Summary: What am I supposed to do without you? How will I cope with the death of the one I love?
Genesis 23 - WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITHOUT YOU?
When dementia had taken it's course, Bess (not her real name) was left with just a couple of words, but one word which she used to respond to almost any situation was the word "AMAZING!" After a lifetime of words, what a great word to have on your lips at the end of your life. Matthew 12:34 (NLT) says "whatever is in your HEART determines what you SAY." By declaring life to be AMAZING Bess was not defeated by NEGATIVITY. Of course we sang AMAZING GRACE at her funeral.
In Genesis 23 Sarah's life could also be summed up by the word "AMAZING" yet there were times when she was defeated by negativity and doubt. "Amazing!" describes the hope given to Sarah of having a son when she was 90 years old. It describes the laughter she felt welling up within her as she was overwhelmed by the joy of such a miracle when Isaac was finally born. She WAS AN AMAZING PERSON. In 1 Peter 3:5-6 she is used as an illustration of what it means to be someone who is truly beautiful. In Hebrews 11:11 she is listed as one who leaves behind an AMAZING LEGACY of faith and confident hope in the promises of God.
I wonder how Sarah responded when Abraham told her that God had told him to sacrifice their only son. Some suggest that the traumatic events of Genesis 22 shocked Sarah so much that she died before her time? I don't think so. My grandmother died at 108 years old. Sarah dies at 127. She dies of old age, don't you think? Abraham is even older at 137 years of age. For Isaac it must have been like living with his great grandparents. Imagine Parents Day at school? "No, this is my Mum."
What am I supposed to do without you? How will I cope with the death of the one I love? I thought about this fleetingly when my wife, Julie, went into hospital recently for an operation. It's not a thought anyone wants to dwell on. It is predictably heartbreaking for Abraham when Sarah dies. Many years, many adventures together. Now she is gone. "Abraham mourned and wept" (Genesis 23:2 NLT).
When we were living in the Whitsundays a Pastor told me that you will always feel like a stranger and a foreigner in a place until you buy a house and a burial plot. There's something to that, taking ownership over a given area by saying "I intend to live and die here!"
After expressing his initial grief, in the midst of his pain, Abraham takes responsibility and makes an important decision in terms of appropriating what was his inheritance. He BUYS A PLOT OF LAND. Sarah is the first to die in the promised land. Buying her burial plot is STAKING A CLAIM in the promises of God.
This is the first and only land Abraham owned in his lifetime in Israel, a burial plot. Interesting. I could make some analogies about dying to self before you enter into the promises of God but the analogy would be pushing it.
When Abraham purchases this land from the Hittites, it is also interesting how he describes himself. In Genesis 23:4 (NLT) he says 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."
Abraham is financially well off. He is well respected. He is called a PRINCE (Genesis 23:6), so perhaps he is already a leader among them. They also recognize him as a FRIEND (Genesis 23:15) and offer him the very best land for free, but he sees himself as a STRANGER, and refuses to accept land that will cost him nothing. In Genesis 23:13 he pays 400 pieces of silver and in Genesis 23:18 "it was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate." God sees him as owning the whole country!
Perhaps the invitation for me is that when I am facing the grief of loss and I find myself asking "What am I supposed to do now?" that's when I have an opportunity to stake a claim in the promises of God as found in His Word, the Bible. They are my permanent possession. Yes it will involve a cost to make such a decision but it will also shape my destiny and life will continue to be painted with the colours of what can only be described as "AMAZING!"