Faith - Part 1
All Christians want to hear the greeting Jesus mentioned in Matthew 25, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
But, what is faith and how are we to be faithful?
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. We now have many translations available to us. English speaking people have a great selection from the traditional King James Version to over 50 modern translations.
But, to get a good picture of "faith" we need to understand the Greek words used and how they are translated into English.
All three of these Greek words stem from a common root. The flavor of the meaning of these words involves confidence, trust, fidelity, holy fervor, reliability in business transactions.
Faith involves more than simple "belief". It is a conviction that involves loyalty and trust. Faith causes you to do what you promise, to be faithful to your word.
Christians are people who have repented and turned to God. That is, they have turned from doing things their own way and have recognized Jesus as their Lord, and they want to do things his way. They want to be obedient to Jesus' commands and directions.
In the same way, various people in the Old Testament were faithful to God. When God gave them a mission, they were obedient to God and completed that mission.
It is in this context that we'll examine four individual that were prime examples of faith. Often called heroes of faith, we'll look at Able, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham as described in Hebrews 11 and Genesis.
Although Genesis does not give all the details, apparently God requested Cain and Able to prepare and offering. An offering shows trust and love for God. The value of your offering can show how eager you are to show God your love and appreciation for him.
Cain was a farmer. He brought some of what he grew. Apparently Cain did not take the time and effort to put aside the first of his grain nor did he search out the finest examples of his harvest.
Able was a shepherd who tended his flock. Able brought some of the firstlings of his flock and the best examples of his flock.
Moses wrote about this incident in Genesis:
God spoke with Cain and asked him to do better. God indicated that if he did well he would receive honor and would be happy rather than sad.
And, we know the story from there. Cain was so despondent and angry and not receiving God's praise that he killed Able. But, it's Able that is remembered as a hero of faith. The writer of Hebrews indicates:
So, Able is remembered as a hero of faith because he faithfully did what God wanted to a greater degree than his brother Cain.
We aren't told much about what Enoch did. Nor is it clear exactly what happened to him when "God took him." Other passages (Genesis 42:36, Jeremiah 31:15) with a similar word construction refer to people who were either not in the vicinity or dead.
Some believe God actually took Enoch to heaven. This is somewhat questionable, but fun for those who speculate on such things.
By whatever mechanism God removed Enoch, it apparently took some trust on his part to participate in this evacuation. The writer of Hebrews it took faith for Enoch to participate in this.
We have all heard the story of Noah and the flood. But, most people don't realize that it took Noah a long time to build the ark. And, it is possible that during the time Noah was constructing the ark it never rained on the earth. So, there seemed no possibility that any use could be make of the ark.
Early in Genesis it indicates that God made the heavens. This normally means the atmosphere (firmament), the blue sky.
The text also indicates that waters were above the sky. If this was literally true, then these waters could not be clouds, which appear in the sky, and sometimes along the ground as fog.
As you probably know it is very cold high in the sky. These waters, therefore, above the sky could have been a frozen sphere of ice. This sphere of ice could have acted as insulation, keeping the extreme cold beyond the sphere from interacting with the atmosphere below.
The ice sphere could have acted like glass enclosing a greenhouse. The entire earth could have had an almost tropical climate.
The text of Genesis indicates that thee was no rain.
If there was an ice dome over the earth, it would diffuse sunlight, making temperatures more uniform over the earth. Uniform temperatures would reduce the likelihood of weather patterns that would produce storms and rain.
Crops grew and were watered by a mist that settled on the ground, watering the plants.
Under these conditions, there were no floods, tropical storms, hurricanes or other catastrophic weather patterns. Nobody could imagine a flood that would cover the earth. And, nobody could imagine any use for a huge ark that Noah was building.
It certainly took dedication, loyalty, and faithfulness on Noah's part to buck the criticism and ridicule from everyone. The writer of Hebrews indicates it was a great act of faith.
God told Noah how to build the ark and what was going to happen when the ark was completed. Much of this was something absolutely inconceivable by Noah. But, he trusted God and did the work.
The rains came and waters flowed up from underground. The waters rose high enough to cover the highest hills and mountains.
If there was an ice dome that helped moderate the earth's temperature, it was now shattered. Much of it melted as pieces descended to the earth. Solid pieces probably did honorific damage crashing into the earth.
With the ice shield gone, the frigid upper atmosphere temperatures cooled portions of the earth, especially in the polar regions. What had once been a nearly tropical climate suddenly froze.
Evidence of sudden freezing has been found in several areas. Especially notable is a region in the northern Russian Federation. Just north of Khatanga a mammoth carcass was located. It was quick frozen and still had well-preserved food fragments in its mouth. In addition, there was over 20 pounds of vegetation still in its stomach. What is most amazing about such discoveries is that the food these mammoths were eating was vegetation that grows only in warm regions of the world. Scientists have considerable difficulty explaining this.
After the rains stopped and the water receded, God made a new agreement with Noah. God indicated that he was never again destroy the earth with water. The sign of this agreement was the rainbow.
The rainbow was probably seen for the first time after the ice sphere was shattered and fell to the earth. This allowed cold and warm air patterns to bring rain. With the ice dome gone, the sun was able to shine directly on the earth. Both these changes were necessary to produce the rainbow.
Not only was there a change in weather after the flood. There was a change in diet.
The Bible indicates that lifespan were quite long before the flood. A number of people lived over 900 years.
God's intent was to limit life spans after the flood to 120 years.
The ice dome over the earth may have prevented some harmful radiation from entering the atmosphere. But, the radiation by itself was probably not sufficient to ensure such a drastic reduction in lifespan.
God also changed the diet of mankind.
Notice that before the flood, God presented all the plants as food for human consumption. Humans were vegetarians.
After the flood, God presented every living creature to man as food.
This change in diet, along with increased radiation from the sun may be a critical factor in the reduced lifespan of mankind.
God made many changes in the lifestyles of humans with the flood. Noah was faithful in doing all that God required. Noah deserves his place among the heroes of faith.
Abram (later renamed Abraham by God) lived in Ur of the Chaldees. This is thought to be along the Euphrates river, southeast of Babylon (in modern Iraq).
Moses records that Abram's father, Terah, was responsible for leading the family out of Ur. The destination of Terah was Canaan. But, Terah did not travel all the way to Canaan. Instead he stopped in a region of plentiful grazing land where he could grow abundant crops. Terah named the place after his dead son, Haran.
How long did they remain at Haran?
We know that Terah was 70 years old when he fathered Abram. We also know the Abram was married to Sarai at the time they left Ur. Terah was 205 years old when he died in Haran.
But, Moses also writes in Genesis that Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran to go into Canaan.
So, how long was Abram in Haran? It could have been 40 to 50 years, from about the time of Abram's marriage until Abram was 75 years old.
It was certainly enough time for Abram to acquire wealth in Haran. He acquired considerable substance and servants in Haran. These he took with him into Canaan.
We know it was long enough, years later, for Abraham to ask his servants to go to his "homeland" near Haran to find a wife for his son Isaac (Genesis 24:4).
Though we don't know the exact length of time, we do know that Terah and Abram remained in Haran for a considerable number of years.
It is interesting to compare the calling of both Terah and Abram as they traveled on their mission toward Canaan. Of course, Terah stopped short of the goal while Abraham reached the goal.
This is a valuable lesson in faithfulness.
Terah apparently was supposed to lead his family into Canaan. But, because of his lack of commitment to God, he did not follow through.
God then called Abram and commanded him to complete the mission that Tarah failed to complete. Because Abram finished the mission he is one of the heroes of faith.
So, as a Christian, you want to hear God welcome you with, "Well done, good and faithful servant." To be a faithful servant, you must follow the commands of Jesus and do them. This will show that you are committed to your Lord and trust that he has your best interests in mind.
Follow through on what Jesus commands and you will be a faithful servant.
You can now proceed to the Faith of Jesus and Your Faith.
I welcome your comments:
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Copyright © 2006 Robert Sherman