Live Faithfully To The End, For The Lord Will Be Faithful To You (Genesis 25:1-18)
The Book of Genesis, in form and structure, is a genealogy. But it’s a genealogy the way that Southerner’s might tell a genealogy. The lineage is given, but the important stories concerning the lineage are told. We are not just being told the family tree. We are being told the story of God’s people, with great concern given to the promised seed from Adam to the death of Joseph.
So, there is a pattern that you may have noticed to the Book of Genesis. The genealogy has chapters in it. We begin with the creation of the world and that becomes the genealogy of Adam. The important stories of Adam and his children are covered and there is a genealogy of Adam to Noah (Genesis 5). The Adam chapter gives way to the Noah chapter. Then the stories of Noah and his family are told and then we read of Noah’s descendants, who they were, where they went, and the nations they began. And then there is a closer discussion of Shem’s descendants, whose father was Noah, because through this lineage Abram would come. And so, since Genesis 12, we have been in the Abraham chapter of this genealogy and today we will close that chapter in Genesis 25:1-18.
Where did Keturah come from?
She seems to come from out of nowhere, doesn’t she?
Well, the story of Keturah seems to come from out of nowhere because she doesn’t exactly fit the story that was being told about the promise. Any discussion of Keturah would have interrupted the flow of the story. But that also means that we don’t exactly know when Abraham married Keturah or really anything at all about her.
Most commentators throughout history have understood that Keturah married Abraham while Sarah was alive. Abraham was 10 years older than Sara (Genesis 17:17). So, he was 137 years old when Sarah passed away at 127 (Genesis 23:1). That would leave Abraham 38 years to have all these children with Keturah, which is enough time but would he have had the ability at that age to have children? Maybe so. But, there are three things that cause commentators to believe that this is not written chronologically.
The first and most obvious was discussed last week. When Abraham’s most trusted servant returns with Rebekah, he calls Isaac his master (Genesis 24:65). That would be odd if Abraham were still alive.
The second is that Keturah’s children are not treated as full children. They are treated as the children of concubines. In fact, she seems to be called a concubine in our story today (Genesis 25:6).
The third is that Abraham sent these sons out to seek their own independence while he was alive. That really makes the timeline very difficult to reconcile. This sort of thing normally happened when a child was much older.
These three things lead most modern commentators to say that Keturah was a concubine who married Abraham sometime before Sarah’s death. Many older commentators believed the same things. In fact, the notes to the Bible that was used by the Pilgrim’s that landed in America, “The Geneva Bible” stated that Sarah was still alive when Abraham took this wife, or concubine.
While I grant that it may be the case that this is chronological, I believe that Keturah was probably married to Abraham before Sarah had passed away. Regardless of the timing, Keturah was treated as a lesser wife, or concubine and her children were treated as such in this narrative. Therefore, if you think I’m wrong then it doesn’t really change anything about the text.
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This passage concerning the death of Abraham leads us to contemplate our own lives. It leads us to think through the life of Abraham and to consider our own lives. We can get caught up in all sorts of things in this life. Our attention and priorities can get all out of whack. But when we look at the life of Abraham we see that we need to live faithfully to the end, for the Lord will be faithful to you.
Live faithfully to the end, for the Lord will be faithful to you.
Live A Life Of Faith (Genesis 12:7)
I will jump around a bit in our text today and begin with verse 7.
We find out here that a full 100 years of Abraham’s 175 year life were spent wandering in a land that was not his own because he believed God’s promises. He was 75 years old when God called him to the wilderness (Genesis 12:4). Some of us whine every time we stub our toe. Abraham was called to wander for 100 years and did so because he believed the many promises that God gave to him. And because of this, Abraham is held forth as a hero of the faith. Let us once again look at what is said of Abraham in the Hall of Faith,
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:8-16 ESV)
By faith Abraham left his homeland to receive God’s promise. For 100 years he lived in tents in a foreign land all because he trusted the Lord. That is something we should emulate. Live the life of faith. And live the life of faith to the end. Don’t give up! Sure, there were some mistakes. There were times when Abraham sinned in a big way, but he lived a life of faithfulness over the long haul.
The influence of our society has caused us to emphasize youth and youthfulness over this sort of long-haul faithfulness. It’s been done in a number of ways, we could point fingers at quite a number of different factors, but the real problem is its influence within the church. That’s the problem that concerns me. It is simply not what we see in Scripture. Faithfulness to the Lord over a lifetime is what we are to aim for. We are to work toward faithfulness over the long-haul. The exuberance over a short amount of time is not the goal, faithfulness over a lifetime is.
100 years Abraham wandered in a foreign land. And why? Because he believed God’s promises.
It is not easy to live the life of faithfulness over the long-haul. It’s not easy to remain faithful through the many “dangers, toils, and snares” of this life. There will at times be a desire to move out of the way of faithfulness because that would be easier. It would sometimes be easier to choose a job that keeps us away from our local church. It would sometimes be easier to choose a career that keeps us away from our families. It would sometimes be easier to just melt in front of the television or our cell phone for crazy amounts of time.
Sometimes parents stop attending church when their children are out of the house.
Sometimes children stop attending when their parents aren’t making them go.
Sometimes people just decide they aren’t going to make the effort to come to church anymore.
Long-haul faithfulness is not easy. But it is necessary.
Jesus was speaking with people one day and this discussion on this sort of faithfulness happened.
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)
This is one of the reasons I am so against the “Once Saved Always Saved” phrase. A person that comes forward and makes a profession of faith but falls away from the faith is not a person who is saved. It is the person who has been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is empowered by the Holy Spirit for faithfulness over a lifetime. God causes His people to persevere until the end. God keeps them throughout their lives and into eternity.
And this means that those who have been faithful over a long period of time, should be honored because of that. It’s not easy. By God’s grace, they have been faithful to the Lord over a lifetime. They have seen the many struggles that can arise in this life and been faithful to the Lord through them. They have been hit hard by this world and the Lord has brought them through it. And so, the younger people within a congregation are to seek out the mentorship of older members of a congregation.
But this also means that the more mature members of a congregation are not supposed to shrink into some elderly huddle and hide from the younger members of a congregation. They are obligated to teach and train the younger members of a congregation. There are a lot of younger members of this congregation. That means you have a lot of work to do. Notice what Paul says in Titus 2,
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:2-5 ESV)
In a society that has rejected the family and is attempting to reconstruct the way that children are raised, the older members of a congregation have a massive job ahead of them. We live in a society that is trying to tell us that all of this work with children is to be outsourced to the government. Men are not taught what it means to be a man and women are not taught what it means to be a woman. You can’t sit on the sidelines now that your work is so needed.
Older people are commanded to try to teach the younger people rather than separate their selves. You may be thinking to yourself, this is impossible. It is not. They like to eat. Youth and vigor does not make them less in need of food and drink. Invite them over for food or invite them out to eat or for coffee somewhere. Then, you don’t have to be weird and awkward, just talk about life and initiate that relationship with them.
I also believe that this is why there is supposed to be a desire for younger people to be taught by older. And if you want that to happen in your life, then you are wise. Again, I must emphasize that age does not take away the desire for food. Older people need to eat too. Invite them out to eat or over to your home if you want to initiate this sort of relationship with them.
I was a young youth pastor that had only been married for a year or so when Walter and Marilyn Morris invited us over to their house for dinner. They were retired and very much leaders in that congregation. And they wanted to take us under their wing. And I am very glad they did. He was a pastor who had to retire for health reasons. He had also been a chaplain in a men’s prison. And his wife had been a chaplain in a women’s prison. Over lunches and dinners Amanda and I learned a lot. It wasn’t a formal course they were teaching. But it was obvious that they wanted to help us along in life. And we are very appreciative of all of it. And that relationship with them lasted until they moved to go help family in the Kansas City area. That time was so very valuable to us and formative as a husband and wife in the ministry.
It probably would have been easier for them not to invite us over to their house so often. And they had every excuse not to. He had chronic fatigue and a few other ailments. I am certain he didn’t always feel like having us over. But I am so glad that they did.
Do not separate yourselves from each other. That would be foolish. And it’s not how we are commanded to live as a church.
Live All Of Life Knowing That God Will Keep His Promises (Genesis 25:1-6, 12-18)
What we see in the beginning and end of our passage today is that God keeps His promises. We see it in the descendants of Abraham and Keturah. And we also see it in the children that Ishmael bore. Both of these passages are fulfilled promises that God made to Abraham.
Abraham was told that he would be made the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4). We have already seen that Ishmael is one of those nations, quite a number of them would come from him. And we see list of people here who became nations, even though some of these names are lost to history.
We don’t know exactly who Jokshan was, but there are three distinct possibilities. All of these possibilities locate him as becoming an Arabian people. Medan founded another people that settled in Arabia. Ishbak settled in Northern Syria. And Shuah settled in the Middle Euphrates. And then you have notable grandchildren mentioned here, Sheba and Dedan. Sheba formed a community either in Southern Arabian or in Ethiopia, the evidence is unclear. But we do see the Queen of Sheba coming to learn from Solomon in 1 Kings 10. And, as for the rest of the names, their roles in history are lost to history. So we do not know what kind of influence they had in the founding of civilizations in that area. But we have enough information to know that God created many nations from Abraham, and even more would be created throughout the ages.
Ishmael’s chapter closes here as well. And the thing to note here is that he bore 12 children. These children were powerful (Genesis 25:16). And we find that, yet again, God kept His promise to Abraham concerning Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-18).
God keeps His promises. And the promises that we hold most dear are those delivered to us in the gospel. God the Father sent His Son to accomplish salvation for us. He made a way for us to be brought into His family. God the Son took on human flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect life and died on the cross. His death on the cross paid the punishment for sin. And His perfect life accomplished all righteousness. Those who turn from ruling their won lives are united to Him by faith, are cleansed of their sin, and credited with His righteousness. They are brought into God’s family and given a glorious inheritance. That promise is glorious and, of course, we cling to that throughout our lives.
God promises so many things to Abraham. And over the course of the past few months, we have seen God keep a tremendous number of promises to Abraham. Always remember that God keeps His promises.
Why should I devote so much time, energy, and resources to ensure that my children are raise in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Why do that?
Why have children? Why follow the command to multiply and fill the Earth? You’d probably have more money if you didn’t?
Why order our lives with the pattern of work and rest? Why take a day off to be in God’s house among God’s people?
Why order our lives toward faithfulness to the Lord?
We do it all because we live our lives knowing that God will be faithful. God will be faithful to keep His promises. God is faithful, so we order our lives after His Word.
When we look at Abraham’s life, we see that God keeps His promises. Abraham wandered in a land that was not yet his own, living faithfully before the Lord for 100 years. The Lord was with him throughout his life. And the Lord kept His promises to Abraham.
Be Faithful To Death And Be Brought To God (Genesis 25:8-10)
The account of Abraham’s burial is eye opening, for it states two distinct things. He was “gathered to his people” and he was “buried…in the cave of Machpelah”.
“Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife.” (Genesis 25:8-10 ESV)
It is tempting to think that these discuss the same thing, that this is all about his physical death and burial. But it is not.
The phrase “gathered to his people” is a phrase that is synonymous with “going to his fathers” (Genesis 15:15), and “being gathered to his fathers” (Judges 2:10). It is different than being buried. In the Old Testament, this phrase meant that the person had gone to Sheol, which is the place of the dead, to be with friends and family that had passed before.
This might be confusing because Sheol is used in two different ways in the Old Testament. Sometimes it simply means the place of the dead. And sometimes it means the place of punishment, what we would call Hell. Here the phrase is being used, much like when we speak of a person passing away to be with those they love in Heaven. And because of what we read in Hebrews 11 concerning Abraham, there is good reason for us to read it in this manner.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
Abraham lived a life of faith. He believed God’s promises and followed the Lord. And at the end of his earthly life, he passed away and went to be with the Lord. Will you do the same?
Are you prepared for death?
Christians of the past thought a lot more about death than we do today. I am not sure if it is the long lifespans and good health care that we have today. Whatever it is, we don’t think about it and it is coming for all of us.
Old hymns did a good job of thinking through death. Christians used to think a lot about death. They thought about it a lot more than we do now. Simply put, we don’t. It’s as if we avoid it. But unless the Lord returns before it happens, we are all going to die.
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long;
This day, the noise of battle, the next, the victor’s song;
To him that overcometh, a crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory shall reign eternally!”
Stand up, Stand up for Jesus by George J. Webb
“When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save”
There is a Fountain by William Cowper
“There are depths of love that I cannot know till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with Thee.”
I Am Thine, O Lord by Fanny J. Crosby
“To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away
Where His glory forever I’ll share.”
The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard
“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
Amazing Grace by John Newton
Are you prepared for that? Are you prepared for death? Have you turned from ruling your life and entrusted the Savior? Are you living faithfully before Him?
We have not been promised another breath. Are you prepared for death?
When the believer dies, they are gathered in to be with their people, the people of God. When the believer dies they go to be with Jesus. Are you prepared for that? When the unbeliever dies they go to a place called Hell where they pay the punishment for their own sins.
God made a way for us to be brought to Himself through the finished work of Christ. Are you ready?
I’ve gone to the funeral of young people and I’ve gone to the funerals of old people. Are you ready?
Abraham trusted the Lord and was ready for death. Are you?
Death oftentimes causes us to think about our own lives. It causes us to think through what we are prioritizing and how we are living. The same is true of Abraham’s death. And as you look at your life today, I hope that you will see the need to live faithfully to the end, for the Lord will be faithful to you.
R. Dwain Minor