The Father of Faith threw his wife under the bus. Twice.

In Lutheran churches, on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas, an Advent candle is lit. The four candles have names: hope, love, joy, and peace[1]. But where is the Candle of Faith, I wonder? What is faith, I ask?

Hebrews 11:1 comes to mind, and it reads:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I’m sure that verse means a lot to many people but honestly, I struggle with that verse. The perplexing questions for me are,

“What exactly am I supposed to be hoping for?”.

“What exactly am I supposed to be sure of, if I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be hoping for?”

“But if I don’t even know what It’s and cannot see it, what am I to be certain of?

Of course, I can hope for a new Lamborghini or hope to be super rich in the near future. But I think it would be preposterous to even suggest that by faith I will certainly receive those things. Let’s get real, it isn’t going to happen, no matter how hard I wish for it. So what exactly is faith?

As I read the rest of Hebrews 11, I’m struck by the description of the Father of Faith – Father Abraham. Verse 8 reads:

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going….”

I’m comforted by knowing that even Abraham didn’t know where he was going. For me, many times in my life (and even now) I didn’t know where I was going, or what was going to happen in the future. I’ve reached crossroads in life before which required decisions. Some decisions were small, but some decisions have been pivotal in my life. On hindsight, if I had taken some other way, my life would’ve turned out very differently. Faith does not require me to know where I’m going. In fact, it’s precisely when I don’t know where I’m going, that I need faith the most.

Sometimes I wish I was like Abraham – to be able to hear from God. The fact is, I don’t hear any audible voice nor receive any divine instructions in writing. God actually spoke to Abraham and appeared to Abraham at least 6 times from Genesis 12 – 17. Basically, He told Abraham that he was to go to the Promised Land which is in Canaan and God was going to give this land to Abraham’s offspring, his descendants[2].

Yet despite all these direct confirmations from God, Abraham had his doubts. In Chapter 12:10 -19 we read that Abraham actually left Canaan (the Promised Land) and went down to Egypt. And in Egypt, in order to save his own skin, Abraham made a dishonourable decision by colluding with Sarai (his wife) and misrepresenting to Pharaoh that Sarai[3] was his sister and not his wife. He was willing to sacrifice the promise of him being the progenitor of children (offspring/descendants) by selling out his wife to Pharaoh.

Then later there was a similar incident in Gerar. Just prior to Gerar, God had explicitly confirmed twice that the blessing of offspring will come through Sarah and Sarah will bear a son by Abraham.[4] Abraham again loses it in Gerar when he again throws Sarah under the bus by misrepresenting to Abimelech the King of Gerar that Sarah was only his sister and not his wife. This is history repeating itself.[5]

Despite all his doubts and failings, Abraham finally understood the faithfulness of God when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac in Moriah just because God said so. Over time and with experience, Abraham learnt to handle doubt in faith, learned to trust God and to obey Him completely and thus earn for himself the title of Father of Faith. In a nutshell, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness[6]. That is the essence of faith – just believing God.

The description of Enoch’s faith in Hebrews 11:5-6, resonates with me. It reads:

“… he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith It is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

In short, for me, faith just requires me to (1) believe that God exists (2) earnestly seek Him. He will hold His end of the bargain and we just have to hold Him to His word. Faith doesn’t mean that I have no doubts. Faith doesn’t require certainty. Faith doesn’t require me to know all the answers. Paul Tillich famously said, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, It’s an element of faith.” [7]

What does all of this have to do with the missing Candle of Faith? I surmise as an allegory, that it requires faith on our part to strike the match to light the candles. Just a small match to ignite a small flame. This flame of faith lights Hope, a Hope for the future[8]; faith lights Love, that we experience the Love of God[9]; faith lights joy, the Joy of the Lord that is our strength[10]; faith lights Peace, the Peace that transcends all understanding[11]. The candles of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace flicker (sometimes unsteadily) yet no matter how small the light is, darkness cannot overcome it[12]. Sometimes when we are in doubt, weak and afraid, it appears that the light is snuffed out, but Our Father is faithful, and He will light our candles with His light of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace again[13].

Why is the final 5th candle the Candle of Christ and not the Candle of Faith? I can only presume that when we pass from this life to the afterlife, faith will come to its full fruition when we will see Him face to face. Then perhaps then earthly faith isn’t necessary anymore.

[1] Some denomination have 5 candles. Some other Christians may have 4 candles but one is named faith (replacing love).

[2] Gen 12: 1 – 2 God said “I will make you into a great nation…”, 12:7 The Lord appeared and said “To your offspring, I will give this land.” 13:15-16 The Lord said “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth…” , 13:17 God said “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”, 15:4 – 5, 17:1-3, 15 – 19

[3] Sarah was previously known as Sarai. Her named changed to Sarah in Gen 17:15

[4] Gen 17:15 and 19, Gen 18:10

[5] Gen20

[6] Gen 15:6; Romans 4:3

[7] Faith is not the absence of doubt – The State Journal Register; Faith & Doubt (what you need to know about doubting God) Jeffrey Curtis Poor –; On the necessity of Doubt – Mark Schaefer – the certainty of uncertainty

[8] Jeremiah 29:11. Faith breeds hope – McLaren’s Exposition 1 Cor 13:8

[9] 1 John 4:16

[10] Nehemiah 8:10

[11] Phil 4:6-7

[12] John 1:5

[13] 2 Tim 2:13 If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

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