When Sarah and I came to Bearwood, I had been offered a 3 year contract (in fact when I signed they were able to extend this to 5 years) Sarah was still waiting to see if she would find a job. We were grateful to the church for its willingness to sacrificially support us for 3 years. The wise thing to do at that stage would have been to rent a house or flat as we might have had to move again in 3 years’ time.
However, we felt it right to buy a house. We wanted to show that we were ready to put down roots here and to live among the people God had called us to work with.
Genesis 23 may in some ways feel a bit like a strange anti-climax to the life of Abraham, an odd way to finish the story but actually it is a vital lesson in putting down roots.
So, let’s take a look. First of all some minor side applications and then our main application.
- A fallen world means that we must be ready to face grief and pain (v1-2)
Sarah reaches the ripe old age of 127 and then she dies. Abraham mourns and weeps for her. She has lived a good life. They’ve had lots of adventures together. They have both lived to see their son Isaac born and God’s promise to them kept. However, Abraham still mourns.
There is a deep sadness and pain to death -even in old age because death and separation are part of the fall. Being a believer does not protect us from the consequences of living in a fallen world. You will still face hardship, suffering, sickness, bereavement, death.
But you can live through those things knowing that God is with you, that death does not have the last word because we have eternal life to look forward to and that God will use even our suffering for your good and his glory.
- Your status in this fallen world is that of a foreigner and stranger (v3)
Abraham goes to the Hittites and asks them for somewhere to bury Sarah. He introduces himself to them as merely an immigrant. He knows his status in the land in their eyes.
The Bible constantly reminds us that this is our status too. Now some of us are physical immigrants. We have come to the UK from other countries. Some of you have had to move several times and maybe you long for the day when you can say that you have “arrived” at your permanent home.
Actually, everyone in the UK is a descendent of an immigrant. My own great great grandfather was part of an Italian immigrant community in London. For some reason, he and his brother changed their names (they took different surnames to each other) and went their separate ways. He moved to Birmingham. His son, my granddad then travelled the world in the forces. My mum’s dad was Northern Irish and also left his home city, Belfast to join the forces.
But even more importantly, we are all as believers in Jesus “foreigners and strangers” because we do not belong to this World, we do not share its values of greed, selfishness, materialism, hatred etc. We belong to God and his Kingdom.
1 Peter 2:11 says:
“Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.”
This means we are not to get too comfortable. We should be sad when laws are made that go against God’s command to love him and to love our neighbours. We also have a responsibility to invite people to put their trust in Jesus and be part of God’s Kingdom.
- Our lives should be a witness to the hope we have as we live in this fallen world. (v5)
The Hittites say to Abraham “No, you are an honoured prince among us.” He may have been an immigrant, not one of them but by the way he has lived a good life showing justice and mercy. The way he stepped in to protect the people when they were under attack, these things have commended him to them.
Peter tells us that although we may face opposition and persecution, we should live such good lives among the unbelievers that they will one day glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).
Is your life a witness? Does it reflect the reality that you belong to Jesus?
- We are to put down roots into Christ knowing that we belong to him and his kingdom
This is the main point. Abraham is offered land as a gift but he says “no.” He tells the Hittites that he wants to buy the land to bury Sarah. Why does he do this.
At first this seems strange because it looks like they are just haggling over a graveyard but as we’ve built up the story, we see that something very special is happening.
You see, if they’d just given him permission to bury Sarah then at any point they could have claimed the land back. Every so often, someone comes and asks nicely if they can use the Chapel carpark for a few minutes. We often say yes. They can park for a while but they don’t get any legal property rights.
Now Abraham believes God’s promise that he has been given this land as a permanent inheritance and so he buys the land to show his faith in the promise. He may have to move again. In fact, he may not live to see the day when the land is fully in the hands of his family/descendants. But now he acts in faith to show he trusts the promise.
This is the point for us. Do you believe God’s promise that he will give you eternal life? Do you believe his promise that he will forgive your sin and make you a new creation. Do you believe his promise that in Jesus you can be part of his family.
If you do, then act on the promise. We do this when we:
Believe inwardly -praying to God asking him to forgive us and to send his Holy Spirit to fill us
Confess outwardly – The Bible encourages us to do this through baptism. Baptism is a way of symbolically putting down roots because the outward profession says “This is permanent.” The permanence does not depend on me but on Christ’s promise that none can pluck me from his hand.
Live fruitfully – We live our lives obediently to God, telling others about Jesus, allowing God to change us.
Are you willing to put down roots in Christ?
Here’s a prayer to help you confirm that decision.
“Lord God. I confess that I am a sinner who needs your salvation. Thank you that Jesus died for me. Please forgive my sin. I ask that through your Holy Spirit you will come and live in my life. Thank you for eternal life. Please help me to live a life that demonstrates the hope I have in you. Amen