Context: It’s been a couple of years since Sarah has died and Isaac has recently married Rebekah. Abraham is an old man, but he’s still vibrant and very much alive.
Genesis 25:1-6, “Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him (6 sons) Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan (2 grandsons). And the sons of Dedan (3 great-grandsons) were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. And the sons of Midian (5 more grandsons) were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. 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.”
Abraham is 135 when he remarries Keturah and over the next 35 years his family multiplies filling his home. Note: There was nothing inherently wrong with Abraham remarrying. With Sarah deceased and Isaac and Rebekah starting their own family, you can understand why he’d want to finish out his years with a partner. “Keturah” literally means “incense.”
Additionally, it’s likely Moses finds it important to extend out parts of this new Abrahamic genealogy in part to explain the family connection the people of Israel had with these other nationalities, as well as the connection they had with the God of Abraham.
It’s interesting, but in Moses’ own story - upon fleeing Egypt and spending 40 years in the Sinai wilderness - he’d end up marrying a Midianite by the name Zipporah. As a matter of fact, Zipporah’s father Jethro is even described in Exodus 3:1 and Exodus 18 as being the “priest of Midian” and ends up offering a legitimate “burnt offering and sacrifice to God.”
Though Keturah would give Abraham six additional sons, there was no question in that home as to the supremacy of Isaac as being the promised son and only heir. We’re told before he died “Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines” before “sending them eastward away from Isaac.” Though I’m sure Abraham loved these other sons as he had loved Ishmael before them, it was clear there was to be no rival to Isaac.
Note: This phrase “sons of the concubines” is misleading as it implies there were additional women aside from Keturah. First, “concubines” shouldn’t be translated into the plural. In the Hebrew you’ll find this word instead in the singular tense. Note: Consistent with Moses’ point as to the supremacy of Isaac, this word is used to differentiate Keturah from Sarah.
Genesis 25:7-11, “This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years. 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. 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, the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife. And it came to pass, after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac dwelt at Beer Lahai Roi.”
Abraham, this man Scripture calls the “Father of our Faith” and is the only man referred to in the Bible as being the “friend of God” - a man who, in spite of the fact he failed more than he succeeded, was still considered “righteous” because he believed in God’s promised Savior - a man who received and enjoyed the incredible blessings of God not because he deserved them, but because of the simple fact God’s grace towards him always remained sufficient…
This man Abraham, after 175 years (100 of which were spent with God), finally “breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years” being “gathered to his people.”
I love the way this verse reads in the original language. First, the idea behind “breathed his last” presents a peaceful and tranquil passing. Abraham wrestled not in death… He had nothing to fear… And here’s why - We’re told he lived a life “full of years.”
If you notice in your Bible these two words “of years” are italicized meaning they actually aren’t in the original text. The phrase should instead more properly read that Abraham died “an old man and full.” The Hebrew word we have “full” literally means “satisfied.”
Understand what’s being communicated… When Abraham’s life came to that inevitable place all life ultimately finds itself - on the doorsteps of death, he was able to die in peace because he’d lived with no regrets. That is not to say there weren’t seasons Abraham would have liked a do-over concerning. The point is that as it pertained to his continued faith in God’s Savior he’d run his race and was at complete peace knowing he’d finished well.
At the end of the Apostle Paul’s life he’d write to his dear friend Timothy (2 Timothy 4:6-8), “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Friend, please realize there is only one decision in this life you will make that will last for eternity… One decision that will yield peace upon death as opposed to torment… And that is what you choose to do with Jesus! Will you reject your life for His or reject His life for yours?
Beyond this… We’re told after dying Abraham “was gathered to his people.” The implication of this phrase was that his death was not the end of his story, but was rather the very moment Abraham entered an eternal existence. He was not dead, but was with “his people.”
As those who’d died before him who’d also placed their faith in God’s coming Savior, Abraham joined this heavenly host as they awaited that day when God would offer His Son on Moriah for their sins. Abraham might have drew his last breath on this earth, but it was in that very moment he immediately found himself in the company of Adam and Eve, Abel, Enoch and Methuselah, Noah and Shem, and yes even his wife Sarah (Hebrews 11-12).
You see, like Abraham, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus (the only one to conquer death) there is no reason for you to fear dying for death is really nothing more than a passage into a much better and glorious existence. 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son Jesus. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
Finally, we’re giving this interesting scene whereby Abraham’s “sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah.” What a scene that must have been? Ishmael, the son who’d been sent away so many years before, returns to join Isaac in honoring their father. There was no bitterness. No animosity. No hate. Ishmael understood why it had been necessary he leave the tents of Abraham in order for God to accomplish his work in his life.
With this in mind, in the next several verses Moses will provided us the rest of Ishmael’s story for the specific purposes of letting us know that God had indeed fulfilled His promise to Hagar that her son would become a mighty nation.
And yet, notice before he does this, following the death of Abraham, we’re simply told “God blessed his son Isaac!” As his father before him Isaac received the blessings of God not because he’d done anything to deserve them. He was blessed because God chose to bless him. Yet another example of God’s unmerited favor - His amazing grace!
Genesis 25:12-18, “Now this is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore to Abraham. 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, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and their settlements, twelve princes according to their nations. 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. (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.”
Genesis 25:19-22, “This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord.”
The last time we saw Isaac was at the end of chapter 24… Specifically in Genesis 24:67 when we read, “Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent; and he took her and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.”
In regards to the timeline it’s important to keep in mind that according to verse 20 Isaac was “forty years old” when he married Rebekah only for verse 26 to inform us that Isaac ends up being “sixty years old” when they were finally blessed with children… This means he and Rebekah had been trying - unsuccessfully - to have children for 20 long years.
Imagine what this must have been like for Rebekah… And I point out Rebekah main because I don’t think Isaac had any worries. He knew God’s plan - was confident God was more than able to provide them a son. I’m sure during this entire situation Abraham proved to be such an encouragement for his son. Note: Esau and Jacob were 15 when Abraham died.
And yet, none of that would have elevated the angst of Rebekah. Don’t forget she’d never had the privilege of knowing Sarah. She’d only heard the stories secondhand. Beyond this she’s 500 miles away from her mother. Imagine the pressure of marrying into a family who’s entire worldview and hope for salvation was based on you conceiving a son!
While I’m sure Isaac and even Abraham were supportive and encouraging, there is no doubt the insecurities she must have experienced on a monthly basis were brutal. Even though Isaac knew this was all in God’s plan and that it wasn’t her fault, in this culture barrenness was seen by the population at large as the judgment of God and a mark on one’s character.
Husbands, have you ever been in a situation where your wife was struggling and you were powerless to do anything about it? Like Isaac, there wasn’t an obvious or tangible solution to the problem - which can be maddening because men are inherently problem solvers! May I ask, what do you do or better yet what should you do in these situations?
We’re told in the face of such a situation, “Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife!” How long had he been praying for her? A year? The last decade? All 20 years? We don’t know! And yet, when the timing was right “the Lord granted his plea and Rebekah conceived!” Don’t miss that husbands… God worked in Rebekah’s life because of the pleas of Isaac!
As we’ve noted over the last few Sundays… In the macro-sense, ever sense his miraculous birth and ever sense he’d been taken onto Moriah and offered by his father, Isaac has presented us a picture of Jesus. Even in this love story we looked at last Sunday whereby Eliezer (the Helper) brought Isaac a bride this imagery has remained constant.
Building off of this imagery of Isaac / Rebekah, Christ / Church, you / your wife, in Ephesians 5:25-29 Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”
Isaac loved Rebekah. Cherished her. And when there was nothing he could do to alleviate her struggles, he demonstrated his love by getting on his knees to “plead” on her behalf!
Before we move on I want to take a minute to consider the implications of Rebekah being a picture of the church and more specifically you and I as Christ-followers. While she’d entered into this incredible relationship with Isaac because she responded to the appeals of Eliezer, her great struggle was barrenness. More than anything Rebekah wanted to be fruitful.
She wanted to yield through her body a new life that would be pleasing to her husband; and yet, the problem is that she finds herself powerless to accomplish this on her own. What did Rebekah need to yield a life that’s pleased Isaac? She needed not only the intercession of her husband, but for God to ultimately yield such a life supernaturally through her.
For every Christian there is a day, a moment in time, when, like Rebekah, the Spirit (Eliezer) calls you into a relationship with Jesus (Isaac) - a day when He makes His appeal and you must decided to leave behind the life you knew for the new life He wants to give you.
And once you say yes and thereby enter into this incredible relationship with Christ, like Rebekah, it’s only natural that you now want to yield a life that your Savior (your husband Jesus) will find pleasing. You no longer want to sin or do the wrong things. Instead, you want Godliness to manifest in your life and the fruit of the Spirit to spring forth from your life!
And yet, if we’re being honest this morning, the truth is that Godly-living doesn’t automatically happen. Sure, you’ve submitted to the leading of the Spirit. Yes, you’ve entered into a relationship with Christ. No doubt your desires have changed (you want your life to be pleasing to Jesus); and yet, your behaviors haven’t immediately followed suit.
In describing this very struggle Paul would simply write in Romans 7, “(15) For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. (19) For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (24) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Let me explain why this dynamic exists… Like Rebekah, you’re barren. You see try as you might to live up to your calling as the Bride of Christ it won’t take long for the brutal reality to sink in that, if left to your own efforts, you are powerless to yield a Godly life naturally.
Like a woman unable to conceive there is something fundamentally broken in your flesh… Something about you that simply doesn’t possess the capacity to conceive and yield life!
But all hope is not lost… Though she was undoubtedly barren, life through Rebekah was still possible. How? Well two things had to occur… Her husband needed to intercede on her behalf and God would have to enable a supernatural conception with her flesh.
The only way Rebekah was able to yield a life that would please Isaac was for Isaac to intercede on her behalf and for God to work within her in response to Isaac’s appeal!
Please understand, the exact same dynamic exists for you and I. Godliness, Christ-honoring behaviors, Spiritual fruit is only possible in your life as a supernatural work of God yielded through the continuous intercession of Jesus. It’s a good thing that in both Romans 8 and Hebrews 7 Jesus is described as being in heaven making intercession for you right now!
This is why legalism is such an abomination. Legalistic rules for moral development within your life are pointless because apart from a supernatural work of God yield through the constant intercession of Jesus you can never yield a life that pleases Him! Like Rebekah, what grace that while we might be barren this entire work of life spawning in and through us is accomplished in our lives independent of our involvement.
But all of this imagery doesn’t end there… Consider, that while Rebekah conceives we’re told “the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord.” This pregnancy thing was an entirely new experience for Rebekah. And while she knew she’d conceived via a work of God, this “struggle within her” now led to an interesting question, “If all is well, why am I like this?”
Genesis 25:23, “And the Lord said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”
For starters, this word “struggled” indicated these boys within Rebekah’s womb were actively “opposing” or “at war” with each other. In a sense they were each vying for supremacy!
To explain why there was so much strife the Lord tells Rebekah that within her womb were “two nations… two peoples.” This word “peoples” indicates these two boys were two completely different people in manner or literally each boy possessed an opposing nature.
Of these two natures, the Lord continues by saying “the younger” would be “stronger than the other” meaning the “older would serve the younger.” While there is no doubt a literal fulfillment of this prophecy would practically play itself out in the lives of Esau and Jacob, the much larger point possess a particular application for you and I!
Don’t forget the typological nature of Rebekah representing the believer. She’s been called by the Spirit… Chooses a new life with Isaac… Her dead womb comes to life through a supernatural work of God… And what results? She now experiences an internal struggle because there are two opposing forces inside of her… Sounds like you and I doesn’t it?
Understand… Within every believer the Bible describes an internal war (struggle) between your sinful, carnal flesh and the Spirit of God living inside of you vying for supremacy. As Paul wrote in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
You see when we use the phrase, “Ask Jesus to come into your heart” what we mean is that you’re asking Jesus to replace your sinful nature (your dead spirit) with His righteous one. In Ezekiel 36:26 God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”
And it’s when this supernatural work of God occurs two things immediately result: First, your soul (the real you) that had been separated from God since birth because of your sin nature (deadened spirit) received from Adam is instantly reconciled with the Father through Jesus because you’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit (you’re made alive in Christ).
Secondly, because you now have the Spirit of God (this new nature) indwelling your seat of desire (your spirit) the very body these desires control begins to naturally behave differently. And yet, once again if we’re being honest, it is simply a truth that these behavioral changes in your life via God’s Spirit doesn’t occur without a level of resistance from your sinful body.
Though the indwelling Spirit has changed who you are because it’s tethered your soul back to God (making you righteous, sinless, heir, etc.) and now has the power to control the body because He resides in the seat of desire, the literal effects of sin in the body still remain.
You see… “The flesh” or what is also called “self” is actuality nothing more than a reference to your unregenerated, mortal body, which still remains tainted and corrupted by sin and death… Meaning this battle between “the flesh” and “the Spirit” describes two completely contrary forces within you under the directive of your will (soul).
On one side there is your body (your flesh) still corrupted by sin and one that by its very constitution pursues the pleasure of self as its chief ambition. On the other there is the supernatural (the Spirit) which desires to use your body as an instrument of righteousness.
The battle experienced within now rests in a decision of your will, either to surrender control of your body to the Spirit of God (so that you can live consistent with the new nature you’ve been given in Christ) or to allow the body to function as it naturally will (corrupted by sin).
This is what makes this prophecy given to Rebekah so fascinating and deeply applicational. God tells her, “One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” Keep in mind, while the struggle between your flesh and God’s Spirit is real, the battle is actually very lopsided. The reality is that “the older” (your flesh) “will serve the younger” (God’s Spirit) because the younger is stronger than the other.
This is why in discussing this internal struggle Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” If you, through a decision of your will, make the choice to ceed control of your life to the Spirit’s influence it will naturally tame your fleshly proclivities to sin because the Spirit is fundamentally stronger!
Which also explains why it is when you seek to master the flesh through legalism you’ll never attain a greater spirituality. You see choosing to “not fulfill the lust of the flesh” apart from the Spirit’s influence will never make you more spiritual, because the flesh has no power over the Spirit - it’s weaker. In actuality such an attempt only leads to greater pride in the flesh!
In closing it’s interesting that the answer to Rebekah’s question, “If all is well, why am I like this?” is that her being like this was an indication all was well. In her barrenness there was no struggle within. The struggle itself indicated life! The same is true for you and I.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Dead men don’t wrestle.” You see the very nature of this struggle within you between the flesh and the Spirit is evidence of Spiritual vitality. Honestly, if you aren’t experiencing an internal struggle between your natural tendency to sin and the Spirit’s desire to manifest within you greater holiness then there might be a serious problem.
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