Did you know that following rabbit trails is not always a bad thing? At least when it comes to Bible study. The negative connotation of this idiom is debunked when pursuing the myriad paths of exploring words, phrases and passages inspired by the mind of God. The wonder of God’s word is that every rabbit trail you traverse leads to treasure. And each one is intersected by others, to create a great interconnected web of wisdom, as the trails are investigated.
So today, my attention was captured by the beautiful phrase describing the patriarch, Abraham, that says “he died in a ripe old age, an old man, satisfied with life.” (Genesis 25:8) Isn’t that a rich, thought-provoking epitaph? I especially loved it because I have grown close to this amazing man as we have been reading about the ups and downs of his life in the last couple of weeks. He was sooo faithful. He was sooo trusting. He was sooo close to God in his life journey. Genesis 22 is the climax of his amazing character – and it brings me to tears when I read it. I know he wasn’t perfect, but there was a reason that God specially selected Abraham to found His nation of witnesses. You can see that reason shining forth in Genesis 22. He was an impressive person. And on him rest the promises on which we – thousands of years later – place our hope.
So I decided to follow rabbit trails from that particular phrase about Abraham. He died “in a ripe old age and satisfied with life.” And, Woo Hoo For You! – I’m willing to share my discoveries.😊 I began by looking up the word “satisfied” in the Concordance to discover its Hebrew meaning = sated, surfeited, abounding. I expanded my exploration to check that great word “ripe,” which is also used to describe Abraham’s old age. It means; good, pleasant, agreeable, excellent, rich. It is the same word translated as “good” used in Genesis Chapters 1–2, where God described His work on each of the days of Creation. The combination of these two words leaves one with an impression of Abraham’s life akin to the ubiquitous “Life is Good” tee shirts popular in America. Overall his life was positive, abounding, full and pleasant. In a word, “satisfying.”
I checked to see if any other Bible people had these words in the description of their lives. Yes, they do. Job was described as dying “an old man and full (satisfied) of days.” (Job 42:17) And three other men, Isaac, Gideon (the judge), and Jehoida (the High Priest during Joash’s reign), also had their old age described as “ripe”. (Genesis 35:29, Judges 8:32, 2 Chronicles 24:15)
I discovered a fascinating insight that there is only one other person who was described with both of the words used in Abraham’s epitaph. Can you hazard a guess? I was delighted to see that it was King David – the man who also received God’s special promises. Isn’t that a neat discovery?! David was described like this:
Then he died in a ripe old age, full (satisfied) of days, riches and honor;…
So that got me to thinking, hmmm, is there a principle here? And my mind went to a verse that has always struck me as kind of curious. It’s when Jesus said:
Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
So Jesus explains that blessings (satisfaction) and persecutions are part of the life package for believers. Abraham and David certainly had both sides of this spectrum. Jesus’ words are comparable to places in the Old Testament that also link obedience and blessing/lifespan; like this promise made to Solomon in 1 Kings:
I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.
But, wait a minute now before we jump to the prosperity religion conclusion. We have to think this through. Faith did not guarantee long life, riches or blessing for all faithful people in the Bible, did it? Definitely not – at least not on the physical plane. So there must be another message here. Let’s see where the word “satisfied” is used in the New Testament, shall we? This rabbit trail led to the discovery that that word is only used one time in the New Testament in a sense that is not literal. It is found in the Beatitudes:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
This got me to thinking more deeply about the satisfaction/fullness of Abraham and David. What characterized these two men? Did they hunger and thirst after righteousness? More than most! – as expressed by God Himself since He describes Abraham as His “friend,” and David as “after His own heart!” (Isaiah 41:8, 1 Samuel 13:14) Think of all those “hungering for righteousness” Psalms/songs that David wrote! Think of how thirsty Abraham would have been for the fulfillment of all of the promises God gave to him! These men had a solid vision of the future – we are told the Gospel was preached to Abraham. (Galatians 3:8) We are told David recognized God was promising him a dynasty through a descendant in the “distant future”. (2 Samuel 7:18-19)
And this brings us to the Lord Jesus (as most Bible rabbit trails do.) He was/is the Gospel. He was/is the king to sit on David’s throne forever. We know, however, he did not have a long life – “he was cut off out of the land of the living” before his time. (Isaiah 53:8) But does the Bible stop there in describing the one man who truly and completely hungered and thirsted for righteousness? Of course not! And this was the most exciting discovery of all.
Consider these moving Messianic passages in the Psalms that highlight Jesus’ long life satisfaction:
O LORD, in Your strength the king will be glad, and in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice! You have given him his heart’s desire, and You have not withheld the request of his lips. For You meet him with the blessings of good things; You set a crown of fine gold on his head. He asked life of You, You gave it to him, length of days forever and ever. … For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.
Or how about this one:
Because he (Jesus) has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.
There are some powerful lessons in this study. I believe Jesus’ words from Matthew are true. We reap blessings in this life and in the life to come if we follow the path of faith. Before his death, Jesus experienced the most intimate relationship with God that any human has ever known. He was satisfied enough with life to be willing to lay it down for us and at His Father’s request. Abraham and David lived lives that were satisfying too– not because they were wealthy or old(that was icing on the cake, so to speak) but because they too, truly walked with God through their joys and struggles. They were satisfied because, in their faithful obedience, God was able to grow them and they “still bore fruit in old age.” (Psalm 92:14)
And this brings it down to us (as Bible rabbit trails should also do). As different as the lives of men like Abraham, David or Job were from each other – they were also alike. Our lives are extremely different from theirs as well. However, ours must have a similarity to theirs to be God’s children. We can live satisfied lives. And, like these men, we live in the hope of a better, future, eternal life. Someone who expressed this concept very well is the Apostle Paul:
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Like Paul, we can grow to a place where contented satisfaction is the rule of our present lives. If we live in this place, it does not matter whether we live long or short. We can have this peaceful satisfaction about our life circumstances, whatever they might be, because we walk with God in obedience and faith. Wanting to be His friends, his children. Wanting to have hearts like His. Knowing He and His experienced Son will strengthen us to that end.
As we conclude this discussion, let’s hear the reality of God’s thundering voice continuing to cry out through the ages, through the prophet Isaiah:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.
Let us hunger and thirst for the righteousness that leads to true satisfaction in this life and the life to come! Let us join that everlasting covenant that was grounded in Abraham’s life. Let us experience the Lord’s faithful mercies shown to David and through his greater son, the Lord Jesus. (Mark 12:35-37)
One last rabbit trail leads to a beautiful song by the Sons of Korah based on Psalm 91 (quoted above). It will bump up the impact of these lessons (in the way only music can) if you listen: