“So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.”
Romans 4:16-17 NLT
At the time when Abraham ”… believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6), God had just made the statement that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the number of stars. But Paul pointed out that “Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing”. At this point, Isaac had not even been born – that didn’t happen until Genesis 21. But Abraham continued to believe God that He would supply him a family that would be too numerous to count.
Do we pilgrims believe that God resurrects the dead? There are of course several Biblical examples. Take Lazarus for example. We read in John 1139-43, the incredible account of his resurrection, ““Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”” Every time I read this passage I’m struck by its authenticity. All Martha could think about was that there would be the bad smell of a decaying corpse, which would have not taken too long in that warm climate. But Jesus had His eyes on His Father in Heaven, to God who was the Source of the power Jesus needed.
But what about bringing the dead back to life today, on 21st Century Planet Earth? There are many Christians today who claim that such miracles died out with the original Apostles. But we mustn’t forget that every time a medic resuscitates a person who has suffered a cardiac arrest, we experience an intervention that would have been miraculous in first century society. However, Jesus gave His disciples an instruction, which we can read from Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” The God I worship is all powerful, and is able to perform miraculous acts both through His people and directly. But the reality is that bringing the dead back to life is an unusual event. There is a book “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” authored by Craig Keener, that sets out an in depth account of miracles throughout the world since Bible days. Worth a read. But if God performed miracles in Biblical accounts, I fail to understand why He would suddenly stop. In the end, perhaps if we all had faith like Abraham’s, miracles would become commonplace. Paul believed that God could raise the dead, so why shouldn’t we believe that as well?
We pilgrims march through life without really knowing all that much about how things will work out each day and how our lives will end on this earth. But we do have a God who leads and guides us on our journey. And the closer we stay with Him, the more light we will receive to illuminate our paths. We are living in a time of much change. But God never changes. And having “faith like Abraham’s” will take us into incredible places, so be prepared! We’ll finish today with Psalm 71:3. David said to God, “Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for You are my Rock and my Fortress”.
Father God. You’re an amazing God, full of love, grace and good gifts. We worship You today. Amen.