If you thought Abraham was old in chapter 24, he is a relic in this chapter. He dies at age one hundred and seventy-five and is buried in the cave of Macpella next to his wife Sarah. The great thing about being that age I suppose is you don't have any peer pressure. Now getting old scares most folks, it's the thing we swore would never happen when we were teenagers. You remember? You thought, "Oh, it'll happen to everyone else," but you looked at your friend and you said, 'Not us.' Now the rude awakening is to discover you've already arrived. I was in the store not too long ago trying to buy something and somebody said quite candidly, "I could give you a senior citizen's discount." I smacked that individual, no I did not, but in my heart I did, not really. Of course I have to say that as a pastor, even if you did in your heart.
I found this, I wanted to share it with you, one of the most disturbing aspects of aging is the growing inability to recall vitally important information, such as where you put your slippers. This affliction becomes particularly pronounced when you go upstairs to get something. Halfway up you realize that you have no inkling of what you were going upstairs to fetch. Then you have to decide whether to go back downstairs and try to remember what you needed or continue on up and look for something that needs bringing down. Unable to decide, you resort to sitting on the landing and sulking only to discover that you've completely forgotten whether you were originally upstairs going down or downstairs going up.
There were two elderly women who were discussing the problem of aging and they were at church and this gal said, "You know the wrost thing is when your mind starts to go and your memory starts to fade, I have known you all my life and I can't remember your name. What is it?" And her friend paused a moment and she said, "Do you need the answer right away?" Now if you don't feel old tonight, great, that's good. But I want you to consider this that today's college freshmen was born in 1984. I just ruined it, didn't I? And this is what it means, it means they have no memory of time before MTV. It means that New Wave is their parent's musical genre. It means they have no recollection of the Reagan era. It means that they were pre-pubescent when the Gulf War was waged. It means that "Family Ties" is what middle-aged ladies watch. It means that from their earliest years a camera was something you used once and then threw away. Just a little perspective, I just thought I'd throw that in.
Now we don't remember Abraham in his earliest years, we didn't meet him until he was already married and God got a hold of him and told him to go to Canaan. But we do get a glimpse into his final days on earth and tonight we have already read Sarah's obituary, we read his obituary. We saw how he started, sort of midway in his life, or early on when we got a hold of him in chapter 11. But now we see the end. It's not how you start, it's how you finish that counts. He started as an idolator but he ends as a man of faith.
Now tonight we're going to look at only the first eleven verses of chapter 25 and as I read this chapter four words came to mind to describe these last years of Abraham. Four words that I'll give you. The first word is pretty obvious as you read the first verse and that is the word remarried. Abraham at his age gets remarried. Let's look at it. Verse 1, "Abraham again took a wife and her name was Kiturah." Can you believe it? Sarah was, when she died he was 137 years old when his first wife died but he lived 38 more years after that. Wow. He gets married again. I guess that would mean his midlife crisis would be somewhere in his nineties, do you think? I mean can you see Abraham with gold chains and a Corvetter or what would it be? A convertible camel I suppose in those days. Notice her name is Kiturah, the word means incense or perfumed one. That might not mean much but to those who lived in Bedouin tents it meant a lot. It could be that that was a name that she acquired, sometimes that happened. But in a place where animals were kept near the tent, to walk by Kiturah was probably like a breath of fresh air. Now some of you might be thinking, "What's a gal like this doing interested in a guy who is probably a hundred and forty when they got married? Is it just that she was after his money?" I don't think so, in I Chronicles Kiturah is described as Abraham's concubine, so they had some kind of relationship up to that point, they knew each other well and he elevates her to the position of being a full wife, that's what the scholars will tell you. She was already in the home as one of the workers and now she becomes his second wife. Here's the bottom line: The bottom line is that she loved him and that he loved her and that can happen at any age. In 1900, four percent of the American population, four percent, was age 65 and above. Today it's twelve percent, three times more. I'll add another fact to that, there are now over 12,000 people in the United States that are past a hundred. And the point I want to make using Abraham is the capacity to love and receive love doesn't diminish with age, it is a constant and we can applaud Abraham here. His wife Sarah is dead, he still has 38 good years left before he's 175 and he marries her. At the same time I want to throw in a note of caution. And of course he couldn't foresee this but we don't' know her background. We do know that one of his sons is Midian who becomes one of the archenemies of Israel later on. We don't know her background spiritually, it could be that she wasn't all as spiritual as he was. She didn't certainly have the walk of faith that Sarah had. It could be that he was sort of toying with the edge or on the edge of an unequal yoke, we don't know. But it does give a sufficient cause to add a note of caution and to simply say that looking for a new relationship immediately on the heels of an old one is dangerous.
I want to read a letter from a woman, she wrote this to me a few years back, it's a Christian woman and you can hear her yearning for a godly husband. "Tomorrow," she said, "I will be married for six years but it's not a happy occasion because I'm going through a divorce. I met my husband in a Bible study. We would study the scriptures together, pray together, go to Christian activities. But then we got married and things changed. If this divorce goes through, I'll probably not marry again for the kids' sake and also to follow the Lord's way. But I'll be honest, deep down in my heart I wish I could find a good man who loved the Lord and lived as the Lord commands. I really yearn for companionship, even if it's just friendship. I've been married three times and I had to support them all."
Now certainly Sarah's death gave Abraham, even at age 137 the freedom to marry again. And if you carry that thought into the New Testament, Paul speaks to that directly. He writes to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 7, verse 39, "A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives but if her husband dies she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes only in the Lord." Let me just finish that thought up by saying the New Testament sees I believe four reasons for Christians to remarry. Reason number one, that person has a sexually immoral and unrepentant spouse, Matthew chapter 19, sexually immoral and unrepentant spouse, Matthew 19. Number two, if that person is deserted by an unbeliever. Desertion of an unbeliever by an unbelieving spouse would be a second reason. I Corinthians 7 Paul specifically says a person is not under bondage in such cases. Number three, marriage and divorce prior to conversion. Paul said in Corinthians, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things become new." And number four is this reason, the death of a spouse, the death of Sarah.
There's a second word, let's move on to describe these latter years of Abraham, not only remarried but you'd sort of figure this, renewed. He is renewed in his old age. Look at verse 2, "And she bore him Zimran, Jacshan, Medan (Midian), Ishboth, Shuah (keeps going, the list continues) Jacshan begot Sheba and Dedan and the sons of Dedan were Ashurim, somebody else, and somebody else (I'm not going to even try those). And the sons of Midian were Ephaa, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah and Elaah; all these were the children of Kiturah." Now I counted that up, I'm sure you did too, six sons, seven grandsons, three great grandsons. That brings the total number of his sons up to eight, this is not counting the girls. This is a prolific old guy. I was reading this and this verse brought up that New Testament verse in Ephesians, "Now unto him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to his riches in Christ Jesus."
He is renewed I believe supernaturally by God, he would have to be. Now I'm not just making that up, I want you to go back to chapter 17 for just a moment, go back to chapter 17 of Genesis, a verse needs to be brought up so we understand the impact of this promise. Go back to chapter 17 and go to the fifth verse 2ith me. Remember when God said this, "No longer shall your name be called Abram but you shall be called Abraham for I have made you (notice this) a father of many nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful. And I will make nations of you and kings shall come from you." It's funny how we read promises and we go, "Okay, yeah, cool, got it," but we don't get the impact of that. Now we do. Here's the fulfillment of that. Go down to verse 17, "Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said in his heart, 'Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old?'" You see, even here, even now, Abraham realizes this having a kid thing at my age, I'm past the age, I'm past the strength.
In Romans chapter 4, that promise back up in verse 5 and 6 is reiterated by Paul, that God would make Abraham the father of many nations. And then Paul adds this, "God who gives life to the dead and calls things that do not exist as if they do exist." Here is a man remarried and renewed in strength for the purposes that God promised him, "You're going to be the father of many nations." So remarried, renewed. Somebody once said, "There are none so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm." I know people in their 30s that are old, I know people in their 70s that are young at heart. And may God renew our enthusiasm for life, for whatever purpose he's called us to.
I remember I think it was the title of a book or it was the title of a chapter in a book, but it simply said, "Old Age is Not For Sissies." You've probably heard that before, old age is not for sissies. I thought about that and said, "Boy, that's right, that's a tough time of life. It's a winding down of energy, it's accompanied with complications, one of them I've noticed among the elderly is guilt. They look back over their lives with guilt, "Oh, I should have done, I wish I would have." Something else that complicates it: Fear. Fear of the future, fear of a disease, fear of no income, fear of being alone, fear of being vulnerable. A third thing I've noticed is a sense of uselessness. You've probably come across people who just sort of hang their heads and they feel like, "Well what could I contribute at my age? I'm sort of over the hill, I might be in the way." I just want to address that for a moment and say, "That is wrong." Shame on our society that has diminished the importance of age. Your greatest accomplishments could come at older age. You know more know, you are seasoned, hopefully wise. Think of Abraham, he was eighty years young when he became Israel's deliverer. Think of Caleb who at age 85 had already fought battle after battle and he stands in Hebron at 85 and he says, "I am as strong today as I was back then, give me that mountain." You say, "Yeah but those are just Bible peole. All the Bible people say that stuff." Okay, let's take it out of the Bible people. Michelangelo painted his greatest work at age 89, he was in his 90s on his back in the Sistine Chapel painting. William Gladstone, Christian prime minister of England, was 83 and his fourth term as prime minister. J. C. Penney, Christian businessman, 95, still kept office hours. John Wesley, 88, preached eloquently. He had covered 250,000 miles on horseback by that time, preached over 4000 sermons, still going strong at age 88.
A few weeks ago I was back in West Virginia and I had the privilege of speaking to the Billy Graham team. And right before I got to speak I had a great honor, the man who sings right before Billy Graham always speaks, sang before me, George Beverly Shea. Well he gets up to that platform and with a firm step and he says, "I'm forty-nine years old in reverse." Ninety-four years of age, this man sang so beautifully. Still growing strong for the Lord. An Old English proverb says, "The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune." Remember that one, remember that as you sing around the house and your kids might look at you like (roll their eyes), "The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune." One day they will so miss hearing you sing those songs. I read something Agatha Christie once wrote, she said, "The best husband a woman can have is an archaeologist because the older she gets the more interested he becomes in her." Let's get more archaeologists.
Let's go back now to Genesis 25, I want to give you a third word that I've used to describe these senior years of Abraham, it's the word responsible. Responsible. In chapter 25 of Genesis verse 5 and 6 we read, "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." This is Abraham's will, it's very short and succinct but complete nonetheless. It is simple in the extreme. But it's his will, he disperses what he has to his children, most of it goes to Isaac because he's the son of promise.
Somebody said there are seven decades of a man. Are you ready? Spills number one, drills, thrills, bills, ills, pills and wills. And this is Abraham's will, the dad disperses what he has to the sons. And it's not a matter of favoritism, that's why he sends them to the east and they become the progenitors of the Arabian nations much later on. But Isaac is established as the son of the promise but the will is given fairly. Here's a point: Age did not entitle Abraham to be irresponsible. Age does not entitle us to be irresponsible. I know we think, "I'm going to get old one day and I'm just going to kick back and do nothing." It doesn't work that way, it never really does. In fact, it seems that life now gets us ready for the future, each responsibility in each age simply gets us poised for future responsibility. One of the best pieces of advice the prophet Isaiah gave to King Hezekiah, he said these words, "thus says the Lord, 'Set you house in order because you will die and not live.'" You say, "That's so abrupt. It needed to be abrupt, he was going to die. Set your house in order for you will die and not live. In other words, you need to pick somebody out to sit on your throne, you're going to die, set your house in order, get your affairs all ined up. Here's another text: I Timothy chapter 5 verse 8, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for his immediate family, he has denied that faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Now that's an interesting word Paul used, is the word provide. Prnaeo means to think about and plan for in advance, to think about and plan for in advance, it describes the forethought necessary to provide adequate care for those in the family. That's what it means to provide. Here's a man who is old but responsible to his children, to his family.
Jesus did that. What a great example: He's on the cross, he is absorbed in suffering, the sins of the world are dumped upon him and at that moment instead of thinking about himself, he thinks about Mom, "Mother behold your son. Son, behold your Mother." It's taken care of.
I was going through these verses this week and I was thinking about Abraham and I'm trying to picture him in my mind and I'm seeing him in his old age and not giving up on his sons and doing it right. And I thought of a Psalm that you might want to write down and refer to later, Psalm 92. It says, "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he will grow like the cedars of Lebanon." And it continues, "Those who are planted in the hosue of the Lord will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will be fresh and flourishing." It denotes growth, fruitfulness; not stgnation. You're going somewhere, you don't stop, you never plateau. Here's a prayer worth repeating, "Lord, though knowest I am growing older. Keep me from the idea that I must express myself on every subject. Release me from the craving to meddle in everybody's affairs. Keep my tongue from the recital of endless details of the past which don't interest others. Seal my lips when I am inclined to talk about my aches and pains, they are increasing with the years and my love to speak of them grows sweeter as time goes by. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong. Make me thoughtful but not interfering, helpful but not bossy. With wisdom and experience that I've gained, it does seem a pity not to use it all but thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends left in the end. So help me pray more and talk less and beyond all this let me continue to flourish spiritually and bring forth fruit to thy glory even in old age. Amen." I'll bet somebody was reading Psalm 92 when they pondered that and wrote what I just read.
So, three descriptive words of this man: remarried, renewed, responsible. I'll give you a fourth and we'll close: reviewed. His life is reviewed, we read now his obituary. This is the review of the life of Abraham. Verse 7, "This is the sum of Abraham's life which he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years, and then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age (boy I'll say) an old man full of years and he was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Macpella 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 on Isaac and Isaac dwelt at Berrleharoy." That's his obituary, five verses that sum up his life and his death. Now just think of something, as we're bringing his life and this message to a close: this guy walked with God for over a hundred years. He walked with God for over a century. He was the friend of God for a long time.
Several years ago we had the privilege, it wasn't even in this building, it was in our old building, of having Dr. J. Vernon McGee, he was in his 80s at the time. It was shortly before he went to heaven. And I remember him saying, "God's going to have to retire me friends." About a year later God retired him. Here God retires Abraham. It's sort of sad to see it but death is inevitable, change is inevitable and Isaac is about to become this new patriarch as we read in verse 11, his star is rising. Let me just say something, old age is good if God's hand is upon your life. Old age is good if God's blessing and hand is upon your life. Proverbs 6, "The silver-haired head (and it's growing on mine) is a crown of glory if it's found in the way of righteousness." Now would you notice something in our text? Notice a description of man, "He's an old man oand full of years." You say, "Skip, you just said old age is good, it doesn't sound good to me. Old man and full of years, it doesn't' sound like fun, it sounds tedious, hard, painful." But here is a phrase that doesn't' just describe quanity of time but quality of life, we're told by the Hebrew scholars. One person translates it, "He died an old man and satisfied with life." That's what the phrase full of years means, satisfied in looking back. Calvin suggests, "A good conscience and a serene and tranquil mind." How few come to the end of their life with joy. How few come to the end of their days looking back and go, "Ah, full of years. I'm satisfied with what God has done in my life." See most people, when they look back it's with regret. When they look ahead, it's with fear. When they look around, it's with complaint. When they should look up and it should be with joy. He's a man who's full of years. In spite of age, in spite of physical deterioration, it's a blessing. II Corinthians 4, "We do not give up our physical body is becoming older and weaker, our spirit inside us makes us new every day."
There's a second phrase I want you to notice, it says, "He's gathered to his people." Now that sounds like a real old phrase, doesn't it? It's one we don't use any more. So what does that mean, gathered to his people? Some think, "Well it means he got buried in the tomb with his family." But his family wasn't in it yet, his wife was but not all the rest. So it doesn't' mean being buried in a crowded tomb. The idea of this phrase suggests hope, continuance after death. He got gathered to his people. It's the idea that says, "I believe in the hope that goes beyond the grave, that I'm going to where all those others who trust in God in the Old Testament go, in God's presence." I've heard people say, "I'd rather be over the hill than under it." I think Abraham was ready to be under it because for him and for others who die in faith, it's not the end. It's not the end. He's being gathered to his people.
Now when we die, and by the way only two things live forever: the soul of a man and the word of God. When we die, our body decays in the grave. Our spirit goes to be with the Lord awaiting the day of resurrection when the spirit will be rejoined with a resurrected, wholly different kind of a body than we have now. And one day we're going to hear as we're gathered with the people of God, "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord." On that day if you know Christ, you won't hobble, you will leap for joy. You won't squint, you will see clearly. You won't have hearing aids, you'll hear the glorious sounds of heaven with the people of God. Here's the point I want to make: one day your life will be in review, one day an obituary will be found in some local newspaper where you died. And one day you will face eternity. If God's people were your people in this life, you will gather with them in the presence of God. If God's people were not your people in this life and God wasn't your God, you will gather with the crowd that spends forever in hell. That is stark but that is true. But what a privilege to be gathered with the people of God in the presence of Christ.
A godly life that brings a godly death, you know when it begins? Early. Early. The earlier the better. Ninety-five percent of all conversions are before age 30. That's before you get hardened and so opinionated that you're immovable so often. That's just the statistics, a godly life starts young.
I want to close, not here, but I want you to turn right and go down several rows to the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 12. It's a long name, it's after the book of Proverbs and Song of Solomon and you'll see it Ecclesiastes, go to the last chapter, oh it's before the Song of Solomon, excuse me. Ecclesiastes chapter 12 and look at a few verses with me. "Remember now your creator in the days of your youth. Before the difficult days come." It suggests preparation, get ready now) and the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them,' while the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are not dark and the clouds do not return after the rain. In the day when the keepers of the house tremble (it's descriptive of one's arms and legs) as strong men bow down bowed over in the back, when the grinders cease because they are few (you can guess what that is, loose teeth or none) and those that look through t he windows grow dim, (fading eyesight) when the doors are shut in the streets (the lips sag is the idea) and the sound of grinding is low, when one rises up at the sound of a bird (can't sleep) all the daughters of music are brought low (you lose youre hearing) also they're afraid of the height of the terrors in the way, when the almond tree blossoms (do you know what that means? Gray hair, white hair) the grasshopper is a burden and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home and the mourners go about the streets. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed or the golden bull is broken or the pitcher shattered at the fountain or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was and the spirit will return to God who gave it." So before it's too late, here's Solomon, he lived his life, he sowed his oats and now he's saying after all, "Hey the best time to get spiritual isn't to wait til you're old. But do it young and walk as long as you can with Christ, with God. Follow him, love him. Serve him. And that's the best way to be prepared.
I found a little quip that said, "You know when you're getting old when all the names in your little black book end in MD. You know you're getting old when you get winded playing chess. You know you're getting old when you sink your teeth into a steak and they stay there (that's right), you know you're getting old when you try to straighten the wrinkles in your socks and you discover you're not wearing any socks. You know you're getting older when your pacemaker accidentally opens the garage door. You know you're getting old when you bend over to tie your shoes and you wonder what else you can do while you're down there. Begin now so that the last years of your life become the best, the best. And think of Abraham, that old, and look at that old guy go. His life in review as ours one day will be.
Heavenly Father, we just pause for a moment and we start taking a little bit of inventory because no matter what stage we find ourselves in life, that stage will never remain the same. It cannot, life is dynamic, never static. We are growing and going somewhere. One thing is fixed Lord, you said in your word that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. You said to those who have a relationship with Him that you will never leave them, you will never forsake them. That's the hope that we have. It's the hope that we have when we're young, when we're middle aged or when we're in the golden years, the sunset years of life. Lord, we have spent now nineteen weeks looking at this man, we have seen his background, we have seen his mistakes, we have looked in depth at his flaws. But we have also seen his faith and we have seen your faithfulness to him. And I guess the greatest thing we come away with isn't really how great Abraham was but how great a God Abraham served. And to think that we, right now, right here are talking to the same God who had Abraham as a friend. We wonder, "Lord, how might we become better friends to you?" Lord I pray that you would remind us of these things daily, so that our preparation would be enhanced for the inevitable. In Jesus' name. Amen.