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Summary: Set your affection on the City of God and her Lord.

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When I Can Read My Title Clear

Genesis 23:1-20

Today we come to the end of a remarkable journey of faith and the first step into a new journey. Sarah had accompanied her husband Abraham on this journey. We don’t know how long Abraham and Sarah were married, but from the time we are introduced to them, the journey lasted sixty-two years from that point. As half-brother and sister, she had known Abraham all her life. When their father Nahor removed from the advanced civilization of their day to a relatively insignificant city of Harran, Sarah went with her father as did Abraham. We don’t know directly why Nahor did this, but we can clearly discern it was the hand of the Lord. In fact, Abraham is recorded as having been called out from Ur, yet the first we hear the Lord speak to him, he was in Harran. We also know from the book of Joshua that Abraham and his father had at one time worshiped other gods in Ur before the Lord called him.

Sarah was involved in all this, although we don’t have any mention of her religious convictions before she and Abraham went out to the land that God had promised them. In the biblical sense, they were an Adam and Eve couple without children and had title by God to the land of Canaan without the right to occupy. It is indeed a strange story. Sarah and Abraham would spend their lives in tents, as nomads at the edge of the desert. Like Moses, they could see the Promised Land far off. It was to belong to their children but was not theirs to enter.

The last we hear of Abraham was that he returned from Mt. Moriah to Beersheba which was at the very edge of the desert, to the land of Abimelech to remain there. But in this passage it says that Sarah died in Hebron which is in the Promised Land proper. It seems quite an act of grace on God’s part to let her take her last breath there.

Abraham and Isaac were heartbroken over the death of Sarah who is the only woman whose age at death is recorded. As was the custom, the body needed to be buried as soon as possible. If Abraham and Sarah were visiting or passing through Hebron for some reason at the time of her death, it would be necessary to bury her around Hebron as it was quite a distance to Beersheba. So Abraham asked the local tribal chiefs for permission to bury her there. He had already spied a cave which would suit the purpose at the end of the field belonging to Ephron the Hittite. Like Abraham, this man was a stranger in the land as was ruled by the sons of Heth. So rather than dealing directly with Ephron, Abraham went to the tribal chefs to intercede in his behalf. Abraham said he wished to purchase the cave at its full price.

The sons of Heth pretty much told Abraham to take it. But the land did not properly belong to them as it belonged to Ephron. There is also a sense of Middle East bartering going on here. It was polite to offer it as a gift, but both partied expected payment. Abraham weighed out the 100 shekels of silver in the presence of witnesses. He now had a place where he could bury Sarah. She would be buried in the Promised Land. Abraham took title to the cave and buried his wife there.

So Abraham, who was a stranger in his own land finally had title to a piece of land in the land which the Lord had promised him. It would be the only piece of the Holy Land he would ever own. Four hundred and some odd years later, his descendants who had spent forty years wandering around the Promised Land like Abraham stood at the edge of Jordan about to enter and fulfill the promise God had made to Abraham. This is the context in which Moses recorded Genesis and the other four books of the Torah. And they brought the bones of Joseph with them to bury in this family cemetery in the land of Canaan. This was recorded as an act of faith on Joseph’s part. Joseph could have had a royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings as a high official but would rather be buried in the Promised Land in the cave of his fathers.

Sarah and Abraham are recorded as pilgrims looking for a city. They had left one of the finest cities of man. For all that the land of Palestine offers, it was nothing in riches compared to Ur or Egypt. For all the hardships of Egypt, the children of Israel found the hardships of the journey to the Land harder than slavery in the city of men. This became a stumbling block to them. And when they took this land, it was full of snares as well. The life of a true pilgrim is odd indeed.

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