The Death of Abraham: Conclusion

Charles Spurgeon said, “There is an essential difference between the death of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction—but to the righteous as a summons to his Father’s palace! To the sinner death is an execution—to the saint death is casting aside of his sins and infirmities. Death to the wicked is the king of terrors. Death to the saint is the end of terrors, and the commencement of eternal glory!” JR Miller reminds of the truths that Abraham had to learn. God’s thoughts are long; He plans for long periods, for generations and ages future. Because a promise has not an immediate fulfillment, we are not to conclude that it has failed. Some of God’s wheat grains are long in coming to harvest. The same is often true of the Divine promises. They are long in being kept. There must be a time of preparation before fulfillment can come. We do not know what we must suffer and endure—before the spiritual beauty of which we dream when we consecrate ourselves to God, can be realized in us. We are only part, too, of a great company of believers who are to work in the bringing in of the kingdom. Our portion may be small, only a tear or two, only a word spoken for the Master, only a short day of service—and then death. It would take generations, the Lord told Abraham, to make ready for the occupancy of the promised land. Let us learn to believe—and to wait. We do not live for ourselves nor for our own age alone; we live for those who will come after us, even generations hence. We may be only foundation layers—and may never see the superstructure rising. But no matter. If we can make a good beginning, which after we are gone shall grow to nobleness, will not the honor of the work be ours? Indeed, those whom the world honors most highly today—are the men who themselves did not see completed the great things they began. This was true of Abraham, of Moses, of John the Baptist, of Luther, of Calvin. They wrought in faith, receiving not the promise themselves—but only laying foundations for after generations to build upon, sowing seed for future harvests. We as a church need to think about this. What are we building? What foundation are we laying for future generations?

The Death of Abraham: The Race Well Run

a. GOOD OLD AGE. As we read of the death of Abraham we read the eulogy and probably don’t think much about it. Moses writes that Abraham, “died in a good old age, an old man and full of years.” You’re probably thinking, “so, what’s the big deal? He was 175 years old that’s a fitting description.” But do you know who died just 25 years before Abraham? Shem. That’s right. Noah’s son. The guy who rode on the ark dies just 25 years before Abraham. Now who died in a good old age, an old man and full of years? Shem at 600 or Abraham at 175 just 25 years later? Both, right? Undoubtedly, sin and the curse had caught up with the human race which caused Abraham to be old and die at 175. However, that doesn’t make one die in a good old age and full of years. Why could this be said of both these men? Their relationship with God. Abraham is the friend of God. On earth, he walked blameless before his Lord. He did not die embitter by losses and the difficulties of life but died full of years and a good old age. Do you hear the difference? The good old age and full of years are less about the number and more about the relationship with God. Those that go against God are cut off but those that are friends of God die as one full of years. b. GATHERED TO HIS PEOPLE. Moses also mentions that Abraham was gathered to his people when he died. In death, there is the distinction again. He was not gathered to all people, but his people. Who were Abraham’s people? All those that died in faith like him. He was gathered to Shem and Noah and all those that came before them that trusted in the promises of God. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus and says that when Lazarus dies he is gathered to someone’s bosom someone’s side? Whose side is Lazarus at? Abraham! Lazarus is gathered to his people in death which are all at Abraham’s side. c. THE BLESSING OF ISAAC. The end of the story here mentions that Isaac and Ishmael reunite, perhaps for the last time, to bury Abraham. The two brothers mourn together but then part their separate ways. Moses quickly returns to the theme of separation and promise as he states that God blessed Isaac after Abraham died. The promises did not die with Abraham but were truly transferred to Isaac. It is a great way to end the life of Abraham. He did not die in vain. His struggles and the growth of his faith were not for nothing. God’s promises to Abraham were not empty. God is faithful and will accomplish all that he says. And so God blesses Isaac.

The Death of Abraham: The Free Grace of God

a. THE DIVISION OF THE INHERITANCE. The text says very simply that Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac but, while he was still alive, he gave gifts to his other children. Yet, the other children were not allowed to stay near Isaac. Abraham sends them away to the East. Remember the love that Abraham had for Ishmael and no doubt he loved his other sons as well. But they were not in the will. They would not receive any inheritance. They got some good gifts but in the end the estate and the covenant promises went to Isaac alone. b. BUT IT’S NOT FAIR. It is not equitable, that’s true. Abraham does not treat all of his sons the same way. A clear distinction has been made between Isaac and the rest of his siblings. If we removed this from its biblical context most people would say that this was unfair. It’s not right to favor one child over another like that. Even if we bring it back into the Bible in a different context, say, Jacob’s favoring of Joseph, we see the trouble his favoritism causes and we say that it was wrong for Jacob to favor Joseph. But, why is it when we go to this story we do not make the same case? Why don’t we say it was wrong for Abraham to completely leave his firstborn and his other six sons out of the inheritance? Why don’t we call foul on this play? I think it is because, in this case, God has made the choice. Remember if the choice of who to favor was up to Abraham he made the choice of Ishmael. But, God made the choice of Isaac. When Ishmael was mocking Isaac Sarah correctly pointed out the words of God to Abraham saying that this boy will not share in the inheritance. God has spoken. God has chosen one and not the other. The question is: why? What reason is there to choose Isaac over Ishmael? Why choose Isaac over Midian? Why choose Jacob over Esau? Why choose David over his older brothers? Why choose Mary and Joseph over other godly couples? Why choose you and not the countless that have died in their sin today? The answer is simply: the free grace of God. We call it free not because it didn’t cost anything, because it cost Jesus Christ his life, but because it is not bound by anything but God’s own pleasure and will. Look at the book of Hosea. The people are unfaithful, they have cheated on God and left him behind. There is no earthly reason to deal with them anymore and yet God says I will have mercy. What? Why? As God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.” It’s his prerogative. It’s his choice. You don’t earn grace and there is nothing about you or what you have done that deserves grace. Why was Isaac the heir of the promises and recipient of all the inheritance? Because God chose him.

The Death of Abraham: The Promise Gets Closer

a. ANOTHER WIFE. As we begin the text we see that Abraham took another wife named Keturah. There are many speculations and stories that have been created around Keturah. Since not much is told people like to try and fill in the details. Since the mention of Keturah comes at the end of Abraham’s life we can probably safely assume that he did not take her to be his wife until after the death of Sarah. In verse six it mentions the concubines of Abraham which many assume to be a reference to Hagar and Keturah. They were both the concubines of Abraham and were never given the status of Sarah as a full wife. If you read 1 Chronicles 1:32 it calls Keturah a concubine. What we know for sure is that Keturah gave Abraham six more sons. Though far from being a numerous as the sand on the seashore, God is fulfilling the promise to Abraham that he would be the father of multitudes. Most of these descendants we don’t know exactly what happened to them. They were probably enveloped into the local people and became the ancestors of the Arab people. But the Bible does talk about one son and his family. b. THE HALF BROTHER MIDIAN. Midian is a name that becomes familiar as you read the Bible. If you continue past Genesis into Exodus you read about Moses who kills an Egyptian. To avoid the vengeful Pharaoh, Moses flees to the land of the Midianites. It is there in the area named after Midian that Moses hears from God through the burning bush. Moses takes a wife from there named Zipporah. This half-brother of Isaac doesn’t stray too far from the chosen son. Yet their presence was usually not a good one. Often, we see the Midianites harassing the children of Isaac. Many of you know the story of Gideon in Judges 6. It is the Midianites who are the enemy of the story. These families were both the children of Abraham and yet had two divergent paths.

The Death of Abraham: Introduction

Over the last couple of weeks, as we studied Genesis chapter 24, we saw a clear display of the providence of God. We also witnessed the rock-solid faith of Abraham and his servant in the providence and provision of God. God is sovereign and has a plan and so we should not be surprised when everything works out. Someone once told my wife that things always have an uncanny way of working out for our family. For us, it is no surprise. I often stand amazed and am humbled by the blessings of God’s providence, but I am no longer surprised. God’s plan will unfold according to his will and nothing can thwart him. He has covenanted with his people and it will come to pass. Case closed. In the text before us, we have the closing of Abraham’s earthly life. And though it is the closing of this chapter, the story continues on. The thread of redemption and salvation will continue to be woven through the fabric of history. Consider what we have seen already. We have seen the beauty of God’s creation and his ultimate creation, humans. The humans rebelled against God, bringing corruption and death into the creation. But God promised to send one that would destroy the works of evil. Then came Abel. Would he be the one to crush the serpent’s head? We see the answer quickly as Cain kills Abel. Then another is born, Seth, who worshipped the Lord. Seth grew up and had children of his own. And then another generation came and another. Finally, sin had fully corrupted the hearts of most people. But God preserved Noah and his sons and so, the line to Salvation was preserved. Yet, sin was still in the hearts of the people and many gathered to defy God once again. But God confused the languages of the people and began scattering them across the earth. Generations pass and the line is preserved by God as it passes to Abraham’s generation. God shows to the world that the path to salvation remains as he chooses Abraham from all others of his generation to be the family through which the line would continue. There are some missteps by Abraham and some outside forces threaten the promises, but this is all in the plan. As Abraham’s life closes the torch is passed to Isaac who will have the privilege to pass it on to the next generation. As we say goodbye to Father Abraham, I want to point out three main things from the text. First, in verses 1-4 we see the promise gets closer. Remember, Abraham, greets the promise from afar but yet with each step the promise gets closer and more clearly seen. Verses 5-6 should cause us to meditate on the free grace of God. And finally, we will consider Abraham’s race which was well run.

Greeting Them from Afar: Abraham’s Possession

Abraham’s Possession 17-20. What we have here is basically the contract that was written. It is worded very much like the contracts of that time and place. The field and the cave legally belonged to Abraham and his descendants. This would be the burial place for the patriarchs. Sarah, Abraham, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob would all be buried here. Why is this important? This land, this burial cave, stood as a testimony to faith. Hebrews 11 says that they all died in faith. Faith in the promises of God. They understood that the Promised Land was more than just a plot of land in the Middle East. They were seeking a homeland but it was not of this earth. As Hebrews 11:16 says, they desired, “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.”

The Aftermath of Sin: We Are Instructed and Encouraged

The Aftermath of Sin: We Are Instructed and Encouraged
Part 3 of 5

a. The Lesson Learned.

At the end we have the account of the birth of Lot’s sons or grandsons or whatever. This seems to be the point that Moses, our author, is getting at. This is a derogatory story because Moses is pointing out that the Moabites and the Ammonites came about because of incest. These two nations are cousins to the Israelites but they came into existence through sin and that set the trajectory of the two nations. Moses and the people knew full well the sinfulness of the Moabites and Ammonites. In Numbers 25, we read that as the people were camped at Shittim the daughters of Moab came to the Israelites an seduced them to make sacrifices to the Baal of Peor. Twenty-four thousand people died on that day. This would only be the beginning of the trouble Israel had with Moab. As for the Ammonites, Moses did not have to contend with fighting with them. Joshua would, and the judges and Saul and David, but not Moses. But God wrote in the law against the God of the Ammonites, Molech. Lot’s descendants followed a god that required child sacrifice. In the law of God he told the Israelites that participating in the worship of Molech was a capital offense punishable by stoning. And if they people to failed to follow through with the punishment then God himself would cut that person and their clan off from among the people. This is the heritage of Lot. This is the end of his story in the Bible.

b. Not all is lost.

Lot’s descendants would descend into pagan idolatry and child sacrifice, but yet, with God there is still hope. In Matthew 1:5 we read this amazing statement, “and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth.” By itself that doesn’t seem like a big deal but if you combine that with the story of Lot and the story of Ruth, it becomes a story of redemption. Ruth was a Moabite who happened who Israelite husband died which lead her to marrying Boaz, a wealthy landowner and kinsmen to Ruth’s mother-in-law from her first marriage, Naomi. The marriage put not only Ruth into the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, but also Lot. One of Lot’s descendants would be in the line of Jesus. With God all things are possible. What great grace God has to allow one of Lot’s family to be a part of the seed of the woman that would crush the serpent’s head.

The Aftermath of Sin: We Open the Door for Sin

The Aftermath of Sin: We Open the Door for Sin

a. Good intentions, evil follow through.

Here we begin the actual narrative. We have Lot and his two daughters living in the cave. Now his two, probably teenage daughters (since they were unmarried) begin to talk. They had just lost their two Sodomite betrothed and have no potential husbands up in the cave in the hills. They talk about how their father is old and is now a widower and he has no male heir. Who will carry on the family name? What will be done to preserve his honor? They want to have grandchildren for their dad. This is all fine and good. Nothing wrong with wanting to give your dad grandkids. But, as they don’t have any husbands and, in their estimation, there is not a man on earth that would want them they begin to hatch a plan. It’s as if they took a page out of their aunt Sarah’s playbook. They try scheming their way out of the situation. The oldest suggests that they get their father drunk and lie with him with the hopes of getting pregnant. Good intentions, evil follow through. They follow through with their plan with apparent success and the younger sister does the same. You see, their desire was honorable but unless that was coupled with faith in God it leads to sin. It always does. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

b. Allowing emotions, not faith, to rule.

Sin was crouching at Lot’s door and he invited it in. His fear, his loss of everything he owned, the death of his wife, and his self-isolation have left the door wide open for sin to walk in. He has allowed his emotions to control him and not his faith in God. Peter tells us that, while Lot was living in Sodom, he was greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked and was tormenting his righteous soul over the lawless deeds that he saw and heard. And now what? Take heed lest ye fall. He allows his daughters to get him drunk two nights in a row. So drunk that he doesn’t even know what’s going on. In two nights he has undone all that he was able to keep himself from those years in Sodom. Not only does he defile himself but also his daughters. There are some warnings here. First, there is a warning against drunkenness. This is Lot’s gateway to greater sin. The temptation to drunkenness lead to more sin. As Matthew Henry said, “no mountain on this side the holy hill above, can set us out of the reach of Satan’s fiery darts.” A second warning is to parents. You can take your daughters out of Sodom but you can’t take the Sodom out of your daughters. He raised his girls in a city where his heart was tormented. What did that do to his daughters? We see the results here.

The Aftermath of Sin: The Messes We Make

The Aftermath of Sin: The Messes We Make

Part 2 of 5.

The Damage of Fear.

When we last left our friend Lot he was in Zoar. He was dragged from the city of Sodom to safety. Lot and his daughters were saved from the destruction. But that was in verse 29. Now we are in verse 30 and where do we find Lot? He lived in the hills in a cave. Wait a minute. When the angels told Lot to run for his life, where did they tell him to go? They said to run to the hill country. Where did Lot want to go? He wanted to go to Zoar.

Remember that he struck a bargain with the angels. He suggested that Zoar was a small city and that it was okay to spare the city and let him live there because it was small. God mercifully consented to this. Now, Lot is living in a cave in the hills? What happened Lot? Why are you there? We are told “he was afraid.” Lot was afraid and moved. Let me say one thing right here. If you are moving because of fear, it better be the fear of God that has caused you to go. But I don’t think this is what is motivating Lot. There is some ungodly fear, not faith, that is leading Lot down this path. Fear is making a mess of his life.

The Messes Get Messier.

Remember where Lot has come from. He started out leaving Ur with his uncle Abraham to sojourn in the land of Canaan. That was a good move. He stayed with Abraham as he traveled about, as he pubically worshipped God, as sojourned in Egypt, and as he returned to Canaan. All great choices.

But then came the turning point when Abraham suggested that he and Lot separate and Lot looked up with his eyes and saw the fertile valley near Sodom and Gomorrah. Bad choice. Then he moves into Sodom, gets captured when the kings pillage the city, and Abraham rescues him. Another choice is to, stay with Abraham or go back to Sodom. He goes back and then ends up sitting in the city gate. Horrible choice. Judgment falls on the city and he doesn’t run. He gets dragged from the city and then feels it’s okay to bargain on how he is saved. Another bad choice. And now he leaves the city after God has promised him safety in Zoar to live in a cave. From a rich man living in a home to a poor caveman. What a mess Lot has created. Unfortunately, he is not done yet.

The Aftermath of Sin: Introduction

The Aftermath of Sin: Introduction

Part 1 of 5.

Back in chapter 18, we saw God revealing his plan to Abraham to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their great sin and wickedness. Abraham through the leading of God prayed for the wicked cities. Abraham began to fulfill the promise that he would be a blessing to the nations. He stands as a type of Christ as he intercedes on behalf of the people who are completely lost in their sin and have sunk to a debased mind. He pleaded for mercy if there were as few as 10 righteous people in the city.

In chapter 19, we witnessed a graphic example of the sin that the cities were involved in. The actions of the men of the city were just one sin amongst a sea of sins that demonstrated to us that God does not bring his judgment arbitrarily. God is a just judge and only brings judgment upon those who deserve it. Sodom would stand as an eternal symbol of God’s eternal judgment against sin. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zephaniah, Paul, Jude, and John all use Sodom as a standard of depravity and an example of judgment. This is why this story has been recorded for us in Scripture. It was a warning to all those that reject God, reject Jesus, that a worse destiny awaits.

Now we come to the end of Genesis chapter 19 and another disturbing passage. Most pastors these days have resorted to preaching topically random passages of Scripture. Some do this out of the fear of man because they want to please the people. Some do it out of ignorance because they do not know how to handle the text. Others will never preach from this passage because it doesn’t fit their “vision” or agenda. Other preachers skip this topic because they don’t think their people can handle it. You will never hear them preach on this passage. I read that even some bible commentators have skipped over this section. This is one of the beauties and the difficulties of preaching expositionally through a book of the Bible. We are forced to look at and consider some things that we would otherwise skip over. Yet, this is the word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness. Rest assured if you learn from this lesson you will be closer to being complete, equipped for every good work.

This passage breaks down into three main parts. First is the setting of this story in verse 30 where we will consider the messes we make. The second section is verses 31-35 where we read the story of Lot and his daughters play out and we’ll consider how we open the door for sin. Finally, in verses 36 -38 we see the commentary on the story and we’ll think about how we, through this story, are instructed and encouraged.