Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | July 18, 2010

Sermon on Hebrews 11:8-10

Downloadable version

Faith Answers “Why?”

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

It’s almost second nature to ask “Why?” isn’t it?  “Honey, come here?”  “Why?”  The word rolls off our tongues even before we’ve had a conscious thought.  We want to know why we’re going where we’re going.  We want to know the benefit.  We want things explained to our satisfaction.  To the asker’s annoyance, right?

It’s no different with God, is it?  The same question we ask parents, spouses, teachers, and bosses, is the question we ask God.  “Why?”  And if parents, spouses, teachers, and bosses are annoyed by it…how do you think God feels?  “Adam, don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  “Why?”  “Noah, build me an ark.”  “Why?”  “Abraham, sacrifice your son Isaac to me.”  “Why?”  “Joshua, take the Israelites and march around Jericho seven times.”  “Why?”  “Baptize your babies.”  “Why?”  “Go to church.”  “Why?”  “Pray to me.”  “Why?”  “Marriage is between one man and one woman for life?”  “Why?”  “Women can’t be pastors.”  “Why?”  “You must agree in doctrine before worshiping, communing, and praying with others.”  “Why?”  Why, why, why?  If it annoys me, it most certainly annoys God.  And yet we continue doing it.  Because there had better be a good reason for what God is telling us to do, or else I’m not going to do it.  Because, in the end, we know better, because we’re here, we’re on the scene, we’re going through it.  So, God, you can offer your advice, but I’m not just going to go along because you say so.

Which is evidence that we don’t really believe the Word of God.  If you believe what you confessed at your confirmation, that God’s Word is GOD’s Word, that it is the one true and trustworthy authority, then there would be no asking “Why?”  If you don’t really believe that, then you’ll ask questions, you’ll poke and prod to see if it really makes sense, if it’s really worth it, if it’s really something you want to do, or that will benefit you.  What that kind of behavior says is that you think there are mistakes in God’s Word.  You don’t think He’s automatically right.  You don’t think He automatically knows better.  And so you wait for Him to tell you why.  But if there are mistakes, if He’s not truthful, you have no Word of God.  And if you have no Word of God, you have no Christ, no cross, no tomb, no forgiveness and no heaven.  You have nothing.  Resist the Devil whispering in your ears today, as he did in the Garden.  Submit to God, and learn from Abraham that faith answers “Why?”

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. We know the story of Abraham well enough.  Living far off to the east, he was seventy-five years old when the LORD came and said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  So Abram left. Without asking “Why?”  And here’s the tough part to swallow – Abraham went to a place.  All Abraham knew, all he heard from God, was that there was a place prepared for him where he would be blessed and through him everyone in history.

Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?  That’s really all we know about heaven, isn’t it?  Jesus returned there when He ascended and said, I’m going there to prepare a place for you. He doesn’t go into great detail, nor does Scripture.  We have some descriptions of heaven, but even they are somewhat vague and ambiguous, meant to give us a taste, not the whole meal.  Yet, just as it was for Abraham, it is enough for us.

Marvelous, isn’t it?  All Abraham received is the promise of an inheritance.  And that’s what we have as well.  He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for you.

Abraham knew full well that he didn’t know where he was going, and despite that fact, he went.  Because God said so.  And God does not lie.  Abraham believed that.  And God kept the promise that He repeated throughout Abraham’s life.  This 75-year-old man with a barren wife became the father of a great nation, the millions who walked out of Egypt and returned to take possession of the Promised Land of Canaan under Joshua.  The LORD pointed to this through Isaiah over 1,000 years later:  Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many….  Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

Abraham is proof and answer that faith is worth it.  God kept His promises.  Abraham, and those who followed him, had only God’s Word for it.  But God’s Word is true.  His salvation did and does last forever, His righteousness didn’t and will not fail.  Because Christ came.  God’s Word was fulfilled.  Abraham’s descendants entered the Promised Land, and David’s sons had sons, until in the town of Bethlehem the blessing for all nations was born.  Not because Abraham was so good, not because we’re so good, but because God is.  The LORD reminded stiff-necked Israel of this:  It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. From outside of us, apart from us, comes this incredible gift, comes Christ, the LORD our righteousness.

And what makes it even more incredible is that Abraham never actually saw any of this with his eyes.   By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. He never owned the land, nor did his sons.  They lived in tents.  Yet they went.  They lived.  They dwelled.  And they believed.  Because God spoke, the matter was finished.  Faith allowed them to be confident, even though none of them received with their hands what God had promised, because God proved Himself to be one in whom confidence could be kept.  This faith answered all their “Whys?” as verse 10 said:  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. What city is this?  Just verses later the Holy Spirit makes it clear:  All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.

They lived in tents, but God had in store for them real, solid, founded cities.  And they believed, because God said so.  And God is as good as His Word.  Likewise we too do not have our enduring cities here; we look toward the city that is to come.  We know that our citizenship is in heaven.  We have seen with John the New Jerusalem coming down out of the clouds, a city built on a foundation.  We’ve seen all that because we have God’s testimony about it in His Word.  We have His true and trustworthy, His reliable and accurate, His infallible and inerrant Word.  And so we don’t have to ask “Why?”  We already have the answers.  Because in this Word we find our answers.  Because in this Word is Christ, the message of the cross, which is foolishness to unbelief, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. We do not have a book of dead and empty letters, we have the living and enduring Word of God, which cuts down to the very depths of our souls, which penetrates and convicts, and then raises us up as it shows us Christ on the cross, Christ in the tomb, Christ gloriously arisen, Christ who says, Then neither do I condemn you!  Go and sin no more.  I am going to prepare a place for you because it is finished.

And so we wait, not reasoning why, but looking forward.  Our faith, like Abraham’s adorns itself with good works while we wait, dwelling in these tents.  But we wait.  We suffer.  We go through.  We don’t merely hear the Word of God, we do what it says.  Because we have Christ, who loved us first.  Who washed us clean, who nourishes us, who sustains us.  We have the gift of faith that answers our whys and lets us see what Abraham saw, that lets us confess with Paul:  Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. There are no more whys, there is only the Word, and there is only Christ.  Amen!

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