Trusting God in Tough Times – Genesis 22:20 to 23:20

Trusting God in Tough Times
Gen. 22:20-23:20
Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/28/19
Meet me in your Bible if you would in Genesis 22:20 where we continue together in our journey through Genesis. ///
Aren’t you glad, Christian, that God lives in you and works in you?
For “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2:13
And in that process of making us more like Christ, the Lord uses the discipline, suffering, and even pain.
An unknown author penned these penetrating words: “When God wants to drill a man And thrill a man And skill a man, When God wants to mold a man To play the noblest part; When He yearns with all His heart To create so great and bold a man That all the world shall be amazed, Watch His methods, watch His ways! How He ruthlessly perfects Whom He royally elects! How He hammers him and hurts him, And with mighty blows converts him Into trial shapes of clay which Only God understands; While his tortured heart is crying And he lifts beseeching hands! How He bends but never breaks When his good He undertakes; How He uses whom He chooses And with every purpose fuses him; By every act induces him To try His splendor out– God knows what He’s about!” Glory to God! He knows what He’s about as He works in our lives just as He worked in Abraham’s life. By His grace, our heavenly Father has prepared for us a captivating text. A text that shows how He loves to advance His purposes even in our times of apparent loss.
We will see how in the most challenging days of life, the child of God can forge forward in faith and honor Him.
In the life of Abraham, there are the 5 important moves the Spirit of God highlights for us as we pick up the story in chapter 22:20.
1. Transition 22:20-24
2. Tears 1-2
3. Testimony 3-6
4. Tenacity 7-16
5. Triumph 17-20 What a great blessing we experienced last Lord’s Day celebrating Abraham’s costly faith.
He obeyed God, holding nothing back, not even his beloved son Isaac from death.
And there on Mount Moriah the Angel of the Lord so aptly named that place, “Jehovah Jireh”- the Lord has seen, He has provided!
And that very Angel of the Lord became the very one God would provide for you and me as He died and rose again on our behalf!
Well, Abraham then returns south with his son Isaac to his home in Beersheba. It’s been some 60 years since he and Sarah moved from Ur to Canaan.
And now right here, in Genesis 22:20 Moses gives us an important 1. Transition. 22:20
Now it came about after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor:
Remember, Abraham had two brothers: Nahor and Haran.
After Haran died in Ur. Abraham married Sarah, and Nahor married Milcah. And now here we are given the names of Abraham’s nephews that still lived there in Ur: 21 Uz his firstborn and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram 22 and Chesed and Hazo and Pildash and Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of
Rebekah; these eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. 24 His concubine (that’s Bethuel), whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah and Gaham and Tahash and Maacah.
Picture a traveling caravan that brought this news update from Abraham’s relatives hundreds of miles away in Mesopotamia.
Let me give you one highlight from that list.
In this genealogy, we see that God was causing the family of Nahor to grow. And through that He would provide Rebekah as a future bride for Isaac!
Rebekah would then give birth to Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel!
Moses, the inspired writer, then focuses our attention on Sarah. Look at what we find out in Genesis 23:1 that brings us to our first move and Abraham to 2. Tears 1-2 Verse 1: “Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.”
Now most ladies don’t like their ages being announced. I read this week of a mom and her son getting on a bus. There was a reduced fare for children under 5. So the mom said, “he’s 4.” And not missing a beat the son then announced, “And she’s 41!”
Now there’s only one lady in the Bible whose age at death is given- that’s Sarah.
It’s not just to show us she lived so long but to remind us of something- God had made it possible for her to bear her first child 37 years before when she was 90 years old!
127 long and full years, most of them spent walking by faith with Abraham. And God’s smile rested on Sarah.
In fact, He upholds Sarah as a model for all wives as she was submissive to Abraham (I Peter 3:6).
And God praises her with the other great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Here’s why: “She considered Him faithful who had promised” her a son! Hebrews 11:11
Well one day in her 127th year Sarah finished the race of life.
Look at the death announcement, 2nd verse:
“Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan…”
Let me give you a couple helpful reference points: Kiriath-arba was the name by which Moses would later know this place. Kiriath means “city” and “Arba” was the name of the man (the greatest of the Anakim) who conquered it (Joshua 14:15).
The preferred Hebrew name “Hebron” ironically means “treaty”).
It’s situated half way between Jerusalem to the north and Beersheba to the south (both about 15 miles apart).
Now it’s so important not to miss the 5-word phrase right there in verse 2: “in the land of Canaan.” It bookends the chapter here at the beginning and at the end in verse 19.
“In the land of Canaan” shows us that Sarah dies in the land of promise.
It’s the land God had told Abraham and her He would give to them. Yes, Sarah’s now dead and how much land is under Abraham’s control at this point? None!
That sets us up for the courageous step that Abraham will take.
Historians estimate Sarah’s death to be around 2,025 B.C. Around that time, she died. What a sober reminder of the penalty God had warned for disobedience: “death.”
Yes, “the wages of sin is death.” Rom. 6:23
That’s why we are all finite. That’s why we won’t live in this world forever.
Do you realize, the moment you were born a countdown began because of sin that will end on the day of your death.
Every time you attend a memorial service, you’re reminded of your mortality.
Just like that friend or loved one in the casket, their life in this world came to an end. And yours, sooner than you realize, will one day come to an end.
And don’t forget what follows: God assures us, you and I will stand before Him the Judge of the universe and give account for our lives.
If you have Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior then you will be welcomed into the presence of God.
Yet if you have tried to get to God by good works and not cried out to God in repentant faith, then you will be separated forever in the place prepared for the devil and his angels. That’s the eternal lake of fire.
O may none of us ever hear those chilling words from our Savior, “I never knew you, depart from Me,” Mat. 7:23
Instead may we hear from Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master!” Mat. 25:21
Well, Sarah was right with God. And because of that, at the moment of her death, she was with God in His presence.
O imagine opening your eyes and finding yourself in the presence of the Lord!!!
Well, Abraham her husband of easily 100 years feels the sting of pain. He hurts over the deep loss, the empty place in his life.
Notice his tender heart: “and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.”
Her hand that he had held so many times in his had now become cold.
Her beautiful eyes that he had so often admired were now closed.
And her lovely voice that was so sweet to his ears he would never hear again in this world.
So, Abraham appropriately grieves over his great loss. “Mourning” here speaks of beating one’s chest. It would b accompanied with loud moaning and sitting on the ground. And Abraham sheds tears for Sarah, the first tears recorded in the Bible.
Weeping was part of the typical expression of grief and sorrow. And don’t forget, even our Lord at the grave of Lazarus wept. I well recall as a boy the first time a near relative of mine, my grandfather, died. And I can still see my grandmother sitting on the little steps that lead to our kitchen sobbing with a broken heart. Friends, tears from grief is a tragic result of sin. Yet for the Christian, that’s not the way it’s always going to be. Friends, in Christ, there will come a day when He will end all the tears of His own.
The apostle John describes that heavenly anticipation saying, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
You see, Abraham knew that Sarah died right with God.
And therefore, he did not grieve as one who had no hope (I Thes. 4:13). For he knew she was finally home… with the Lord!
I read a story of the late Warren Wiersbe speaking with another pastor whose wife had recently died.
Wiersbe told him, “I’m sorry to hear you lost your wife.”
The pastor smiled and replied, “Son, when you know where something is, you haven’t lost it.”
How true! Because, for the child of God, to be “absent from the body” means to be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). That’s why Paul says we therefore prefer to be absent from the body!
Well, here’s where we see Abraham with a heavy heart of loss, step forward in faith.
3. Testimony 3-6 Picking it up in verse 3 we find out: “Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, 4 “I am a stranger and a
sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
Abraham gets up from mourning on the ground. Now it’s time to bury his beloved.
Throughout their history and to the present day, Jews do not embalm the dead. Instead, they bury them within 24 hours of death.
The sons of Heth with whom Abraham dialogues- they ruled that area of Haran.
This seems to be an early settlement of the Hittities who had migrated south from present day Turkey.
Did you catch how Abraham views himself?
He calls himself a stranger and sojourner. That tells us he has no property or permanent place to live.
It’s like an immigrant to America who doesn’t yet have his green card or citizenship. He’s a foreigner who doesn’t have certain privileges of a citizen.
So Abraham is a resident alien. And that required living with a great deal of faith in God. For as a foreigner, he owns no land.
Hebrews 11 gives a fascinating commentary on Abraham as a sojourner. Beginning in the 9th verse we read:
“By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise.”
And the next verse tells us he was looking for a whole new city whose architect and builder is God!
Then we read these exhilarating words in verses 13–16:
“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been
thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”
Clearly, Abraham the tent dweller viewed himself as a foreigner, a pilgrim. And so should we.
In fact, the apostle Paul uses that illustration of a tent to describe our physical bodies. The point is, your body, no matter how much you pamper it and try to look young, it’s not going to last long. It’s a temporary dwelling.
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
That friends is great news when you realize your tent is falling apart.
In Christ we possess a living hope of a coming resurrected body.
And therefore, our soul’s longing should be what? To see our temporary tents (our human bodies) clothed in a heavenly form fit for God’s presence!
Now give attention to what Abraham here pursues. He wants a burial site for Sarah. And here’s why.
Transporting Sarah’s body back to Ur was an option Abraham refused to take.
For Abraham has made a total break from his former way of life where he grew up in Mesopotamia.
And here’s what’s key. Seeking a burial spot here in Canaan shows he is counting on God’s promise to literally give him some of that land in his lifetime!
Well, we are told further (v. 5), “The sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, 6 “Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest
of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.”
What respect they show to Abraham!
For their words “mighty prince” (Nesi Elohim) literally mean “prince of God.”
They recognized him as a man of high standing whose life showed God’s favor!
Here’s what I find amazing about this chapter. Other than this one statement made by these pagan sons of Heth, God’s name is never mentioned. Not once.
Just like in the book of Esther. Yet we see God’s fingerprints, His sovereign working at every point.
And it was by God’s grace that Abraham’s life served as a testimony to God’s power.
His conduct as a child of God had been noticed by those unbelievers.
Beloved, these footsteps of Abraham call us to walk in the same way before an unsaved world.
1 Peter 2:12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
So let me ask you. What kind of reputation do you have before unbelievers in your life?
What do your neighbors, your boss, your fellow workers, your classmates think about God because of you?
You see the goal of those God-given relationships is that they might see the reality of God in your life and come to glorify Him!
Well, it seems these sons of Heth make Abraham a too good to be true offer, “go ahead, bury your dead in your pick of our graves; none of us will turn you down!”
If Abraham wasn’t thinking about God’s promises he might have said, “Fantastic! I’ll take that grave over there under the tree that belongs to Mr. So and So.
But you see, there’s a problem.
That would have been a quick gain but forgotten the long-term perspective!
They would have let Abraham bury Sarah’s body there, but whose grave would it be?
Theirs, not Abraham’s. They have made it clear, “Bury your dead in the choicest of our graves.”
By the way, Abraham’s request in verse 4 was for a burial site (literally “possession of a grave”), and that’s not what they agree to!
Here’s what’s key. Had Abraham accepted this offer, he would not have any future claim to possess that land.
Here’s a great example for us of not assuming the first and easiest choice to make in a tough situation is God’s best.
It’s often not that at all!
Now watch Abraham’s
4. Tenacity 7-16 7th verse:
“So Abraham rose and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth.
The phrase, “people of the land” often refers to those responsible for community affairs.
Now even though Abraham has a higher standing and influence than they do, he shows humility and honors them.
And then he expresses his heart’s desire:
(Verse 8) “And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish for me to bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and approach Ephron the son of Zohar for me, 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in your presence for a burial site.”
Now this is VERY interesting. Abraham already has in mind the perfect place to buy as a burial plot for Sarah. It’s called “the “cave of Machpelah” and is located “at the end of a field.”
Machpelah would have included the entire portion of ground on which the cave Abraham desires is located.
He makes it clear that he is prepared to pay the asking price for it.
Abraham has figured out who owns it- a guy name Ephron son of Zohar.
So he wants the sons of Heth to negotiate with Ephron the owner. He wants them to arbitrate for him.
Yet surprisingly, they have apparently already talked to Ephron about the deal.
Look at verse 10, would you?
Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth; even of all who went in at the gate of his city, saying, 11 “No, my lord, hear me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.”
Ephron is there with the other key men at the city gate of Hebron.
Remember, the city gate represented the civic center. If you wanted to find out the talk of the town, you didn’t go to some ap like google news or Flipboard. You would go to the city gate! And that’s where they would deal with negotiations.
By the way, there may have been laws of the Hittites that influenced the negotiation. Yet we must guard against imbedding in the text feudal responsibilities and taxes that Ephron expects of Abraham. Here’s why. The text doesn’t tell us that!
Follow closely as we witness Abraham’s response. Verse 12: “And Abraham bowed before the people of the land.”
Respect, humility again shown- so key in this negotiation that he takes the low road.
But watch now, Abraham doesn’t accept the deal on their terms.
13th verse: “He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me that I may bury my dead there.”
Abraham insists on paying full price for the field which included the grave. And look how Ephron responds:
Verse 14: “Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15 ‘My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.’”
What do you think, “Is Ephron being gracious, or is he being greedy?”
The weight of the evidence points to the later- he’s setting a high price on the land and grave. Yet he never says outright, “this is my asking price.” Rather he downplays the amount. He would have been a good politician!
Don’t forget, Ephron knows Abraham is in a hurry to bury Sarah. And he knows Abraham wants his land in particular.
For those of you who enjoy an occasional garage sale- great place by the way for sharing with people. Well if prices are not marked and they know you are real interested in an item, they will often give you a higher price.
The price Ephron sets for his land is 400 shekels of silver. By the way, a shekel of silver weighed less than ½ ounce.
So this is an excessive price if we compare it to David later paying just 50 shekels for the threshing floor to offer burnt offerings (II Sam. 24).
We well suspect that as haggling back and forth over price was common in that day, Ephron may have expected Abraham to try to work down the price.
But he doesn’t. Not one bit.
Verse 16 tells us that, “Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard.”
Abraham doesn’t try to lower the asking price. Instead, he measures out the 400 pieces of silver
Those weren’t coins but hunks of silver that he weighed out to seal the deal.
Now why would Abraham so readily pay the full price for that grave and field?
Here’s why. To ensure that it could never be said that he paid less than the price Ephron the owner had asked.
It protected anyone from doubting Abraham’s integrity in the transaction.
And it guaranteed that Abraham was the rightful owner. For it was paid in full.
O I can’t help but think of the price paid for our redemption.
It was the highest price Christ gave, He gave His all, what the Father required for our redemption. Yes, in Him we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins” Eph. 1:7.
And all the demons not even the devil himself has a leg to stand on in saying something was lacking in the purchase of our salvation! It was tetelestai, paid in full!
Watch now how God causes Abraham’s tenacity to turn to
5. Triumph 17-20
“So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over 18 to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.
The negotiation had been finalized. And God saw to it that Abraham received the land at
Machpelah, the burial cave, and even trees in the field!
All of that was deeded to Abraham as a permanent possession!
O the joy that must have filled Abraham’s heart that once had been so heavy. Look why:
Verse 19: “After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave that is in it, were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth.
Now I can understand if you are thinking- “So what’s the big deal about the field and the cave? People buy and sell property every day, right?”
Well, here it proves how God blesses the faith of a man who trusts him in tough times.
Abraham lost his wife, but God blessed him with the perfect place to honor her.
And not just her. Machpelah would be the place where Abraham as well as Isaac and Rebekah, and then Jacob and Leah would be buried.
They would all express their faith by being buried there in the land God had given them!
Before Jacob died, he gave orders where he should be buried:
Genesis 49:29–32 “Then he (Jacob) charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephr*on the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31 “There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.” So, you see. Abraham purchased the land out of confidence knowing God had deeded it all to him.
There in Machpelah, he planted a flag of faith showing this was the beginning of God fulfilling His promises and keeping His Word.
Isaac was God’s answer to make of Abraham a mighty nation, and Machpelah was God’s answer to give His people their
own land!
For the coming generations even to the present day, the Jews would go to this spot in Hebron and remember how God blessed Abraham’s active faith with that parcel of land!
In fact, after the temple mount and western wall in Jerusalem, Jews venerate Machpelah as the most sacred monument in the world!!!
For that proves God kept His promises and honored Abraham who trusted Him in tough times!
Let me pull together some life lessons from this for you this morning that flow from our text:
1. By the grace and strength in Christ, God calls you to rightly interpret your times of trouble and loss. He calls you to view them as an opportunity to actively trust Him and see His purposed furthered in your life.
2. Celebrate God’s faithfulness to His Word! Rejoice, give thanks and bask in the fact that you can stand confidently this- God can always be trusted since He always keeps His Word. And that includes you if you are His child!
3. Purpose by your life to leave a legacy of faith in God.
In your choices don’t ask yourself, “what’s the most comfortable path” but what will seek first God’s kingdom and further the fame of His name?
Let’s look to the Lord in prayer.
Gracious Father…