The Overcoming Faith of the Patriarchs—Lessons to Be Learned

Scripture records that Abraham was the patriarch (literally chief father) of the Hebrew people, and a pillar of faith because of his trust in and obedience to YHVH Elohim. As such, he is often referred to as the Father of the Faithful. But when Elohim first called this man of faith and grandfather of the Israelite people, was he a giant in his faith? Not at all.  Yes he had faith, but his faith was imperfect; it had to grow, and it was a process, which we will discuss below.

Abraham’s faith, like the proverbial mustard seed, started out small, but it was still enormous compared to most other people. After all, on a mere promise from Elohim, he uprooted his entire family and travelled on foot hundreds of miles across the dangerous desert and through various countries and encountering many hardships along the way in hopes of a better life. It was if he were moving from New York City to Jawbone Flats, Oregon, a virtual ghost town in the mountains—population four!

Abraham’s first steps of faith were measured, cautious, incremental and at times hesitant, yet through it all YHVH was gracious because Abraham’s heart was inclined to do his will. Because of Abraham’s faithfulness, YHVH still counted it to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6). Not only that, but he passed his mountain moving, gravity defying faith on to his children and grandchildren and beyond, and this legacy of faith lives on in many of his descendants to this day. 

There is much that we, as the children of Abraham through our faith in Yeshua the Messiah, can learn from this pillar of faith and his immediate descendants and associates that will strengthen our own faith in YHVH Elohim and his promises.

Abraham and Sarah

Genesis 12:1, Get thee out of thy country. Did Abram immediately leave his father’s house and go directly to the country that YHVH would show him, or did he fulfill YHVH’s will for his life in incremental steps? Compare Genesis 11:31 with Genesis 12:1. Did Abram leave his father’s house completely, or take part of his father’s house with him including his father and nephew? Haran is located in northern Mesopotamia and is nowhere near Canaan. When Abram finally made his way to Canaan minus his father, did he still have part of his kindred with him, something YHVH instructed him to leave behind (Gen 12:1)? Did his nephew Lot prove to be a help or a hindrance to Abram in fulfilling YHVH’s mission for his life in a new land? What lessons can we learn from this account? 

First, YHVH is gracious to us even when we don’t obey him completely and immediately. Scripture still refers to Abraham as the father of the faithful or faithfulness (Rom 4:12, 16). 

Second, Abram was a man of prominence in Babylon (Chaldea), was recognized as a mighty prince (Gen 23:6), and was 75 years old when YHVH asked him to leave the comforts of life in Babylon to trek across the desert to the backwoods region of Canaan. No doubt, this was not an easy move for Abram for the reasons already stated. 

Those who would follow Yeshua have to make similar choices as Abram did: to stay in the Babylon of this world, or to leave it. What did Yeshua tell his disciples about the sacrifices that they would need to make to be a follower of YHVH? (See Matt 10:35–39.) At the same time, what did Yeshua say would be the eternal rewards of those, who like our father Abraham, set out in faith for a new spiritual destiny? ( See Matt 19:29.) What physical obstacles stand in your way of fulfilling YHVH’s spiritual calling, mission and destiny for your life?

Genesis 16:1–16, Abraham takes matters into his own hands. The faith of Abraham, the father of the faithful, was tried greatly. After waiting years for a son, he finally gave in to doubt and unbelief. In stead of waiting for YHVH to give him a son, Abraham too matters into his own hands and endeavored to work out YHVH’s plans and purposes in his life through fleshly means. The result was Ishmael, the father of many of the modern Moslem Arabs. What can we learn from this mistake of Abraham? 

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Joseph—A Profile in Courage and Faith

Do you think that things are going badly for you in your life? Take heart. The Bible is full of encouraging stories of faith of people going through circumstances often much worse than what we have encountered, but who overcame their circumstances and prevailed because of their faith in Elohim. Yes, it is true that some people died for their faith, but because of their faith in YHVH-Yeshua and the promises of Elohim, they have waiting for them resurrection into eternal life and the glorious heavenly rewards that will accompany that life.

Genesis 41:9–10, The chief butler spoke. Here the chief butler is recounting the events to Pharaoh of how he ended up in prison as if Pharaoh weren’t aware of these facts. It is quite possible that this was a new Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh who had put the butler in prison was now dead. If so, then this new Pharaoh was very young, since in Genesis 45:8 Joseph, who by now would have been at least in his late 30s, refers to himself as “a father to Pharaoh.”

YHVH’s timing is perfect. Do you have the trust in YHVH to believe that for your life? Had the chief butler remembered Joseph prior to this how would things have been different for Joseph? Would he have had the chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dream? Would he have returned to Canaan? How would the history of the nation of Israel been different? Would YHVH’s purposes have been fulfilled?

Genesis 41:16, Elohim. By this time, Joseph had endured multiple false accusations, murder attempts, enslavement and imprisonment on false charges. A man of lesser spiritual stature than Joseph might have lost his faith in Elohim along the way. What can we learn from Joseph?

In this verse, what is the evidence that he hadn’t given up hope in his Heavenly Father, and that he had not lost sight of the dreams and promises that YHVH had made to him many years earlier? Simply this. Even though Joseph was standing before a king who had the power of life and death over him, he still had faith that Elohim would give him the interpretation to the king’s dream. Not only did Joseph believe this, but openly declared his faith to Pharaoh. 

As a form of witnessing to those around you, do you give honor to YHVH whenever you can—even to strangers and potential enemies as Joseph did? 

The fact that Joseph was able to proclaim his faith in Elohim in front of one of the most powerful monarchs of his day is evidence of his strong and abiding faith in and fear of YHVH even in spite of years of mistreatment and false accusations. Joseph is a powerful and encouraging example to the down-trodden saints of the world, who have been persecuted for the their faith. Joseph is proof that it is possible to maintain faith in YHVH even in spite of dire, even life threatening circumstances.


Isaac—To Obey or Not to Obey, To Walk in Faith or in Fear?

Genesis 26:1–29, There was a famine in the land. At the well of Lachai-roi (or “the well of the Living One seeing me,” Gen 24:62), Isaac was fruitful. There he met his wife while in communion with YHVH (Gen 24:62–64). Isaac also dwelt there for 20 years, and there he entreated YHVH because of Rebekah’s barrenness (Gen 25:21), and YHVH answered Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah gave birth to twins (Gen 25:22). 

But because of famine in the land, Isaac felt compelled to leave Canaan to seek relief in Egypt following the earlier footsteps of his father, Abraham. At this point, we must ask ourselves whether it is wise for the saint to rely on “Egypt” (a metaphor for the world) for their physical sustenance instead of trusting YHVH and believing that where he has planted us and blessed us is where we should stay? 

Evidently, YHVH didn’t want Isaac to go down to Egpty, for while en route to that land, he gracefully redirected Isaac stay in Canaan and to sojourn in Gerar (temporarily), where he would continue to bless him and his posterity (Gen 26:2–4). 

Isaac obeyed YHVH—more or less. Isaac ended up in Gerar located on the border between Canaan and Egypt and dwelt there a long time and not temporarily as YHVH had instructed him (Gen 26:6, 8). Instead of fully obeying YHVH, it was as if Isaac was hedging his bet between faith and fear, between Canaan, the land of promise, and Egypt, the land of comfort for the flesh man. How often do we halt between two opinions and compromise between YHVH’s will and our own in matters where he has given us clear direction? 

This place of spiritual indecision and weakness put Isaac in a compromising situation (Gen 26:7). He felt compelled to lie about his wife, thus repeating the sin of his father (Gen 20:1–2). Compromised obedience puts us in compromising situations where in order to “save our skin” we often have to compromise our values. 

Though Isaac was out of YHVH’s will, YHVH was still faithful to keep his promises that he had made to Isaac earlier (Gen 26:3–4). Isaac was blessed one hundred fold in his wealth (Gen 26:12–14). 

Despite YHVH’s blessings, Isaac’s labors were not without difficulty and opposition from an enemy who was intent upon stealing the water wells that were rightfully his (Gen 26:12–15). 

In the arid regions of the Holy Land, wells are essential for survival and prosperity. Wells are a spiritual metaphor for salvation, life, abundance and truth—things the enemy is intent on taking from us (in this light, consider Isa 12:3; 55:1–3; Ps 36:9; John 4:7–14; 7:37–39; 10:10). Don’t let the enemy steal from you that which YHVH has given to you.


Dear Natan: Is it a lack of faith in Elohim to have insurance?

Sonja asked a very good question:

Q. Perhaps this is the right spot to ask a question in regard to faith. I have been pondering a lot lately whether it is a lack of faith in the Lord to have a house insurance. It is very expensive and I would love to give it up. But then I wonder whether I would be putting Adonai our Elohim to the test? Is there anywhere in Scripture where God makes a promise in regard to the protection for our homes? What are your thoughts on this issue?

A. Here is my best answer:

I would answer your question by asking a series of questions:

Is it a lack of faith to:

  • carry a spare tire in your car?
  • to carry a first aid kit when you go camping or hiking in the mountains?
  • to wear a life preserver or have lifesaving equipment when on a boat?
  • to have locks on your home and car?
  • to have a fire extinguisher?
  • to wear a seat belt when driving in a car?
  • to take vitamins and supplements when sickness is going around?

I could go on, but you get the point.

I can’t answer your question directly yes or no. Faith is a personal matter, and each person has to make those decisions based on their faith.

Scripture says that we’re not to tempt Elohim by doing stupid or fool-hardy things.

In my view, there is often a fine line between “living by faith” and “tempting YHVH,” which is foolishness. I cannot tell a person where that line is for them. YHVH may be telling a person to do something that another person with less faith may find to be fool-hardy or tempting YHVH. Samson did a lot of things that could have been considered tempting Elohim by some people’s standards, yet YHVH was with him, and his glowing example of obedient faith is recorded in Hebrews 11.

One more thing. If one can afford to have insurance, door locks, seat belts, spare tires, take vitamins and supplements, and so on, then it seems to me that we should do so. If, however, one is in a place where we either can’t afford it, or such it is just not available to us (we’re living way out in jungle or something), then at that point, I know that YHVH will take care of us.


Has He really told you to go up?

Numbers 14:40–45, We … will go up. Here we see the Israelites preparing to go and to possess Canaan in their own strength and against the will of YHVH. Where did this carnally-driven endeavor lead them?

Matthew Henry discusses how this act demonstrates how the carnal mind is enmity against YHVH (Rom 8:7), for when he bade them to go, they would not, and when he forbade the children of Israel from going, that is when they decided to go. They distrusted his strength, and trusted in their own. What was the result of their expedition? Failure!

Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we perish after the same example of their unbelief. Let us go forth, depending on YHVH’s mercy, power, promise and truth. Do you think that the Israelites were rationally aware of what they were doing? We can easily look back in 20/20 hindsight and see the folly of their ways, but let us pray that YHVH gives us the discernment to see when each of us is guilty of the same in our own lives.

From Psalm 37,

Delight yourself also in YHVH, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to YHVH, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.…Rest in YHVH, and wait patiently for Him…The steps of a good man are ordered by YHVH, and He delights in his way.


Are you walking by faith or by sight?

Numbers 13:2, Send forth men, if you please (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash).The implication here is that Elohim gave Moses permission to send out the spies, but left the final decision up to him. This idea is confirmed in Deuteronomy 1:22 where Moses states that the idea to spy out the land came from the Israelites, not from YHVH. By allowing them to do this, it appears that YHVH was deliberately putting them to the test to see if they would trust him when he had already told them that Canaan was a good land and theirs for the taking with his help. Would they walk by faith in his word and promises or would they have to see the actual land before believing YHVH’s word? 

When YHVH gives you a promise, do you have to see it come to pass before believing it, or are you able simply to begin taking steps of faith toward the fulfillment of the promises without actually seeing any tangible evidence of the end goal? What has YHVH promised you and what steps of faith have you taken toward possessing your spiritual “promised inheritance?” (Note the scriptural definition of faith in Heb 11:1.)

YHVH did not choose the twelve spies, the people did; hence, the name of this parashah, “Send for Yourselves.” When people choose their own leaders the failure rate is high­—in this case ten of twelve leaders were faithless duds. Man-inspired and initiated efforts seldom produce lasting spiritual benefits. This effort ended in the faithless leaders shouting down those who had courage and faith. In the spiritual destiny that YHVH has called you to pursue, do you act like Caleb and Joshua or one of the other ten spies? Are you running upward and onward toward your spiritual inheritance, or are you holding back? Are you hearing the voice of YHVH’s Spirit so that you know what your personal spiritual marching orders are? Do you know how to hear his voice? If not, why not? Most of us sometimes act as Joshuas and Calebs and at times like the other ten spies. We tend to be inconsistent in our spiritual walk. What are you doing to become more like Joshua and Caleb?

Eighteenth-century Christian Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, in his comments on this passage, discusses the demerits of the people’s choice to search out the land of Canaan. He then compares the unbelief of the ten carnal spies with the doubt and unbelief in the walk of the believer. He notes that the motion to search out the land appears to have come from the people (see Deut 1:22). They had a better opinion of their own policy than of Elohim’s wisdom. Thus we ruin ourselves, he says, by believing the reports and representations of sense rather than of divine revelation. We walk by sight, not by faith (pp. 130–131, ­Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Moody Press). 

What is “divine revelation?” One does not hear this concept often discussed. What is it and how does a born-again believer receive it? Henry continues, Difficulties that are in the way of salvation dwindle and vanish before a lively, active faith in the power and promise of Elohim. All things are possible, if they are promised, to him that believes, but carnal sense and carnal professors are not to be trusted. Unbelief overlooks the promises and power of Elohim, magnifies every danger and difficulty, and fills the heart with discouragement. May YHVH help us to believe! We shall then find that all things are possible through him who strengthens us (Ibid.)


“Justified By Faith Alone” Vs. “Faith Without Works Is Dead Explained”

James 2:20–24, Faith without works is dead. (See notes at Rom 3:28; 4:2.)James is referring here to the works of faith, not the works of the law. No man can live a good enough life to be saved by his Torah-obedience or the works of the law (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:11). 

At the same time, faith in Elohim is more than just mental ascent—“a knowing in your heart.” It has to be backed up by action (and we’re not talking about the works of the law). For example, when Elohim told Abraham to leave Babylon or to sacrifice Isaac, he obeyed by leaving that country and moving to Canaan. 

Moreover, many were healed in Yeshua’s ministry because they had faith in the Master and backed that faith up with corresponding action, which was the evidence of their faith. This faith-action continuum had nothing to do with Torah-obedience per se, but had everything to do with “putting your money where your mouth is” by backing up your faith or belief with action. 

It is this kind of faith that James is talking about here, and this in no wise contradicts the teachings of Paul who said that no man is justified by the works of the law. When Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works…,” he was correct and not opposed to James. What’s more, Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “For we are [Elohim’s] workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works…that we should walk in them.” These good works (i.e. obedience to the Torah) are the fruits, evidence or proof of our salvation and are the works that back up our faith. 

So, in summary, the Bible teaches that we need the faith (a heart that believes and wants to obey Elohim) to lead us to salvation, as well as the works of faith after we have received Elohim’s free gift of salvation as evidence that we are saved. This fact in no way contravenes the reality of salvation by grace through trusting belief in Yeshua the Messiah, which is apart from the works of the Torah-law.