Theme: Faith (Part 16 – Faith helps us to die WITH Christ)
(Key verses: Gen 22:20-23; Gen 23:1-20)
In our previous discussion we saw how God intervened to save Isaac’s life after God revealed Abraham’s obedient heart of faithfulness to His commandments. The scripture says Abraham received Isaac back from the dead in a figure as he already accepted Isaac’s death (Heb 11:17-19). After this event on mount Moriah in Genesis 22, the scriptures added a few names which seem to have no relation to this trial of Abraham’s faith. But this all prepares us for what is about to take place in Abraham’s household:
Gen 22:20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;
Gen 22:21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
Gen 22:22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
Gen 22:23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
Gen 22:24 And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah.
These are very emotional times for Abraham as he also received news from his family in Mesopotamia. The name that stands out in these verses is that of a daughter, Rebekah, who was an offspring of one of the eight sons of Abraham’s brother, Nahor. As God knew all things in advance and works all these things after the counsel of His will, He never intended Abraham to slay Isaac because God already prepared a wife for him (Isa 46:10; Isa 55:8-9; Rom 11:33; Eph 1:11). But that trial in Abraham’s life prepared him for the next one which would test Abraham’s faith in a much deeper and personal way. In this discussion on the foundational theme of faith, we are once more encouraged to see that the faith of Christ will indeed see us through the deepest sorrows in life and even keep us faithful not to compromise within our weakest moments:
Gen 23:1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.
Gen 23:2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
The last time we heard about Abraham and his family is when they stayed in Beersheba after God saved Isaac’s life when Abraham was prepared to sacrifice him in obedience to God’s commandment. From here they moved to Kirjatharba, which was another name for Hebron, where Abraham, Sarah and their family also stayed before in their times of sojourning in Canaan (Gen 13:18). Here in Hebron Sarah spent her last days before she died at the age of one hundred and twenty seven years. Sarah’s death brought Abraham to a very vulnerable state, and this is also the first time we read that Abraham wept. Emotions and sensual things are part of this life of mankind, but the faith of Christ in us will give the ability to handle these powers in our flesh in the proper way (Pro 25:28; Ecc 3:4; Gal 5:16-17; Rom 8:28; Heb 10:23):
Php 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Amidst this emotional and painful time in Abraham’s life, it was his faith in God which still empowered him to stand firm on his status as being a stranger and sojourner whose only inheritance is death on this earth:
Gen 23:3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
Gen 23:4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
Death is the spiritual state of all in the fleshly Adam as created by God to be our temporal dwelling:
Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Abraham wanted to “bury [his] dead out of [his] sight”, and this is something the faith of Christ in us will always encourage us to do when we are in a position to do that:
Luk 9:59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Luk 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
The primary meaning of God’s word has to do with its spiritual interpretation:
Joh 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
These words of Christ to “let the dead bury their dead” is referring to the taking up of our own cross and to die to our own earthliness (death), and that is how we can follow Christ (Joh 6:63). This is how we preach the kingdom of God in the most powerful way:
Mat 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:39 He that findeth his [earthy] life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Abraham spoke to the sons of Heth about taking possession of this “buryingplace”. Heth means “terror”, even as death brings the most fearful emotion in a human heart. Heth was the second son of Canaan, the son of Ham who was cursed by Noah when Ham did not cover his father’s nakedness (Gen 9:21-25). From Heth the Hethites (or Hittites) came forth (Gen 23:10; Gen 49:32). The Hittites were one of the tribes which occupied the land of Canaan, but this very land was promised to Abraham by God as a possession (Gen 15:19-21; Gen 17:8). Taking possession of our own “buryingplace” is to be given the ability to see that flesh and its carnal mind is spiritual death, and that losing this earthiness is the only way to get the new life of Christ (Gal 2:20). Life in the spirit is the true inheritance God has promised as we overcome “by little and little” in our dealings in our land of flesh (Exo 23:30; Deu 7:22):
Gen 23:5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
Gen 23:6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.
Abraham was seen as a “mighty prince” to these Canaanites, as they were well aware of Abraham’s life before God. But through Abraham we also learn that “every good gift and every perfect gift” we receive from God will come through faith as that keep us “unspotted from the world” and its standards (Jas 1:17-27; Heb 11:6). Although Abraham knew that this land of the Hittites was promised to him and his offspring by God, Abraham still approached these children of Heth with respect and humility:
Gen 23:7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.
Gen 23:8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
Gen 23:9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah [meaning to fold/double], which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.
Abraham did not compromise on the truth by conforming to the standards of the world. He wanted to pay for the cave of Machpelah, and he also insisted on paying the full price of the value of this buryingplace (Rom 12:2). There is a very popular false doctrine which claims that salvation is free, easy and quick, even via a short sinner’s prayer. The truth is that salvation comes through a costly and lengthy process as is witnessed throughout the scriptures. One of these examples is given to us through the life of king David. David never offered anything to God that did not cost him:
2Sa 24:19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.
2Sa 24:20 And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.
2Sa 24:21 And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
2Sa 24:22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
2Sa 24:23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.
2Sa 24:24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
2Sa 24:25 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
This was the very foundation on which the temple which David’s son, Solomon, built at a later stage. This foundation also relates to the spiritual foundations of the city of God which Abraham was always looking to in faith:
Heb 11:10 For [“by faith”] he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Ephron, one of the Hittites, was the owner of this cave and also the field in which this cave was situated. Ephron also wanted to give the cave and the field as a gift to Abraham:
Gen 23:10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
Gen 23:11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
The faith of Abraham once again enabled him to openly stand strong amidst his vulnerable emotional state, as he did not budge to this gesture which seemed like a bargain in the eyes of flesh:
Gen 23:12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
Gen 23:13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
There is a saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch – we will somehow pay dearly for free gifts. The words “free gift” appear in the following verses in the King James translation and has also given rise to many false teachings concerning the grace of God. The grace of God does not work the lascivious spirit in many who preach that salvation excludes going through the wrath of God and His fiery judgment on all fleshliness in us (1Co 3:13-15; Jud 1:3-7; Rev 15:8):
Rom 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift [Greek: “charisma”]. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Rom 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift [Greek: “charisma”] is of many offences unto justification.
But these two words, namely “free gift”, are actually translated from one Greek word, namely “charisma”, which refers to unmerited favour. God’s unmerited favour is to bring salvation through His chastening and scourging grace to all in the first Adam by which we give up on the pride and lusts in our life at the appointed time:
Tit 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Tit 2:12 Teaching [Greek: “paideuō” = discipline by punishment] us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth [Greek: “paideuō”], and scourgeth [Greek: “mastigoō” = flogging/plague] every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth [Greek: “paideuō”] not?
Salvation is indeed a gift from God, but can only be obtained when we buy our own oil as the wise virgins also realised in the following parable, but the foolish virgins could not see the purpose for working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Php 2:12-13):
Mat 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
Mat 25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Mat 25:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
Mat 25:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Mat 25:5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
Mat 25:6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Mat 25:7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
Mat 25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
Mat 25:9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
Mat 25:10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Mat 25:11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
Mat 25:12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
The wisdom in God’s elect helps them to see that they must zealously keep “buying” and investing into His gold, His raiment and His eyesalve (believing His true doctrines) , while at the same time “selling” all their fleshliness (our false doctrines) in true repentance to God:
Rev 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Rev 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Mat 19:21 Jesus said unto him [the young ruler], If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Abraham shows us that the faith of Christ helps us to be patient and merciful in our walk in this life, and in that way we will frustrate the proud and lustful flesh to reveal its true nature and intentions (Rom 12:20; 1Jn 2:16). Ephron eventually reveals his true price for the piece of land which Abraham paid in full to Ephron in the sight of all the sons of Heth:
Gen 23:14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
Gen 23:15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
Gen 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
Silver speaks of redemption in scripture – we need complete redemption and deliverance from our old life in the flesh to be given the new spirit life of Christ (Rom 8:23-25 Eph 1:13-14). We must patiently work out our own salvation, even when it seems others have an easier path. The pride in us naturally wants to compare with others and naturally we are dead wrong about what our carnal mind wants us to believe about others (1Jn 2:16; 2Co 10:12-13). But more than this, we are also given this deep assurance that all those we are attached to in the flesh will in their own time be taken through their unique process as determined by God to eventually receive the new life in Christ. Ephron not only sold the cave, but also the field with all the trees to Abraham:
Gen 23:17 And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure
Gen 23:18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.
Gen 23:19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.
Gen 23:20 And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.
It is in this area where Abraham and all his offspring were buried, including Isaac, Jacob and Joseph (Gen 25:9; Gen 35:29; Gen 49:29). Abraham prepared a place for his offspring to bury their own dead, as Christ also prepared a place for all in Adam by showing that life comes through death, even the burying place of the cross which He prepared for us before He comes to take us to be seated with Him in heaven (Eph 2:6; 2Co 12:1-11):
Joh 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
Joh 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Joh 14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Even in His deepest sorrow and a time of great loss, Abraham is given to us as a type of how the faith of Christ provides for those who come after Him and taking up their own cross and burying their own dead (Mat 10:38-39):
Pro 13:22 A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.