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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, August 4, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith, with Sarah’s involvement, he received power of procreation, even though he was too old, because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better homeland, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. (NRSV)

I struggle with this passage. Reading it, it feels like if you claim faith, you must be prepared to jump off a cliff without a parachute and know that God will save you. I listened to a podcast about this passage that used it to defend biblical literalism. I wanted to write the host and ask him if he has ever read the story of Abraham and Sarah. This incredibly condensed retelling makes it seem as though Abraham simply had faith, and everything worked out just as he always knew it would because God said it would be so.

But Genesis tells us a different story. Abraham doubted, tried to take matters into his own hands. Isaac got his name because Abraham and Sarah laughed at God’s promise that their descendants would outnumber the stars. Maybe that is the point. Our ancestors had doubts and their faith stumbled at times, but even then, God was faithful. Though Abraham and Sarah feared they were too old to be used in God’s covenant, they were not.

Our faith does not need to be unwavering and unquestioning. God will use us anyway. Perhaps it would be a smoother journey if we have the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen, but perhaps not.

Loving and merciful God, help me as I question and challenge the path you have for me. Thank you for having faith in me, even when I do not. Help me to let go of my fears and expectations that I might live more fully into your plan for my life. Amen.

Written by Katie Patterson, Youth Ministry Program Manager

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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