The Man of Faith
Introduction: Today’s passage brings us to the end of the life of the great man of faith, Abraham. His life shows the unfolding process of any believer who is drawn to God. A believer hears the call and eventually comes to the decisive moment where he places his faith and trust in Him alone for salvation.
It is this act by which a person is declared righteous and is justified before God. Nothing else will do. After this call and answer comes the process of sanctification where we walk with God and grow in the knowledge of Him and become molded into His image.
We walk and fellowship with Him through prayer, reading the Bible, and communing with other believers. This is the life of Abraham in a nutshell and it is the life we are called to as well. In this great man’s life, we saw the following pattern –
In chapter 12, he was called out by God. In Chapter 15, he placed his faith in God’s promise and was declared righteous. After this, he walked in faith each step of the way until his faith was tested to the highest measure in Chapter 22 when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.
In chapter 23, we saw Abraham’s sorrow at the loss of his princess and bride Sarah, but even that mournful account showed us his great faith. In the last chapter, he sent for a bride for his son and then he lived out his years full and content as we’ll see today.
Abraham has been a picture of Christ, a picture of God the Father, and a picture of the faithful soul God searches for. Let us carry with us the many lessons we’ve learned as God has displayed the life of this man in the pages of His word.
Text Verse: “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness,
You who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
2 Look to Abraham your father,
And to Sarah who bore you;
For I called him alone,
And blessed him and increased him.”
Isaiah 51:1, 2
Abraham is called the rock from which belief is hewn and the faith of Abraham is what digs us from the pit we were born in. Because of such faith, God blessed Abraham and increased him and He will do the same for us as we live in faith just as this great man of faith did, and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Life Goes On
From the time that Sarah died until the time that Abraham died is a period of 38 years. From time of our last Genesis sermon where Isaac received Rebekah as his wife, which was 3 years after Sarah’s death, it is a period of 35 years.
During that time, we’ll see today that Abraham had another wife and concubines as well. For us, like Abraham, life goes on after tragedy and loss. Abraham made the most of his time and had lots of children as these years went by.
One of the important things that we should learn from today’s verses though is the scant amount of information that we receive about these 35 years. God only includes details that are necessary for us to know what He is doing in and through history as we have seen so many times already.
In the coming four verses, we will see Abraham’s line continue through another wife that he will take. In all there will be six sons, seven grandsons, and three great-grandsons of Abraham mentioned, making sixteen in all.
1 Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
If you can mentally follow the progression of what’s happened, Sarah dies and only afterwards Abraham finds a wife for his son. Because Sarah is dead, Rebekah moves into Sarah’s tent. Now, after that has occurred, Abraham is noted as having another wife.
The wife of the son of promise, Rebekah, receives the tent of the mother, not a second wife or concubine of the father. This follows the Bible’s concept of what we call “dispensationalism.” God works through dispensations, of which there are seven –
1. Man innocent. 2. Man under conscience. 3. Man in authority over the earth. 4. Man under promise. 5. Man under law. 6. Man under grace. 7. Man under the personal reign of Christ.
Other things are going on in the world around us, but there is an overall pattern to what God is doing. The same is true with how the Bible presents the sequence of the life of Abraham and now as it moves into the life of Isaac.
Abraham’s wife is named Keturah. This name means “incense.” As we’ll see in a few verses, Abraham has other concubines, and children through them as well, but only Keturah is mentioned. In all honesty, I couldn’t find any reason why she alone is mentioned along with her children, but the name “incense” may explain it.
2 And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim.
Keturah had six sons by Abraham and in turn the sons of one of her sons are listed and then one of those sons has his sons listed. The name Keturah or “incense” may be given because as incense flows out and eventually disappears into the world, it seems that most of these groups of people did as well.
However, two of her sons, Medan and Midian, will later play a role in the purchase and transfer of Joseph when his brothers sell him to the Egyptians. And Midian will also be the people who Moses escapes to when he flees from Egypt.
After the time of Joseph, the line of Medan isn’t mentioned again, but the line and name of Midian will be noted many, many more times throughout the Old Testament and even once in Acts. Almost always, these people, the Midianites, will be in strife with the people of Israel, but there is one notable exception.
The people of Midian are where Moses’ wife Zipporah will come from. Her father, Reuel (also known as Jethro) who was the priest of Midian, became an instrumental figure just prior to and after the Exodus and it is from him that a notable size of the basis for our American government comes from.
When Moses was in the wilderness, he was the sole judge of the people. When his father-in-law saw this, he gave Moses advice which was accepted for the people of Israel and which eventually became a foundation of our society until not too long ago –
So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18
So the wisdom of Jethro, which was carried on even in the establishment of our nation, can be traced right back to the verse we’re looking at in the sons of Keturah the wife of Abraham.
Surely her name – “incense” – has proven true. From her the line and wisdom of Abraham has wafted around the world in a fragrant display.
4 And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
Of all of these names of the sons of Midian, only one – Ephah – is mentioned again outside of the book of Chronicles. He along with his father Midian is mentioned in Isaiah 60 in a prophecy about the future blessings of the Land of Zion –
The multitude of camels shall cover your land,
The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
All those from Sheba shall come;
They shall bring gold and incense,
And they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord. (v. 6)
Even if we have forgotten who these people are or where they’ve settled in the world, the Lord hasn’t. Someday all of these lines will be known and we will be able to look back on the verses from Genesis and see how God wove it all together in His grand plan.
Now that we’ve looked at this entire group of people who came from Abraham, I will note that I went through every name and every line of each name mentioned here and I couldn’t find a single person who is included in the line of Jesus.
This is similar to what we saw about Ishmael in a previous sermon and as I’ll note again later today. It seems that the line of Keturah, other than leading to the family of Moses’ wife, is a troubling line of people who have been at war with Israel throughout the ages.
5 And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.
Isaac is the son of promise and the inheritor of all that Abraham has. This was already noted in the previous chapter by the servant of Abraham who went to Mesopotamia to get a wife for Isaac. When he was there, he said this to the family of Rebekah –
“I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and to him he has given all that he has.
Imagine how Ishmael and these other sons of Abraham felt about this. This very well may be a part of the reason for their hatred of Israel even today. Stories get passed down as do bad feelings. And along with the physical blessings, it cannot be missed that Isaac’s line, the people of Israel, have also been blessed in other ways.
They have been far more educated and prosperous in both mental and spiritual understanding. Of course, with these blessings comes even more material wealth and of course, more animosity and more jealousy. There is a way around this which far too few are willing to take.
Instead of being angry at the blessings of the Jewish people, the world can join in their blessings and thus be blessed. But the exceptional person will do this and there are very few exceptional people in the world.
The Bible notes a few, like Ruth. And there are some in the church too, but for the most part the people would rather hate and take than bless in order to be blessed.
6 But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.
The same groups who were excused from the inheritance were also excused from the home, but he did give them gifts while they lived at home. This may include Ishmael who was sent away a long time ago, and it included the sons of any other concubines.
However, when they were old enough to be given the boot, he sent them eastward, away from Isaac. This means that he probably had them leave before they got married or had children and so all of the grandsons, and great-grandsons mentioned above were born after the sons of Abraham had already been sent away.
It is Isaac who would receive the inheritance and his descendants through Jacob would continue toward the Messiah. The rest were sent east, which in the context of the Bible is a place of false worship, exile, and which almost exclusively lacks the true God.
If you can see it, Isaac is a picture of Jesus, who is the inheritor of all of things from God the Father. The amazing thing for each of us is that again and again the New Testament says that when we receive Jesus, we join in that inheritance. In fact, in Revelation 21:7, Jesus says that those who overcome will inherit all things.
II. The Man of Faith
7 This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years.
Abraham was first noted in Genesis 11 and he was the main focus of the biblical narrative until the end of Genesis 23 where Isaac began to take the lead role. His time of life in the land of Canaan has been 100 years and this is now the year 2184AM.
The life of Abraham is singularly noted as the epitome of a person who lives by faith and he will continue to be noted in this way throughout the rest of the Bible.
But the narrative of his life comes to an end in these few verses. He died at 175 years of age. His grandfather died at 148, his father at 205, Isaac will be 180, and Jacob will be 147. So this is the general lifespan of people at this time. Now he dies and he awaits his final reward with the redeemed of the ages.
To put Abraham’s death into proper perspective, we should note that Isaac is now 75, Ishmael is now 89, and Abraham’s grandchildren, the twins Jacob and Esau who haven’t been mentioned yet are 15 years old.
And as something for us to think about, this verse actually uses the term, “the days of the years of Abraham.” The great scholar Adam Clarke beautifully states what we should take to heart –
“There is a beauty in this expression which is not sufficiently regarded. Good men do not live by centuries, though many such have lived several hundred years, nor do they count their lives even by years, but by days, living as if they were the creatures only of A Day; having no more time than they can with any propriety call their own, and living that day in reference to eternity.”
Moses sums up this thought in the 90th Psalm –
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. (12)
8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.
This verse is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham from Genesis 15 –
Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. (15)
He attained the years God had determined and was gathered to his people. This verse, along with many other Bible references, implies that he didn’t cease to exist but his soul has continued on in another sphere. He and those with him are in a world of consciousness, but without an actual body.
In one example from Jesus’ mouth, we read this from Luke 16 –
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
If you read the KJV, this verse, rather than saying “breathed his last” says “gave up the ghost.” This really isn’t accurate if you think it through. Abraham had no power to keep or give up his ghost. That is God’s prerogative, not ours.
There is only one who truly gave up the Ghost and that is Jesus when He died on the cross. The terminology used in the original languages will bear this out. Jesus even states this in John 10, which is another of countless verses which point to His deity –
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Abraham had no such power. He breathed his last, not “gave up the ghost.”
9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife.
Isaac is noted first in this verse because he is the son of promise and the one who had authority over the household of Abraham. Ishmael is an invited family member to the burial of their father, the great man of faith, Abraham.
Unless you listened to the sermon on Genesis 23, the terminology in this verse won’t make much sense. But in short, Abraham is buried in the cave which Sarah was buried in. The names of the people point to death in this world, a world owned by Satan and which is the repository for the souls of the sons of Adam.
The purchase of this cave pictured the price Christ paid to redeem Adam’s seed and it is therefore a place which is now one of comfort for believers as they await the resurrection. Understanding this, the parable Jesus gave about Lazarus makes much more sense.
11 And it came to pass, after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac dwelt at Beer Lahai Roi.
The final verse of this particular section is given to show us that the blessings of God on Abraham have now been passed onto Isaac. What should be noted is that the term God, or Elohim, is used instead of Jehovah.
The work of Jehovah is described in the covenantal sense which follows the plan of salvation for the world. The blessing of God in this verse is referring to worldly blessings such as crops, herds, money, servants, etc.
This particular sort of blessing now rests upon Isaac, just as it did on Abraham. Isaac is dwelling by the well which was named when Hagar had fled from Sarah which we talked about in Genesis 16.
This area, centering on this well, is where the blessings of God first begin to come upon Isaac apart from Abraham.
III. The Generations of Ishmael
12 Now this is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore to Abraham.
We now come to seven verses which are given as a branch from the main narrative of the Bible. This is now the seventh set of “generations” listed in the Bible. In order, they are –
The generations of the heavens and the earth (2:4); the generations of Adam (5:1); the generations of Noah (6:9); the generations of the sons of Noah (10:1); the generations of Shem (11:10), and the generations of Terah (11:27).
In the sermon on Genesis 5, I talked about the spelling of the word toledot which is the Hebrew word for “generations.” I’m not going to go into any great detail here, but I will mention that this word toledot can be spelled in a variety of ways based upon the structure of the sentence.
In this word toledot, there can be one or two letters called vav, which is the sixth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. Six is the number of man in the Bible. Before the fall, toledot is spelled with 2 vavs.
From after the fall, all the way up to the time when King David is introduced, the toledot is never again spelled with two vavs.
It’s believed that the missing vavs indicate the fallen state of man. David is the final piece of the Messianic puzzle and so the second vav is reintroduced. Anyway, there are only three times out of the 30 between the fall and David that there is no vav at all.
This line of Ishmael is the first and I believe the reason is because there is no one from Ishmael’s line who is recorded in the line of the Messiah. The book of Galatians shows us that Ishmael is a type, or picture, of the law.
The law cannot save anyone and therefore there is no hope if one is of the spiritual line of Ishmael – the bondage of the law. A person must move from Ishmael to Isaac, from the law to grace, from Adam to Christ or they cannot be saved.
As I said, there is only one other line of people where there is no vav in a genealogy from Genesis to Ruth and it is in the line of Levi – one of the 12 sons of Israel. All of the other sons have a genealogy listed and they all have a vav. Levi however is mentioned twice and both times the vav is missing.
Why would there be a vav in every other genealogy of all of Israel’s sons except Levi? Because Levi is the administrator of the law! The Levites picture the law.
God is giving us amazing clues concerning the enormity of our decision to follow Christ and trust in Him alone, apart from works of the Law. One is separated from God and disqualified from the prize if they choose to participate in the mandates of the law in hopes of pleasing God.
Think of that when you are told you must observe a Saturday Sabbath, be circumcised, not eat pork, not get a tattoo, or any other thing which is found under the law but which is not mentioned in the proper context of the New Testament.
A second point to be made about the verse we’re looking at is that this genealogy of Ishmael is given and it will be followed immediately by the genealogy of Isaac, though that will be in next week’s sermon.
The custom of the Bible is to cite the lines of people who branch off from the Messiah before the Messianic line is given. This was true with the history of Cain before that of Seth, the history of Japheth & Ham before the history of Shem, the history of Haran & Nahor before that of Abram.
The pattern now continues with Isaac. This is a pattern known as the doctrine of divine election – God makes a divine choice. Isaac is the son of promise even though he is younger than Ishmael. The promise skips over Ishmael and goes to Isaac.
This pattern will continue throughout the Bible and it points to the work of Jesus, the second Adam, replacing the work of the first Adam as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15. In next week’s sermon, we’ll talk about election and predestination in detail.
13 And these were the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.
The line of Ishmael is given here to show the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham, about Ishmael, in Genesis 17 –
19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.
God promised, and now we see that God delivered. Only God could look into the future and see what would occur. By speaking to Abraham as He did, the word was binding and so now we see the fulfillment of what was promised.
16 These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and their settlements, twelve princes according to their nations.
Two words are used to designate the dwelling places of Ishmael’s descendants – towns and settlements. The first is khats-re-hem and would be places like living as tent dwellers in the wilderness. The second is tirotam and is translated castles or towers sometimes. This would be mountain tops, fortified caves, etc.
17 These were the years of the life of Ishmael: one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.
I have already mentioned that the only people in the generations or toledot from Adam to David without a vav were the generations of Ishmael and Levi. Interestingly, Ishmael and Levi, along with Levi’s son Amram – the father of Moses the Lawgiver, all died at the same age of 137 – the only three in the Bible to die at this age.
It’s too much of a coincidence. Ishmael, who pictures the law, and Levi and his son Amram, through whom came Moses and Aaron, all died at the same age. I think God is telling us quite clearly that the law cannot save and He is doing it through hints like these.
18 (They dwelt from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt as you go toward Assyria.) He died in the presence of all his brethren.
This final verse about Ishmael is given to remind us of when God spoke to Hagar in chapter 16 where the same words are used –
He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (v. 12)
Once again, we see God’s transcendence over time. He sees what will occur, tells us what will occur, and then He shows us what occurred in fulfillment of His word. These details aren’t boring repetitions. They are exciting features of God’s workings in history and for the sake of His chosen people.
The words used here, “he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” have a multiple meaning and all apply beautifully to the sons of Ishmael. The phrase can mean he will live in the presence of, in the face of, or to the east of.
Fittingly, these descendants moved east of Israel, they are in the face of Israel, and they are in the midst of Israel – exactly as the Bible foresaw. Here we are 4000 years later and the Bible is still being validated in this line of people.
The spiritual lessons we are to learn from Abraham and Ishmael are that we can only find salvation and reconciliation with God through faith. The deeds of the law only separate us further from God. They make us knowledgeable of our sinful state and the law is given then to direct us to the knowledge of our need for Jesus.
He alone fulfilled the law and now He offers to you His righteousness in exchange for your failures. Let me take a moment and explain Christ’s work and what you can do to receive it…
Closing Verse: Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19,20
Next Week – Genesis 25:19-24 – (Divine Election – The Older Shall Serve the Younger)
Living by Faith or Dying by the Law
Abraham again took a wife, and Keturah was her name
And she bore to him Zimran, Jokshan, and Medan
Also Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah, from her these six boys came
And then her sonJokshan begot Sheba and Dedan
And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim
And the sons of Midian are by name and number five
Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah it would seem
All these were the children of Keturah to keep her name alive
And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac
But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines too
And while he was living he sent them eastward with a backpack
Away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east, it’s true
From the Bible the years of Abraham’s life we can gauge
It was a total of one hundred and seventy-five years
Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age
And was gathered to his people, old and full, dying with no fears
And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave
Of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the field of Ephron
The son of Zohar the Hittite, which for silver he gave
The field he purchased from the sons of Heth after Sarah was gone
There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife
And it came to pass, after Abraham’s death, you see
That God blessed his son Isaac in his life
And Isaac dwelt at the Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me
Now this is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son
Whom the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant to him bore
And these are the names of Ishmael’s sons, each one
According to their generations, let’s name the whole store
The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; then Kedar, and Adbeel
And Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, and Hadar
Also Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah all sons of Ishmael
These, their names, by their towns and settlements, near and far
Twelve princes according to their nations
These were the years of the life of Ishmael
One hundred and thirty-seven years in his generations
And he breathed his last and died, so sounds the funeral bell
He was gathered to his people when he died
They dwelt from Havilah as far as Shur
As you go toward Assyria by Egypt on the eastern side
In the presence of all his brethren his name does endure
Thus is the story of these Bible men
But the story continues on after them
Everything leading eventually to Jesus
Who would come and give His life for us
What a gift, what a treasure
That God has given in His word
He pours out blessings which are beyond measure
Because He is a great and awesome Lord
And so Lord help us to live aright
And bring glory to You in all we do
Help us to live by faith and not by sight
Help us to be faithful followers of You
Hallelujah and Amen…