God's People live by faith in the promises of God even when facing death, the last enemy!
Genesis 22:20-24 – 23:20
It was foggy and chilly. She could barely see the boats alongside her. Florence swam for fifteen hours. She begged to be taken out of the water. Her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she gave up and stopped swimming. They pulled her out. Then, when Florence Chadwick was on the boat she discovered the truth: the shore was less than half a mile away. She was 98% of the way home. At a news conference the next day she said this: "All I could see was the fog. . . . I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it." (This refers to her attempt to swim the shore of mainland Calf. not the English Channel, which she did swim.)
"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. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. They were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city (heaven and heavenly rewards) for them." (See Heb 11:13-16, 39)
In Gen. 22:23 we see that Scripture is now beginning to make the transition from focusing on Abraham and moving to Isaac as Rebekah, his bride to be, is mentioned here. After this chapter we see Abraham seeking a bride for Isaac in chapter 24.
"Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, "I am an alien and a stranger (as we all are as believers; 1 Peter 2:11) among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead." (vv. 3-4) This is an important chapter in showing Abraham's faith in God's promises even when he is grieving the loss of his life partner Sarah. He buys a cave (most were buried in the open) looking to the future for God's Word to give them the land He had promised them. And that promise was given 62 years earlier. All Abraham owned in the land that God had promised to him was a cave and that he had to buy.
Vv. 3-20 – the negotiation for the burial site. "Ephron did not plan to give Abraham a valuable piece of land, but that is how typical Eastern bargaining always begins. The land already belonged to Abraham (Gen.15:7), but he could never explain that to his unbelieving neighbors. He was a pilgrim and did not claim any of it for himself." Wiersbe, Warren W.: With the Word Bible Commentary
Death is seen as evil in the Scriptures as part of the Fall and the curse of God; (You will surely die.) It means separation – the body from the soul, loved ones from each other and spiritual death – separation from God because of sin. (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 6:23)
As New Testament believers our faith in Jesus should really make a difference when we are dying or in the death of a loved one. Our hope in heaven when facing death can be a powerful witness to unbelievers and there is a window of opportunity and vulnerability to the gospel for our unbelieving friends. (I came to Christ when my first wife died.) "And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words."(1 Thess. 4:13, 14, 18)
BUT: "If a person takes that which is earthly too much to heart, when it is taken away despair can rush in. In times of grief only a living faith in the eternal will keep us from despair." (Sickness unto Death by Soren Kierkegaard's)
Abraham believed God's promises so strongly that he did not take Sarah back to Ur and bury her – he looked to the future and believed God would give them the land he promised. And God did give them the land (some 400+ years later!); then again in 1948 and will once again in the Millennial Kingdom. (Isa. 62:6-12) Even Joseph had so much faith in God's promise for the land of Canaan that he told his Jewish people in Egypt to take his bones back to Canaan after he died. (Heb.11:22)
What promises has God made to you that are not yet fulfilled? Contrast Jesus' promise that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33) to His promises in Revelation 21:3-5: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Also see Rom. 8:18-25; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58)
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) If you want to live foolishly and without wisdom live like you will never die. Number your days, for every day matters. We only go to bat once in the game of life. We don't want to be like Florence Chadwick and give up when we are almost there. "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith." (Heb. 10:35-38)
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
What did the Lord say to you through this message?
"If a person takes that which is earthly too much to heart, when it is taken away despair can rush in. In times of grief only a living faith in the eternal will keep us from despair." (Alan Ross quoting Soren Kierkegaard's book Sickness unto Death) "All I could see was the fog. . . . I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it." (Florence Chadwick) Can you relate to those words? We live our lives in a fog of trouble, worry, doubt, depression, health problems, unemployment, financial uncertainty, strained relationships…and loss of loved ones. All these things create a fog. It's difficult to see in front of us. We end up focusing on the fog because we can't see the shore. Sometimes we feel like giving up because we don't have the strength to stay afloat any longer. This is where the people of God throughout the ages had a source of strength and perspective that for some reason we don't talk much about today: Heaven." (Heaven by Randy Alcorn)
Abraham was motivated by God's promise for the land of Canaan and thus bought property there because of his hope in the future. How much does the hope of heaven and the promise of heavenly rewards motivate you to trust and obey the Lord?
What promises has God made to you that are yet unfulfilled but still inspire you to faith and obedience? (See 2 Cor. 4: 16-18) "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith." (Heb. 10:35-38)
Scripture memory verse: "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. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. They were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city (heaven and heavenly rewards) for them." (See Heb. 11:13-16, 39)