Revelation 13:8 teaches that Jesus--in the mind of God--was a Lamb that had been slain since the foundation of the Earth. In other words, before Adam was even formed of the dust of the ground, God knew how things would unfold. Sin would enter the world leading to death and the need for redemption via a sufficient atoning sacrifice. Before Adam took his first breath, God knew that Jesus would die on the cross of Calvary!
So, God knew how His plan of redemption would unfold through the ages. There were no accidents and He was not taken by surprise at any point. As we study the Scriptures, it becomes apparent that God has always required the same basic response from mankind: a living, obedient faith. This principle is true at any point historically and that is how God planned it. It was true in the Old Testament and it is true today: "the just shall live by faith" (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:16,17). It has always been the case that "Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
I'd like us to consider five Old Testament characters to illustrate this point. All five of these are mentioned in Hebrews 11 (along with many others). These godly men lived by faith; they didn't walk by sight (cf. II Cor. 5:7). They took God at His word, trusted the divine message, and acted accordingly. In so doing they pleased God, were blessed by His grace, and God accomplished great things through them.
"By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb. 11:7).
Noah lived in an exceedingly wicked world, but he walked with God and was just. Therefore, God was gracious to him (cf. Gen. 6:9). God gave specific instructions for he and his family to be delivered from the deluge God was bringing upon the world. Noah believed God and took action; he obeyed God precisely (cf. Gen. 6:22). He built the ark through faithful obedience and was spared from the destruction. Although Noah wasn't perfect, God accomplished great things through his faith.
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise, for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith, Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude--innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore...By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." (Heb. 11:8-12,17-19).
Abraham is described as a friend of God and a righteous man. He was directed by God to leave his home, and he did. God gave specific instructions along with some long-term promises of blessings. The strongest display of his faith, in my opinion, is the narrative recorded in Genesis 22, where God commands him to sacrifice the son of promise. Abraham makes the three day journey to Moriah and is about to take the life of Isaac when God stops him and provides a ram instead. Abraham knew that God keeps His word and that Isaac needed to be alive to have children. And although he had never witnessed a resurrection, Abraham concluded that God would bring Isaac back from the dead to fulfill His promise! What faith--what amazing trust! Abraham wasn't perfect, but he was accepted by God for his faithful obedience. God accomplished great things through Abraham's faith.
We will consider the living, obedient faith of three more Bible characters in our next lesson.