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Abraham's Legacy

Date: Jul. 22, 2018

Author: Michael Mark

Genesis 25:1-18

Key Verse: Genesis 25:8

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

When you hear the word “legacy,” what comes to mind?  If you’re like me, you think of something you will be remembered by, something that you pass down to others from your past.  This is the most common way I see it used today, and this is a valid definition. But did you know, that in the dictionary, this is the second definition of the word?  The word “legacy” has a primary definition, and is slightly different than how most of us here use it.  The first entry for the meaning of the word legacy is: “something (such as property or money) that is received from someone who has died.”  An example would be “She left us a legacy of a million dollars.”  The word is very similar to the word “inheritance.”  There are subtle differences, but as you can see legacy has a little bit of a broader definition.  In today’s passage, we will be looking at the Abraham’s legacy.  I will be using the word interchangeably – so we will see Abraham’s legacy both in the sense of what he is remembered for, and also in the sense of what he has given to his children.  So today, we’ll talk all about Abraham’s legacy.

We have now come to the close of an amazing section in the book of Genesis.  Starting from Ch. 11, we were introduced to Abraham, who was one man called out by God to leave his father’s household to go to a country God would show him.  He was born almost 400 years after the Flood, a few hundred years from the Tower of Babel, in a time when it was extremely rare to find someone faithful to the Creator God.  Even after the Flood, the world was still submerged under the darkness of sin and death – but God had promised a Savior from the very beginning (Gen 3:15).  Now the plan was set into motion by the calling of Abraham, who was given this promise by God, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Gen 12:2-3).”  Throughout our study of Genesis, we have followed Abraham on his journey, and saw in failures and in victories how God shaped him to be our ancestor of faith so that all that God promised would come through him to us.  This promise will span multiple generations over hundreds of years, testifying to the faithfulness and patience of God towards sinful man.  We have now come to the conclusion of the life of father of our faith, Abraham.

First, let’s see the legacy he left behind for all of his children.  Look at v.1-2, “Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.”  Not much is mentioned about these children, or the circumstances of his third wife. What we are sure about is that Ishmael was his firstborn, Abraham had no other heir prior to that, and Isaac was born next, and named the true heir of Abraham.  These children must have been born later, but they are mentioned here, even briefly, because they show how God kept all of his promises to Abraham. God told Abraham in Gen 17:5 “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”  Now spiritually, Abraham is the father of many nations.  But physically, this also came to pass for Abraham.  You all might recognize Midian, who was the father of the Midianites.  The wife of Moses was a Midianite.  They were also the ones who bought Joseph from his brothers and sold him into slavery in Egypt.  In the book of Judges, chapter 6, the Midianites oppressed Israel greatly, and Gideon had to rescue Israel from their tyranny.  In the book of Job, one of Job’s friends is Bildad the Shuhite, a descendant of Shuah – so that might help you get an idea of the time Job lived. As you can see, these sons of Abraham by Keturah were made into recognized nations.  What was it about Abraham that his sons became princes? This was all by the providence of God.

Verses 5-6 shows us the legacy that Abraham left for all of his children.  They say, “Abraham left everything with Isaac.  But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.”  It is up to the parents to decide how they want to pass down their inheritance. Sometimes God will decide to divide the inheritance between multiple children.  Jacob’s children were given 12 tribal territories in the promised land. But here you see the possession of the promised land, at least the promise of it (Abraham did not own the land yet), was reserved solely for Isaac.  All that Abraham owned was given to Isaac – maybe his tents, his personal items, the field he bought as a burial ground.  For the children of his concubines, he gave them gifts, perhaps primarily of money, silver and gold, but he sent them off to the land of the east, away from Isaac.  He wanted to make sure there was no dispute over the land of Canaan.  It is important to note that Abraham was living while he gave these gifts and instructions.  If Abraham died before he sent them away, any of his sons could claim what was given to Isaac.  But Abraham made his will known, and had such authority that there was no dispute.

But another reason that there might not be a dispute is because he might have satisfied the other children.  Gen 13:2 says “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold,” and this was at the beginning of his journey.  He might have given each of them a large amount of wealth to be able to take care of themselves.  Also notice he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines. Concubines is plural, and probably refers to both Hagar and Keturah.  We saw in Ch 21 Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away with almost nothing, but now after the passing of several years he remembered Ishmael too, and gave him gifts.  Notice now there is a difference between the two legacies that Abraham gives to Isaac, and to all the children of the concubines.  To the children of the concubines, he gives a legacy of gifts. To Isaac, he gives a legacy of the promised land.  One legacy is temporary, the other is permanent, and even eternal.   The other children receive a good gift, but only Isaac receives the promised land.  Isaac is the sole heir of the promised land, and none of his other brothers have a right to it.  The promised land will eventually belong to Isaac’s descendants only.  Isaac not only inherited the property, but he inherited the promises of God along with them.  That was the legacy given to Isaac and all of his descendants; an eternal legacy.

Now let’s look at Abraham’s personal legacy.  This time, legacy refers to how Abraham will be remembered.  Look at v.7, “Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years.” That in itself is amazing today, when the average life span today is under 100 years.  We also know that Abraham was called to this foreign land when he was 75 years old.  That means he walked in faith for 100 years, more than half of his life.  We saw how hard his life was; it did not get easier when he left his father’s house.  He was a stranger in a foreign land.  The locals kidnapped his nephew, and he gathered an army to save him.   He witnessed the utter destruction of two sinful cities.  He fell in to fear twice and nearly put his wife in danger.  He prayed for the righteous and for kings. God gave him very precious promises, and pointed his eyes to the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.  He was quick to obey God, in both the circumcising of himself and his entire household, and most notably in the test of sacrificing his one and only son.  And God did give him and Sarah a son in their very old age.  However, he did not see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.  In his lifetime he did not yet see his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or as the sand in the seashore.  They have not yet taken possession of the whole land of Canaan.  When he died he had 8 children, and of those he considered his heirs, it was really only one child and one grandchild.  One hundred years living in the land and at the end of it he only had a burial ground to his name.  But he still believed in God’s promise.  The book of Hebrews says that he is among those who did not receive the things promised when they died, but they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. It says that people like Abraham were still living by faith when they died.

Can we all please read v.8, “Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man full of years; and he was gathered to his people.”  Here we have the death of Abraham.  He died at a good old age, an old man full of years.  This was a blessing.  In some translations it says he died “in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life.”  What a testimony.  Even without receiving the promise, but seeing all that God had done in his life, he trusted that God will eventually carry it out, but he was satisfied with life. Will you be able to say that in your dying day?  I pray that all who live by faith till the day they die can say they have been satisfied with life, being thankful for all that God has done, and being hopeful for the even greater things he will do.  The verse here is a fulfillment of God’s promise in Gen 15:15.  This is when God establishes his covenant with himself to give Abraham many descendants, and puts Abraham in a deep sleep.  God tells Abraham his descendants will be mistreated for 400 years in a country not their own, but will come out with great possessions. Then he tells Abraham, “You however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age.”  God fulfills the exact promise to Abraham decades later.

Verse 8 also tells us that Abraham died, and then “was gathered to his people.”  Notice 2 distinct events: first death, then gathering. What does this tell us?  This tells us that there is life after death. There is more than this world, there is more that the eye can see.  “He was gathered to his people” means he “went to be with his ancestors.”  After our bodies expire here in this world, our souls will go to the next.  But who are his people?  This phrase is used when Abraham died, and Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David, and once it is used of a whole generation that served God.  So to me, it seems that “his people,” are people of faith – his ancestors, Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Eber, among many others.  We have this hope, that one day too, we will be gathered up to people like Abraham after we die.

Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the cave he bought from the Hittites, with his wife Sarah who died 38 years before he did.  Abraham was 175, this makes Isaac 75 years old, and Ishmael is around 90 years old.  Remember that Ishmael was sent away when Isaac was a young boy, so they had been apart maybe around 70 years.  They may not have been very far apart, but they did live separately.  But here they are together, honoring their father by burying him.  It is interesting to me, that although Abraham had to send Ishmael away, he came back to pay respects to his father.  Also by this time Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac, would have been 15 years old.  Abraham lived to see Jacob, who would eventually become the nation of Israel. Look at v.11, “After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.”  This is the conclusion of the account of Abraham that began in Chapter 11 verse 27.  It begins with the introduction of Abraham as the son of Terah, and ends with Isaac, the child of the promise, being blessed by God.  This blessing is the continuation of the covenant God made with Abraham, that his name will be great, that his descendants will be very numerous, and the whole world would be blessed through him.  Although Abraham’s time had come, God passed on the promise to the next generation.  Isaac was the immediate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and a sign of the fulfillment of all of God’s other promises.

Before the story continues regarding Isaac and the bloodline of the Savior, there is a brief interlude that further shows God’s faithfulness to Abraham.  Look at v.12, “This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.” Remember when you see the words, “This is the account,” it starts a new section in the book of Genesis.  From here in v.13-16 it gives the names of the 12 sons of Ishmael, who all became tribal rulers.  This was a direct answer to Abraham’s prayer in Ch. 17.  When God made a promise to Abraham that Sarah will bear a child at the age of 90, Abraham laughed.   He believed God, and knew that this promised child of his wife Sarah would be his heir.  But he did not forget about Ishmael.  He thought, “What about Ishmael?” So he said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”  Listen to what God says in v.20, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and greatly increase his numbers.  He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.”  Wow!  Abraham almost seemed to have said this in passing, but God heard him.  God knew his heart.  Ishmael may have only been in his young teen years at the time, but here we see that God fulfilled his answer to Abraham’s prayer exactly.  It is no coincidence that Ishmael became the father of 12 rulers. What an impressive role!  This was all orchestrated by God.

Look at v.17, “Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years.  He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people.” Ishmael lived a long life, though I’m not sure how much at peace he was.  God had prophesied to Hagar about Ishmael, that he will be a wild donkey of a man, and will live in hostility toward all his brothers.  As we see in v.18, his descendants lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.  They lived primarily south of Israel, from east of Egypt, all the way west to near the Euphrates River in southern Iraq, and travelled living in that area.  God did fulfill his promise to Abraham.  Ishmael was blessed and very fruitful, and he became a great nation, for the sake of Abraham.

God kept his promise to Abraham in that he became the ancestor of the Savior of the world: God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who came through the line of Abraham and Isaac. Through Christ, Abraham’s offspring, the whole world is blessed with salvation from sin and death.  What is Abraham’s legacy to us today?  It is a legacy of faith.  In the book of Hebrews, in Ch. 11, the Great Hall of Faith passage, Abraham is given 2 large sections.  He believed in all the promises of God.  His legacy to Isaac was the inheritance of the promised land.  Spiritually, this teaches us that the children of the promise will inherit eternal life.  Gal 3:7 says, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” You are a child of the promise if you have faith.  Therefore, this promise is for you, 1 Pet 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”  This is a promise: that you will be resurrected from the dead!  And that you will be gathered up with Jesus’ people, into your eternal inheritance that words cannot describe.  The promised land is heaven.  In closing, Abraham’s legacy can be summed up in 3 words: Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  May this legacy of faith be yours too, and may you pass it on to others.

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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