February 27, 2011
We’re studying through the book of Genesis and we’re learning about God’s work in the life of Abraham. God God’s done a lot for him: He called him from Ur, He saw him through a famine, He gave him the victory in a major battle, He rescued his wife from Pharaoh and then again from Abimelech, He delivered a son to him in his old age, He provided a ram to die in the place of his son on Mount Moriah, and then He secured the first part of the Promised Land from the sons of Heth.
Last week we saw how He provided a wife for Isaac in a miraculous way. But Abraham’s life is now coming to an end. In chapter 25 we’ll read of his death and burial, and I guess in most storybooks that would be a good place to put “The End.” But this isn’t a regular storybook, and Abraham isn’t the main character.
After him we read about his son Isaac. But Isaac eventually dies too and we read about his son Jacob. But Jacob dies too and we read about his son Joseph. Fast forward a little and we get to the story of Moses and then Joshua and then the judges of Israel and then the kings of Israel and then the prophets. 400 years go by without another chapter in the story, but then the Christ is born. That’s sort of the apex of the story, but it’s not the only one. The Christ grows and dies, but He’s raised again with power over sin and death. He ascends back to heaven with the promise to return.
Then we read the story of the early church and we read a lot of the doctrine from the apostles. Finally, in the closing prophecy (Revelation) we see how God will fulfill His promise to Adam and Abraham and to all of us who are His when He judges the whole earth and makes all things new.
You see? The whole story ties together beautifully, and God is the main focus. But He does a lot of His work through men, and today we’ll see how he finishes His work with Abraham before giving him rest, and then how he begins to work in Isaac and Jacob.
Let’s start in verse one:
Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 2And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. 3And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 4And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
Now I know the genealogies can be intimidating and maybe even boring, but they’re here for a reason. Abraham and Keturah had 6 kids and we’re told of 7 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
You might be wondering why it’s important, and I’ll refer you back to Genesis 17:5-6. God says, “Thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.”
These children (along with Ishmael and Isaac) are a fulfillment of the promise. God is making Abraham the father of many nations.
5And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 6But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
The rule was that the eldest son got a double portion of the father’s estate and the rest of the children got an equal share of everything else. But “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” means that no other sibling is considered an heir at all, so Isaac gets everything. The rest of the children are given gifts (not an inheritance) and they’re sent away to live out of the Promised Land.
7And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.
8Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
It’s sad to see someone like Abraham die, but the curse brought on by Adam affects us all. Anyway, Abraham’s life was hard at times, but very blessed in others. He lived to a good old age, and then he was gathered to his people.
9And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 10The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
And now the focus changes:
11And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.
So Isaac is also blessed by God, and we’ll get to his life more in the next chapter, but first we’re going to read about Ishmael and Jacob and Esau:
12Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham: 13And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, 14And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, 15Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:
His lineage is mentioned first because he was the firstborn. This makes the fact that he’s not included in the Abrahamic promise all the more significant.
16These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.
You’ll remember back in Genesis 17:20 that God promise Ishmael will be the father of “12 Princes.” Here we see that promise fulfilled.
17And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. 18And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.
And so, he died and was buried.
19And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac: 20And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. 21And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus?
“Why is this happening to me?”
And she went to enquire of the LORD. 23And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels;
“You’re going to give birth to twins who will each become a nation.”
and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
That is, God declared beforehand that the Edomites will serve the Israelites. The sons of Esau will serve the sons of Jacob.
24And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
Just as the Lord had said.
25And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 26And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. 27And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
So they grow up to be very different men. Esau is a rugged outdoorsman, a hunter who camps in the fields and brings home the meat. Jacob is more of a farmer who lives in a tent.
This word for plain means “perfect” and “upright.” Other translations say that he was peaceful.
28And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
So we see there’s a little sibling rivalry. Isaac loves meat, so he favors Esau. But Rebekah favors Jacob, and this sets us up for what’s about to happen:
29And Jacob sod pottage:
That is, he prepared soup…
and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
He’s been out in the field for a while, and when he comes back he’s famished.
30And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
Edom means “red.” His whole legacy boils down to a bowl of soup.
31And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
The birthright was an important part of their culture, and it was automatically given to the firstborn. He gets a double-portion of the inheritance, and he’s considered the “head-of-household.” He would have been the one to take care of his widowed mother and his sisters until they married.
It was a very important privilege, and Jacob wants it.
32And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
What good will possessions and honor do me if I starve to death?
33And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Well, it was the deal of the century for Jacob. A little bread with a little soup and he’s just increased his inheritance by 33%. Not only that, but now he’s considered the head-of-household, and he (legally speaking) has authority over his brother once Isaac dies.
But for Esau it was despicable; he traded it all for one lousy bowl of soup. He didn’t think so at the time because he didn’t hold the birthright in high regard.
But God thought something of it: In the book of Hebrews we’re told to
[Look diligently] lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears (Heb. 12:15-16).
He cared nothing for the birthright until it was too late, and then nothing could be done.
What can we learn from this story?
#1- God fulfills His promises all the way. Abraham got everything God promised him. He wasn’t the father of two nations—he was the father of many nations.
Likewise, every promise He’s made to us will be completed 100%. He won’t leave anything out or undone. He’s promised we’re justified and made righteous—that won’t change. He’s promised we’ll be conformed to Christ’s image and that we’ll be glorified. He’s promised that He’ll see us safely through to heaven.
Not one of His promises will fail!
#2- God’s hand is at work throughout history accomplishing His desire. Everything that God wanted to happen with Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau happened.
He is the God who opens doors that no one can shut and shuts doors no one can open.
Whatever you’re experiencing right now, you can do it in joy knowing that the sovereign God of heaven fulfills His promise that all things work together for our good and that He’ll see us through to the other side.
My prayer for you is that you’ll be filled with boldness and joy and faith and knowledge.