Sermon: “Dying in Faith” (Genesis 25:1–18)
In Genesis 25:1–18, we read about the end of Abraham’s life in this world. As reach Abraham’s last chapter, we must give a final assessment to the question that we have been able to answer only provisionally up to this point: Has God been faithful to keep his promises to Abraham? God promised to make Abraham exceedingly fruitful and to give Abraham and his offspring the land of Canaan. By the end of Genesis 24, however, Abraham only has two children—Ishmael (whom Abraham sent away; Gen. 21:8–21) and Isaac. Can we really say that God has fulfilled his promises to multiply Abraham into innumerable offspring? Furthermore, Abraham only owns the plot of land containing the burial cave for Sarah, where Abraham himself will be buried (Gen. 25:9–10). Can we really say that God has fulfilled his promises to give Abraham the whole land of Canaan?
This last narrative about Abraham’s life does not tie up the loose ends of all God’s unfulfilled promises to Abraham. We will indeed learn more about how God partially fulfills his promises to Abraham. The primary emphasis of this passage, though, directs our attention forward to learn how God will eventually fulfill all his promises to Abraham. In the same way, God also assures us that he will be faithful to keep his promises to us, but with an important caveat: God’s faithfulness does not move as quickly as we would always like. After all, a thousand years is like a day in God’s sight (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8). Nevertheless, the story of God’s work over thousands of years of human history demonstrates that God is faithful, even when we do not live to see the fulfillment of his promises. This passage about Abraham’s death underscores the point that in order to fulfill his promises completely, God does not fulfill his promises immediately.