Your Place

Abe’s treatment of the Hittites is a wonderful example of how we are to treat nonbelievers—with respect and dignity. Ephron, the spokesman for the Hittites, offers to give Abraham a place to bury Sarah, but Abe says: I’ll pay. This may make us wonder, but some of us have received a gift over the years, only to have it asked to be returned. Abe desires to avoid that unpleasantness by buying the land outright. Genesis 23:15~My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead. (ESV) 

During Abe’s day, a shekel was a weight, not a coin, though it later became the name of a Jewish silver coin of that particular weight. A shekel weighed about four-tenths of an ounce (Holman ‘s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 1480). Today, the price of an ounce of silver typically fluctuates around $15. Being conservative, 160oz of silver at $15 works out that Abe paid about $2,400 for the burial land, in today’s dollar. Since Abe doesn’t quibble over the price, he is indeed a very wealthy man. Some Christians brag about their abilities to wheel and deal when buying things. Their tactics are often nothing more than swindling or deceit. Listen to how the Bible describes such people in Proverbs 20:14~The buyer haggles over the price, saying, “It’s worthless,” then brags about getting a bargain!  (NIV)

Not only does Abe agree to pay for the property, but he also promptly pays the agreed upon price. Like Abe, we ought to pay what we owe and pay on time. Psalm 37:21~The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; (ESV) Abraham doesn’t use his time of grief to play on the sympathy or emotions of others. He doesn’t expect any special favors or tries to take advantage of those who want to help in his time of grief. I’ve witness people use their traumatic times as an opportunity to get a lot of attention and curry special favors. But not Abe! In the traumatic times of Life and Death: we should Grieve Biblically, Behave Respectfully, and Think.

Think Eternally (Genesis 23:17-20). Abe buys the field and the cave which it lives in, and all the trees that are in the field, everything within the borders round about. This is significant because trees were very valuable in the region, and Ephron deeds this property to Abe in the presence of the children of Heth who are at the city gate (23:17-18). In that day there were no attorneys or written contracts. That is why verse 17 says made sure this is (קוּם quwm) it means Abe had the people stand in recognition of their agreement. You would think of this like shaking hands. Today, we would be given a title or deed. 

Everyday Christianity

Mourning and weeping don’t show emotional weakness or lack of faith; they just reveal we love as God intended. Not to mourn would’ve certainly been wrong, but it would be equally wrong for Abe to wallow in sorrow. He must continue to live the life God has given him. For there is a plan in place. Jeremiah 29:11~For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV) Just like Abe, we must move forward in faith as we go on with life, not vacillating from God’s purpose because of self-pity. In the traumatic times of Life and Death, we should Grieve Biblically.

Behave Respectfully (Genesis 23:3-16). Remember Abe is a sojourner or a nomad who owns no property, so he has an obvious problem when it comes time to bury Sarah. Therefore, Abe politely says to the sons of Heth (the Hittites) in Genesis 23:4~I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. (ESV) Abe is highly respected, even by pagans, who respond in Genesis 23:6~Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead. (ESV) This ought to remind us, that as believers, we must always be careful to treat even the worst of non-believers with love and respect as Father Abe did. Next, Abe rises and bows as a courtesy sign of respect expected in that culture. The Bible teaches we as Christians are to treat non-believers with respect and dignity. 1 Timothy 3:7~He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (NIV) 

Since the world is the only place from which to win new converts, we as believers, especially church leaders, must have good reputations among outsiders, which is to say those who are not yet believers. Too often, believers have a holier-than-thou attitude which can turn off non-believers and makes it almost impossible to win them to Jesus Christ. Understand we win people like God won us—by loving, not blasting, them. Romans 5:8~But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV) Furthermore, we read how Christ Jesus is a friend of publicans and sinners Luke 7:34~The Son of Man has come eating and drinking and you say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (ESV) Hear me, we are not to antagonize non-believers; we are to evangelize them. Antagonizing cause hostility, while evangelizing seeks to convert them to faith in Jesus Christ.

Life & Death

Last week we walked with Abe on a journey that took us to Mount Moriah, where we were filled with the mulling over of questions, then awed by the wonder of the Lord, how God wanted to reveal Abe’s heart. Yes his mountain-top experience with God proved to be the naming of provision, Jehovah Jireh, God my provider. Like Abe, we can’t stay on a spiritual mountaintop forever, Valleys are the fat of the land because we can’t have mountains without valleys. In Genesis 23, we find Abe in the deep valley of despair. Some of you have been there on tour and even rented a home for a season. This season of Abe’s life gives us three principles to help us during traumatic times, this is Life and Death: Grieve. 

Grieve Biblically (Genesis 23:1-2). Death takes loved ones from all of us, and Abe will now experience that very traumatic time of life. For some 60 years, Sarah and Abe have been on a journey into purpose. Sarah at 127 years old (23:1). Time again fast forwards for about 20 years since Father Abe offers Isaac on Mount Moriah. Therefore, they could have moved several times, before finally arriving at Hebron. Genesis 23:2~And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn (סָפַד caphad) for Sarah and to weep (בָּכָה bakah) for her. (ESV) Hebron is in the very heart of the Promised Land, it’s about halfway up the dead sea, and halfway to the coast, about 30 minutes due south of Jerusalem. 

However, neither Sarah nor Abe will live to see their descendants possess it. She was the first among many who died in faith, not having received the promises Hebrews 11:13~All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (NIV) When Sarah dies, Abe goes to mourn and weep for her (23:2). This is the first time we read of Abe crying, and the Holy Spirit goes into great detail to show his deep grief and sorrow. The Hebrew word translated mourn (סָפַד caphad) means to lament or wail loudly. While the word (בָּכָה bakah) or weep refers to the many tears Abe shed. When a loved one dies, we may grieve and cry like Abe but listen to Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4:13~Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (NIV)