Life Goes On

Scripture: Genesis 25:1-11

Title: Life Goes On

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Creation in Genesis 1-11
  • Creation in Genesis 12-24
  • Creation in Genesis 25
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

This morning we are going to begin with a little bit of Scrabble

–         Most of you will know that with Scrabble each player gets to select 7 unknown letters from the pile and then has to do their best to use those random letters to spell a meaningful word

–         You are of course allowed to piggy back off the words on the board

On the wall here we have a word already on the board: ORDER

–         And the letters you have to work with are below that: A E O I T C N

–         I’m going to give you about 30 seconds to come up with the best word you can, see if you can use all the letters

–         You can work with those around you if you like or you can work on your own if you prefer

–         At the end of the 30 seconds I’ll invite you to share the words you’ve made with the rest of the congregation [Wait 30 seconds]

Okay, who would like to share with us the words you came up?

–         [Listen to people’s answers]

One combination that uses all the letters could look like this…

CREATION, using one of the R’s from ORDER

Over the past several months we have been working our way through a series on the life and faith of Abraham. This morning we conclude our series.

–         From Genesis chapter 25, verses 1-11, in the NIV we read…

Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

Abraham left everything he owned to 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.

Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading

 

The story of Abraham isn’t just the story of one man who lived 4000 years ago in Middle East

–         Thinking more broadly than that it is the story of the genesis or beginning of the nation of Israel – it’s a creation story in other words

 

Creation in Genesis 1-11:

To gain a better understanding of the significance of this creation story we need to look at the bigger picture

–         Firstly, what do we mean by creation?

–         Well, in the book of Genesis, which reflects the thinking of people who lived in the ancient world (a very different way of thinking to us), creation was about bringing order, function and purpose to the elements

–         Sort of like Scrabble where one takes the letters they are given and arranges them in an order which makes a sensible word

Genesis 1, therefore, does not start at the material beginning of the universe when God brought the first atom into being out of nothing

–         Rather, Genesis 1 picks up the story at a point when the earth already exists in a material sense but is in chaos

–         It is formless, empty, dysfunctional and, if left to its own devices, incapable of supporting life or serving any meaningful purpose

–         At that point it is just a bunch of random letters waiting to be arranged on the Scrabble board

Genesis 1 describes how God brings order to the chaos

–         How he takes what is dysfunctional and makes it functional

–         How he takes what is empty and fills it with life

–         How he takes what is random and gives it meaning & purpose

 

In Genesis 1 the Lord’s acts of creation include separating things, naming things, assigning function & purpose to things, as well as blessing & filling things with life

For example, when it comes to separating & naming things, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’.”

–         This pattern of God separating things and naming them carries on during other days of creation as well

–         Separating & naming is how God brought order to creation

 God also assigned function & purpose to things, for example…

–         The function or purpose of day & night (sun & moon) is to mark time

In addition God also blessed his creation and filled it with life

–         Let the waters teem with fish…

–         Let the land produce living creatures…

–         Be fruitful and multiply…

After God has brought order to the chaos everything functions well – it is paradise

–         God blesses Adam & Eve and gives them the function or purpose of being his image bearers and tells them to take care of his creation

–         Unfortunately Adam & Eve get it into their heads that they want to be like God and they choose independence from him by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge

–         As a consequence the order of God’s good creation starts to unravel

–         Things go from bad to worse and eventually God’s order returns to chaos

In Genesis 6 we read…

–         The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind… from the face of the earth… for I am grieved that I have made them. But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.

Basically humankind had returned God’s order, his good creation, back to chaos & so God decided to restore the order by wiping the slate clean & starting again

–         There was a great flood and everything with breath was destroyed, except for Noah and his family and the animals he preserved on the ark

–         The story of the flood is an account of judgement & death

–         But at the same time it is also an account of re-creation & new life

–         God restores order by separating Noah and his family and animals out from the chaos – preserving their lives in an ark

–         Then after the storm has passed the Lord blesses the survivors and tells them to be fruitful & multiply and fill the earth (much like he did in Genesis 1)

Unfortunately it doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand again and we end up with the Tower of Babel – another attempt by humankind to be like God, to reach the heavens and to make a name for themselves

–         God’s next move though is not to wipe everyone off the face of the earth with a flood (as he did in Noah’s day) but rather to redeem & transform his creation – to bring order to the chaos of the human heart

–         In the case of Babel, God initially restores order by separating people – he disperses the crowd, as it were, by confusing the languages

 

Creation in Genesis 12-24:

But then he calls Abraham with a view to making this one man into a great nation – a nation who will serve the Lord’s redemptive purpose by acting as priests of God to the other nations of the world

Like the creation story in Genesis 1, God creates the nation of Israel by separating, naming, assigning function & purpose as well as blessing and making fruitful

–         God separated Abraham out by calling him to leave his family and homeland to establish a new life in the Promised Land of Canaan

–         God also gave Abraham a new name – you may remember Abraham used to be called Abram

–         Previously Abraham & Sarah’s life had been defined by barrenness – by not having any children

–         But the Lord redefined their life with a promise that Abraham & Sarah would become the parents of a great nation

–         God blessed Abraham and filled Sarah with new life

–         He took the random letters of their circumstances and rearranged them in a meaningful way

–         God’s promise to bless the nations through Abraham and his descendants gave Abraham & Sarah’s lives a purpose greater than themselves

Separating, naming, assigning function & purpose, blessing and filling with life – all acts of creation

–         These acts of creation can be seen in our own lives too

–         Times when God has taken us out of a bad situation – creative separation

–         Or when we were baptised and took on the name of Christ

–         Or when we discovered a certain gift or resource we have and found a way to use that to bless others – finding our function & purpose in life

–         Or times of blessing & filling when we simply receive good things from God – like a friendship, or the birth of a child, or healing, or a holiday, or a job, or a home, or just a good night’s sleep

–         All acts of God’s good creation

 

Creation in Genesis 25:

Okay, so how does all that talk about creation relate to this morning’s reading from Genesis 25 – after all, Abraham dies?

–         Well, Abraham’s death is immersed in the language of creation

In the verses leading up to Abraham’s death notice the sons of his second wife (Keturah) are named, along with some of his grandsons too

–         And, if we were to keep reading after his death notice we would hear the naming of Abraham’s descendants through Ishmael and Isaac

–         All this naming implies a strong theme of being fruitful & multiplying

–         Abraham’s death is not tragic – by God’s grace he leaves a lasting legacy

–         Life goes on

 

Another creation motif noticeable in Genesis 25 is the action of separating

–         Separating things is often necessary for creating order

–  Cells reproduce or multiply by separating or dividing

– Separating plastics out from your general rubbish, for recycling, is a creative thing to do – it’s good for the environment

–         Or on the football field the ref restores order to the game by giving out yellow or red cards to separate players who are misbehaving

–         Or when we have dinner we generally keep the different elements of the meal separate on our plate

–         If we were to put the potatoes, green veg and meat in a blender to mix it all up, the meal wouldn’t taste so good

– {Obviously not all separation is creative or good – and union is also often necessary in the process of creation.}

Verses 5 & 6 tell us that Abraham left everything he owned to 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.

–         These verses talk about the separation (or division) of Abraham’s estate and the separation of Isaac from his brothers

–         Abraham had at least 8 sons that we know of – but only one of them (Isaac) could inherit God’s promise

–         For the creation of the nation of Israel it was necessary for Isaac to be separated from his brothers & become the sole heir to the Promised Land

–         But the other sons didn’t miss out altogether – they received gifts from Abraham as a gesture of goodwill

Verse 11 picks up the theme of creative blessing where it says that, After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac…

–         Isaac was blessed by God (as Abraham had been blessed) not for his own benefit but for the sake of others

–         God’s purpose in blessing Abraham & Isaac was to create the nation of Israel through which the Lord would establish his order, his Kingdom on earth

 

Separating, naming, blessing & filling with life (or making fruitful) – all themes of creation, all seen in miniature in Genesis 25

–         By immersing the account of Abraham’s death in the motifs of creation the narrator of Genesis is making it clear that death is no obstacle to God’s redemptive purpose

 

Verse 7 says: Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years.

This tells us a number of things

–         We know from Genesis 12 that Abraham was 75 when God called him to leave home and embark on a journey of faith

–         Which means that by the time of his death Abraham had been following God for 100 years

–         Isaac was born when Abraham was 100, so that means Isaac was 75 when his father died

–         We know too that Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40 and that 20 years later Jacob & Esau were born

–         Therefore Jacob & Esau were 15 when their grandfather Abraham died

–         God would later change Jacob’s name to ‘Israel’ – as in the nation of Israel – once more we have the theme of naming as an act of creation

–         The point is: although Abraham didn’t see all of God’s promises fully realised in his lifetime, he did live long enough to see the nation of Israel embodied in his grandson Jacob

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

As Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything – a time to be born and a time to die

–         Abraham died at the right time – at the end of a long and full life

Verse 9 tells us that Isaac & Ishmael buried Abraham with Sarah in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre

–         In other words, Abraham was buried in the Promised Land – a sign to future generations that God would one day give Israel the land of Canaan

–         At the end of Genesis, as Jacob lay on his death bed in Egypt, he gave instructions to be buried in Canaan with his grandparents Abraham & Sarah – such was his faith in God’s promises

 

Conclusion:

God’s purpose in redeeming creation is fulfilled in Christ

–         Jesus, that great descendant of Abraham, came to establish God’s Kingdom on earth

 

It is difficult to be a Christian in this life – we live with a tension

–         On the one hand Christ has come and in Christ we have a picture of what God’s kingdom (his new creation) looks like

–         But on the other hand God’s Kingdom is not yet fully realised on earth as it is in heaven

–         So we have this expectation or this hope of what life should be like when everything is ordered by God

–         And yet at the same time we live with the reality which often falls a long way short of the heaven on earth that God has promised us in Christ

–         Consequently we might not feel at home in this world – we might feel like exiles in our own country

In speaking of Abraham & Sarah and others like them the writer of the book of Hebrews says…

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

 Abraham died the same way he lived – in faith.

–         Abraham didn’t see the fulfilment of all of God’s promises in his life time but he did receive the deposit

–         In this way we, who believe in Christ, are like Abraham

–         We live by faith in the ‘now but not yet’ of history

–         We look forward in bitter sweet hope to Jesus’ return, when God’s Kingdom on earth will be realised in its fullness.

 

Questions for discussion or reflection:

1.)    What stands out for you in reading these Scriptures and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    What is meant by creation in Genesis 1?

–         How is this different from a modern understanding of creation?

3.)    What does the account of creation in Genesis 1 share in common with Abraham’s story and the account of the creation of Israel?

4.)    In what sense is separating things an act of creation?

–         Can you think of examples of creative separation?

–         Why was it necessary for Isaac to be separated from his brothers?

5.)    Why do you think the narrator of Genesis frames the account of Abraham’s death in the context of creation language/motifs?

6.)    In what sense could Abraham’s death be considered a good death?

7.)    Do you feel a tension in being a Christian in this world?

–         Why (or why not)?

8.)    Take some time this week to reflect on God’s acts of creation in your own life (I.e. separating, naming, assigning function & purpose, blessing & filling)

 

 

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