Do you ever have those times when something in the Bible that you have read multiple times strikes you as though you have never seen it before?
I had one of those times yesterday, although I was listening to the Bible rather than reading it. (I was on the road for my job with Peet's Coffee and I have some CDs of the Bible that I received last summer at the FFBC Annual Conference from Pastor Mike Green - thanks, Mike.)
BTW, for a pretty decent audio version of the Bible being read in mp3 format, you can download a free mp3 of the entire Bible from firefighters.org, here. (I don't know anything about this group, but I do know that the download of the mp3 audio version of the Bible is an excellent resources - especially if you do a lot of traveling and have a way to listen to the mp3 while traveling.)
As I listened to Genesis, I came across a saying that I know I have read multiple times - and a statement that gained a little weight as I noticed the details I will mention below.
In Genesis 27, Isaac is about 100 years old and we read a fairly familiar story about Jacob stealing/tricking his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that Isaac was going to give to Esau.
At the beginning of this passage, we read:
Genesis 27:1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I.
2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
Isaac makes one of those statements that we all kind of know and which the Bible repeats a number of times. "I know not the day of my death."
The reality is that none of us know the day of our death. (With my father's passing a couple of weeks ago, perhaps I have thought of this topic a little more lately than normal.) The Bible reminds us of this fact with verses such as James 4:13-15 and Proverbs 27:1.
James 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
Provebs 27:1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
Usually when I think of that truth, I do so in the context of you could die at anytime, so be prepared to die. Make sure you have repented of your sins and trusted Christ as your Savior and make sure you are living a life that counts for eternity.
However, as I continued to read and then think about this statement in regards to Isaac, I noticed something that was interesting to me in Genesis 35.
Genesis 35:28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.
29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
By my short study and calculations (calculations below), I believe that there was about 60 to 80 years between the time when Isaac said "I know not the day of my death" until his actual death.
Two things became completely obvious to me regarding this:
1. We really do not know the time of our death - duh!
2. Not knowing the time of our death not only serves as a warning to us to be prepared to die at any moment, but it also ought to be a challenge to us to be prepared to finish strong - even if the race is longer than we thought.
We don't really know a lot of what Isaac did between these two dates - the focus on the passages is on Jacob/Israel instead - but it does give me pause.
If God should give a much longer life than you expect, will you continue to make your life count for him long after you are limited in the "normal" roles of service? Or will you reach an age of "retirement" and shut things down? I am thankful that there are some in our church who are above 80 years old and still serving the Lord - may we follow that pattern.
Just my thoughts,
Oh, yeah, the calculations:
Isaac is 40 years old when he marries Rebekah (Genesis 25:20)
She is barren for 20 years
Isaac is 60 years old when the twins are born (Genesis 25:26)
The boys grow up, Isaac loves Esau, Rebekah loves Jacob. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob, etc.
Isaac is 100 years old when Esau takes two Hittite women for his wives (Genesis 26:34)
Isaac at birth (60) plus Esau's age at marriage (40) gives us Isaac at 100.
Now the exact time of the incident is not given, but it makes sense that it occurs near the time of Esau's marriage. Notice that there is a concern from both Isaac and Rebekah that Jacob would not do the same thing. Rebekah uses that concern as an excuse to get Jacob out of town before his brother kills him and Esau recognizes that concern and takes different wives (Gen 26:35, 27:41-46, 28:1-9)
Isaac is 180 years old when he dies (Genesis 35:28).
If I am correct that the incident occurs when Isaac is about 100 years old, that gives us 80 years between the events, although the time of the incident is not fixed.
We know that the gap is at least 20 years because of the fact that Jacob served 20 years in Laban's house (7 for each daughter, six for the cattle) (Genesis 31:41) and was a long time back from that before the death of his father.
If we assume a normal amount of time for the other events that are in the narrative, it would make sense if the gap were significantly larger than that due to the fact that a number of other events occur before the death passage is mentioned - the moving back into the land, the raping of Dinah and destruction of the city, the moving away to Bethel, the death of Rachel, etc.