This post was written by Josh Bondoc, director of Young Adults Ministries at EBC.
The other Sunday, when Wes Dobson came to preach for us, we heard an encouraging sermon on the obituary of Abraham which summarized his faithfulness to God—and how we today must have the same faithfulness as Abraham. Yet, in Genesis 25, we see that Abraham’s faithfulness to God is but a backdrop for what’s on center stage: God’s Faithfulness To Abraham.
The Children of Keturah
“Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah” (25:1-4).
Here, we see God’s faithfulness to Abraham in keeping his promises to make Abraham’s offspring like the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16), the stars in the skies (Gen. 15:5), and the sand on the seashores (Gen. 22:17)—including his offspring through concubines like Keturah (1 Chronicles 1:32) or Hagar (Gen. 16:10). Midian is likely the most familiar name on this list, whose descendants will play an instrumental role later on in the life of Moses and the future of ethnic Israel (Exodus 2:11-22).
However, it’s been quite clear throughout Genesis that the true and chosen offspring—Abraham’s “only son”—is Isaac, who goes on to receive the undisputed inheritance from his father.
The Inheritance of Isaac
“Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country” (25:5-6).
While Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines, he gave all things to Isaac. On top of that, Abraham sent his other sons away from his son Isaac—in keeping with God’s affirmation of Sarah’s request to cast out the slave woman (Hagar) and her son (Ishmael), since only through Isaac shall Abraham’s offspring be named (Gen. 21:10-12). It’s important to note that Abraham did this “while he was still living” because Abraham himself makes it clear that Isaac is the legitimate heir who will receive all that he has (the inheritance) when he dies—since Abraham knew and understood that God’s faithfulness to him will extend beyond his lifetime.
The Life, Death and Burial of Abraham
“These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. 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” (25:7-10).
This passage is packed with evidence of God’s faithfulness to Abraham. First, God’s promise to Abraham from almost a century ago that he will die and be buried “in a good old age” (Gen. 15:15) comes to fulfillment here in the mourning and celebration of his “full” life as he was gathered to his people.
Second, God’s promise to give Abraham’s offspring the land (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15, 17; 15:18-20; 17:8) begins its course as “Isaac and Ishmael his sons” bury him with Sarah in the Canaanite land that he purchased and secured as property for a burying place (Gen. 23:17-20). Yet, despite Abraham being buried in the land by his two sons, only one son carries on the blessing to the nations.
The Blessing of Isaac
“After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi” (25:11).
When God specifically blessed Abraham to be a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:2-3), God’s blessing indicated that it will come through his family name. This is picked back up later on in Abraham’s life when God promises an offspring through Sarah, who will be blessed through her son—the only son of sacrifice, Isaac, through whom the nations will be blessed (Gen. 22:17-18).
God’s faithfulness to Abraham is seen in full display here, even through the place of Isaac’s settlement (Gen. 16:14). Yet, while God specifically blesses Isaac as the child of promise, God does not forget his promise and blesses him as Abraham’s physical offspring with physical blessings.
The Generations of Ishmael
“These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes” (25:12-16).
Here, we see the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham regarding Ishmael. First, we see that Ishmael becomes a multitude of nations (Genesis 16:10; 21:13, 18). Second, Ishmael’s line produces kings—specifically, “twelve princes”—in keeping with God’s promise about royalty coming from Abraham’s offspring (Gen. 17:6, 20). In fact, God’s faithfulness to Abraham is seen even in the life of Ishmael itself as well as his descendants after him.
The Life of Ishmael
“(These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen” (25:17-18).
When Abraham cried out in faith to God about saving Ishmael’s life (Gen. 17:18), Ishmael’s obituary here shows that God came through on his promise to bless Abraham’s physical offspring (Gen. 17:20).
In fact, God also comes through on his promises when we hear about how Ishmael “settled over against all his kinsmen”—since God made promised that about Ishmael early on: “He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen” (Genesis 16:12). While Ishmael was outside the scope of God’s promises, he was still in the scope of God’s purposes.
Jesus Christ, The Blessing To The Nations
Throughout Genesis 25:1-18, God’s faithfulness to Abraham is in full display. Yet, it is seen most clearly when Abraham makes sure to give all that he had to the heir of promise, Isaac—while he was still living. In turn, God blesses Isaac after his death. From this, we see that the blessing of Abraham is now passed down to the child of promise, Isaac—through whom the nations will be blessed. Many years later, we see that this blessing of Isaac finds its fulfillment in the one offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:16)—Jesus Christ, the blessing to the nations.
As Peter says to the men of Israel, “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:25-26).
Eventually, Paul explains that this blessing of the gospel extends to believing Gentiles outside of ethnic Israel by faith: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Galatians 3:8).
This blessing is good news for us today because the Scriptures tell us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of sin and death by becoming a curse for us when he died on that cross—so that in him “the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
Today, if you believe by faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, then you will be blessed with the same gospel that was preached to Abraham many years ago! But for those of us who have already believed and received this blessing of the gospel, what then do we do with this blessing?
Passing On The Blessing
Much like Abraham ensured the passing on of the blessing to Isaac while he was still living, we who have been blessed by the gospel must proactively be passing on the blessing of the gospel to the next generation—while we are still living! Whether it’s children or younger people in our home, church, or community, we must do the good work of evangelism and discipleship with a sense of urgency today!
In doing so, we are also making sure to pass on the blessing of the gospel to the nations because we, like Abraham, will eventually breathe our last. When that day comes, we can trust that God will continue blessing the nations through those whom we have passed it on to. Either that or Christ returns, and I hope we would be found faithful in passing on the blessing as our Lord has commanded us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
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