When we last saw Abraham, he was busy writing his Last Will and Testament, and the most important thing on his mind was where to find a wife for his son Isaac.
Really, he had two problems to solve: first, the bride could not come from any of the local nations, because that would bind Abraham’s household in covenant to other households and other gods. She needed to come from Abraham’s family in the far east.
But, second, he could not send his son to the east to find the right girl. Isaac needed to remain in the land of Canaan because it was his inheritance. The land was his to claim, his to rule as God’s steward.
And we remember how Abraham solved this problem: he sent his own steward to find a bride for his son. And the steward returned with just the right young woman — Rebekah — a young woman of faith and courage, who answered God’s call without hesitation, leaving her father’s land, her father’s nation, and her father’s household in order to join Isaac’s.
But then, when the steward arrived home, we found that everything had changed: Abraham was gone. Out of the picture. Isaac was now the head of the household. He was the new Abraham, and Rebekah became the new Sarah.
Now, everything about that episode suggests that Abraham died while his servant was away finding Rebekah.
And that would be our simple conclusion — except for this passage today:
Because it turns out that Abraham has a whole other wife and family: this woman named Keturah, who gave him six more sons. And these six sons end up producing at least eight more nations. And then Abraham dies at the age of 175.
And all this new information really screws up our timeline!
Because this suggests that, after Sarah died at age 127, Abraham lived another 48 years, and got remarried and had this whole other family with lots of kids. Which is fine! — except that, in the previous chapter it sure looked like Abraham was on his death-bed writing his Last Will and Testament, and that he died shortly after Sarah died, when he was around 140 years old.
So: which is it? Did Abraham die at age 140, or 175?
Besides, Abraham has struggled all his life to produce kids, right? His wife Sarah only had one, his concubine Hagar only had one…so does it seem very likely that Abraham would suddenly become very productive in his second century of life?
And so, over the years, many people have read this and said, “See? The bible is full of contradictions and nonsense! We can’t trust anything it says.”
But this is why it is important to read carefully and not jump to conclusions.
So let’s do that.
Beginning in verse 1 we read that Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah.
And as we read this carefully we realize there is no time-stamp on Abraham’s third marriage. We don’t know when exactly he had taken another wife. Some scholars — like John Calvin — think this happened after he sent Hagar away in Chapter 21. Some think it happened even earlier, perhaps even before he married Hagar.
In fact, if he did marry Keturah before he married Hagar, this would explain how Sarah knew that she was the barren one in the relationship: perhaps because Abraham was already having all these other sons with Keturah.
But this raises a question for us: if Abraham has had this wife Keturah all these years, why are we only hearing about her now?
Well, because, so far in Abraham’s life, Moses has kept us very tightly focused on the story of the two brothers: Ishmael and Isaac.
And this is all part of his larger pattern. Ever since the beginning of Genesis, Moses has been showing us pairs of brothers in conflict: Cain and Abel, Cain and Seth, Lamech and Enoch, Ham and Shem, Ishmael and Isaac. In every case, the men have represented two different nations, two different kinds of faith: faith in the Self, or faith in God. And the conflict has always been over which brother is going to receive God’s blessing: the one who reaches out and takes it for himself? or the one who waits for God to give it to him?
Moses did not want to distract us from that central conflict by introducing all kinds of other complicated characters and relationships. But now that the conflict between the brothers is resolved, now Moses can fill us in on some other things that have been going on in Abraham’s life.
So: we don’t know exactly when Abraham married Keturah. But most scholars agree that Abraham marrried Keturah before Sarah died, most likely long before Sarah died. And the reason they say this is because of verses 5 and 6:
 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac.
— that is a summary of Chapter 25, where the servant returned to find that Isaac had replaced Abraham as head of household.
But — verse 6 — while he was still living,
— that is, before the events of Chapter 25 —
he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.
This verse suggests that the six sons of Keturah — like Ishmael, the son of Hagar — were all grown up before Isaac came of age, before Abraham died and left everything he owned to Isaac.
In fact, this verse suggests that these six sons were actually sent away back in Chapter 21, the same time Ishmael was sent away.
And Moses writes it like this so that we will pause for a moment and remember why Abraham sent Ishmael away: Ishmael was a threat to Isaac’s inheritance. He was the kind of man who reaches out and takes God’s blessing for himself.
And once we remember that, then we come back to this verse and realize that these six sons of Keturah were also a threat to Isaac’s inheritance.
This verse suggests that the six sons of Keturah were ambitious men: the kind of brothers who might try to reach out and steal God’s blessing, men like Cain, Lamech, Ham, and Ishmael.
And this idea is confirmed when we realize that Abraham sent them away to the land of the east.
Remember, in the Book of Genesis, “east” is a very significant direction. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden to the east. Cain traveled even further east. Ham and his sons traveled eastward, and the tower of Babel was built in the east. So for Moses, to travel eastward is to rebel against God and travel away from his presence.
And if we also recall, in the previous episode, when the servant asks Abraham if he should take Isaac back home to look for a wife, Abraham says, “No way! Do not do that!” He does not want Isaac to travel to the east.
But now Abraham deliberately sends the rest of his sons away to the east, back to where he started out.
Now: why? Does he hate them?
No. In fact, he gives them all gifts: enough start-up capital to begin their own households.
But Abraham knows human nature. He knows his sons. He knows how difficult it is for one brother to submit to another brother — especially if these are older brothers being asked to submit to a younger brother.
And Abraham knows that his job is to protect Isaac’s household at all costs, because Isaac is the son through whom all nations will be blessed — even the nations that will one day be descended from these six sons of Keturah.
So he sends them away, to the land of the east, away from Isaac’s household, away from God’s presence, trusting that God will take care of them and one day draw them back into the blessing of life in Isaac’s household.
So that explains one supposed contradiction in the text: Moses is not trying to tell us that Abraham suddenly got remarried and became super fertile after the age of 140. He simply structured Abraham’s life story in order to highlight the conflict between brothers, the struggle to produce the right son.
But still, right here in verse 7 we are told that Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years.
And yet we already know that Isaac took over as head of household soon after Sarah’s death, when Abraham was about 140 years old. Are we supposed to believe that Abraham just retired, and then sat around doing nothing for the last 35 years of his life? Or are we supposed to believe that he actually died at the end of Chapter 24, and Moses just got his age wrong here?
Well…no. And this, again, is where it is important for us to read carefully and not jump to conclusions:
Because by this point in Genesis it should be clear to us that the way Moses uses numbers and the way we use numbers is not exactly the same.
In our modern world, numbers are like words in a very precise scientific language. But for many ancient people, numbers were far more symbolic.
We, in Malaysia, are a little closer to understanding this than some others might be: every time we get in a lift we are reminded by the buttons that, for some people, some numbers are very symbolic.
Or, for instance, if an American saw the Triple-8 Steamboat truck drive by, he would assume the “888” is the beginning of the business’ toll-free phone number: “To order, just dial 1-888-S-T-E-A-M-B-O-A-T!” But we know those three 8’s have nothing to do with contacting anybody: they are symbolic.
In the same way, numbers in the bible are often symbolic; they are a language…just not a precise scientific language.
So it is possible — in fact, it is likely — that when Moses says Abraham died at age 175, he is not simply giving Abraham’s age at death, he is also symbolically summarizing Abraham’s life.
For instance, Moses told us that Sarah died at age 127. Now, ancient Jewish scholars, when they commented on this number, pointed out that 100 symbolizes great age, 20 symbolizes beauty, and 7 symbolizes fullness. So, for Sarah to die at 127 meant to them that, when she died, she was, a). very old, b). still very beautiful, and c). had lived a full life.
See what I mean?
Our problem here is that we have lost the key to interpret these numbers. We don’t exactly know what the numbers 100 and 70 and 5 might have meant to Moses and his people. All we know is that they probably meant something more than just Abraham’s physical age.
So at this point, all we can really say is that it is not necessarily a contradiction for Moses to suggest that Abraham died in Chapter 24, soon after Sarah died, and then for him to tell us here that Abraham died at age 175.
All we can really do is read carefully, and try not to jump to conclusions — especially when it comes to numbers.
But what we know for sure, here, is that  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.
And then we find out that at least one of his estranged sons returned for the funeral:  His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre.
We are reminded that Abraham was close to Ishmael. He loved him. It broke Abraham’s heart to have to send Ishmael away.
And apparently Ishmael also loved Abraham. Apparently they still had some kind of long-distance relationship, so that Isaac was able to get a message to his half-brother when Abraham died.
And this continuing affection between son and father also gives us new insight on the events of Chapter 21, when Abraham sent Ishmael and Hagar away:
Back when Moses wrote Chapter 21, he was keeping a very narrow focus on the conflict between the brothers; when he told us that Abraham put food and water on Hagar’s shoulders, he was setting us up to compare Chapter 21 with Chapter 22, where Abraham put the wood for the sacrifice on Isaac. Because of this narrow focus, it looked as if Abraham sent Ishmael away with nothing but a little food and water.
But now we know that Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines before he sent them away, and this would have included Ishmael. Chapter 21 was written as if Hagar and Ishmael left Abraham’s household alone, carrying the bare minimum, and it was written that way in order to make a point. But this chapter lets us know that Abraham sent all his sons away with every possible advantage.
Abraham was the best kind of father he knew how to be. And Ishmael’s return to honour his father in his burial helps confirm this.
So Isaac and Ishmael bury their father in the cave he had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.
And this reminds us how significant this choice was for Abraham: that for him to bury his wife in this foreign land was a way of declaring to all the nations around him that his God is the God who rules over this entire world, and the God who rules over the next world.
Even Abraham’s burial in this cave is an act of faith in the blessing and protection of his God.
And  after Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.
Beer Lahai Roi is the well in the southern desert where the Angel of the Lord once met Hagar, when she was running away from Sarah’s abuse. This is the same well Isaac went to visit after his mother, Sarah, died, when he was waiting for his bride to arrive. And Beer Lahai Roi means The Well of the God Who Sees Me.
And this is a fitting end to Book 7 of Genesis.
Book 7 began as the story of Terah and his three sons escaping from the chaos and confusion of Babel in the far east. One son died before he could leave. The second son stopped along the way. But the third son — Abraham — completed the journey, and actually arrived in the new land.
And then Book 7 continued as the story of Abraham and his three sons: one adopted, one born to a slave girl, and one born to his wife Sarah. One son never really left his homeland behind. The second son was circumcized into the covenant family, but then he opted out when he realized he was not going to inherit. Only the third son — Isaac — remained faithful even to death and actually inherited the land.
And so Isaac grew up in the land, in a place named Beersheba, where his father had dug a well, and planted a tree, and made a treaty with the local king. Isaac grew up in a symbolic garden in the wilderness, in God’s presence, under God’s protection.
And so now, with this final sentence, Moses is telling us that Isaac really is the new Abraham. He is following in his father’s footsteps: he is expanding his father’s claim upon the land. He grew up in Beersheba, where his father Abraham put down permanent roots in the land; now he has moved to live in Beer Lahai Roi.
This is new territory. This is expansion. This is resolution. This is rest.
This is peace at the end of the long journey.
And for the people of Moses’ generation, for the ancient people of Israel, this would have been a great comfort and encouragement. After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, after 40 years in the wilderness, they were looking for peace and safety. They were looking for a home. And so they understood that this Book 7 of Genesis, this story of Abraham’s life in the land, was a preview of their life as a nation in the land.
In a way, because of Abraham’s story, they knew that their own story was also going to end in rest and peace.
They understood, through the life of Abraham, that the land of Canaan was going to be their new Garden of Eden:
When they looked at the well Abraham dug at Beersheba, they saw the new Waters of Life, like the life-giving rivers that had once flowed out of Eden in the beginning.
When they looked at the tree Abraham had planted there beside that well, they saw the new Tree of Life.
When they looked at Sarah and Abraham’s tomb there at the highest point in the land, they saw the hope of resurrection: the promise that one day death itself would be undone, and they would live forever in God’s presence on the sacred mountain of the Lord.
But they also understood that, even as they found their rest and peace in the land, that this would be a working rest, a working peace:
When they looked at how Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac, they saw him doing what Adam should have done from the beginning: they saw him protecting the garden from those who would try to reach out and take God’s blessings for themselves. And they knew that this is what they would need to do as well.
When they heard how Isaac moved to live near Beer Lahai Roi, they saw him doing what Adam had been called to do from the beginning: they saw him expanding the garden, stretching out its territories toward the ends of the earth. And they knew this was their calling also.
The people of Israel understood that their rest in the land was going to be a working rest. In one sense they would be home; but in another sense they would still be on the way to something greater: a garden that would one day fill the earth, a garden that would one day include people from every nation.
And they knew that, in order to get there, they would need to follow Abraham’s and Isaac’s examples; they would need to complete the work Adam had left undone. They had two jobs:
1. They would need to protect their land from those who would try to reach out and take God’s blessings for themselves, and
2. they would need to extend their territory until all nations had come under the blessing and protection of the Lord.
This is what Abraham’s life meant for the ancient people of Israel: it was a promise that the land really was their inheritance; it was a template for them to follow as they interacted with the surrounding nations; it was a preview of their own struggles along the way; it was a prophecy that one day God’s garden would fill the earth.
And all that is great! — for them.
What is this supposed to mean for us?
We are not a nation living in the land of Palestine. We have not been promised that one day every nation will be blessed through our expansion. So what should we do? Should we all move to the modern state of Israel now, today, so we can participate in this great vision for the future?
And please allow me to explain why the modern state of Israel is not actually the fulfillment of God’s ancient promises to Abraham:
See, the ancient nation of Israel really tried to do what they had been called to do. They tried to drive out or destroy every nation within their boundaries that was committed to false worship, to stealing God’s blessing for themselves. They tried to win over those surrounding nations who were willing to join in true worship with the true God.
But they failed. Because the nation of Israel had a problem that is a problem for every nation in the world:
The line between good and evil does not run along national boundaries. We can never truly say that this nation is good, and that nation is bad, because the line between good and evil actually runs through every human heart. The potential for true worship and the potential for false worship lives within every single one of us.
And so the ancient people of Israel failed to cleanse their land from false worship because they themselves were a source of false worship! No matter how many nations they drove out of the land, no matter how many nations they brought into the covenant…nothing ever really changed.
And Israel’s failure as a political nation is meant to be a warning to every political nation in this world: do not put your hope in a political solution. It is impossible for a system of laws to cure what is wrong with us as a human race. Even if our laws are beautiful and good and perfect…human beings are not. And unfortunately, it is human beings who apply those laws.
But I think we all can tell that very few have heard this warning. Very few have taken this lesson to heart. And as a result more and more of us are putting our hopes in political solutions, in political systems, in political groups. It is becoming more and more important to belong to some kind of cause, and to make that cause our nation.
And so, for instance, we find more and more people defining themselves along racial lines: they join racially oriented groups and political parties. We find people defining themselves along religious lines: they join religiously oriented parties. We find people joining groups and parties that focus on rights for different genders and sexual orientations. We even find people defining themselves along economic and ecological lines: these are communist parties, socialist parties, capitalist parties, green parties…
And every political identity is fighting every other political identity, scrapping for political dominance. Why?
Because, even though these groups all look very different, they actually all share the same foundational assumption: they all believe that if they were in charge, they would solve mankind’s problems. They all believe that their values are the best values for all mankind, and that their people are the best people to apply these values to mankind!
And so in this way, every single political movement in the world is just like the ancient nation of Israel: they are all trying to win over everyone who might be willing to join in covenant with them, and they are all trying drive out or destroy everyone who refuses.
And, friends, I must point out that “every single political movement in the world” includes the modern state of Israel. The modern nation of Israel has the same problem that every other nation has always had: the line between good and evil does not run along national boundaries, it runs through every human heart.
Therefore, it is impossible for the modern state of Israel to fulfill God’s ancient promises to Abraham.
The primary problem with our world, friends, is not the political party down the road. It’s not the nation next door, or that neighbor with different beliefs. No: the primary problem with our world is the human heart. If the human heart could be made perfect, then we would no longer need political parties, we would no longer need nations, because we would all love one another perfectly. We would all always do just exactly the right, loving thing every time for everyone.
Well, Moses knew this.
Moses understood that his people, as a nation, as a political solution, were going to fail. He knew they would prove unable to transform the human heart. And so, later on, inspired by the Spirit of God, Moses promised that one day God would send his people a Prophet from among their own brothers, a man who was also the Angel of the Lord, and that this man — this Messiah — would transform the hearts of his people.
And by transforming the hearts of his people, this Messiah would finally do what the nation of Israel could not do: he would finally drive out the source of false worship in the land! And by finally driving out the source of false worship, he could finally begin the great task of expanding God’s garden — God’s kingdom — throughout the earth.
And what Moses prophesied came true. God did send his people a Prophet, a Messiah, a man who was also the Angel of the Lord. This Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, rejected the political solution that we all love so much. He refused to let people define themselves according to race or religion or gender or politics or nation. He refused to take sides. He refused to play the power games.
Instead he laid his life down. He allowed the political powers of this world to drive him out and destroy him — because he knew that only by laying down his life could he prove that he was a completely different kind of person than every other kind of person in the world.
And he did exactly what he came to do. On the third day after Jesus’ death, God the Father raised his Son back to life again, thus proving once and for all that Jesus is a completely different kind of person, a new species of human being: a man with a perfect heart. A man perfectly possessed by the Spirit of God, who would always do just exactly the right, loving thing every time for everyone.
But how did this change the hearts of God’s people?
Well, Jesus did not keep that Holy Spirit for himself: he poured it out upon his followers. He possessed them perfectly with the Spirit of God, and transformed their hearts from the inside-out. He transformed them into a new species of human being.
And he transformed them into a new kind of nation. In that moment, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon God’s people in the nation of Israel, in that moment the foundational nature of Israel as a nation was changed. It ceased to be a political entity, and it began to be a spiritual entity. Every other nation in the world is defined and segregated by race, by politics, by gender, by religion, by social class; but the new Israel is united by one sacrifice, one King, one baptism, one Spirit: a truly new kind of nation.
Today we call that nation the Church. The people of Jesus Christ are the new spiritual Israel.
Which means that everything Abraham’s life meant for the ancient people of Israel…it also means for us. Except: even bigger, and better.
Because the ancient people of Israel were looking forward to a time when their new Garden of Eden would begin to expand outward in every direction. They were looking forward to a garden that would one day fill the earth, a garden that would one day include people from every nation.
But we, the modern spiritual people of Israel, we live in the midst of that great expansion! Ever since that day in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit created a new kind of humanity and a new kind of nation — ever since that day the new Garden of Eden has been expanding outward in every direction. It has been drawing people in from every nation. The fact that all of us are here today, non-Jewish people worshiping the Jewish Messiah! is proof that Jesus’ nation, Jesus’ Church, is the fulfillment of God’s ancient promises to Abraham!
This, friends, is the new territory! This is the great expansion! This is the great resolution of all history! This is our rest!
This is our peace at the end of the long journey.
So: how do we apply this peace and rest to our lives, then?
Well, the ancient people of Israel understood that their rest in the land was going to be a working rest.
Our rest is the same: in one sense we are already home; but in another sense we are still on the way to something greater. Because — just in case you haven’t noticed! — our world has not yet been made perfect.
And so, like the ancient people of Israel, we have two main jobs: first, to cleanse and protect our nation from false worship, and second, to extend God’s blessing to all nations.
However, the way we are called to accomplish these tasks is very different than in the case of ancient Israel: because God’s people are no longer a political entity, we are no longer trying to cleanse and protect a political country, we are no longer trying to expand a political territory.
Instead, we are now called to cleanse and protect Christ’s spiritual nation from false worship, we are called to expand Christ’s spiritual blessings to people from all nations.
In short: we are responsible, first, for the purity of worship in our own church, in our own churches. And, second, we are responsible to preach God’s Law and Gospel to all the surrounding nations.
That’s it. Simple, right?
Simple…perhaps. But not easy.
Because, if you are anything like me, you are very aware that your heart has not yet been made perfect. Sometimes I live as if I am possessed by the Holy Spirit. But many times I am a very political creature: many times I catch myself thinking that the primary problem with the world is other people, and that if I could either fix them or destroy them then this world would be a much better place…at least for me.
Am I alone in this? Or are you also like this sometimes?
And it is a constant temptation for us to apply this thinking to our life here in Kuala Lumpur. For instance, if it is our job to protect the purity of worship in Christ’s Church, then it is always tempting to believe that the real problem with Christianity in Malaysia is all those other churches who are doing it wrong.
Or, since it is our job to preach the pure Law and the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Klang Valley, then it is always tempting to believe that if we could only work hard enough for long enough with the right evangelistic techniques then surely people from every race and religion would come pouring in and Malaysia would be transformed into some kind of Christian nation.
So it seems as if we are right back where we started: God’s calling upon our lives is simple and perfect — but we are still the flaw in the system. The Holy Spirit lives within us; we are a new species of human being, inhabiting a new kind of nation — but we have not yet completely arrived. We are still on the way to something greater.
So what is the solution to this puzzle? How are supposed to live and do our job of protecting and expanding the Church when we are the ones who keep screwing up our job of protecting and expanding the Church?
What is the solution to this problem when we are the problem?
Well, in looking for a solution, friends, our best practice is always to go back to the basic truth of the Gospel. And the basic truth is this: Jesus Christ is the one who gives us this blessing; we do not reach out and take it for ourselves. Jesus Christ is the one who began this work, and he is the one who is going to finish it.
On that day 2000 years ago when he transformed his people into a spiritual nation, he began the great conquest of the last unconquered territory on earth: he began the conquest of the human heart. Ever since that day, he has been driving out and destroying every source of false worship that exists in the hearts of his people.
And so the Good News for us is this: if you are in Christ, if you have been baptized into his new nation, then he is at work in you, in me, in us.
And here is some more Good News for us: the conquest of the human heart is the work of generations! It took ancient Israel generations to purify their tiny little land politically! — so we should not be surprised if it takes many many more generations for Christ to purify the entire earth spiritually.
But he will do it! He will finish the task. He will give us perfect peace.
So this is our solution: when discouragement comes, when we reflect upon the reality that we are still the main flaw in God’s system, then this is what we need to do: remember the Gospel. Remember that we are part of something glorious, something that is so much greater than we are as individuals.
If we are fortunate, we get to participate in Christ’s work for 70 or 80 years, just like Abraham did! — and then we are done, and dead, and buried, just like Abraham was.
But Christ has been doing this job for thousands of years, for hundreds of thousands of years; he has been doing this work from before the beginning of Time. And with all that experience, we have to believe that he is pretty good at it: he knows exactly what he is doing.
That is our Good News. That is our Gospel.
Now, does this mean we are no longer responsible for the purity of worship in our own church, in our own churches? Are we longer responsible to preach Christ’s Law, Christ’s Gospel to all the surrounding nations?
No. We rest in the Gospel — but our rest is a working rest.
So, how, exactly, are we supposed to do this work when we are still so imperfect?
Well…here is one very practical command from our Lord: when we do these things, when we concern ourselves with the purity of worship in our church, when we concern ourselves with the expansion of God’s spiritual kingdom, we must do these things as a people, not just as individuals.
A lot of modern evangelical Christianity, coming out of the West, is very individualistic. And this makes sense, because the West has become very individualistic. And this individualistic kind of Christianity has actually changed the way we talk. It is very common for us, today, to talk about how this person over here is very anointed, or that person over there is very Spirit-filled. And maybe that is true. But the bible does not talk like that. In the bible, the anointing of the Holy Spirit is always strongest when God’s people are gathered together. In the bible, God’s people are always most Spirit-filled when they are working together to accomplish the task we have been given.
In others words: it is not my job to purify our church; it is not your job: it is our job. It is not my job to preach the Gospel to the surrounding nations; it is not your job: it is our job. When we work together in the Spirit, this helps protect us from letting our own individual sins take over the process.
When we worship and work and pray together then those are the moments when we are most perfectly possessed by the Holy Spirit; those are the moments that transform us more and more into the new kind of humanity God has ultimately designed us to be; those are the moments when we are truly living as the household of Christ.
So there are times when the people of a church must protect the purity of Christ’s church by sending people away to the land of the east, away from God’s presence. When this happens, it happens only through the church working together. And when this happens, it happens in hope that one day the expanding garden of God will catch up to them, and they will be drawn back into the blessing of life in Jesus’ household.
Abraham lived a long time. He protected the land he was given, and he passed it on to his son, Isaac, who continued the expansion. But his work was just a tiny piece of God’s plan to redeem the entire earth.
In the same way, Christ’s Church has been around for a long time. We work to protect her purity; we work to pass on to the next generation this calling to expand her borders. But her work, our work, our straining toward perfection is just a shadow of the perfection to come, the beauty that is promised to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
So let us rest — and work — in that.