************ Sermon on Genesis 25:1-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 23, 2013
"Standing on the Promises"
Genesis 24 is to be seen as Abraham's last will and testament. Abraham was old (Gen 24:1). He made his servant swear an oath to find a godly wife for Isaac his son (Gen 24:2-4). He announced that Isaac must not leave the Promised Land (Gen 24:6). He put everything he owned in the hands of Isaac (Gen 24:36; 25:5). He witnessed the marriage ceremony of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 24:67). An old Abraham, it is clear, was wisely getting ready for death – even though he lived another 35 years. He was engaging in the Ancient World's version of estate planning.
Unlike us, Abraham did not have to deal with estate taxes, lawyers, revocable trusts, living wills, power of attorney for health care, and DNR forms. Yet, he still got everything ready for his death.
Of course, there is more to getting ready for death than estate planning. The most important element is to be right with the Lord, to trust in the Lord, to have faith in the Lord and His promises. The gracious God Who called Abraham and directed Abraham kept pursuing and directing Abraham until Abraham finally surrendered his heart and his life to God's control. Our gracious God kept pursuing and directing Abraham until Abraham finally made the great confession of Genesis 22 that "The Lord will provide" (Gen 22:14).
I want to tell you, congregation, that you also need to get ready for death, that you also need to make wise decisions about your impending death before it is absolutely necessary. And, as with Abraham, the most important element to getting ready for death is a right relationship with the Lord. So, let me ask:
-Are you right with the Lord?
-Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
-Have you repented of your sins and received forgiveness because of Christ's atoning sacrifice?
-Do you have faith in God and His promises?
No amount of estate planning will do you any good unless your relationship with the Lord is right.
As I said, Genesis 24 is to be seen as Abraham's last will and testament. Yet, the main point of our Bible reading from Genesis 25 is not to tell us about Abraham's death; rather, it is to tell us about God's faithfulness in keeping His promises.
The children of Israel needed to hear this. Don't forget, they are the original audience Moses has in mind as he writes Genesis. They were on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Their journey was marked with unbelief, doubt, questions, fear, and a yearning to go back to Egypt – even when they were at the border of Canaan. So, Moses is telling them to have faith and keep faith in God and His promises. And, Moses is challenging them to keep the faith as a testimony to future generations. Because God is always faithful. Because God always keeps His promises.
I The Promise of Many Descendants
A Moses records Abraham's death in Genesis 25. Yet before Abraham dies, we read Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah (Gen 25:1). The genealogy of 1 Chronicles informs us that Keturah was Abraham's concubine (1 Chron 1:32). If she was still alive when Abraham died, then their marriage lasted at least 35 years.
What follows is a list of sons born to Abraham and Keturah. Midian is the most significant of these sons (Gen 25:2) as his descendants later play an important role in the life of Moses (Ex 2:11-22; 18) and Israel (Num 22; 31; Judges 6-8).
Our Bible reading ends with a list of the twelve sons of Ishmael.
B What is the point of these lists? God promised Abraham many descendants. Many times He promised Abraham many descendants:
(Gen 13:16) I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.
(Gen 15:5) He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
(Gen 17:2) I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.
(Gen 22:17) I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
God also promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations:
(Gen 17:4-6) As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. (5) No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. (6) I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
So, what do we see in Genesis 25? We see the fulfillment of God's promises. The promise of many descendants was fulfilled through Isaac, Ishmael, and the sons of Keturah. As promised, nations and kings came from Abraham.
C In this great list of descendants, nations, and kings we see that Isaac occupies a special place.
First of all, Isaac is the child of the promise. So, to Isaac goes the covenant promises of land and blessing to all peoples on earth and the seed of the woman who crushes the offspring of Satan.
Second, we see Isaac is set apart from the rest of Abraham's children. Abraham is merely continuing something that he started earlier.
Let's backtrack for a moment and take a look at Abraham. The Lord called Abraham to live a life apart. Therefore he had to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and later Nahor and Haran. Abraham was called to live a life apart from all the other people, who were sinking away in idolatry. He and his descendants were to live a wholly different life.
With this in mind, Abraham commanded a wife for Isaac who was not one of the daughters of the Canaanites (Gen 24:3). And, in our passage Abraham gives gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east (Gen 25:6).
Third, we notice it is Isaac who gets the lion's share of Abraham's wealth. "Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac" (Gen 25:5). We notice there no longer is any confusion in Abraham's mind about God's promise. Abraham doesn't hedge his bets, like he has in the past, giving an inheritance to several of his children, in case one should die or abandon the faith. He trusts God Who said, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned" (Gen 21:12). We see an elderly Abraham having faith in God and His promises.
D God promised Abraham many descendants. This promise continues to be fulfilled even in our day. The New Testament informs us that everyone who believes in Jesus is a child of Abraham (Gal 3:7).
Meaning what for you and me? Abraham's children are Abraham's heirs. Therefore, we are heirs of the covenant promises God made to Abraham. The promise of an everlasting covenant relationship with God is ours in Abraham. The promise of the victory of the seed of the woman over the offspring of the serpent is ours so we can look forward to victory over sin and death and Satan.
E God promised Abraham many descendants. How big is the number? Do you remember what John saw?
(Rev 7:9) After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.A great multitude. A multitude beyond counting. A multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language. Everyone of them a child of Abraham.
So, what do we see? We see in Abraham's numerous seed that God is always faithful. We see that God always keeps His promises.
II The Promise of Dying Well
A Abraham lived a long and full life, and then the time came for him to depart. No one is indispensable to God's plan, not even Abraham. His son would take his place in God's plan, to be blessed by God and to be a blessing to the nations (Gen 25:11). Here, then, is the account of Abraham's death:
(Gen 25:7-8) Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. (8) Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.
B Our culture is obsessed with youth. Most TV programs and advertisements are geared toward youth. In response, we see 50 and 60 year old people doing their best to deny age with tummy tucks, botox, face-lifts, personal trainers, special diets, and so on. In our culture it is considered a curse to be old. But in the Bible, old age is considered a blessing for the righteous, not a curse (Prov 16:31). We know that others lived longer lives, but Abraham is the first man in the Bible explicitly said to reach "old age, and this is called a "good" thing.
How do you view old age? As a curse or as a blessing? The people of the world think it is a curse. The righteous, however, know better. For they have the benefit of seeing many instances of God's good work in this world. They have also seen His forgiveness time and again, and can wisely advise others. If you have reached old age, know that this is something "good" from the Lord.
C We also see that Abraham's funeral was marked by peace.
First, both sons were at peace with father Abraham. Even Ishmael, who had been sent away by Abraham, was at peace with his father. How do I know? Because he helped Isaac bury Abraham. This is not something quick and simple we are talking about. There were all sorts of preparations – of the body, the grave, the service. Not something done by a hateful child. Not something Isaac would have allowed Ishmael, his tormenter and persecutor, to do if Ishmael did not love Abraham.
Second, Abraham's sons Isaac and Ishmael buried their differences at least long enough to bury their father together. The rest of their lives would be marked by the hostility prophesied by the angel of the Lord. Remember what the angel said to Hagar about her son?
(Gen 16:12) He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.Now, look at what the last verse of our Bible reading says about Ishmael and his sons: "And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers" (Gen 25:18). Yet, at Abraham's funeral, at least, there was peace.
Will your funeral be marked with peace or enmity? Think about what you can do and say to promote peace among your loved ones. Do you need to forgive or be forgiven? Have you pursued reconciliation with those who are estranged from you?
D When the righteous die of old age and when they die in peace they are said to die well. Many years before, God promised that Abraham would die well:
(Gen 15:15) You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.When Abraham died, he died an old man, at peace with God and man, and ready to depart this earth.
So what do we see? Again, we see that God is faithful. God keeps His promises.
III The Promise of the Land
A Did you notice where Abraham is buried? Not just any old place. Not the nearest cemetery.
(Gen 25:9) His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite ...
Do you remember what is significant about this cave and field? Abraham bought the field and its cave from the Hittites (Gen 23). There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.
Remember God's promise to give the land to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 13:14f; 17:8)? Well, when he died how much of the land belonged to Abraham? One little grave! At the time of his death Abraham owned no more of the Promised Land than he needed for his burial. Abraham had to die in faith, not yet having received the fullness of the promise.
Abraham's faith stood as a challenge to the Israelites under Moses, as they were about to enter the Promised Land. Like Abraham, they were being called to possess the land by faith.
The field and its cave, do you know what they were? They were a deposit, a down-payment, on God's promise. They were a kind of guarantee, on God's part, of more to come.
B Did you know that we, as Christians, also have a deposit, a guarantee of more to come? Our deposit is the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:14; Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5). Even the fullness of the Spirit that we have received is a simply a down payment on what we will one day receive. Like Abraham, we too must live by faith and die by faith, trusting in the promises of God that He Who began a good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus (cf Phil 1:6).
C Did you know that Israel never fully occupied the land? They never drove out all the heathen. Their enemies continually threatened. Telling us what? Telling us there was more to God's promise than the possession of a geographical area. Abraham, we are told in Hebrews, "was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10).
We, too, look forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. But as we wait we know our God is faithful. As we wait we know our God keeps His promises.
Our God is the God of promises. There are at least five thousand promises in the Bible and He keeps and remembers every single one of them. As the song puts it, we need to be standing on the promises.
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