The Narrative Lectionary that Resurrection Lutheran Church is using this year skips through the Old Testament at a fast pace. This coming Sunday we will be studying Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But before I shift our focus to Joseph and Egypt, I want to examine one final story of Abraham. In Genesis 23, Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah dies and he must find her a tomb.
When God first called Abraham, God promised him land and descendants. When Abraham arrived in Canaan, the Lord said to him, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7). His descendants will be as many as the stars of sky. Yet as Abraham nears death, he has only one son and no land. Is God’s promise ever to be reality? Have you, like Abraham, ever wondered if God’s promises would become reality for you?
After Sarah’s death, Abraham goes to the Hittites who own the surrounding land and says, “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying-place, so that I may bury my dead.” (Genesis 23:4). The Hittites recognize Abraham as a great man and are willing to give him a burial site for his wife. But Abraham does not want a “gift” or “honorary guest” burial site; he wants to own the burial site with proper title. He wants something permanent and legal that can be passed on to future generation.
Abraham is willing to pay top dollar for it. (A stewardship sermon is buried in that verse!) After skillful negotiation, he purchases the small field of Ephron in Machpelah where he buries his wife in a cave in the field (Genesis 23:15-19). Years later Abraham is buried there as well.
At first, a burial plot may seem like a useless, pathetic fulfillment of God’s great promise to Abraham and Sarah. Is this all the land God can give? Yet it is the first step in God’s patient, enduring plan of salvation. It becomes a sign of hope and possibility.
After all, as Christians, we remember that God’s plan of restoration culminated in the empty burial tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Jesus’ empty tomb is the first step, the first fruits, of a new heaven and a new earth.
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (I Corinthians 15:20).
In what ways does God give you hope in difficult times?
Lord Jesus, you are my rock and shield, give me the hope I need this day.