again see the difference between a righteous person and a wicked person, one who serves God and one who doesn’t.”
“You see, the day will come, burning like a furnace, ad all who defy God and all who do wrong will be straw. The coming day will burn them” says the LORD of armies, “leaving no root or branch of them.”
“But for you who respect My name there will rise the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. You will go out and frolic like calves let out of their barn.” You will tramp on the wicked because they will be ashes under your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD of armies.
“Remember the instructions I gave my servant Moses at Horeb/Mount Sinai as laws an decrees for all Israel.
“I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the LORD’s great and terrible day comes. He will give the heart of the fathers to their children and the heart of the children to their fathers. Otherwise I will have to come and destroy the whole country with a curse.” Malachi 3:12-4:6 AAT