Introduction: This week we see a chapter close in God’s covenant people’s lives as Sarah, a matriarch in the family of faith, passes on to glory. May the Lord use these notes to remind us not only of the brevity of life, but also of the hope of the resurrection, signified as we shall see by Abraham’s faith-filled purchase – ‘down to the very penny’ – of a tomb for Sarah.
Monday: read Genesis 22:20-24. We are re-introduced to the family of Abraham, whom he left behind in Mesopotamia when he obeyed God’s command and came to the Promised Land in Genesis 12. Nahor and Abraham are brothers, who grew up under the shadow of idol-worship in Terah their father’s house (Joshua 24:2). Yet despite the spiritual blindness of Terah’s household, it is very encouraging to see that God’s purposes of grace do not end with Abraham and Sarah; for Genesis 22:23 tells us that directly from the line of Terah and Nahor we find Rebekah, a woman called by faith to marry Isaac in Genesis 24.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that His purposes of grace usually go beyond the isolated individual. Through the conversion of one, God often begins a work of faith in a family for several generations to follow. May the Lord in this manner answer our prayers for our loved ones, that we might see ‘whole households’ believe. For the promise given to fathers such as Abraham in the Old Testament and even to the newly-converted in the New is this: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household,’ (Acts 16:31).
Tuesday: read Genesis 23:1-2 and Hebrews 2:14-15. Death produces grief in the godly like Abraham because it is a hostile enemy which only came into this world through sin (Romans 5:12). Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus and was visibly angry as he contemplated the grief which death caused Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha. As we see Abraham grieve over his beloved Sarah, how we should rejoice at the news of Hebrews 2:14-15, that Jesus took on our flesh and blood in order to win the victory over the Devil and death by dying Himself. Only a mighty Savior like Jesus could actually taste death in all its destructive power and yet come through it victorious!
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus now that “He assumed our nature not first to reign in it, but to suffer and die in it (John Owen).” Thank Him also that His death is so powerful as to break the bondage of fear by which death holds the world captive, so that we can say with Paul that we are convinced that ‘neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38-39)
Wednesday: read Genesis 23:3-9. Why was Abraham so insistent on buying this piece of ground to bury his wife – when he himself admits in Gen. 23:4 that he is an ‘alien’ in the land of Canaan and when he in fact owns no other land for himself? Why make your first purchase to be a grave-site? Abraham believed that God would give this land to his descendants for their possession (Gen. 15:7) and that this grave would be a claim by faith on his share in that inheritance. On a deeper level, Abraham knew that God had the power to raise the dead, (see Gen. 22 where Abraham ‘receives’ Isaac back from the dead); he knew that the day of resurrection was coming, and that one day Sarah would stand again as delivered body and soul from death.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the insight of faith which He gave even to the ancients like Abraham, who believed in the resurrection just like Job (who lived at the same time of history as Abraham). Let us rejoice and affirm with Abraham and Job that we know… ‘that our Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after our skin has been destroyed, yet in our flesh we will see God; we ourselves will see Him with our own eyes – we and not another.’ (Job 19:25-27)
Thursday: read Genesis 23:10-20. True faith such as Abraham shows in the purchase of the cave for burying Sarah is an exact, specific faith. Faith reckons, computes, carefully chooses and reasonably plans. Abraham carefully weighs out the full price for the land (Gen. 23:16) before all the Hittite elders so that his claim to the land can never be called in question; the site of the land is carefully described in the ‘surveying’ terms of the day (Gen. 23:17) – down to the very trees! All this reminds us of the security of Abraham’s inheritance. He knows that God will one day bring his descendants back to this place, and that after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, this place will be their inheritance. It was the same, exact kind of faith that prompted Joseph in Gen. 50:24-26 to exact an oath from his family to take his bones back to the Promised Land to be buried.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that the faith He has given to us is a rationale, reasonable faith – having to do with more than just abstract ideas or hopes. We rationally believe, for example, in the bodily resurrection from the dead: that one day Sarah will stand on the very ground where she was buried – and that ‘in Christ’ all the dead shall be raised. Praise God for such a real-life faith to hold onto!
Friday: read Hebrews 2:14-17 and 11:8-10. We have seen Abraham purchase land for burial with a sure and certain hope of the future resurrection unto eternal life. How was Abraham so sure that one day he and Sarah would rise from the dead and enter into a more solid eternal city ‘whose architect and builder was God’ (Hebrews 11:10)? One clear answer is that the Spirit of God which lived in Abraham and which worked faith in him to such a height as to even believe in the resurrection was and is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. You can’t receive the Holy Spirit as Abraham did (and all believers do) without having the ‘resurrection’ included! Batteries are always included! And the ‘battery pack’ of faith always includes belief in the resurrection because the same Spirit that gives us new spiritual life to make us ‘born again’ also raises the dead!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that His Holy Spirit was already spreading the ‘good news’ of resurrection in the darkest days of the Old Testament. Thank God that the powerful declaration of the Resurrection of Jesus, declared as Paul says by the ‘Spirit of Holiness’ (Romans 1:4); is not just a one-time declaration at the Empty Tomb on Easter. Every time a sinner is converted by the Holy Spirit and believes, the voice of God declares with the same power that raised Lazarus: ‘Sinner come forth; loose his grave clothes.’ Resurrection is even proclaimed by the witness of Sarah’s silent tomb in Gen. 23: one day she will stand with us and shout to the glory of God with a new resurrected body and tongue.
‘I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.’ (John 5:25)
‘Then in a nobler, sweeter song I’ll sing your pow’r to save, when this poor lisping, stamm’ring tongue lies silent in the grave: lies silent in the grave…’ (Hymn # 253)