Genesis 23 – Two Gospel Lessons Before Life Passes You By

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Genesis chapter 23 is a transitional chapter in Scripture. If you were a part of last week, last week we looked at the Genesis chapter 22, when Abraham offers Isaac before the Lord. That is a heavy passage of Scripture. Genesis 23 is another heavy passage of Scripture. In fact, if you were here last week, you know we didn’t read the last couple of chapters of or the last couple verses of Genesis 22, uh, because it’s dealing with really a transitional passage that leads into 23 as we’re in this place of moving from the story of Abraham and Sarah into the life of of Isaac and Rebecca and then Jacob and Joseph. Genesis. The way it lays out from chapter 12 on, it focuses on some figures, and it shares how God works through their life to tell his greater story. And Abraham and Sarah are the first of those figures that we learn from the first 11 chapters of Genesis. We learn God created us for relationship purposefully, meaningfully. God wrote this book to a group of slaves that have found their lives in being trafficked, and their worth was only based on what they did. God says otherwise your worth is merited to you or not merited to you. Excuse me intrinsically given to you because you’re made in the image of God and therefore you have meaning. You have purpose. You’re not an accident, but mankind for the first 11 chapters continued to run away from God.

And finally God intervenes in the life of one family, Abraham and Sarah, to bring about a greater redemptive story for all of us. And now we’re coming to the end of Genesis 22 and to 23, and we’re in this transitional period where it’s moving from Abraham and Sarah onto to Isaac and Rebecca. And in this story we find at the end of chapter 22, I’m not going to read the very end, but you find some genealogy preparing us for that story to unfold. And in chapter 23, we find in this story the death of Sarah. And so today we’re going to be dealing with somewhat of a funeral and how we treat this passage of Scripture and what it means for us. Chapter 23 is a very weighty story, especially as you read about the the life of Abraham interacting here. And in Genesis 23 verse one, it starts like this Sarah lived 127 years. These were the years of the life of Sarah. Uh, when you start this chapter, one of the, uh, I think powerful lessons, guys, that we can learn from this is that this is the only place, at least in the Bible, that I could find, that a lady’s age is mentioned as she is passing from this world. All right. This is, uh, age for women is not mentioned very often in Scripture. There’s some wisdom in that, and certainly not as she’s getting older in years.

Um, in the book of Luke, chapter two, verse 36 is the only other passage I could really find where a lady is mentioned, her age is mentioned, or at least the hint of her age is mentioned. And all it says in Luke two verse 36 about a lady is that she is more advanced in years, and who knows what that means, right? If you’re into video games, that could mean she leveled up, right? I mean, she is she is advanced, right? So. So when you read a verse like this, it’s it’s teaching you one of two things. I think either this was the first time a man made this mistake and it was the last. Right? He Abraham should have known. This is the 98th time she celebrated her 27th birthday or 29th birthday, right? She is not, uh, she is a queen. And that’s all you need to know, right? That’s. Sarah means princess or. Or the only reason the the Bible is talking about the age of Sarah and not really mentioning it of any other woman as as they pass or when they, when they die is to acknowledge the significance of what she represents, who she is, the beauty of Sarah and her life. One of those two things either men are sometimes dumb. We have these brain lapses or or we’re honoring Sarah and and what she represents in this story and how God has told his greater story in her life.

And then when you get to verse two, this is this is the verse where really all the fields start to unfold. And what’s communicated in the heartache of, of Abraham here it says, And Sarah died at Kiryat Arba, which is later titled Hebron and the Land of Canaan. And Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. And we enter into the the life of Abraham and Sarah. We’re not really told when they were married, but by the time we start to read about them, we know Abraham is 75 years old, Sarah is 65 years old. And we know at least by this point they’re married. And so you can at least speculate or understand from that passage that it’s been over 60 years that they’ve been married. And so when you read a verse like in Abraham mourns and Weeps, you can feel the weightiness of the loss of relationship, of what Abraham might be going through. But if Abraham and Sarah got married according to cultural customs of their. A. Abraham and Sarah most likely would have been married for more than 100 years. In fact, over 110 years, they would have likely been married. And to go through this kind of loss, Abraham would have been mourning and weeping deeply over the the loss of his wife. In fact, for those of you that are married, you know, as you make plans for your life, you don’t typically plan a whole lot without your spouse.

Most of your plans center around, you know, being together and enjoying life with one another. You may think about, well, if something happens to me, you or me, this is kind of the course of action to sort of set you up to succeed. But for the most part, all of your plans are together. And and Abraham now is in this place of trying to figure out what is life even going to look like now that that Sarah has passed? And being a pastor here for well over a decade, I know even within our own church, we’ve got a handful of widows and widowers and some as young as their early 20s, up into some more advanced in years. Right. And, um. You more than anyone can read a verse like this. And reading this. This may be a painful passage to work through, but you know what this is like when it says Abraham is is mourning and weeping over the the loss of his wife. But in this, this mourning of Abraham, there are two gospel lessons that I think I want us to just focus on. And we’re going to see this in just in these the first two verses here, some two gospel lessons that are, I think are important to apply to our lives before life passes us by.

I find that death becomes this, this gift in a way not not that I want anyone to die. But if there’s something about death that that God’s people can glean from it, it’s really seen in the significance of of how important life is. And and it brings us to this sobering reality that you’re not going to live forever. And so what is it? What is it in these moments, as you’re reading from this, this passage that you can apply to your life and and understanding as Abraham is grieving what what the Lord would want to speak into our hearts. And point number one in your notes is this it’s not about where you start, but how you finish. It’s not about where you start, but how you you finish. And we’re seeing this modeled so well by seeing a couple of firsts in this passage. You’ve already seen one of the first first time a lady’s age is mentioned when she’s passing. We don’t do that. That’s a no no. But this is also the first time that weeping is talked about in the Bible. And this is also the first funeral described in Scripture. And Abraham is modeling a beautiful way to, to finish. Well, as he’s dealing with the, the death of his wife. And it really a gospel story and helping us understand it’s not about where you start but where you finish. If you remember how Abraham and Sarah’s journey began, they’ve been following the Lord for about 60 years.

Before that, they were pagan people and a pagan land with pagan names that worshiped pagan gods. And it was God’s grace that intervened to their lives and transformed them from the inside out. And they pursued after the Lord. And the gospel screams that at us as people. Religion does not, but the gospel certainly does. And religion will say to you, well, you’re not good enough. You’ve got to perform harder, and hopefully you you win in the end, or you, you demonstrate to people or to God how, how great you are and, and that God would love you enough. But the gospel is different than that is. God pursues you in the midst of your brokenness. God pursues you in your darkness. God pursues you in your sin and despair, and God is the one who transforms you. God is the one who redeems you. God is the one who pays for you. And on that opportunity of what Jesus has done, then we get to live in the freedom of knowing him that God. When he. When Jesus died for you on the cross, he covered your past, your present, and your future. All sin in in Christ covered in him, that you can walk free in the Lord and living for his glory, knowing him relationally. And so the gospel screams at us that that that idea that it’s not about where you start, but it’s it’s about how you finish and knowing the Lord and walking with him.

And Abraham and Sarah lived a pagan life for the majority of, of Sarah’s life. And then they come to know the Lord and they journey with him. And not only that, the things that Sarah put up with, you think in the first chapters of their story, you see God speaking directly to Abraham. It’s not into several chapters into their life that you see God finally talking directly to Sarah. But what does God say to them at a at an age when they should retire? Right? God is telling them, pick up everything that you have and move and live like nomads in tents. And at 65 and 75 years old, that’s what they did. They they traveled around in intense as, as foreigners in a different land. And Sarah willingly following Abraham in this and beautiful and how it speaks to to their pursuit in life and and not only that, the Bible tells us throughout their story that things didn’t go perfectly because they followed the Lord. In fact, there was conflict along the way. There was conflict in their relationship with lot, their nephew. There was conflict that came about through Hagar. There was conflict from the rulers of the land with with the Pharaoh and with King Abimelech. There was dealing with having a baby at 90 years old, Sarah at 90 years old, having a child, you know, I joked and said, at the age when they’re wearing diapers, they’re dealing with even more diapers, right? Like that’s, that’s that’s a big change in life, having a child in general.

But at 90 and 100 years old, and then they come to the final battle. Which is death. The last great enemy all of us face. And what does Abraham do? He finishes well. He honors his bride. And one of the things that we like to encourage us as a church is, is to recognize the way you treat people. Is worship before the Lord. The way you honor life. Should be viewed by you as an opportunity to worship the Lord. And the reason for that is because everyone is created in the image of God. In fact, if I give you just a broad example, in first John chapter four, it says, if you say you love God and hate your brothers, the love of God is not in you. Meaning, if you love what God loves, then you’re going to love people. And people become this opportunity of honoring the the life giver by how we honor the life before us. And more specific than that, it’s it’s demonstrated in the marital relationship. And sometimes people go through marital conflict and they think the other person is the problem. Can I can I tell you people are never the problem. We’re not called to fight against people, but rather fight for people.

There might be an issue in that relationship to resolve, but the problem is not the person. There’s there’s something there. In fact, marriage is the great refiner of the soul. Everyone thinks they’re godly when when you’re when you’re by yourself and you, you don’t have anyone contesting you. Right? Like what I mean? What I mean is, you know, I am one of the most loving people in the world when I have no one else to deal with. I am so patient. When I’m all alone, I get. And then. And then you get under a roof with someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you start to find out. I might not be as great as I thought I was. Right? Like, it becomes this great refiner of finding out where you’re weak. It helps you learn about your own internal struggles. You may try to take the shortcut and just blame someone else, but the way you treat other people is worship before the Lord. In fact, in dealing with the marriage relationship, uh, the apostle Peter said this in first Peter chapter three verse seven, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. That’s an incredible thought. It’s sharing with us in this passage.

You think, well, here’s what it’s saying is, men, if you want the Lord, if you really want to walk with the Lord, you want to converse with the Lord. You want the Lord to hear you well, God cares about the way you treat others, starting in your own home and especially with your spouse. And if you don’t want to honor and respect them, God doesn’t want to honor and respect the hearing from you. The way you treat people matters, and it’s worship before the Lord. Now I know, ladies, sometimes you hear the word uh. Peter says, um, showing honor to the women as the weaker vessel. And some might take that to mean that make me lesser than I don’t like a verse like this. Right. But but here’s what it’s actually saying. It’s treating you as a precious gift within the home. It’s more like this if you’ve ever been given, uh, an heirloom has been passed down to you through the family, let’s say something like a a precious vase that is priceless. And you receive that vase. The way that you honor that vase is not just to shove it in a corner and put it with all the other dishes. No, this this vase matters. It’s of importance. And so what you do within the home is you would put it in a position where it would get recognized, where it would be cherished, where it could be appreciated.

But you would also put it in a way in which it would be it would be safe from harm, right? Recognized for the beauty in which it is, but also not treat it as as mundane and and preserved and protected so it can be passed on to future generations. And this is what it’s saying in relationship to the spouse. The husband is saying, look, you don’t just treat her like any old thing. She used to be revered and treated with dignity and respect and honor the way that you would would guard the the beauty of a particular piece of art within the home. She is sacred in that, in that regard. And so what you see in the life of Abraham is he’s honoring Sarah in this way. He’s honoring not only her life, but the giver of life and how he’s he’s appreciating what she represents for, uh, for, for for them and what the God has done for them and how God has brought them together and what God has accomplished in their lives. And he’s not only honoring Sarah, but he’s honoring the Lord. Uh, just a few weeks ago, I’m going to share a picture, and it’s not going to win any popularity contest, I don’t think. But just a few weeks ago, there was the death of Rosalynn Carter, who was married to Jimmy Carter, and Jimmy Carter became president when I was born.

So if that tells you, some of you, you look at that and be like, you’re old and others are like, you’re still young. Jimmy Carter was was president when I was born. Okay, I don’t know anything really about Jimmy Carter. Uh, apparently he must not have been popular enough. I don’t I don’t I don’t know much about Jimmy Carter, but I will tell you this. I happened to catch on on the television screen. Um, I happened to watch just some snippets of the funeral service. And one of the things that really that caught my attention and why I watched it was because one of one of the reporters commentating on it said, Jimmy Carter’s on hospice care. And when his wife passed, he refused. Even though he was on hospice care, he refused to leave her side. And I was amazed by that. And so I turned on the the funeral service and I watched it there. It was, Jimmy Carter, right at his his wife’s funeral, making sure he was by her side. Present. Finishing well. Honoring that relationship, I thought that was beautiful. In fact, if you Google Jimmy Carter at the funeral and just see snapshots of this guy, I mean, it looks like he is barely hanging on to life. He is. He does not look like he’s in a good state, but he cared for and cherished his bride so much that he refused to leave her.

Even the second day at the funeral procession, I turned on the second day just to see Jimmy Carter there, and sure enough, there was someone pushing along on his wheelchair to accompany his wife to the gravesite. I thought, that is incredible. Regardless of what you think about him as a president or not, all I saw was this snapshot of a picture, and I just said to myself, Lord, that that is the kind of man I want to be, right? Whatever number of days. I don’t want to outlive my wife. But if I do, you know, if I do, God help me. Help me to honor that relationship this way. That was beautiful. And you see the same thing in the life of Abraham here. It’s not about where you start, but it’s about how you finish. And I know in looking at a marital relationship with this and talking about the loss of life, the the turmoil it can create in the hearts of, of our people here, knowing some of us may have still be fresh in, in losing a loved one. And then there may be some of us here that, you know, thinking about this, looking at past relationships, you may have had a relationship that didn’t work out the way that you wanted to. Maybe you’ve even gone through divorce and and the struggle of all that. And this is painful to read a story like this for that reason.

And let me just encourage you and say, um, look, you’re not in charge of controlling other people. You can’t you can’t make decisions for other people. People are accountable for what they do. And you may have had a desire of how you wanted God to work things out. And and another person may not have seen it that way. And so you’re not accountable for how other people respond. Um, in fact, you may have made some decisions that you might have regretted and wished that you could do it over. But can I remind you it’s not about where you start? But it’s about where you finish. You can’t undo the past, but you can’t make the decision today. Of the kind of person that you want to be moving forward. And the beauty of the gospel is that it gives you that privilege. Jesus when he went to the cross died for your past, your present, and your future. Jesus covers all of you so that every morning is a new opportunity to live for his glory in this world. And because of that, bless those around you. It’s not about where you start. But about how you finish point number two. Life is a gift. Honor it. Life is a gift. Honor it. And, Abraham. Coincidentally enough, he’s showing that morning. Morning is one of the most sacred ways we have to honor life. Mourning is an important part of our human experience.

Sometimes it can be done in unhealthy ways, but I think the Lord has given it to us as a gift in order to exercise it in healthy ways. You know, one of the things I’ve noticed as a pastor in doing funerals, um, and being a part of funerals, it’s sometimes caused me to look at other cultures and how other cultures observe, uh, those times of death and how they mourn. And I got to say, in looking at other cultures and our culture, there are some cultures that are good at mourning and grieving, and there are other cultures that are awful. And I would say America, we tend to lean more towards the awful side than the good side. And it’s and it’s not to say that every situation is like that, but the reason I say that about our own country is because we tend to sanitize death and and we tend to find idolatry in comfort. What I mean is, in our culture, I’ve met people 30, 40 years old that have never experienced the death of a loved one. Like life is prolonged and medical care is kind of made it to where people live a long time today. But then there are other parts of this world where life expectancy is in your 40s and death is a regular part of that. And because of that, they’re better at just grieving and mourning in our own culture, we’ve sort of sanitized death.

And not only that, because we make we make idolatry out of comfort. Um, we try to say things sometimes to sort of push away pain rather than run into it. And grieving is one of those things that God has given us to, to process through pain in a, in a more healthy way. In fact, one of the things that I’ve seen that we do as a culture when we try to if we see pain, we try to sort of undermine it, sweep it under the rug, push it away. It’s found often in the way people make comments, especially during times of loss or death. I would say in being a part of funerals, I have heard some of the worst statements ever given. When someone else passes, you try to comfort someone who’s who’s experienced the loss of a loved one, or maybe a spouse and some of the dumbest things I have ever heard have have been during that time. People say things like, well, God knew that you were strong enough for this, and that’s that’s why that happened. Or or it was just their time, or God needed them. God needed them. Can I just tell you real quick? Like if if you worship a God that needs anything, you worship an inadequate God and you need to rethink your theology, right? That’s a terrible God. What hope can you have in a God that lacks like that is not a that is not an encouraging statement to give to somebody.

But let me let me give you some encouraging words about that. Um, rather than focus on what not what what you shouldn’t say. Can I just can I tell you some of the best things you can do? Speak little. Listen a lot. Show up and love deeply. We. We fumble over our words and our pain because we just want things to be different. We don’t know how to change it. And so we just start saying things sometimes. And sometimes if you just keep talking long enough, it’s not always going to be great things that are said, but rather it’s a good time just to weep with those who weep. I mean, that’s what the Bible says in Romans 12 verse 15. Celebrate with those who celebrate or rejoice with those who rejoice their seasons for that, and weep with those who weep. God’s given the idea of grieving for an important reason to the soul. In fact, I often say it like this in death we’ve we’ve got to learn that grief is two things. Grief is a companion, and grief is a monster. Grief is a companion and a monster. Which again, doesn’t sound very comforting, but let me explain. Grief is a companion in the sense that if you experience the loss of a close loved one, the grief never completely goes away.

It can change over time, but it’s always going to be a companion in some capacity. It’ll morph, but it’s there. And grief can be a monster because you never know where you’re going to be. But all of a sudden, the grief monster will surprise you and and you find yourself in a moment where you’re just grieving. You didn’t expect it, you didn’t plan for it, but all of a sudden it just creeped up on you. And there it is. And what do you do about it? Right. Knowing it’s a companion, knowing it’s a monster. What do you do about it? Well, here’s the answer. Don’t run from it. Embrace it. Embrace it. And why? Why would you embrace it? Well, embracing grief becomes this beautiful way of expressing the importance of a relationship and the care that you had for your loved one, and being a believer in the Lord for the one who gave that life. Grief becomes this worshipful way of honoring life and the life giver, and you never know how it’s going to happen, right? I mean, it could it could look like this knowing it’s a companion and a monster embracing it could look like this. You could be walking through a grocery store, you could be shopping somewhere, and all of a sudden someone walks past you and you get a sniff of a scent, and then you realize instantly it triggers.

That scent isn’t just their scent. That was the scent that your loved one always wore. And here, all of a sudden, you smell that smell and a flood of emotions come over you, and you weren’t even expecting it. But the grief monster showed up. And now your eyes begin to well with tears as you think about the importance of that life. And rather than run from it, it’s a place to run to it, because it becomes this unexpected moment of worship and recognizing the importance of life and the giver of that life. It can work it like this. You’re driving down the road, and all of a sudden your favorite song comes on the radio and you find yourself sitting at a red light and people looking at you, and you’re just bawling, and people are wondering if you’re going to be okay. But but the song was so special to the relationship that you had, and all of a sudden it just takes you back to that particular moment where that song became so special. And rather than run from it, you get the opportunity to run to it and reflect on the goodness of that relationship. That life is a gift. C.s. Lewis when his wife passed from from cancer. He wrote regularly in his journal about that experience, and after C.S. Lewis passed, his children actually gathered those writings and formulated a book. I love it, and it’s called A Grief Observed.

And one of the comments of that book that always stuck with me. It’s just a phrase out of a sentence, really. C.s. Lewis said this the greater the love, the greater the grief, the greater the love, the greater the grief you observe. What he’s saying is when you grieve deeply, it’s a testimony that you’ve loved deeply. And so it becomes a beautiful expression to appreciate the life that you experience. And you can think of the story, Abraham 110 years, when it just says he’s weeping and mourning. It’s just words on a page. But when you begin to understand the depth of their relationship together and all that they’ve gone through, and this would have been a deep grieving and a deep mourning, but but it’s also an appreciation for for the life that God has, has given to him. And so for Abraham, it’s important to walk through that process to to honor life and the creator of life. As Christians, I believe as believers in the Lord, there are three things that we should do well in the appreciation of life. One is we should grieve deeply. Two is we should hope deeply, and three, we should love deeply, grieve deeply, hope deeply, love deeply. And it sounds like a false dichotomy to put the idea of grieving and hope together in the same sentence. How in the world can a Christian grieve deeply, but also hope deeply? That makes no sense, right? It should.

It seems like it should just be one or the other. But this is exactly what C.S. Lewis is saying in his story, that when you love deeply, you have this grief. But if you read the book, you find it. C.s. Lewis also has this this deep hope in the Lord. In fact, when you read verses of the Bible, you see that that play out in several Scripture references that it talks about the depth of grieving, but also the great hope we have in the Lord. In Isaiah chapter 61. Listen to this to all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In Second Corinthians one five for as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we shall share abundantly in comfort too. So there is this struggle and the sinful world that we experience ultimately at death, being the greatest enemy that we face. But also there is this celebration in our hearts because of what we have in Christ, knowing it’s not the end. Both of those things happen in the life of the believer. We grieve deeply because we know better than anyone. We weren’t made for death. We were made for life. You know, one of the most interesting things I think that happens in a funeral is I don’t have to ever say to people the importance of life.

The reason they gather is because of the importance of life. You don’t have to tell the soul and the death of a loved one that you were made for more than this, because the grieving that happens within us screams out, we weren’t made for death, but we were made for life. And knowing we face death and knowing there’s this tearing that takes place because of death, we grieve deeply. But it doesn’t end there. We also hope deeply. You know, for the rest of the world, the best that they have to say is, um, you know, this is just a natural process of life apart from the Lord. But in the Lord, we know it doesn’t end there. In fact, um, Tim Keller, when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, um, facing that diagnosis, he actually wrote a book on death. And he reflected, he has several sermons on On death, but reflected beautifully on what death is for the life of the believer. And he says this. He says death used to be an executioner, but the gospel makes him just a gardener. Death used to be able to crush us, but now all death can do is plant us in God’s soil, so we become something extraordinary. Tim Keller passed away, by the way, this this past year, he says he goes on and writes, grieve with hope. Wake up and be at peace, laugh in the face of death and sing for joy at what’s coming.

If you have Jesus Christ by the hand and he’s got you by the hand, you can sing. If we live to old age, we can find our bodies and our beauty fading. Yet if we are growing in God’s grace, our souls, as it were, are becoming stronger and more beautiful. At death. This reversal becomes complete, our bodies disintegrate, and we become blindingly glorious. Comfort yourself with these words. The world can only give us peace that says it probably won’t get that bad. Jesus’s peace is different. It says even the worst that can happen, your death is ultimately the best thing that can happen. We are all along. We’re all along for a place that is truly home. Jesus says that it awaits you. We can grieve deeply and hope deeply. And hopefully through it, love deeply. And it feels a little weird to have a message on Genesis 23, because it kind of feels like we’re having a funeral service without a funeral, right? This is a this is a weighty passage, but there’s something to appreciate in talking about death that helps us recognize the importance of life. Sometimes we can get so fixated on the small problem that we had coming into this morning, that we fail to seize the opportunity to appreciate the life around us, to not take relationship for granted, to invest and to love and to care for those around you.

I mean, may maybe your spouse was a little late getting ready this morning, and maybe you got to church a little late because of that, and it was harder to find a seat. And maybe you got a little too heated in the discussion about it. Right. But but let it go. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth missing. The opportunity is to to love those around you and to love well, to love fiercely and to to have no regrets. And Abraham is demonstrating this in his life. In fact, he reiterates this throughout the rest of this passage. Those two points we we gave you there to the idea of finishing well and the idea of honoring life. He he reiterates this throughout the rest of the story. I want you to see this, these seven points here at the end of your notes. But verse, verse three, Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, I am a sojourner and a foreigner among you. Give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. And the Hittites answered Abraham, hear us, my lord. You are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choices of your tomb, of our tombs. Excuse me. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.

Um. What? Abraham and the idea of finishing. Well, recognizes here is. Is that he. He lived his life as a godly man to the point that not only do his his own family see his relationship with the Lord, but those beyond his family see his relationship with the Lord. The Hittites are acknowledging him in this passage as a prince of God among them. And because of that, they they show this, this care for him. And it’s important for us, like when you live your life for the Lord, if you want to finish well, that one of the ways you finish well is demonstrating how you care for others. You want to be able to bless other people so well because of God’s blessing in your life, that if you aren’t present, their soul aches. Not that you want people to suffer or feel bad, but but you want to be such a blessing to their life that when you’re not there, you’re missed. You want to love deeply and seize those opportunities. Make it hard for people to hate you. Point number two, we learn here at the end is reiterating these points. Abraham respectfully rejects the Hittites offer. Look at this. Verse seven. Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land. And he said to them, if you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me, Ephron, the son of Zohar, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns.

It is at the end of his field. For the full price. Let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place. Here you see Abraham. He’s. He’s showing respect, right. He’s he’s bowing to the Hittites and and they’re offering him the opportunity to bury his dead in one of their places. But Abraham rejects. And the reason Abraham respectfully rejects it is because of the cultural traditions of religion. In that day, um, it was thought or believed that if you bury someone in the tune of of of a person that worships a particular god, that their afterlife would be in the presence of that God. And so for Abraham, if he were just simply to take Sarah and put her in the tomb of someone else that’s dedicated to a false god, the belief would be that Abraham would be honoring that false God, and Sarah would be spending her eternity in the presence of whoever that God is. And so while Abraham wanted to honor the people around him, he also wanted to stand for what’s true. And he did this beautifully. He showed his care for the people, his thankfulness towards them. But at the same time, he he wanted to respect Sarah and the God that they worshiped. And so Abraham rejects their offer. Abraham also he demonstrates a permanent faith.

It says in verse ten, now Ephraim was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephraim the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of the city. Now, my lord, hear me. I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. And the sight of the sons of my people. I give it to you. Bury your dead. The Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he said to Ephraim, in the hearing of the people of the land, but if you will hear me, I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there. Ephron answered. Abraham, my Lord, listen to me. A piece of land worth 400 shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? Bury your dead. Abraham listened to. Ephraim and Abraham weighed out for for Ephraim the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, 400 shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants. Abraham, in these last few verses he’s demonstrating a permanent faith in Abraham’s day. The the ancient cultures so much cherished their ancestral burial ground that even if they were on a journey and passed away, they would do whatever it took to get to that ancestral burial ground, because one it showed the connection to their their lineage, their heritage, their family.

Um, and two, it recognized the God that they worshiped. They wanted to join their their family members and whatever God that they honored in Abraham’s day and even into the time of Jesus, it was customary to get a tomb, get a cave, and you would lay your dead in there and let their body decompose. Um, and after it would decompose, you would collect the bones and put it in an ossuary, a box, and you would store it, and then you would let the pad be available for the next family member that passed. And and so you would honor your, your ancestral history. But rather than Abraham, go back to where he was from to honor his ancestral history, Abraham chooses as a foreigner to stay in this land. As a demonstration of what his faith has become, and also as a demonstration for future generations. And so Abraham shows a permanence of his faith. Not only that, Abraham experiences God’s promises. And you remember the promise to Abraham, go to the land that I will show you. I will give you this land, and through you I’ll bring a lineage that will bless all people. Groups. You read that promise to Abraham, and you realize Abraham, when he journeyed to this land, he never owned any property. Never did Abraham buy any property until the very end of his life. And the only property he buys is a burial ground. But this is this is a reflection of God’s promises starting to be revealed.

The beginning of what’s to come. So not only is Abraham Abraham showing permanence in his faith, he’s experiencing God’s promises as they’re beginning to unfold here and then. Abraham is willing to pay the full price. Uh, the reason Abraham pays the 400 shekels is because he wants really to be free and clear of any responsibility he might owe to any person. There’s Hittite laws during the day that says if you just buy a section of the land, whoever owns the entire portion of land has to pay taxes for all of it, even the section. And Abraham doesn’t want anyone coming back and saying, look, your family still owes for this, or we have an inheritance right to this. So rather than get into any of those battles, Abraham pays for all of it, because Abraham is interested really in not just what the tomb represents for him, but in what’s to come. And I’ll share that in just a minute. But Abraham also, he sets an example. He sets an example. For the people around him and for the generations to come, knowing how a tomb was treated by this culture. It helps us see that not not only are Abraham and Sarah going to use this tomb, but so are the. So are the kids. And so are the grandkids. And when they go to a tomb like this, it speaks to the character of Abraham.

How much he loved his wife. How much he loved the Lord. It becomes an example of how you treat your spouse. Guys, can I can I tell you when it comes to your relationship? Don’t be cheap. And you certainly need to operate on a budget. Don’t don’t go into debt. But honor the relationship that God’s given you. Abraham does this even to the end, and honoring his wife, which teaches the next generation of how to care. And then finally, Abraham provides for future generations. In fact, at the end of Genesis, Genesis chapter 49 and Genesis chapter 50, you see that this is where Isaac and Rebecca are also buried. And this is where Jacob and Leah are. Um, the tomb of the patriarchs still exists today. You can go see the place where Abraham was buried. Um, and not only Abraham, but but also the generations that followed. Abraham honored not only his wife, but provided a place for future generations to continue to to honor life and and to honor the Lord. Uh, sometimes people ask me the question, um, as a pastor. Do I like weddings more or do I like doing funerals more? That’s kind of a weird question, isn’t it? Do you like weddings or it’s weird to compare the two of those things. They are totally different in what they represent. Um, but, you know, weddings are great to two people coming together to create a whole new family.

It’s a beautiful thing that God does there, and it’s certainly something to celebrate. As a pastor. I love to celebrate it, um, seeing how the Lord does that. But I got to tell you, between the two, when it comes to honoring the Lord, I find it easier to honor the Lord in a funeral than I do at a wedding. Part of the reason is sometimes people just want a pastor to show up as as just a figurehead. They don’t really care about their marriage following after the Lord. They just had this fantasy in their life that, you know, there’s got to be a pastor that marries me. So we got to find a pastor, and then from there they don’t there’s no there’s no thought about any relationship to the Lord. It’s just they got to have a pastor. Now, let me just tell you, me personally, if you want to fulfill your fantasy, go to Disney. I’m not interested in that. Like, I, I, uh, I will marry people, but I only marry if you’re both believers. I’m not interested in just being a pawn in someone else’s game to not, you know, make a joke over what it means to have a relationship with the Lord. But but I am more than delighted when two people want to come together and honor Jesus in celebrating that with you. Um, but when it comes to to a funeral, the thing that makes a funeral a little easier to acknowledge the Lord is that people are very mindful in those moments of the importance of life.

In fact, it’s a humbling situation to be in because not only are you watching people go through loss and maybe you directly, but it brings you to the reality of your own mortality. And what are you going to do about that? And how important are you really? And what happens to you when you die. And if you’re there acknowledging the importance of life at a funeral, why not take the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of life now? How can you make the most of what God’s given you? I read a story about a pastor who held his own funeral for his 64th 65th birthday. He decided he was going to throw a funeral party, which is weird. I’m not going to do that. Okay, but. But on the invitation, this is what he said. He said, um, this is this my funeral service is being held because I have no pleasure in words. I cannot hear flowers I cannot smell, and friends I cannot see. The Christian life is really interesting. God, I think, wants us to be mindful of both death and life in a healthy way of both death and life. In fact, at the very end of Jesus’s life, the Bible tells us he takes his disciples to this upper room, and the thing that he partakes of with them is something called communion, something we as a church, we celebrate once a month communion.

And why does he do that? Well, I think he’s painting for us the picture of both death and life and helping us recognize the importance of life. Because when he hands communion to the disciples, he says, this is my body which is broken. Do this in remembrance of me, and this is my blood which is shed. Do this in remembrance of me. It’s very much focused on death. But then he ends it by saying, and you will drink it new with me in my kingdom, which is very much a focus on life and not just life, eternal life in the Lord. And we partake of communion. It’s that picture of of the value of life by considering death, but also the hope that is to come. That’s the picture of the Christian journey, that we take it serious that one day it will end. But Jesus has triumphed over the greatest enemy, which is death, which gives us ultimate hope. So one of the most sacred things we have to share in this world is the gospel that gives life to people. And the way that we live. That gospel is seen in how how we honor the life around us.