Study 6 THE VISION OF FAITH – ISAAC
Studies in Hebrews Eleven
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: Hebrews 11:20; Genesis 27: 1-40)
The great Old Testament characters whom we are studying together deserve far more than the very sketchy consideration which we are able to give to them. How much more time we would like to give to an examination of the life and ministry of Abraham! However, we must turn our attention now to Isaac and notice how the principle of faith operated in and through his life. In order to do this we must link up Hebrews 11:20 with Genesis 27:1-40, for it is in connection with Isaac’s faith in blessing Jacob and Esau ‘in regard to their future’ that the writer to the Hebrews calls our attention. No reference is made in Hebrews Eleven to the fact that Isaac is a beautiful type of the Lord Jesus, but we pause to point this out.
Isaac, like our Saviour, was the son of promise - look up Genesis 3:15; 17:19; a miracle was involved in his birth - look up Genesis 21:1-5, and compare Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:35; he was offered by his father on the altar of sacrifice - look up Genesis 22:9, and compare Romans 8:32; he was a son of resurrection - look up Hebrews 11:17-19, and compare Romans 1:4; and he was the son and heir - look up Genesis 24:36, and compare Colossians 1:19, 2:9.
We could say a lot more concerning Isaac as a type of our Saviour; but we must keep to the emphasis the Holy Spirit has made in Hebrews 11:20, where we read that ‘by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future’. This means that Isaac pronounced a blessing upon his sons in respect of their future condition, and he did this by faith in God and in full confidence that He would accomplish all that He had promised. Isaac was about to die, but he believed that all that God had predicted would take place. That was the vision of faith, and in order that we may see how the vision of faith operates in a human life let us observe seven lessons concerning the principle of faith as we see it in the life of Isaac.
1. TRUE FAITH MUST ALWAYS HAVE TO DO WITH THINGS NOT YET REVEALED TO SIGHT.
Compare Hebrews 11:20 with Hebrews 11:11. Weymouth’s translation of verse 1 is, ‘Faith is a confident assurance of that for which we hope, a conviction of the reality of things we do not see’ - notice the last five words, ‘things we do not see’. Faith operates in the realm of the unseen, which means that the man of faith is of necessity a man of vision. He is not a visionary, but he is a man who sees the invisible. The world’s popular saying is ‘Seeing is believing!’; but the Christian says, ‘Believing is seeing!’ How does this apply to us? Here is one application: God has revealed certain ‘things in regard to the future’ in His Word - look up a few examples in John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 20. The unbeliever does not accept God’s revelation, nor believe about these ‘things in regard to the future’, for they are too far-fetched; the believer, on the other hand, does accept what God has revealed, and that is the vision of faith.
2. IT IS THE PRESENCE AND OPERATION OF FAITH IN A LIFE WHICH MAKES THAT LIFE PLEASING TO THE LORD.
With faith it is possible to please God, whereas without faith there is no way we can please Him - look up Hebrews 11:6. Isaac’s life was full of tragic failures, but his name is recorded in the catalogue of the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews Eleven because, in spite of his failures, he believed God. Failure never glorifies God, but faith can still be operative in the midst of failure, and the perfect work of faith is to surmount failures and breakdowns – look up and ponder Luke 22:32.
3. FAITH MAY BE SUBMISSIVE RATHER THAN CREATIVE IN ITS WORKING.
The late Dr Campbell Morgan has pointed out that Isaac’s faith did not initiate anything; it was not inventive, creative or adventurous. Isaac certainly displayed wonderful faith on Mount Moriah - look up Genesis 22:9; and in going out to meet Rebekah - look up Genesis 24:62-67; but in each case his faith was the faith of submission; it was Abraham’s faith which took the initiative. Can you think of some modern illustrations which show the difference between creative faith and submissive faith?
4. WHEN FAITH IS REAL IT WILL BE TESTED AT EVERY TURNING-POINT ON LIFE’S JOURNEY.
Faith was kindled in the heart of Isaac when he was quite young, but at each crisis of his life a fresh test of faith came: on Mount Moriah, when he was 33 years old; when he met Rebekah at the age of 50; and at the end of his life when he blessed his sons; but a test of faith came also on a thousand other different occasions as well - look up 1 Peter 1:7, and compare James 1:2. Faith will go on being tested until it is lost in sight.
5. FAITH SOMETIMES SHINES OUT MORE CLEARLY IN TIMES OF DEFEAT THAN IN TIMES OF VICTORY.
This sounds paradoxical, but it is nevertheless true. Isaac’s faith must have nearly failed when he blessed his sons, but he believed that God had overruled in the matter, and he quickly accepted the situation - see what he said in Genesis 27:33, and compare Matthew 11:26. God does sometimes let us falter and fail in order that we may accept His verdict concerning our weakness and His power. Faith can shine out brightly in the midst of failure, as Jonah’s did - look up Jonah 2:1-10!
6. FAITH ACCEPTS EVERY SITUATION PERMITTED BY GOD AS HIS WAY OF ACCOMPLISHING HIS PURPOSE.
Study Genesis 27:1-40 carefully. What a very amazing story it is, demonstrating as it does the wonderful way in which God sometimes allows our plans to be upset in order to accomplish His divine purpose! We need to tread very softly when we read this chapter.
7. FAITH IS BEAUTIFUL WHEN ITS VISION IS KEEN AT THE END OF LIFE.
In Genesis 27:1, we read that Isaac was old, feeble and blind, and yet he could see ‘Him who is invisible’ for he had the vision of faith. Blind, yet seeing - that is the vision of faith! How beautiful such faith is at the end of life! (Compare with Moses - Hebrews 11:27).