The other day as I was doing something in the kitchen I heard Grace, my five year old, tell Luna, my other five year old what it meant to be old. She said, “Luna, do you know what old is? Do you know how grandma and grandpa are – where you get taller and taller until you’re one hundred and then you die.”
Our sermon today is titled “Jacob’s Death.” Jacob is very “tall” at 147 years old. What a 147 years it has been too: declared to be greater than his brother while still in the womb, swindled his brother out of his birthright, stole his brother’s blessing, was given a dream by God and told he was the heir of the Abrahamic met and married the love of his life, got rich by working for his uncle, had 12 boys, reconciled with his brother,
Lets travel under three headings: 1) Jacob’s Instructions, 2) Jacob’s Death, 3) Jacob Buried
JACOB’S INSTRUCTIONS (49:29-32)
After blessing his sons he then uses his final breaths to reiterate his wishes for what they are to do with his body. He wants to be buried back in Canaan with his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham. They are buried with their wives, and his wife Leah is also buried there, waiting for him so to speak.
If you’re married, have you ever had discussions about who will die first? When we first got married Annie wanted to die first because she wouldn’t want to live without me. Now, after 15 years, she wants me to die first. I’m kidding. I’ll have to ask her. Maybe she still wants to die first but now it’s because she doesn’t want to live with me. This is why I have to die last, because if I go first and am buried, I think she will choose to get buried on the other side of the cemetery rather than next to me. “I had to listen to him snore in life, I refuse to in death!”
So there were the 3 Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all snoring together in their graves, continuing to disturb their wives.
One question I was asking as I read this text was, “Did any other descendents of Abraham get buried in that tomb?” Did Ishmael? Or Esau? Or any of Jacob’s sons? The answer is ‘No.’ It appears that it was a tomb that was meant only for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now that formula should sound familiar to us: “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” It’s the Patriarch Formula – these are the 3 patriarchs of the nation of Israel, the foundation of the nation. This formula is never used with the Church, only with reference to Israel. The names of these 3 Patriarchs are used by God to identify himself with the Israelites. In Exodus 3:6 God says, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God wants the Israelites to see Him as the God of those three men – the fathers of their nation. But by saying to the Israelites, “I am the God of YOUR fathers…” God is also identifying the nation of Israel with these three patriarchs. He not only wants them to see His association with these 3 men, God wants the nation of Isreal to see THEIR association with the same three men.
But why? Why does God keep using those three names? Why are those three men so central to God’s relationship with the nation of Israel? Why does God refer to them and why does He want Israel to always feel their connection with those three Patriarchs?
The answer is that they are the heirs of the blessings God promised those three men. They are the recipients of the covenant blessings He guaranteed to those men. Along with other promises, God said to Abraham, “I will give you physical descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and they will possess the land of Canaan forever.” After Abraham died that covenant passed on to his son Isaac. After Isaac died that covenant passed on to Jacob (aka Israel). And it would be Jacob-Israel’s 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel, the particular physical descendents of Abraham God had in mind, and they would enter and possess the land of Canaan. He is the God of their fathers and He is THEIR God. Israel was always supposed to understand God particularly as the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob just as they were to always to see themselves distinctly as the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And just as God was their fathers’ God, God was their God also.
But it was more than just worshiping the same God as their fathers. Their fathers, the Patriarchs, were the recipients of God’s covenant, and thus they were to understand themselves also as the heirs of that covenant. They were the descendents, the land was to be theirs, and theirs forever. Through them all the nations of the world would be blessed.
Then Jacob dies. Read v33, “….” At a good old age of 147, full of many years, honored by God, by Pharaoh, his sons, Jacob took his last breath and left his body. Seventeen years earlier God promised Jacob, “Go to Egypt to be reunited with Joseph, and he will close your eyes in death.” Now it has come true. And Jacob was gathered to his people.
That’s an interesting phrase: “gathered to his people.” It was said of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, and Moses and Aaron. The word “gather” means to bring in, to collect, to assemble, to harvest, to store. The word is used to refer to gathering flocks together (Gen 29:3); or when the people gathered quail from the field (Nm 11:32); or when soldiers were called up and assembled for battle (1 Sam 17:1). Proverbs 30:4 says God gathers the wind in his hand and Micah 4:11 says the nations gather together against God. Gathering is the concept behind the shepherd leaving the 99 to go get that 100th sheep who was wandering to “gather” it back to the fold.
Gathering has the idea of bringing things that are scattered around together into one place for a purpose. Here, in death, Jacob is gathered to his people.
APPLICATION: The reality of our existence after death. Jacob’s death was not annihilation into non-existence. We are more than meat and bones and brain zaps – and a reality beyond this physical world awaits us in death. We are both physical and spiritual beings, and just as the first man God created came to life when his spirit was joined to his physical body, so death is the separation of our spirit from our physical bodies. Our bodies go into the ground and our spirits go elsewhere. At that time, Jacob’s spirit went and joined the assembly of other spirits in Sheol, the holding place in the afterlife.
In the OT, “Sheol,” or “the grave,” was always spoken of as “down.” He went “down” to Sheol or God lifted someone “up from” the grave – indicating the grave was down below. Scripture indicates that Sheol had two compartments: one for the righteous and one for the wicked. Jesus gave us the most detailed picture of this when he gave the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Both men went down in the afterlife, but there were two “sides” to this place, separated by a great chasm. One side was a place of rest and blessing and good things. The other was a side of suffering and anguish. When Jesus died on the cross He told the thief that believed in Him “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Their spirits would leave their bodies that day and go down to this place Sheol. Jesus and the repentant thief would be on one side with blessing and rest, but the other thief who scoffed and mocked Jesus would go to the other side of suffering.
As Jacob was a man of faith, who walked with God, in his death he was gathered to his people in the holding place of blessing. His people would be all those who came before him who called on God, walked with God, and feared God. That included men going all the way back like Seth, Enoch, Noah,and many more. Perhaps most anticipated would be reuniting with his grandfather Abraham and his own father Isaac.
As the Church today, the idea of “gathering” is fundamental in two ways. First, the Great Commission is itself a command for us to go out with the Gospel and “gather” the lost to God. “Go” Jesus commanded. “Go and preach the good news to all creation (Mk 16:15) and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I commanded.” (Mt 28:19-20) The command to “Go” is a command to gather from among the lost. The lost are scattered and we are to call them to Christ so they will come in and be “collected” with all the redeemed.
APPLICATION: Have you been gathered for salvation? Come in! Come to Jesus Christ the Savior who died for you.
APPLICATION: If you are saved, are you trying to gather others to salvation? Do you care that others would come to salvation? This is why we go out to all these events to evangelize. Will you come out to Bike Time next weekend? Will you come out for Coast Guard?
Second, as those who have been gathered to Christ out of the world, we are supposed to gather together with each other. We are not supposed to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” as Hebrews 10:25 says. The reason is because God has gathered us out of the world and gathered us to Christ. When we get together like we are today it is witness of that truth. Let’s not go to Christ but then refuse to go to His people.
APPLICATION: If you’re a Christian is gathering with other believers a priority for you?