The Death of Abraham (Genesis pt. 42)
Text: Genesis 25:1-11
By: Ken McKinley
Well our look into the life of Abraham is about to come to an end. We’ve followed him as he has learned to walk with God. We’ve seen his faith falter, and we’ve seen his faith grow. Last week the focus of Genesis began to shift from Abraham to Isaac, and as we start in our text this morning, we’ll see that Abraham is still alive, but these 11 verses are more like a wrap up, than they are the biography of the last years of a great man’s life. Some secular historians would say that this is a weakness in the Bible’s historical account. Because after all; in a historical sense, we tend to see the twilight years of a persons life as of great importance, because usually they reflect on all the lessons of life they’ve learned and are able to pass on their wisdom through their last words and deeds. But in a theological sense, it makes it a little easier to understand why Moses wouldn’t focus in on Abraham’s last years and pinpoint specifics… Because it’s never really been about Abraham. It’s about the God who sustained Abraham, and the God who has blessed Abraham, and the God who has entered into covenant with Abraham.
Abraham is at best a supporting character in this unfolding drama. The main character has been and always will be God Himself. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
So if you’ll take your Bible’s and open them up to Genesis 25:1-11, we’ll see Abraham’s curtain call, if you will (Read Text).
You know… for a long time, the Israelites would tell this story to their children. It was an oral tradition. And I can imagine being a Hebrew child, listening to this story, wondering what’s going to happen now. You know… Abraham has died; is God going to keep His covenant with Isaac now? How’s that going to work exactly? What’s going to happen to Isaac? God had shown Abraham grace and He was faithful to His promises, even when Abraham was unfaithful, is He going to do the same with Isaac?
Well before we get to any of that, we’ve got to wrap up the last act.
In verses 1 – 4 we are told that Abraham actually remarries after Sarah had died; and he has several other children. That’s a more complete fulfillment of the “Father of Nation’s” promise that God had given to Abraham way back in chapter 15. In-fact, one of his sons is Midian, and later on the Midianites will play a role in Israel’s return to the Promised Land.
When we get to verses 5 & 6 we see something even more important in this passage. Abraham gives all he has to Isaac. Now that doesn’t mean that none of Abraham’s other children got anything, because we’re told in these same verses… verse six, that he gave gifts to his other sons… but Isaac… Isaac is the promised son, so Isaac gets the majority of Abraham’s possessions. He gets the birthright. And he gets the land. And if you wanted to, you could look at this and see God’s grace here. Isaac was no more deserving of any of those things than Abraham’s other children. He was no more deserving than say Ishmael, or the children of Keturah, but he gets those things because he was chosen by God. And that is a pretty good picture of God’s special saving grace and what we call God’s common grace.
What I mean by that is: For us as Christians we receive the promises of God because He has had special saving grace upon us, an because we are in Christ, we are in covenant with God, and all the promises of God in Christ are yes and amen! So because we’re in Christ we are forgiven, we are saved, we are justified, we are being sanctified, we will be glorified, we are declared righteous before God, we are a new creation… Those who aren’t in Christ can’t claim any of those things. And yet God still shows them grace. It’s what we call common grace. That doesn’t mean that anything God does is common, especially grace… what it means is that God allows them to continue to exist. He allows them to experience good things while they are living on this earth. God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. You see; God would be perfectly within His rights to not provide unbelievers with any good thing, but He shows them mercy and goodness despite the fact that they are in complete and utter rebellion against Him.
Never let anyone tell you that God is not good!
And so we see a picture of this right here in our text. Isaac is the promised son. He’s the one who is in covenant so he gets the blessings, but the others are not entirely forgotten. They are given gifts and provided for. And then Abraham sends them away, so that they won’t be fighting over the land after he dies. It belongs to Isaac. And this wasn’t Abraham spoiling his son… If Abraham would’ve had his way, we already read that he would’ve given it to Ishmael… But God has sovereignly declared that Isaac was the one who was promised, and it was Isaac who would inherit the covenant blessings. And the only reason Isaac is the one who is to inherit the covenant blessings is because God has chosen him to be the one. Isaac didn’t do anything to deserve it. When God made the promise to Abraham, Isaac hadn’t even been born. Remember? Abraham was asking God to allow the promises to go to Ishmael, and God said, “Nope! It’s not going to work that way Abraham.”
And I want you to understand that God didn’t chose Isaac because he was a better man than Ishmael… we really see that when we get to Jacob and Esau. God didn’t choose them because of some foreseen faith. He chose them because it was His will to do so.
We’ve actually been looking at this in discipleship class. Turn with me to Romans chapter 8:28-30 (Read). You see; verse 29 says that God knew us before time began. And you notice it’s not “what” God knew, it’s “who” He knew. So God does not choose us based on something in us. His choice is based on His knowing us in Christ before time even began. And because He knows us in Christ, He loves us.
Like I said awhile ago… this was never about Abraham. It’s not about Isaac or Jacob either. It’s about God.
In verses 7 – 11 we’re told about Abraham’s death and burial. In verse 8 it says, “Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years…” But in the literal Hebrew it reads something like this, “Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age. Very old and full of fullness…” Today we would say that Abraham died an old man, but he was satisfied and content. And that has more to do with his mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being than it does with his physical or material well-being. His physical well-being was bad… he died.
The point here is that Abraham’s relationship with God resulted in a content life. It resulted in a satisfied life. The length of his life wasn’t what caused this. It was his walk with the Lord.
John Calvin put it this way; he said, “Abraham died at a good old age, in a good conscience and with peace of mind.” He went on to say this, “We see how many in our own day are in bondage to the desire of life; yet nearly the whole world languishes between – on the one hand, a weariness of the present life, and, on the other hand, an inexplicable desire for its continuance. The contentment with life, therefore, which will cause us to be ready to leave live, is a favor from God.”
In-other-words; your relationship and fellowship with the Lord will directly affect your level of contentment. It wasn’t that Abraham lived for 175 years that made him satisfied. It wasn’t that he was wealthy. It was that he knew God; he didn’t just know “about” God, he knew God. Abraham could’ve just as easily written Romans 8:28 instead of the Apostle Paul, because Abraham had seen it happen in his own life. And I’m sure we all know people; regardless of their age, who are full of bitterness, or they’re dissatisfied with life, and what they have. While on the other hand we might know people who have had hard lives, and have very little to show for it, and yet they are happy and content and satisfied. They have a kind of peace and joy about them, no matter what’s going on around them. That’s what Moses meant when he wrote that Abraham was “full.” He understood our fighter verse this morning. He understood that when you delight yourself in the Lord and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then you can do as you will. Because when you’re doing those things, sin is the farthest thing from your mind, and the joy of the Lord is your strength!
Not too long ago, I was reading a story about a Christian man in the Sudan. He had recently gotten married and one Sunday morning, he and his new wife were going to church when they were attacked by Muslim soldiers. They killed his wife right in front of him and threw him into prison. After his release, someone asked him how he felt about what had happened and he said, “I am thankful that God allowed me to be a husband for 2 months and that I was able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ for two years with other prisoners.” Now this guy had gone through something that could’ve made him bitter, or hateful, but he was a believer, and that makes all the difference. Yes he was remorseful about what had happened, but he also understood that his wife, who was also a Christian, was where we all want to be, and he would see her again someday, and that by sharing the Gospel with his fellow prisoners, he might even bring others with him. That’s what the last part of verse 8 in our text is actually saying. Abraham was gathered to his people. What people? Sarah? Not just Sarah. Death gathers us to our people. Whether our people are the seed of the serpent or the Seed of the woman. Everybody understand what I’m saying here? If you are in Christ, when you die, you’ll be gathered together with other Christians. If you’re not, then you’ll be gathered together with others who weren’t. Abraham’s body was buried with Sarah’s body, but his spirit was gathered with his people.
And you notice that it’s both Isaac and Ishmael who bury their dad, but in verse 11 we’re told that God blessed Isaac. That’s Moses’ way of saying that God continued the covenant with Isaac. God continued giving grace to Isaac. So again we see God’s faithfulness and His commitment to bring about our Salvation.
So let’s go to the Lord in prayer this morning with a thankful heart because He is eternally faithful, and in spite of ourselves, He is sovereign and good.