Summary: Our Father encourages us to release what we hold dearest in this world in order to deposit in heaven a treasure that cannot and will not fail.
When buying a house or another piece of property and you’ve made an offer price it’s customary to secure your intention to buy and establish a contract by making a deposit on your offer. This deposit is called "Earnest Money" and it is a personal guarantee to the buyer that you’re serious about the deal- and it’s not without risk. If the deal somehow enters into dispute or lengthy negotiations that money is tied up and cannot be used elsewhere or in another way. Beyond that if you cancel your contract to buy your earnest money may well be lost.1
God calls us to an earnest deposit of a different sort. Our Father encourages us to release what we hold dearest in this world in order to deposit in heaven a treasure that cannot and will not fail. God calls us to make A Deposit On Faith.
Turn back in your Bibles to Genesis 23, and read with me this passage. < Read it >.
The events of this story happened sometime around 2028 BC. Four Thousand years ago an aged man knelt by his wife’s body and both grieved and wept at her passing. The natural next step was to attend to her funeral.
As we look for transference in the story so that we can find it’s meaning for us we certainly walk away at face value affirming that Life Is Valuable. The great tragedy of the ages is death. Death is the final foe to be defeated and death itself will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of all things. Death is never a minor event, it is always catastrophic and will always continue to be a cause for mourning.
But our mourning over death is a different type of mourning is it not? Paul wrote words of encouragement to the Thessalonians telling them why our mourning ought to be, and is different. Unlike the ungodly who see death as a foe unconquerable - in Christ we know death is a foe conquered. In Christ we have the promise that "God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." And at the trumpet call of God, "The dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thess 4:14,16) This promise gives us the strength to understand and copy what Abraham did next.
After he mourned and wept he stood up, and made a faith decision. He might have wanted to take Sarah’s body back to Ur or back to Padam-Aram but instead he took the promises of God and acted on them by buying a piece of land. His decision to purchase the land in Canaan was not born of convenience or need alone but it was motivated by faith.
In the midst (vv3-16) of this terrible painful grief of Abraham the story of How Abraham purchased the first part of Canaan comes into place. He is a stranger and a sojourner in the land and as such he has no right to own any of it by human standards.
Despite this Ephron the Hittite first gives him the land (v11).
But Abraham true to his convictions (Gen 14:22-23; 23:13-16) refuses to obtain it for nothing and pays what turns out to be an exorbitant price in order to make it his own.
Verse 15 tells us that Abraham paid four Hundred Shekels of Silver. That may well have been the equivalent of "perhaps $50,000! ... charged [to] Abraham for a burial plot." (Richards, Larry. The Bible Reader’s Companion. Includes index. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1991.)
Just as the land was expensive for Abraham; purchasing for ourselves a treasure in heaven is expensive as well. It will cost us money that we might have spent on our comfort - to be spent on heavens pursuits. It might cost us the respect of others, comfort or any measure of nearly anything we hold dear. It will cost us potential in exchange for glory.
There is a lesson here as well. Heaven is a free gift to us who know Christ, but that is not enough. God commands us to build our treasure stash in heaven rather than earth.
As touching and painful as the story is, it is told for a purpose beyond moving us to tears. The bulk focus of the chapter is that Abraham buys the first part of Canaan as a sort of first fruits towards the greater ownership of all Canaan. And when you think about that in the context in which it was written it becomes even more meaningful.
Moses wrote the words of Genesis while Israel was at the Base of Sinai or was moving through the desert for forty years. As Israel marched, labored and hoped for the land of Canaan to become their own - Moses was sharing with them the promise that the land had been given to them; and as proof of the promise he presented the purchase of the first portion of Canaan.