Faith Tested and Proven (Feb. 1, Monday)

The word for today is “tested.” Today on the “Forefeast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple,” we read Hebrews 11:17-23, 27-31. In this passage, the apostle recalls the faith of those who endured numerous and unspeakable trials “by faith.”  The apostle begins, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son…” (vs. 17).

Consider what faith empowered and inspired the people of God to do: offered up his only son, blessed Esau and Jacob, blessed the sons of Joseph, gave instructions for his burial in the holy land, hid the baby Moses from being slain, left the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace and Egypt and chose to suffer with the people, sprinkled blood on the doorway so that the Angel of Death would Passover their houses, passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, processed around the walls of Jericho so that they fell, and received the Israelite spies into the city.

In all these and the examples to follow, faith is more than a mere belief that something is true.  Faith is the profound trust that is proven by action.  And action makes a bold choice.

The example of Abraham presents the paradigm, the model for the rest.  The Greek word translated tested is also rendered “tempted.”  That does not mean that the Lord enticed Abraham to sin.  Rather, the word means to “search into.” It refers to the test of a person’s character, his inner disposition, the distinctive qualities that he is “made of “ (Strong’s #3985, 196).  Because Abraham did not hesitate to obey the Lord’s terrible command, he became the model of faith for all time. His “temptation” revealed that at the core of his being was his firm conviction of the faithfulness of God and the undaunted trust in the promise of the Almighty.

From the point of view of this paradigm, all of the faithful’s actions in our reading involved a heroic choice.  That choice proved what was in the heart of hearts of those who made it.   For example, the apostle explicitly says, “By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God “ (vs. 24-25).

About the outcome of these faithful choices, the apostle summarizes, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise” (vs. 11).  The Greek for word “testimony” is the verb of the noun “martyr” and has the basic sense of bearing witness (Strong’s #3140, 156-57).  The heroes of the Old Testament gave a good witness “through” that is, “by means of,” their faith.  Faith was proved to be the innermost and foremost character that describes all of the men and women of our reading.

For Reflection:  tomorrow, we celebrate the Feast of the “Meeting of the Lord in the Temple.”  On the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth, both mother and child entered the temple for purification and dedication to the Lord.  Though it was not necessary, the proper sacrifice was made according to the Law of Moses.  The central characters of this story are the aged Simeon and Anna, who are representatives of the whole People of Israel.  They embodied the faith of all those who endured years of trial while waiting in faith for the coming of the Messiah..  In them, the persistent faith of the People of God was fulfilled as they “met” the Savior and held him in their arms. At this moment, the  Old and New Testaments met together and the Old gave way to the New.

All that we have read today is on the overarching scale of sacred history.  But our thoughts may be applied to the trials and tribulations of our lives. Times of duress like these prove our character just as surely as the heroes that we read about today were tested.  May the challenges that we face today also prove that our innermost character is unwavering faith, faith that actively chooses the ways of the God of promise.

Consider what faith empowered and inspired the people of God to do: offered up his only son, blessed Esau and Jacob, blessed the sons of Joseph, gave instructions for his burial in the holy land, hid the baby Moses from being slain, left the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace and Egypt and chose to suffer with the people, sprinkled blood on the doorway so that the Angel of Death would Passover their houses, passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, processed around the walls of Jericho so that they fell, and received the Israelite spies into the city.

In all these and the examples to follow, faith is more than a mere belief that something is true.  Faith is the profound trust that is proven by action.  And action makes a bold choice.

The example of Abraham presents the paradigm, the model for the rest.  The Greek word translated tested is also rendered “tempted.”  That does not mean that the Lord enticed Abraham to sin.  Rather, the word means to “search into.” It refers to the test of a person’s character, his inner disposition, the distinctive qualities that he is “made of “ (Strong’s #3985, 196).  Because Abraham did not hesitate to obey the Lord’s terrible command, he became the model of faith for all time. His “temptation” revealed that at the core of his being was his firm conviction of the faithfulness of God and the undaunted trust in the promise of the Almighty.

From the point of view of this paradigm, all of the faithful’s actions in our reading involved a heroic choice.  That choice proved what was in the heart of hearts of those who made it.   For example, the apostle explicitly says, “By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God “ (vs. 24-25).

About the outcome of these faithful choices, the apostle summarizes, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise” (vs. 11).  The Greek for word “testimony” is the verb of the noun “martyr” and has the basic sense of bearing witness (Strong’s #3140, 156-57).  The heroes of the Old Testament gave a good witness “through” that is, “by means of,” their faith.  Faith was proved to be the innermost and foremost character that describes all of the men and women of our reading.

For Reflection:  tomorrow, we celebrate the Feast of the “Meeting of the Lord in the Temple.”  On the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth, both mother and child entered the temple for purification and dedication to the Lord.  Though it was not necessary, the proper sacrifice was made according to the Law of Moses.  The central characters of this story are the aged Simeon and Anna, who are representatives of the whole People of Israel.  They embodied the faith of all those who endured years of trial while waiting in faith for the coming of the Messiah..  In them, the persistent faith of the People of God was fulfilled as they “met” the Savior and held him in their arms. At this moment, the  Old and New Testaments met together and the Old gave way to the New.

All that we have read today is on the overarching scale of sacred history.  But our thoughts may be applied to the trials and tribulations of our lives. Times of duress like these prove our character just as surely as the heroes that we read about today were tested.  May the challenges that we face today also prove that our innermost character is unwavering faith, faith that actively chooses the ways of the God of promise.

 

 

 

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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