This sermon is based on Genesis 23:1-20. Click here to read the text.
Sarah lived 127 years, then she died. Abraham’s wife was a significant woman and a key figure in the early days of God’s covenant with the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). After her death, Abraham set about procuring a burial spot. This was a transaction of no small significance, for the cave in which Sarah’s body was laid to rest became the first piece of property within Canaan that was owned by God’s people. A tomb (and its surrounding field) was the firstfruits of the Promised Land!
We can glean a few things from Abraham’s real estate negotiation with the Hittites. First, Abraham was humble about his circumstances. He acknowledged that he was a “sojourner and a foreigner” among them. As such he was in a vulnerable position. Nonetheless, despite his sojourner status, humble as it was, Abraham was not humiliated before them. He knew his value was in his heavenly citizenship, his standing before the LORD, so he was able to be bold in making his request to the Hittites (v. 4) while also honoring them (v. 7). The New Testament often speaks of Christians as sojourners and foreigners (e.g. 1 Peter 2:11-12) in the here and now, noting that our citizenship is heavenly (Philippians 3:20), that is of the kingdom of God. So, we too can have confidence, knowing Whose we are and of What kingdom we are citizens. This confident knowledge gives us the strength to be humble before others in our worldly dealings without being humiliated. We need not be envious of what they have or who they are (be it treasure, status, power, etc.) when a greater inheritance has been promised to us in Christ.
We also see in this passage that the grace of God in Abraham’s life was evident to the world around him. The Hittites told Abraham that he was “a prince of God” among them (v. 6). An alternate translation is “mighty of God”. The implication seems to be that Abraham’s faith in the LORD, and God’s favor towards him, was obvious even to those who did not follow the LORD. No doubt the Hittites were aware of the LORD because they had heard Abraham speak of Him and His promises and they had seen him act in accordance with his faith. As followers of Christ, we should be living such that the grace of God is evident to others, even those who do not follow Christ, through the way in which we live out our faith, both in word and deed.
During the negotiation, Abraham was told that he could bury Sarah (and presumably other family as they died) in the “choicest” of the Hittites’ tombs (v. 6). He refused the gift, pushing instead to buy the cave of Machpelah from Ephron for its full price (vv. 8-9). Abraham was not interested in being beholden to anyone but God, nor in binding his posterity to such dependence on others. Rather, he was intent to own this piece of land in order to show “that the promise of God was not extinguished, either by his own death, or by that of his family” and that even the dead “remained joint-partakers of the promised inheritance” (John Calvin). In buying the land, Abraham displayed a faith that had a future hope. He knew this piece of land was the firstfruits of the greater promise yet to come. In Christ Jesus we have something similar. In uniting Himself with us by His death on the cross He has won victory for us over sin and death through His resurrection. As such He, Himself, is the firstfruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18). Better yet, in His mercy He has given us not only the promise that we too will one day rise from the dead but He has freely given the Spirit, Who dwells within us already as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:5). As Sarah’s, Abraham’s (Genesis 25:9-10), and eventually Jacob’s (Genesis 50:13) bodies lying in the cave of Machpelah were a symbol of faith and hope in God to make good on His promises, even more is the Spirit within us a guarantee that Christ will make good on His promise to return in the full glory of His kingdom!
Discuss and Pray – Genesis 23:1-20
- What is difference in being humble in our circumstances and being humiliated before others? What are some ways in which you have showed humility as opposed to humiliation in the here and now because you know you are in Christ?
- The Hittites recognized the grace of God at work in and through Abraham. In what ways do others see His grace evidenced in what you say and do? In what areas of your life would you like to see Christ grow you by His grace so that others may His might in you all the more?
- Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah, with great hope in the future, as a firstfruits of the land he was promised would belong to his descendants. How does the fact that Christ is the firstfruits from the dead affect the way in which you live in the here and now? What “purchases” can we be making with hope in the future as we keep the coming, glorious kingdom of Christ in view?
Technical issues prevented us from being able to record this sermon.