The Last Salute
Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him (Genesis 35:28,29).
A crisp salute is a sign of respect for flag and uniform. A sloppy salute shows disrespect. But the most meaningful salute is the very slow one that is given to the fallen. It is the last salute.
The last salute a final good-bye. It pays tribute to days past. It carries a wish of peace.
The Bible often addresses the subject of death and dying. Sometimes its words bring warning or judgment. Sometimes hope. Sometimes it offers a final salute.
Such was the case with Isaac.
His father had been the famous Abraham. In his youth, Isaac had almost been killed as a sacrifice to the Lord. It had been a testing of his dad’s faith, and an eye-opener to the way that humans would be rescued by the sacrifice of a much greater Son.
Now Abraham is dead, and his son has followed him. The two sons of Isaac, who had spent much time quarreling, lay their father to rest in his grave.
People looking in may have commented about how much the sons loved their father. What they could not see was how much God loved him.
Through his prophet Moses, the Creator and Redeemer God adds his comments to the burial scene. They allow us to see what otherwise would be hidden to human eyes. They show us that after his earthly death, Isaac was gathered to his people.
“Gathered to his people…” That is a breath-taking phrase! His people included Abraham, and Noah, and Abel—and all the rest of those who were members of his spiritual family, God’s own people.
Those people still lived after they left this earth. So would Moses, who wrote these words. Moses would show up at the transfiguration of Jesus, thousands of years after his body had been placed into the grave.
Since we have never been to heaven, we cannot see the people already gathered there. But God can. And he tells us that Isaac was added to that number, just like his father, Abraham.
After 180 years of service to his God, the man Isaac was laid to his rest. Those who loved him mourned his passing. Those who read about his life marvel at what he did and said. Many praised him.
But here we learn of the best tribute possible. It’s the same one that we seek.
With the words, “gathered to his people” God gives the last salute.
Lord of Life and Death, you have measured out the span of our earthly lives. You can point to the millisecond when our eyes will close in death and eternity will come into view. We thank you that you have loved us as much as an Abraham and Isaac—or any of the other heroes of faith. Increase our faithfulness to you. When our earthly journey finally comes to an end, let your blessing be our last salute. Gather us to your people in heaven. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military