Apr. 23, 2020

What Is the Significance of This Chapter of Your Life?

Genesis 23 is composed of 20 verses. The entire chapter is about Abraham purchasing land from the Hittites. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had died at 127 years old. She was 90 when their only son Isaac was born. That means Isaac was 37 and his father was 137 when Sarah died. Think about having parents of that age in this day and time: a father who is 100 years older than his son and a mother 90 years older than her child! It is difficult to imagine what that would be like today when most people have children in their 20s and 30s. That has nothing to do with the topic. I just find it interesting. 😊

When reading this chapter, Genesis 23, I did not understand why an entire chapter was devoted to Abraham securing a burial place for his family. Although the immediate need was because Sarah had passed, eventually Abraham was also buried there. When the time came, their son Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried in this same location. One of Isaac’s sons, Jacob and one of Jacob’s wives, Leah, were also interred here. (Genesis 49:30-31 and Genesis 50:13) It seems that the whole story of a land purchase could have been told in just two or three verses. Why is an entire chapter devoted to it?

Genesis 12:1-4 is the narrative of God telling Abram (his name had not yet been changed to Abraham) to leave his homeland, father and country and go to a land that he would be shown.

Genesis 12:1-4 NLT

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 

Genesis 12:6-7 NLT

  Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.

 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.[a]” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 

 A hint of the importance of the purchase of the burial land is given in the verses cited above in Genesis 12. In securing this area of land for his family, Abraham was acting on the promise that God had communicated to him. Often, when people die the body of the deceased is transported to the old homestead or to their birthplace. But Abraham didn’t do that. He didn’t take Sarah’s body back to Haran where they had come from because God had told him I am giving your people THIS land. Abraham acted on that word or promise not only for the present situation of Sarah’s death but also to provide a cemetery or a family burial plot for himself and his descendants.

Why is this important enough that a whole chapter would be devoted to it?

Here are six reasons that may be considered.

 First, when God shows us something for our life and future, it is best to be ‘all in’. We should fully embrace what the Lord has presented. The promise was to Abraham but he would not get to see the manifestation of the fulness of it. The actualization would not come to pass until several hundred years later when Joshua was appointed leader of the Israelites. Abraham demonstrated faith and foresight. He wholeheartedly embraced the promise and acted on what God said and what he believed. Abraham’s thoughts and actions showed he was certain that his descendants would occupy this land. They would live and die there because God said so. This was not a temporary arrangement. Abraham may have missed his father and other relatives and friends. But he did not abort or delay a spiritual legacy to satisfy a natural urge or longing. Some people are more loyal to ‘mom n em’ than they are to the voice and Spirit of the Lord. God’s timing is perfect. There is no ‘wiggle room’ to nurture natural impulses when God has initiated an assignment.

When he left Haran, his father’s country, Abram was 75 years old. He was 100 when Isaac was born. In Genesis 24 Abraham wants a wife for Isaac. Isaac was 40 when he married (Genesis 25:20). At the time of Isaac’s marriage, Abraham was 140 years old. It had been 65 years since he left his father plus the land and culture with which he was familiar. The intensity of what God communicated to him did not diminish in Abraham’s mind or spirit even after 65 years. This truth is evident in Genesis 24:1-7. The servant who is sent to find a wife for Isaac is instructed to search for a woman from Abraham’s country and kindred and bring her to the promised land. The servant asks if the woman is not willing to follow him there should he take Isaac back to the land of their origin. Abraham is adamant that Isaac is not to go back there because of God’s promise and instructions.

Genesis 24:1-7 NLT

Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh. Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.”

The servant asked, “But what if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to travel so far from home? Should I then take Isaac there to live among your relatives in the land you came from?”

“No!” Abraham responded. “Be careful never to take my son there. For the Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants.[a] He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son. 

When the word of God does not materialize in the way or time that people may have expected, there is a temptation to dilute what God said. There may be a pull to minimize some of what the Lord said to accommodate the current situation. Abraham did not forget the word of the Lord. He did not allow anything or anyone to persuade him to alter the plan God had given him for his people. Multitudes of people would benefit from Abraham’s faith and obedience.

This is the second reason why the purchase of this burial ground is significant enough to require an entire chapter. The location, from that point on, is respected and regarded forever. An area secured as a resting place for the bodies of loved ones who have transitioned, is different from land used to erect a home or building. A building can be torn down or swept away and the ground can look like the structure was never there. But burial land has a different significance. Cemeteries are expected to be well maintained and undisturbed indefinitely. It permanently connects the people to the land.

The third reason is to show that even though a promise has been issued, there is something that we need to do. We need to be involved. We must take action that reflects the confidence and assurance we have in the promise. Engagement is evidence of the faith we have in God and His word. It is not prudent or wise to just sit back and see what happens. One reason the Lord lets a person know what is ahead is so they can prepare for the blessing. Preparation requires effort and action. Preparation insists on engagement. When the situation presented itself (Sarah’s death) Abraham took action that was in harmony with what he had been told by the Lord.

Genesis 23:3-6 illustrates the fourth reason for the significance of this chapter.

Genesis 23:3-6 NLT

Then, leaving her body, he said to the Hittite elders, “Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Listen, my lord, you are an honored prince among us. Choose the finest of our tombs and bury her there. No one here will refuse to help you in this way.”

Abraham had favor with the people he was dealing with. They viewed him as a man of honor and integrity. He conducted himself well among them in business, socially and economically. He didn’t enter their land threatening and boasting that he would eventually oust them and take over. He was a good neighbor and a peaceful person. He did not stir up any trouble with them and they could see the prosperity that covered his life. We are to represent the Lord well in all matters. If the Lord announces to you that you will take over a position currently occupied by someone else, don’t publicize it. Let the Lord do the speaking. Abraham did not agitate the Canaanites. He was humble and respectful among them.

The fifth reason that this chapter carries such weight is that the purchase of this property was a token transaction. It was like a down payment. The purchase represented a very small portion of something to come that would be much more substantial. When the Lord shares a promise, we may only see a small bit of it at first. He may show just enough for you to remember and hold onto what He said. Sometimes He lets us experience just enough to know that the rest is coming. We are not to lose faith while we wait.

Zechariah 4:8-10 NLT

Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. 10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

 We stand on the Word of God and don’t have to have anything else. But sometimes He allows or even facilitates a token, a smaller representation of what is to come for you and those who are coming after you. The Lord rejoices over the beginning of a thing. We often agonize over the beginning and rejoice at the end. But He knows that what we see as a ‘start’ is actually already completed in Him. He rejoices at the opportunity He has given us to exercise our faith in Him. He rejoices that we take positive action to move at His direction, toward something that He has made known to us. Our faith and corresponding engagement bring Him joy!

The sixth and final point of discussion is noted in Genesis 23:4.

Genesis 23:4 NLT

 “Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.”

 Abraham was a wanderer, a foreigner there. He had no legal claims or ties to the land. The purchase transaction was done publicly and legally. No one, at a future date, could state that Abraham’s possession wasn’t legitimate or that he had no proper claim to the property. The wisdom employed here ensured that all that transpired was done according to the civil requirements at the time. Genesis 23:17-20 records that the necessary components were present. Any legal transfer of property requires at least these five details: 1) where is the property 2) who sold it 3) who bought it 4) how much 5) who testified to the transaction.

 Genesis 23:17-20 NLT

 17 So Abraham bought the plot of land belonging to Ephron at Machpelah, near Mamre. This included the field itself, the cave that was in it, and all the surrounding trees. 18 It was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate. 19 Then Abraham buried his wife, Sarah, there in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron). 20 So the field and the cave were transferred from the Hittites to Abraham for use as a permanent burial place.

 In this case there were plenty of witnesses and a precise description of the location and boundaries. Also noted are the people involved and the price that was paid for the land.

 This sole transaction held major significance for Abraham and all of his descendants. What is the significance of the current chapter of your life? How is what is being written going to affect your future? What are you doing that will benefit your posterity? Are you engaged in the promises of God? Are you acting on the promises as the Spirit and occasion dictate? What we do impacts those who follow after. It is vital that we leave a strong, healthy legacy of faith and fruitfulness for others to emulate and build upon. Your assignment is about much more than just you. You are more than a 'one-hit-wonder'. Like Abraham, you may not get to see the fulfillment of the entire plan of God. But do all that He called you to do and do it well. Honor the Lord with your life and your living.

 Blessings to you and your descendants!