Summary: This is the 39th sermon in our series on Genesis, and in this sermon we talk about the death of Sarah and what we can learn from Abraham and Sarah's life and faithfulness.
Finishing Strong (Genesis Pt. 39)
Text: Genesis 23:1 – 20
By: Ken McKinley
Well in last week’s sermon, we saw how Abraham’s faith has reached a new height. We saw how he was willing to trust God, even though he didn’t fully understand what was happening. He trusted God to the point, where he knew that even if Isaac was killed, God would raise him up in order to keep His promise.
And if you remember; prior to this chapter, when God had made that promise to Abraham, and told him that he would be the father of many nations; God also told him that He would give Abraham a land for his descendants. And up until now, Abraham hasn’t owned any land whatsoever. But in this chapter, we finally see this promise begin to be fulfilled.
You know; father’s day was awhile back, and MariJo got me a great gift. She bought me a 1’ X 1’ plot of land in Scotland. And so… your pastor is now an official Scottish Laird. Not a “lord”, a “lord” is a title of nobility, but a “Laird” is the term for land owner. I own a 1 ft. by 1 ft. plot of land in Scotland.
Well in this chapter, Abraham becomes a land owner as well. And this land that Abraham buys is… like I said, a down payment on God’s promise. And it’s important that we see that. Over and over again we read that all of this takes place in the land of Canaan. Sarah dies in Canaan, she’s buried in Canaan, the land that Abraham buys to bury her in is in Canaan, and he buys it from the Hittites – who lived in Canaan. So what Moses is doing here, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is documenting ownership. He’s going to make a point that this is Abraham’s land, and its indisputable.
So if we look at verses 1 & 2, we see that Sarah dies in the land of Canaan – which is the land of promise, but she’s only had one son, and no grandchildren yet. She had lived to be 127 years old. That would mean that Isaac was about 36 or 37 years old. So God graciously had allowed her to see her son grow up, and she got to see what kind of man he would be, but she didn’t get to see all of God’s promises to Abraham fulfilled. That should make us think of Hebrews 11:13 which says, “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
Sarah died, but she died in faith.
One other important thing about Sarah that’s interesting. Sarah is the only woman in Bible whose age at death we know. The Bible doesn’t mention the ages of any other women when they died. Not even Mary’s – we don’t even know when Mary died. But it tells us Sarah’s age. So that kind of lets us know how important she was in God’s plan. We’re also told in Scripture… 1st Peter 3:3-6, that Sarah is a role model for wives. Let’s turn there and read that really quickly (Read 1st Peter 3:3-6). Sarah is a role model. Just think of all the things that Abraham put her through. Packing up and leaving, traveling all over the Middle East, almost giving her away TWICE! And yet she stayed with him, and submitted to him.
But now she’s gone. And I think this was probably pretty tough on Abraham. He and Sarah had been together a long, long time.
They’ve traveled together for most of their lives, leaning on one another and trusting one another – through good times and bad. They had probably been married for more than 100 years. But now she’s gone, and Abraham is faced with the issue of burying her.
In verses 3 – 11, he comes to the sons of Heth (that’s the Hittites), and he asks to buy a place so that he can bury Sarah. And you notice immediately they say, “Abraham, you are a mighty prince among us, none of us will withhold our land from you. Bury her where you like.”
Now it’s important that we understand the historical context here and the history behind all of this. Because in just a general reading of this passage, it sounds like the Hittites are being generous to Abraham. But what you don’t know, unless you know the ancient Hittite laws, was that if Abraham had accepted this offer of free land, then at any point in the future, if the one who made the offer wanted that land back, he could come and take it. It was more like borrowing rather than a gift. The Hittites also had a provision in their laws that said, once Ephron had died, if his children wanted the land back, they could come and take it as well. So Abraham wanted to make sure that the land was secured for himself and his descendants, and so he persists, and insists on buying it.