A Common Destination (Genesis 23)

As we continue our study in Genesis, chapter 22 ends with some important information for later. There we are told that Abraham was informed about his brother and sister-in-law having children. He was an uncle! A couple of things occurred to me while reading this: 1) news traveled slowly in those times; and 2) he may have received all of this information save the part where a grandchild is mentioned, one Rebekah. The implication may have been that she would be an eligible wife for his Isaac.

A common destination is in view in chapter 23. The chapter begins with heartache; the death of Sarah. She lived to be 127 years. A few decades ago in our lifetime that would have been eye-popping. However, more and more people in our country are living up to and over a hundred. Still a rare occurrence to be sure but becoming more commonplace as the years go by.

In biblical times, this is actually a degradation of the human condition that has been transformed by sin. Sin has come into the world and death by sin, so death has passed upon all men, for all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Sarah’s lifetime pales in comparison to the longevity of her forebears. While generations appeared, grew old and died away, the mutations, diseases and ailments all had their toll.

The place of her death is Hebron, otherwise known as Kirjath Arbah. It is in the land of Canaan. You might remember that Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japeth. Ham had a son by the name of Canaan. Looking back at the family fresh off the ark, we discovered that Noah sinned and that Ham didn’t exercise discretion or even respect to his father regarding his condition. Somehow, it would appear that Canaan was involved and so a curse was placed upon him and his descendants. Others believe that perhaps Ham was punished by seeing his son cursed. Still others believe that Noah saw that in the same way that Ham brought shame and reproach upon Noah so too would Canaan to Ham. Whatever the case, the Canaanites were descendants of Ham through Canaan. This was their land that Abraham was called unto and that God would give him as an inheritance. To read more about that incident, go to Genesis 9.

Getting back to Sarah, Abraham was understandably grief-stricken (v. 2). His life-mate was gone. It is very difficult to lose a spouse. What struck me as I studied this passage was that many people in today’s America would not know the special pain of losing a life-mate. With so many divorces and remarriages, something very special is lost, in my view. I pray that more and more Christians will carefully and prayerfully choose a fellow believer as a spouse and stick to their marital vows and not until death would they part. That’s not to say there are no innocent parties in divorces, my comments shouldn’t be misconstrued to condemn the innocent but challenge us all to something better. Don’t cut and run from your marital partner but weather the storms of life as God gives you strength.

Moses, the author of Genesis and the first five books of the Bible we call the Pentateuch and the Jews call the Torah, gives us a glimpse at an oral contract in the making in verses 3-18. Here we have recorded that Abraham gets up from mourning his wife and prepares to negotiate a resting place for her body. To do so, he needed to speak to “the sons of Heth (vs. 3-4, 7).” The sons of Heth were a designation given to descendants of Ham and Canaan and ancestors to the Hittites.
Their initial reaction was very positive. They addressed Abraham as “lord.” In addition, they called him “a mighty prince” that lived among them. True to His word, God was blessing those that blessed Abraham (see Genesis 12). Apparently, the sons of Heth saw this to be true and had no desire to have conflict with him for his God was blessing them as he lived peaceably in their midst.

Abraham identified a specific burial place he would like to purchase (vs. 8-9). The owner of the field, Ephron the Hittite, negotiated a price and sold it to Abraham (vs. 10-18). Verse ten seems to indicate this bargaining took place in front of witnesses at the gate of the city. In the ancient world, that was the place of commerce and legal transactions involving recognized elders of the city. The cave of Machpelah and the field that came with it became the first place in the Promised Land owned by Abraham and it was a burial place of all things!

Abraham buried Sarah there (v. 19) and it became a common destination for the family. As they died, each one’s body was buried there. This was to be true of Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah and Jacob too (see Genesis 49:29-33; 50:12-14).

However, there is another common destination I wish to share with you. According to Hebrews 11:13-16, Abraham, Sarah and other men and women of faith all died, not receiving the promises. Yet they understood they were strangers and pilgrims on this Earth. There it is stated that they could have taken an opportunity to return to their homeland but that was neither what they were ultimately promised nor what they ultimately sought. Instead, they looked for a heavenly country, a city prepared by God for them.

While the Cave of Machpelah was the common destination for their bodies, their souls would go on to that common destination of heaven as a result of their journey of faith through this life with God. He was their Savior, their Provider, their Protector and the One who would see them through this life and into the next by means of Jesus who would offer Himself as a sacrifice for sins long after their bodies were dead and buried and their spirits were with God in paradise.

We too are strangers and pilgrims in this world. As the Southern Gospel song declares, “This world is not my home, I’m just a traveling through . . .” We need to hold onto the things of this life loosely. Our country is a heavenly one, built by God. As the years go by and the consequences of a sin-cursed world take their toll, you and I will long for that home more and more. The years will add to the rolls of heaven and our heart strings will loosen from this Earth. And one day, we will receive that call to come on home to the place prepared for us in our Father’s house (John 14). Won’t that be wonderful? More than you or I could imagine!

Of course, all that I have said above is true only if you are saved by the blood of Jesus. The Bible declares that sin separates us from God and that the only remedy is the Son of God, Jesus, who came to save us from our sins. He did this by becoming our substitute, taking the just punishment of God for our sins upon Himself. He was cruelly crucified. The Bible declares that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and the He became an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). It wasn’t the Romans or the Jews who were at fault. It was our fault, our sin, and it was God who had to exercise justice. He had to punish sin since He is a righteous Judge and our sin deserves nothing less than death and Hell.

The Bible makes clear that we are saved when we place our faith in Jesus. “For by grace are you saved through faith . . . it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”

We do this by confessing our sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” The Bible encourages us to confess our sins, turning from sin and to Jesus by faith.

A prayer of faith would look something like this:
“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that Jesus is the Savior who died for me and rose from the dead. I accept Him by faith as my Savior. Forgive me for my sin and help me to live a life pleasing to you, O God. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

The Bible states that the prayer of faith saves. From this point on, I would urge you to find a church that teaches the Bible faithfully, to get a Bible and read it and obey it and pray on a regular basis. Getting linked into a church will help you to learn spiritual disciplines like the ones I suggest here. It also gives you the opportunity to give financially to support the spreading of this good news to others who do not yet know Jesus.

Thank you for the time you took to read this. I hope you were blessed and encouraged.

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