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The Death of Abraham

The Covenant Continues (The Life of Isaac)

Part III

Series: Genesis: The Foundations of the Faith

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jul 18, 1999

Genesis 25:1-11

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Genesis 25:1-11

The Death of Abraham

If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Genesis 25. For All the Saints, a great hymn to sing, as we come to this place in Moses’ Book where he tells of the death of that great father of the faithful, Abraham. We've been studying in Genesis for the last few times in the life of Isaac. We've said that as Genesis 24 opens, Abraham is still alive, but the focus is now on Isaac and his establishment as the future head of the covenant family. And as you come to the final stages of Abraham's life, we said in approaching Genesis 24 and the thought of his death begins to arise in your mind, several questions pop into your mind. What's going to become of Abraham's descendants? Are they going to continue in this unique covenant relationship that the Lord has established? How is the chosen line going to be maintained against the threats that it faces, both from within and from without.

And Genesis 24 and 25 begin to supply the answers to you as those questions come to mind. Indeed, as Davis has said, “The perpetuation of the promised seed in spite of these threats furnishes one of the great exhibitions of divine providence ever recorded.” And, of course, as we see this glorious story of Genesis 24 unfold, we can understand that kind of language. We've looked at Genesis 24, the last couple of times we've been together. So let's turn now to Genesis 25 and the first eleven verses and hear God's holy word:

Genesis 25:1-11

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for this great passage. We thank You for this faithful man, a man crafted by Your grace into the headship of Your people. We thank you, oh Lord, for His legacy, we thank You for the promises which You heaped upon Him and upon all those who believe in the Messiah for whom He looked, and the promises for all those for whom You have in store, that city which has foundations even as You had in store for him. We praise You, O Lord, for the truth of Your word, and now we ask that You would apply it by Your Spirit to our own hearts. That as we come to this passage speaking of something which happened so long ago, we would see that these words are as fresh as today and meant for the edification of our hearts. Make it so, O God, by Your Spirit. We ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

Larry Richards gives the opinion that no great and single message shines through these chapters as has shined through the earlier chapters of Genesis. I'm not sure I agree with him about that though. Are we not conscious throughout these passages here dealing with the stories of Isaac and Jacob of God's covenant faithfulness? If God introduced the great theme of the covenant of grace, especially in the story of Abraham, then in the story of Isaac and Jacob, God shows his faithfulness to the covenant and warns against the worldliness that does not embrace the covenant as the most important lesson of life.

Over and over again in these chapters we see contrasted a worldliness that overlooks the value of the covenant of grace and which prefers material and temporal prosperity to a saving relationship with God, and on the other hand those in the line of promise who long for fellowship with God above all else. So the covenant set forth in these chapters is not a new one. It's the very covenant of God with Abraham in which historic blessings for all His spiritual descendants.

Let's look then at this passage tonight here in Genesis 25. You see three sections to it. In the first four verses we are told about Abraham's new wife and the children he bore by her. In verses 5 and 6 we are told about Abraham's provision for Isaac and then in verses 7 through 11 we are told about the incidents around the death and burial of Abraham. Let's look at these passages together tonight.

I. Abraham's new wife.

In verses 1 through 4 we are told that Abraham takes to himself a new wife; and he becomes the father of other nations, not only of Isaac and Ishmael, but of other children. And we learn in this passage, among other things, that God is faithful to His promises. Moses in this passage documents the families that sprung from his marriage to Keturah. And scholars actually differ on when this marriage took place. Some think that Abraham took this concubine while Sarah was still living. Whereas others, based upon the location of this passage, indicate that actually Abraham took her after the death of Sarah. At any rate, one thing is clear. God blesses Abraham with other descendants. One of his offspring mentioned here in verses 1 through 4 was Midian. And you will remember that the Midianites were destined to play a role in Israel's future as Israel came back into the land. And these Midianites were themselves as if it were half-brothers of Israel. They were descendants of Abraham, too. But we're struck here by the fact that even at the end of his life God is still making good on His pledge to make Abraham the father of many nations. In Genesis 15 He had told him that He would make him a father of a multitude of nations. He had not only given him by now Ishmael and Isaac, but now He gives him other descendants through his concubine, ah. And so God fulfills his promise, and Abraham is called upon to trust to the very end. We never outgrow the need to trust in God. And God's promises continue as long as we have breath. We see this set forth in the first four verses.

II. Isaac's unique place in God's plan.

When we get to verses 5 and 6 we see something perhaps even more distinctive in this passage. Abraham secures in verses 5 and 6 the unique place that Isaac is going to have in the plan of God and in the receiving of the promises of God to Abraham. And we learn in this passage, among other things, that the covenant of grace affords us benefits that we have not earned and do not deserve. The covenant of grace affords us unearned favors, in other words. We are told, if you’ll look at these verses, very simply this: That Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living. And he sends them away from his son, Isaac, eastward to the land of the east. Abraham, you remember, has wrestled a long time. He loved Ishmael, and he longed for God to bless Ishmael in a distinctive way. But God said to Abraham that Isaac was the one through whom the line of promise would pass. And so Isaac was the one who was to be the inheritor of the promises that God had made to Abraham. Abraham understands that now. And even in the wake of Sarah's death, he is very careful even with other children around to protect Isaac's distinctive birthright. In order to keep from there being a battling over the land which was to be given to Isaac now as the inheritor of Abraham's promises, the other sons are sent away. They are given, as it were, an inheritance during Abraham's lifetime. And they are sent away to the east so that there would be no fighting over who would be the appropriate inheritor of Abraham's empire, because Isaac is to be the only one to inherit God's promise to give Abraham the land. The others are provided for, but Isaac is the one who is to inherit the land.

Now that's very interesting because we see an inequity in the way the children are treated. In fact, Calvin, as he's commenting on this passage, says, you know, this would be a terrible way to treat children today. He says, you know, if you did this in your own family you would be assuring that your children would hate one another for the rest of their lives. But he says Abraham did this because God had pointed to him and said, Isaac is to be your heir. And so Abraham's action was not the action of a father who was unwise, who was spoiling one child and neglecting the others. Abraham's actions were based upon the revelation of God that Isaac was to be the one through whom the line of the promise came.

And so we learn again that common blessings are given by God. But covenant blessings are given by God to those who are the heirs of the promise. A distinction is made between Isaac and his brethren, and that distinction resides not in the bias of a father. Because, in fact, Moses has already told us if it were up the bias of the father, Ishmael would have been the favored child. This distinction has been made by God, and that distinction is not made on something based in the life of Isaac himself. T

his incident reminds us that Isaac is a recipient of the promises by the free and gracious and unconditional promises of God. Isaac did nothing to deserve this. When God made this appointment Isaac wasn't even in existence. Abraham was asking God to allow Ishmael to be the child of promise before Isaac was ever was on the scene. And yet God chooses Isaac.

It's very interesting again that Larry Richards in his commentary makes the observation that Isaac and Jacob were lesser men than Abraham. Now we could have an interesting discussion about that. But let's assume that to be true. Let's suppose that Isaac and Jacob were lesser men than Abraham. Whatever the case, even if they are lesser men, they stand all the more as trophies of God's unconditional election and free grace. God chooses Jacob, not because he's a better man that Esau, but he chooses him because he loves him. God chooses Isaac, not because he's a better man than Ishmael; we don't know, but because he loves them. God does not choose them because of something in them, but because of His love and His goodness and His mercy. This reminds us that God's election is based on not our merit, but on the love of God which in Christ. So even in this passage we're reminded again that the covenant of grace whereby God bestows his blessings is something that is based on the unearned favor of God. Nobody earns that. No one merits that. It is given to us by the free favor of God.

III. The death and burial of Abraham.

And then in verses 7 through 11, we see the account of the death and the burial of Abraham. And we also see at the very end of the passage the indication of God's hand of favor upon Isaac. And perhaps we learn the most important lesson of the passage here. We learn in these verses that friendship with God makes for fullness of life. It is friendship with God that allows a man to die full of years and content, satisfied. God had given Abraham the mercy of seeing Isaac's household established, and so now Abraham could die. His life, in a sense, is complete. And Moses goes out of his way to tell us in verse 8 that Abraham was both aged and satisfied. Those are two things that are nice to see in combination, aren't they? Calvin goes on to say, “The chief part of a good old age consists in a good conscience and a serene and tranquil mind.” And Moses is telling us here, when he tells us that Abraham was old and satisfied, he's telling us that that was the mind that Abraham had upon the occasion of his death. Calvin goes on to say, “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 it to continuance. The contentment with life, therefore, which will cause us to be ready to leave live, is a favor from God.” In other words, it's God who gives you that contentment that enables you simultaneously to enjoy life, but also to be ready to leave it when God calls. And God had given that blessing to Abraham.

We are struck by this so often because people of various ages, whatever their temporal blessings, show such an ingratitude for their lot in life. They show bitterness because of the hard things that have occurred in their experience. The point of this passage isn't, by the way, that Abraham was blessed because he had lived a lot of years. There are many people in the Scriptures who didn't live these many years, who at the same time experienced the same kind of fullness of life as Abraham. The point is that Abraham's love for God and his fellowship with him, had made his life singularly full.

I was talking with David Elkin this last week and my wife is fascinated by tornadoes. And since David and Allie have been living in Oklahoma City, I was getting all the scoop on the tornado stories from Oklahoma City. And really as we begin to talk, he shared some very poignant stories about the tornado that came through Oklahoma City in May. Many of you perhaps tracked that on the weather channel. There are many, many stories of people heroically giving their lives. And David commented that the culture there is a Bible Belt culture. So very often in the interviews that were taken in the immediate aftermath of tragic death, people gave very strong testimonies to their faith in Christ. One he shared with me was the story of a man and a woman who had just lost their three-week old son who had been snatched from their arms and carried a mile away and killed. And reporters shoved a microphone in their face and asked them how they felt. And the man's response was, “I just want to thank God that He allowed me to be a father for three weeks.” Now that attitude is the difference between a man with fullness of life and a man who doesn't have it. That incident could have been looked upon as something to create great bitterness in the life of a person, but that man was a believer. And he so testified in light of that belief.

We’re told in verse 8 that Abraham not only was aged and full of life and satisfied, he was gathered to his people. This is a testimony isn't it, to the continued existence of those who believe in the Lord after death, even as Job speaks, in Job chapter 3, verses 13 and 14. As Matthew Henry says, “Death gathers us to our people. Those that are our people while we live, whether they are the people of God or the children of this world, are the people to whom death will gather us.” Will we be gathered to the children of promise, or will be gathered to the children of this world? It depends upon with whom we find our ultimate fellowship in this life doesn't it? Whether we find our fellowship with God and thus with His people, or whether we find our fellowship with the one who is the God of this age and the one who is the father of those who are the children of this world. So Abraham is gathered to his people.

We are told in verse 9 that Isaac and Ishmael are temporarily reunited. At the funeral of Abraham they share together in the responsibilities of preparing the funeral services of Abraham. And it's interesting, isn't it, that Jacob and Esau would be reunited in a similar fashion at the death of Isaac? We are told that by Moses in Genesis 35, verse 29. But then after the services or funeral are over for Abraham, in verse 11 we are told that God Himself confirms the covenant blessings on Isaac. It came about that after the death of Abraham, God blessed his son, Isaac, and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi. So the blessing of Abraham did not die with him. God continued to favor all the children of promise. And Isaac lives at that residence Beer-lahai-roi where God had first taken care of Hagar and Ishmael, where God had first shown Isaac his wife, Rebekah, where they had set up house. This is where now Isaac sets up his home.

As we come to the end of this passage, again, we are struck that the fullness of Abraham's life was because of his friendship with God. The things that made Abraham's life rich was not his possessions, and it wasn't the great age which God had granted him, but rather it was his relationship with God. R.S. Candlish says this: “Is he full? Is the pilgrim satisfied? Is he ready to depart? Not because he can reckon some seventy revolutions of the sun in his lifetime, or maybe eighty, or even like Abraham one hundred and seventy-five. Nor is it because he can say of the various sources of interest and pleasure upon the earth, I have drunk of them all. But it is because he has eaten the bread of heaven and drawn water out of the wells of salvation; because he has been filled with the fullness of God; because he has been made a partaker of the unsearchable riches of Christ. He has lived long on the earth - his days have been many in the land; not in proportion to the anniversaries of his birth that he has celebrated; or the various experiences of infancy and childhood and manhood and old age; or to the changes all around him that make him feel as if he were living in a new world. No, it is by the tokens of the divine love that he has received, the gracious dealings of God with his soul that he has noted, and the wonders of grace and mercy that he has witnessed in the church of the redeemed, that the believer reckoned himself to have lived long on the earth.”

The story of Abraham is the story of a man who was, as it were, the friend of God. In fact, three times in the holy Scriptures after the book of Genesis, Abraham is explicitly called the friend of God. In II Chronicles, chapter 20, verse 7 he is called the friend of God. In Isaiah 41, verse 8, he is called God's friend. In James 2, verse 23, he is again called the friend of God. The fullness of his life was based upon that redemptive friendship which he had with the living God. Sarah Kennedy has taken to calling her babysitters her 'friends'. When Joy Howie comes over she says, “My friend, 'Joy down in my heart' is coming to see me.” When Grace or Rachel or Sarah Bateman come over to take care of Sarah Kennedy, she announces to Ann, “My friend Grace, or Rachel or Sarah, is coming to see me.” In fact when Leigh and Bufkin Moore took care of her for a few days, she spotted them one day at the Chic-Fil-A and said, “There are my friends, Leigh and Bufkin Moore.” Now that's a little funny. I mean Leigh and Bufkin are in their twenties, and Sarah Kennedy is two and a half. It really does strike us as funny. How much more unbelievable is it that God has chosen to call us friends. And that he longs for us to be an eternal, saving, redemptive friendship with Him. May God make that a reality in all of our lives that we should be called the friends of God. Let's pray.

Our Heavenly Father, it is no small thing to aspire to fellowship with the Almighty. In fact, it's beyond our comprehension. Yet you make it clear that the blessedness which Abraham experienced in this life was in no small measure due to the fellowship which he had with You. You make it even clearer that in the new covenant this is the relationship for which we are made and redeemed, that we might be one, our Lord said in John 17, Even as the Father and I are One. Our Lord and our God give us the grace, the wisdom to see the priority of that blessing above all others. And so to seek first the kingdom and let the other things take care of themselves. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Genesis 25:1-11

The Death of Abraham

If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Genesis 25. For All the Saints, a great hymn to sing, as we come to this place in Moses’ Book where he tells of the death of that great father of the faithful, Abraham. We've been studying in Genesis for the last few times in the life of Isaac. We've said that as Genesis 24 opens, Abraham is still alive, but the focus is now on Isaac and his establishment as the future head of the covenant family. And as you come to the final stages of Abraham's life, we said in approaching Genesis 24 and the thought of his death begins to arise in your mind, several questions pop into your mind. What's going to become of Abraham's descendants? Are they going to continue in this unique covenant relationship that the Lord has established? How is the chosen line going to be maintained against the threats that it faces, both from within and from without.

And Genesis 24 and 25 begin to supply the answers to you as those questions come to mind. Indeed, as Davis has said, “The perpetuation of the promised seed in spite of these threats furnishes one of the great exhibitions of divine providence ever recorded.” And, of course, as we see this glorious story of Genesis 24 unfold, we can understand that kind of language. We've looked at Genesis 24, the last couple of times we've been together. So let's turn now to Genesis 25 and the first eleven verses and hear God's holy word:

Genesis 25:1-11

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for this great passage. We thank You for this faithful man, a man crafted by Your grace into the headship of Your people. We thank you, oh Lord, for His legacy, we thank You for the promises which You heaped upon Him and upon all those who believe in the Messiah for whom He looked, and the promises for all those for whom You have in store, that city which has foundations even as You had in store for him. We praise You, O Lord, for the truth of Your word, and now we ask that You would apply it by Your Spirit to our own hearts. That as we come to this passage speaking of something which happened so long ago, we would see that these words are as fresh as today and meant for the edification of our hearts. Make it so, O God, by Your Spirit. We ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

Larry Richards gives the opinion that no great and single message shines through these chapters as has shined through the earlier chapters of Genesis. I'm not sure I agree with him about that though. Are we not conscious throughout these passages here dealing with the stories of Isaac and Jacob of God's covenant faithfulness? If God introduced the great theme of the covenant of grace, especially in the story of Abraham, then in the story of Isaac and Jacob, God shows his faithfulness to the covenant and warns against the worldliness that does not embrace the covenant as the most important lesson of life.

Over and over again in these chapters we see contrasted a worldliness that overlooks the value of the covenant of grace and which prefers material and temporal prosperity to a saving relationship with God, and on the other hand those in the line of promise who long for fellowship with God above all else. So the covenant set forth in these chapters is not a new one. It's the very covenant of God with Abraham in which historic blessings for all His spiritual descendants.

Let's look then at this passage tonight here in Genesis 25. You see three sections to it. In the first four verses we are told about Abraham's new wife and the children he bore by her. In verses 5 and 6 we are told about Abraham's provision for Isaac and then in verses 7 through 11 we are told about the incidents around the death and burial of Abraham. Let's look at these passages together tonight.

I. Abraham's new wife.

In verses 1 through 4 we are told that Abraham takes to himself a new wife; and he becomes the father of other nations, not only of Isaac and Ishmael, but of other children. And we learn in this passage, among other things, that God is faithful to His promises. Moses in this passage documents the families that sprung from his marriage to Keturah. And scholars actually differ on when this marriage took place. Some think that Abraham took this concubine while Sarah was still living. Whereas others, based upon the location of this passage, indicate that actually Abraham took her after the death of Sarah. At any rate, one thing is clear. God blesses Abraham with other descendants. One of his offspring mentioned here in verses 1 through 4 was Midian. And you will remember that the Midianites were destined to play a role in Israel's future as Israel came back into the land. And these Midianites were themselves as if it were half-brothers of Israel. They were descendants of Abraham, too. But we're struck here by the fact that even at the end of his life God is still making good on His pledge to make Abraham the father of many nations. In Genesis 15 He had told him that He would make him a father of a multitude of nations. He had not only given him by now Ishmael and Isaac, but now He gives him other descendants through his concubine, ah. And so God fulfills his promise, and Abraham is called upon to trust to the very end. We never outgrow the need to trust in God. And God's promises continue as long as we have breath. We see this set forth in the first four verses.

II. Isaac's unique place in God's plan.

When we get to verses 5 and 6 we see something perhaps even more distinctive in this passage. Abraham secures in verses 5 and 6 the unique place that Isaac is going to have in the plan of God and in the receiving of the promises of God to Abraham. And we learn in this passage, among other things, that the covenant of grace affords us benefits that we have not earned and do not deserve. The covenant of grace affords us unearned favors, in other words. We are told, if you’ll look at these verses, very simply this: That Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living. And he sends them away from his son, Isaac, eastward to the land of the east. Abraham, you remember, has wrestled a long time. He loved Ishmael, and he longed for God to bless Ishmael in a distinctive way. But God said to Abraham that Isaac was the one through whom the line of promise would pass. And so Isaac was the one who was to be the inheritor of the promises that God had made to Abraham. Abraham understands that now. And even in the wake of Sarah's death, he is very careful even with other children around to protect Isaac's distinctive birthright. In order to keep from there being a battling over the land which was to be given to Isaac now as the inheritor of Abraham's promises, the other sons are sent away. They are given, as it were, an inheritance during Abraham's lifetime. And they are sent away to the east so that there would be no fighting over who would be the appropriate inheritor of Abraham's empire, because Isaac is to be the only one to inherit God's promise to give Abraham the land. The others are provided for, but Isaac is the one who is to inherit the land.

Now that's very interesting because we see an inequity in the way the children are treated. In fact, Calvin, as he's commenting on this passage, says, you know, this would be a terrible way to treat children today. He says, you know, if you did this in your own family you would be assuring that your children would hate one another for the rest of their lives. But he says Abraham did this because God had pointed to him and said, Isaac is to be your heir. And so Abraham's action was not the action of a father who was unwise, who was spoiling one child and neglecting the others. Abraham's actions were based upon the revelation of God that Isaac was to be the one through whom the line of the promise came.

And so we learn again that common blessings are given by God. But covenant blessings are given by God to those who are the heirs of the promise. A distinction is made between Isaac and his brethren, and that distinction resides not in the bias of a father. Because, in fact, Moses has already told us if it were up the bias of the father, Ishmael would have been the favored child. This distinction has been made by God, and that distinction is not made on something based in the life of Isaac himself. T

his incident reminds us that Isaac is a recipient of the promises by the free and gracious and unconditional promises of God. Isaac did nothing to deserve this. When God made this appointment Isaac wasn't even in existence. Abraham was asking God to allow Ishmael to be the child of promise before Isaac was ever was on the scene. And yet God chooses Isaac.

It's very interesting again that Larry Richards in his commentary makes the observation that Isaac and Jacob were lesser men than Abraham. Now we could have an interesting discussion about that. But let's assume that to be true. Let's suppose that Isaac and Jacob were lesser men than Abraham. Whatever the case, even if they are lesser men, they stand all the more as trophies of God's unconditional election and free grace. God chooses Jacob, not because he's a better man that Esau, but he chooses him because he loves him. God chooses Isaac, not because he's a better man than Ishmael; we don't know, but because he loves them. God does not choose them because of something in them, but because of His love and His goodness and His mercy. This reminds us that God's election is based on not our merit, but on the love of God which in Christ. So even in this passage we're reminded again that the covenant of grace whereby God bestows his blessings is something that is based on the unearned favor of God. Nobody earns that. No one merits that. It is given to us by the free favor of God.

III. The death and burial of Abraham.

And then in verses 7 through 11, we see the account of the death and the burial of Abraham. And we also see at the very end of the passage the indication of God's hand of favor upon Isaac. And perhaps we learn the most important lesson of the passage here. We learn in these verses that friendship with God makes for fullness of life. It is friendship with God that allows a man to die full of years and content, satisfied. God had given Abraham the mercy of seeing Isaac's household established, and so now Abraham could die. His life, in a sense, is complete. And Moses goes out of his way to tell us in verse 8 that Abraham was both aged and satisfied. Those are two things that are nice to see in combination, aren't they? Calvin goes on to say, “The chief part of a good old age consists in a good conscience and a serene and tranquil mind.” And Moses is telling us here, when he tells us that Abraham was old and satisfied, he's telling us that that was the mind that Abraham had upon the occasion of his death. Calvin goes on to say, “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 it to continuance. The contentment with life, therefore, which will cause us to be ready to leave live, is a favor from God.” In other words, it's God who gives you that contentment that enables you simultaneously to enjoy life, but also to be ready to leave it when God calls. And God had given that blessing to Abraham.

We are struck by this so often because people of various ages, whatever their temporal blessings, show such an ingratitude for their lot in life. They show bitterness because of the hard things that have occurred in their experience. The point of this passage isn't, by the way, that Abraham was blessed because he had lived a lot of years. There are many people in the Scriptures who didn't live these many years, who at the same time experienced the same kind of fullness of life as Abraham. The point is that Abraham's love for God and his fellowship with him, had made his life singularly full.

I was talking with David Elkin this last week and my wife is fascinated by tornadoes. And since David and Allie have been living in Oklahoma City, I was getting all the scoop on the tornado stories from Oklahoma City. And really as we begin to talk, he shared some very poignant stories about the tornado that came through Oklahoma City in May. Many of you perhaps tracked that on the weather channel. There are many, many stories of people heroically giving their lives. And David commented that the culture there is a Bible Belt culture. So very often in the interviews that were taken in the immediate aftermath of tragic death, people gave very strong testimonies to their faith in Christ. One he shared with me was the story of a man and a woman who had just lost their three-week old son who had been snatched from their arms and carried a mile away and killed. And reporters shoved a microphone in their face and asked them how they felt. And the man's response was, “I just want to thank God that He allowed me to be a father for three weeks.” Now that attitude is the difference between a man with fullness of life and a man who doesn't have it. That incident could have been looked upon as something to create great bitterness in the life of a person, but that man was a believer. And he so testified in light of that belief.

We’re told in verse 8 that Abraham not only was aged and full of life and satisfied, he was gathered to his people. This is a testimony isn't it, to the continued existence of those who believe in the Lord after death, even as Job speaks, in Job chapter 3, verses 13 and 14. As Matthew Henry says, “Death gathers us to our people. Those that are our people while we live, whether they are the people of God or the children of this world, are the people to whom death will gather us.” Will we be gathered to the children of promise, or will be gathered to the children of this world? It depends upon with whom we find our ultimate fellowship in this life doesn't it? Whether we find our fellowship with God and thus with His people, or whether we find our fellowship with the one who is the God of this age and the one who is the father of those who are the children of this world. So Abraham is gathered to his people.

We are told in verse 9 that Isaac and Ishmael are temporarily reunited. At the funeral of Abraham they share together in the responsibilities of preparing the funeral services of Abraham. And it's interesting, isn't it, that Jacob and Esau would be reunited in a similar fashion at the death of Isaac? We are told that by Moses in Genesis 35, verse 29. But then after the services or funeral are over for Abraham, in verse 11 we are told that God Himself confirms the covenant blessings on Isaac. It came about that after the death of Abraham, God blessed his son, Isaac, and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi. So the blessing of Abraham did not die with him. God continued to favor all the children of promise. And Isaac lives at that residence Beer-lahai-roi where God had first taken care of Hagar and Ishmael, where God had first shown Isaac his wife, Rebekah, where they had set up house. This is where now Isaac sets up his home.

As we come to the end of this passage, again, we are struck that the fullness of Abraham's life was because of his friendship with God. The things that made Abraham's life rich was not his possessions, and it wasn't the great age which God had granted him, but rather it was his relationship with God. R.S. Candlish says this: “Is he full? Is the pilgrim satisfied? Is he ready to depart? Not because he can reckon some seventy revolutions of the sun in his lifetime, or maybe eighty, or even like Abraham one hundred and seventy-five. Nor is it because he can say of the various sources of interest and pleasure upon the earth, I have drunk of them all. But it is because he has eaten the bread of heaven and drawn water out of the wells of salvation; because he has been filled with the fullness of God; because he has been made a partaker of the unsearchable riches of Christ. He has lived long on the earth - his days have been many in the land; not in proportion to the anniversaries of his birth that he has celebrated; or the various experiences of infancy and childhood and manhood and old age; or to the changes all around him that make him feel as if he were living in a new world. No, it is by the tokens of the divine love that he has received, the gracious dealings of God with his soul that he has noted, and the wonders of grace and mercy that he has witnessed in the church of the redeemed, that the believer reckoned himself to have lived long on the earth.”

The story of Abraham is the story of a man who was, as it were, the friend of God. In fact, three times in the holy Scriptures after the book of Genesis, Abraham is explicitly called the friend of God. In II Chronicles, chapter 20, verse 7 he is called the friend of God. In Isaiah 41, verse 8, he is called God's friend. In James 2, verse 23, he is again called the friend of God. The fullness of his life was based upon that redemptive friendship which he had with the living God. Sarah Kennedy has taken to calling her babysitters her 'friends'. When Joy Howie comes over she says, “My friend, 'Joy down in my heart' is coming to see me.” When Grace or Rachel or Sarah Bateman come over to take care of Sarah Kennedy, she announces to Ann, “My friend Grace, or Rachel or Sarah, is coming to see me.” In fact when Leigh and Bufkin Moore took care of her for a few days, she spotted them one day at the Chic-Fil-A and said, “There are my friends, Leigh and Bufkin Moore.” Now that's a little funny. I mean Leigh and Bufkin are in their twenties, and Sarah Kennedy is two and a half. It really does strike us as funny. How much more unbelievable is it that God has chosen to call us friends. And that he longs for us to be an eternal, saving, redemptive friendship with Him. May God make that a reality in all of our lives that we should be called the friends of God. Let's pray.

Our Heavenly Father, it is no small thing to aspire to fellowship with the Almighty. In fact, it's beyond our comprehension. Yet you make it clear that the blessedness which Abraham experienced in this life was in no small measure due to the fellowship which he had with You. You make it even clearer that in the new covenant this is the relationship for which we are made and redeemed, that we might be one, our Lord said in John 17, Even as the Father and I are One. Our Lord and our God give us the grace, the wisdom to see the priority of that blessing above all others. And so to seek first the kingdom and let the other things take care of themselves. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

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This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.