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Sermon #2187 — Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “When He was Dying”
Text: Hebrews 11:21
Subject: Dying in Faith
Date: Tuesday Evening — October 21, 2014
Readings: Allen Kibby and Merle Hart
There is no gift in all the world to be compared with God’s gift of faith. Rich, indeed, is that immortal soul to whom God has graciously granted the gift of faith in Christ!
Oh, gift of gifts! Oh, grace of faith!
My God, how can it be,
That You, in mercy, grace, and love,
Should give that gift to me!
Ah, Grace! Into unlikeliest hearts
It is your boast to come,
The glory of your light to find
In darkest spots a home.
Father, Your grace to me,
Your goodness I adore;
Oh, give me grace to grow in grace,
To love and trust You more!”
Truly, faith in Christ is a precious gift from our God! It is precious in life, precious in trials and temptations, precious in heartache and sorrow, precious in trouble and tribulation, precious in the fiery furnace and in the raging sea. Oh, what a precious gift of grace faith in Christ is! But never is faith so precious as it shall be when the cold sweat of death is on our brow and we are about to leave this world.
Matthew Henry rightly observed, “Faith has its greatest work to do at last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord, so as to honor him, by patience, hope, and joy; — so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of his ways, for the conviction and establishment of all who attend them in their dying moments.”
Nothing honors God like faith. And, oh, how greatly God is honored when his people leave this world with their flag flying at full mast! His worthy name is honored when the Spirit triumphs over the flesh, when the world is consciously and gladly left behind for heaven. For this faith must be in exercise.
Three Examples of Faith
In Hebrews 11:20-22 the Holy Spirit furnishes us with three examples of faith in the final crisis and conflict of life (Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph). God hereby assures his trembling and doubting children, that he who has begun a good work in them will perform it unto their last day. He who has sovereignly and graciously given us this precious grace of faith will not allow it to languish when its support is most needed. God who has enabled his people to exercise faith in the vigor of life, will not withdraw his quickening power in the weakness of death. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph left this world in faith, believing God, trust Christ, worshipping!
(Hebrews 11:20-22) By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. (21) By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. (22) By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
I sure would like to die like that! Wouldn’t you?
Preparation for Death
Though we naturally shy away from thoughts about death and try to avoid talking about it, we must all prepare to meet God. As believers, we need instruction from the Book of God in preparation for death and the comforts that can be ours in those last hours. Satan is ever seeking to strike terror in the hearts of God’s children. I want you to know the groundlessness and hollowness of his lies.
A God-given and a God-sustained faith is not only sufficient to enable the feeblest saints to overcome the weakness of the flesh, the attractions of the world, and the temptations of Satan, it is also able to give us a triumphant passage through death. I love that passage in Moses’ song of triumph that speaks of God silencing our enemies and giving his people easy passage through death unto heavenly glory (Exodus 15:16-18).
(Exodus 15:16-18) “Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. (17) Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. (18) The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.”
It is written, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Numbers 23:10). Well might he wish to do so! The believer’s last experience in this world shall be his best. — “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
This body may convulse with pain, and physical unconsciousness set-in, yet my soul, once it is freed from this body of flesh, shall be blest with a sight and sense of my precious Redeemer such as I have never yet enjoyed! You will get an idea of what I am talking about in Acts 7, as you read about Stephen’s very last experience in this world. — “He being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:37). A peaceful death has concluded the troublesome life of many.
Mr. Spurgeon, in commenting on that verse, said: “With believers it may rain in the morning, thunder at midday, and pour torrents in the afternoon, but it must clear up ere the sun go down.”
Most clearly do those words apply to the case of Jacob.
(Hebrews 11:21) By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
Jacob’s sojourn through this vale of tears was a stormy passage indeed; but the waters were all smooth as he entered his desired haven. Many hours of his life were cloudy and dark, but it was bathed with the radiant splendor of sunset at its close. — “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace!” As you might imagine, my mind has been greatly occupied for the past few weeks with thoughts about death. My heart has been full with the prospect of death. . — “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace!” As I prepared this message, my heart kept crying out to my God, “Let me die like this!”
Come with me to the dying patriarch’s bed. Let’s watch Jacob when he was dying, and seek to learn from his example.
(Hebrews 11:21) “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.”
The title of my message is — “When he was dying.”
Proposition: Faith’s last act is its most blessed and delightful act, bringing us into heaven’s glory land with Christ.
Divisions: Let me show you three things about this man, Jacob, “when he was dying.”
1. Jacob was a believer.
2. Jacob left his sons a rich heritage.
3. Jacob’s example of faith is a great source of comfort and encouragement to me.
First, we should observe the fact that Jacob was a believer, a man of true faith. — As we shall see in a few minutes, Jacob had great weaknesses, great faults, and great failures, as all believers do. He didn’t always act like it. In fact, he rarely acted like it; but Jacob was a believer! He is held before us in Hebrews 11 as an eminent example of faith in Christ. Yet, he was a man who believed God. He was a prince with God, a man chosen in eternal love, washed in the blood of Christ, robed in his perfect righteousness, born of the Spirit. Jacob was one of us.
Above all the other patriarchs Jacob’s life was marked with trials and temptations; and he therefore furnishes us with many illustrious testimonies of faith.
The life of faith is not like the shining of the sun on a calm and clear day, meeting with no resistance from the atmosphere. Rather it is like the sun-rising on a foggy morning, its rays struggling to pierce through and dispel the opposing mists.
· Jacob walked by faith, but in the exercise of faith he encountered many struggles. His was an uphill struggle from beginning to end.
· In spite of all his faults and failings, Jacob dearly prized his interest in the everlasting covenant. He trusted God and highly esteemed his promises.
· We all are as full of error as Jacob.
· We are all, like Jacob, if we are born of God, a people with two warring natures.
But that which is most prominent about this man, Jacob, is this fact: — He believed God.
· He valued the birthright Esau despised. – Jacob esteemed Christ and his salvation of greater value than anything else.
· He coveted the promises of God’s free, covenant grace in Christ.
· He desired the Lord to be his God. — “The Lord shall be my God” (Genesis 28:21).
· Though he was terrified at Esau, nevertheless, he sought the Lord, pleaded his promises, and obtained the answer of peace. — “Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good” (Genesis 32:12).
· Though he cringed at the feet of his brother, he prevailed as a prince with God (Genesis 32:28).
· Like his fathers Abraham and Isaac, “by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tents” (Hebrews 11:9).
During the closing days of his life, Jacob’s faith in Christ shined brightly.
· When he gave permission for Benjamin to accompany his brothers on their second trip to Egypt, he said, “God almighty (or God the Sufficient One) give you mercy before the man” (Genesis 43:14). He rested his soul on his God.
· Blessed is it to see the conduct of this man, this believing sinner, when he was brought before Pharaoh, ruler of the greatest empire of the world. — Instead of groveling before him, we are told, “Jacob blessed Pharaoh” (Genesis 47:7). — He acted as a child of the King of kings (Hebrews 7:7). He carried himself with dignity as the ambassador of the Most High God.
A Dying Believer
Jacob was a believer. He was born of God. He trusted the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jacob was a believer. That’s the first thing. Second, when he was dying, this old believer blessed his sons, leaving them a rich, rich heritage by faith.
Jacob’s benediction upon his sons was a great act of faith (Genesis 48:1-22). We can learn much from the circumstances of Jacob’s life at the time of his dying, the time of this blessing.
Jacob exercised faith in his old age; and in the immediate prospect of death (Genesis 47:29; 48:21).
(Genesis 47:29) “And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:”
(Genesis 48:21) “And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.”
In spite of all his trials and conflicts, the weaknesses and discomfort of old age, he abode firm in the faith, and vigorous in the exercise of it. His natural decay did not cause any abatement in his spiritual strength.
In blessing of Joseph and his sons Jacob solemnly recognized, pleaded, and asserted the covenant made with Abraham (Genesis 48:15). — “And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk.” — This is the very core and essence of faith…
· To Lay Hold of God’s Covenant (2 Samuel 23:1-5).
· To Draw Strength from It (Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; 2 Corinthians 4:15).
· To Walk in the Light of the Everlasting Covenant. — It is the foundation of all blessedness (Ephesians 1:3), the charter of our heavenly inheritance, and the guarantee of our eternal glory.
He who keeps God’s covenant in view will have a happy deathbed, a peaceful end, and a God-honoring exit from this world of suffering and sin (2 Samuel 23:1-5).
(2 Samuel 23:1-5) Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, (2) The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. (3) The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. (4) And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. (5) Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.
Upon his deathbed John Gill made this heartfelt confession by which we may almost look into his very soul.
“I depend wholly and alone upon the free, sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love of God, the firm and everlasting covenant of grace, and my interest in the persons of the Trinity, for my whole salvation; and not upon any righteousness of my own; nor anything in me, or done by me, under the influence of the Holy Spirit; Not upon any services of mine, which I have been assisted to perform for the good of the church, but, upon my interest in the Persons of the Trinity, the free grace of God, and the blessings of grace streaming to me through the blood and righteousness of Christ, as the ground of my hope. These are no new things to me, but what I have long been acquainted with; what I can live and die by. I apprehend I shall not be here long, but this you may tell to any of my friends.”
Oh, yes, a clear, firm view of Christ and the covenant of God’s grace in him secures the hearts of dying saints! — Jacob declared that all temporal, as well as spiritual, mercies were his by virtue of the covenant. — “The God which fed me all my life long unto this day. The Angel which redeemed me from all evil” (Genesis 48:15-16)
The Puritan, John Owen, wrote, “It was a work of faith to retain a precious thankful remembrance of divine providence in a constant provision of all needful temporal supplies, from first to last, during the whole course of his life.”
I pray that God will give me grace now and when I am leaving this world to honor him by bearing testimony before all who are in any way influenced by me to his faithfulness in all things all the days of my life.
He never forgot God’s mercy to him in redemption, calling Christ “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil” (Genesis 48:16). — Jacob’s faith was in Christ, the Son of God, the Angel of the Covenant (Genesis 32:24-30).
(Genesis 32:24-31) And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. (25) And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. (26) And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. (27) And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. (28) And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (29) And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. (30) And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. (31) And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
Christ Jesus, the Angel of God, redeemed him from all evil…
In his old age Jacob’s hands were guided wittingly, understandingly, so that he blessed the sons of Joseph and pronounced their future according to purpose of God (Genesis 48:14, 16-18).
(Genesis 48:14) And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
(Genesis 48:16-18) (16) The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. (17) And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. (18) And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
Jacob wanted the blessings of God’s grace in Christ for his sons, not the wealth of Egypt. — The delights of this world are nothing compared to the blessings of Zion (Psalms 128:5; 134:3; 133:3).
(Psalms 128:5) “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.”
(Psalms 133:3) “As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
(Psalms 134:3) “The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.”
Even in his dying hour, when the will of his most favored relative crossed the will of God, the old man wisely taught Joseph to yet submit to the will of God (Genesis 48:18-19).
(Genesis 48:18-19) And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. (19) And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
Jacob understood, at this stage of life, that obedience to God was the great thing. He had heard from God (Romans 10:17), he believed God, and he submitted to God.
Third, Jacob’s faith is a very great source of comfort and encouragement to me. — If I had been given the task of choosing an example of faith to hold before us, by which to comfort and encourage God’s saints in this world, I would never have chosen Jacob; but God did. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that he did.
You see, Jacob was a man very much like me. He was a believer, but often very unbelieving. He was a righteous man, but often did things totally contrary to his true character. He was a man who loved God, but often appeared to love himself more than anything. Jacob was a faithful, faithful man, but often appeared unfaithful. He was a strong pillar of God’s church, but often seemed to be as fickle as the wind. He was a saint, robed in the righteousness of Christ, but often did that which was horribly sinful.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Bro. Don, How do those facts comfort and encourage you?” I’m so glad you asked. — Jacob is with Christ in glory! As he left this world, the Holy Spirit tells us he left here worshipping God.
(Hebrews 11:21) “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.”
Jacob is with Christ in glory because…
This is my prayer: — O Lord, my God, let me die like Jacob. Give me grace to die like this, looking to Christ.
(Psalm 37:37) Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
· Nothing will give us peace in the hour of death like a clear, firm view of Christ, the Angel of the Covenant, and God’s covenant grace in him.
· If we would leave a rich heritage for those who follow us, let us leave with them the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ.
· When we come to death let us rejoice in God our Savior and leave here worshipping God, leaning upon our Staff — Christ CRUCIFIED!
Why do we mourn departing friends,
Or shake at death’s alarms?
Tis but the voice that Jesus sends,
To call them to His arms.
Are not we tending upward too,
As fast as time can move?
Nor should we wish our hours more slow,
To keep us from our Love.
The graves of all the saints He blest,
And softened every bed;
Where should the dying members rest,
But with their dying Head?
Thence He arose, ascending high,
And showed our feet the way;
Up to the Lord our flesh shall fly,
At the great rising day.
Illustration: The Robin’s Eggs