Now I want to just clear something up because toward the end of our study last week we talked about the place where Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac. It was one of the mountains God said He would show him, which was Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah, back then in Abraham's time, was simply a hill that rose up as part of the landscape. There was nothing much around it except a little township called Salem. Eventually called Jebuz. Eventually called Jerusalem. But it was the peak of a mountain. As years went on, a temple was built on that mountain. It was the temple of Solomon. Later on, the temple of Nehemiah, rebuilding the temple of Solomon. Later on, it was enlarged by Herod and in the New Testament, a temple was there as well--but much larger. If you were to look at the mountain through history, you would have to picture at toward the base of the hill, that's where the city began, Jebuz, Salem and then Jebuz. When David occupied that territory, and eventually Solomon built the temple, he built it up on the slope of the hill. As the city extended outward, upward on the hill, the temple was built, not on the top, but on the slope of the hill. Follow me? The top is still here, the city's down here, somewhere up in the slope, that little town, or that temple was built by Solomon. It was destroyed by the Babylonians. It was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah. When Herod the Great got into town, he wanted to make an extravagant place. So he built a retaining wall on part of that slope, filled it in, and made it flat. A 35-acre platform; a 35-acre flat platform called the Temple Mount. If you go to Jerusalem today and you stand on the Mount of Olives you can look at it. The Temple Mount, that flat platform from the days of Herod the Great, is still there today.
But that temple platform and where the temple stood on Mount Moriah is not the top of Mount Moriah. The top of Mount Moriah is still further to the north on the outside of the city walls. It rises, it peaks, and then it goes back down. Where the temple stood is not the top, where Golgotha was is the top. Golgotha is the place Jesus was crucified. Do you follow me? Now in Abraham's day, again, there were no temples, there were no buildings, it was just rolling hills and topography. When God said, ‘Take your son and sacrifice him on the mountain,' the top of Mount Moriah would naturally be the place he would have taken Isaac. So we have a picture of Abraham sacrificing his son, or almost, whom God calls his only begotten son, he was dead in Abraham's mind and heart for three days, until the Angel stopped the knife from being plunged in. It would have been on the top of Mount Moriah and when Jesus was sacrificed by His Father, it was in the same spot where Abraham almost sacrificed his only begotten son. So I wanted to clear that up because I did have a few questions last week about where the temple stood, was that the top or not, and it was not so I hope that clears it up. Now we're going to pick up in verse 15 and finish verse, down to verse 24 and then into chapter 23. Now I have a question for you as we begin. Do you want fellowship with God? How many would raise their hand and say, I want it, I really want fellowship with God. Ok. Now I raised my hand as well but I wonder if we understand what we're saying we want. Because the idea of fellowship is to share like experiences with another person. Abraham, in chapter 22, enters in to the deepest form of fellowship with God that I believe is possible. Now listen to what Paul says in the New Testament, then I'll get back to this. Paul the Apostle, in Philippians, says, "That I might know Him." That I might know Him. I want to know God. That's what we raised our hand just a minute ago and said. I want to know God; I want to fellowship with God. Now listen to what he says, "That I might know Him and the power of His resurrection." We're going, "Yeah! Yeah I want some of that! I want to fellowship with that, too. I want power in my life." "That I might know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering being made conformable even to His death." Ok, now we're going, ah, now wait, wait a minute, the first part I like, not too sure about part two. Resurrection power? I want that. Fellowship with God and resurrected power? Want that; want power in my life. But what about the fellowship of suffering? You see for a moment in time Abraham and God were in the same club. They both knew what it was like to sacrifice their son. They were on the same page, in the same club, in the same activity, in deep, sorrowful fellowship with one another. That's the deepest form of fellowship. I bring that up to offer this possibility. What about seeing your times of trial, your times of suffering, your times of heartache, as an opportunity to meet God in a way you could not meet Him any other way? I'm going to fellowship with God in this deep, dark valley, this horrible, awesome moment, this terrible time of sacrifice and loss. How about that I might know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering being made conformable even to His death? We're in a period of loss in Abraham's life. Chapter 22, the offering of his son, he didn't go through with it but for a period of a time he was willing to do so and in his own mind, his son was dead for three days before that resurrection, so to speak, of hope, when the Angel staid his hand and he didn't plunge that knife into his son's heart. And, as I mentioned last week, all of heaven must have stopped in amazement to look on earth and see how a man could love God. But thousands of years later on the very same piece of real estate, all of heaven marveled to see the demonstration of how God could love mankind in offering His only begotten Son on a cross.
Now in verse 15 it says, "Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son--blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies." Your descendants, Abraham. In other words, will one day occupy the land of their enemies, the Canaanites. They're going to occupy it. It's going to become the Promised Land, not the land of Canaan. It'll become Israel. "In your seed," verse 18, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Verse 18 is the very first occurrence of the word obey in the Bible. And I told you that I'd tell you whenever we have the rule of first mention. Here's the first time obeyed is noted. Here is God, from heaven, noticing and rewarding Abraham, not for how he felt, not for how he thought, but for what he did. He's obeying God. It's a huge, huge thing. It's the evidence of faith. True faith will be faith that obeys. It's obedient faith. Because you obeyed. It's not that you thought you would obey; it's not that you just had pleasant feelings about Me, but you did what I said. All of Abraham's life required obedience. Now he believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness but that faith that he had was shown by obedience. For example, God had said to Abraham, ‘Leave your hometown, Ur of the Chaldeans.' Did he do it? Yep. You say, well he didn't go all the way. He went to Haran. Yeah, but when God finally said leave Haran and go to that land of Canaan did he do it? Yes. When God told him to wait by faith upon the promised son, did he do it? Yep. And when God told him to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah did he do it? Well he went to do it and he obeyed and he would've done it, but God again staid his hand. God noticed his obedience. It's the long obedience in the same direction.
Now I draw your attention to the phrase ‘your seed' in verse 18. Very, very important. And here's what I want you to know. In the Bible, there's four ways the term seed is fulfilled. There's four different definitions of Abraham's seed. Number one, his natural seed, his natural descendants. Physical descendants of Abraham, i.e., the Jewish people. that's the seed of Abraham. Number two, natural dash spiritual seed. These are believers in Christ who are Jewish people, Romans chapter 9, 10, and 11. As opposed to those who believe not. The seed of Abraham. Number three usage of the term seed, the spiritual non-physical descendants of Abraham. That is anybody who by faith believes in Christ and is justified by faith like Abraham was. Non-Jewish but Gentile, that would be me and most of you. You're spiritual descendants of Abraham. Romans 9 mentions that, Galatians chapter 3 mentions that, and here's the fourth application. The ultimate seed who is Jesus Christ. All of those are used in various applicational forms in the Bible. Physical, or natural, natural spiritual, three, spiritual, and number four, the ultimate seed who is Christ. Now I'll just give you that reading Galatians. In Galatians, and you don't have to turn to it, you can write it down if you want because it'll be done by the time I get to it, Galatians 3:16, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made." He does not say, ‘and to seeds', as of many or plural, but as of one. "And to your seed who is Christ." Now all of the world was to be blessed through Abraham's seed and that means physical descendants of Abraham, spiritual descendants of Abraham, as well as the ultimate seed, Christ. All of the above are true. Think what we would be missing if the Jewish people were not around. If there were no Jewish people. well, number one, we'd be missing our Bible. I couldn't say, ‘turn in your Bibles tonight,' because we would have no Bibles to turn to. We would have no Ten Commandments. That was part of the covenant God gave to them. The Ten Commandments, very important to us, it's the basis of our jurisprudence system in most western civilized nations. Number three, we would have no Savior. He came through the lineage of the Jewish nation. And without a Jewish Jesus, we would have no Christianity, no salvation. He's the ultimate seed. And so that promise really is of the gospel, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." "So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba."
Question: why does verse 19 say Abraham returned to his young men? How come Isaac didn't return? Remember what Abraham said to them back in chapter 22, well we're in chapter 22, last week? He said "The lad and I will go up yonder and worship and we will return to you." So why doesn't the text say they both returned? Just Abraham returned. I don't quite know but it is interesting that, though obviously Isaac returned as well because he wasn't sacrificed, there is no mention of Isaac from the time of this almost sacrifice until we see him in a couple chapters when he reappears with his bride. His Gentile bride. There's an absence and then he appears again as he meets his bride, as he comes again with his bride, and with his bride we see them. It's just something to note; maybe it means something, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's one of those little fingerprints of the Holy Spirit because obviously the sacrifice on Mount Moriah is indicative of the sacrifice of Christ on the same place. And it's just interesting that he is not seen here, but will be seen again when he appears with his Gentile bride. Again, that could just be a wonderful little touch by the Holy Spirit.
"Now it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, "Indeed Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor." Now there's a list of names--twelve sons that Nahor had. Now get these names: "Huz his firstborn, Buz his brother." So the first two boys, Huz and Buz. Boy, if they were around today, wouldn't they get ridiculed? "Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel." How many of you, and you know anybody who's having kids soon? Are any of you here going to have children soon? Are you? Congratulations. Does any of those names appeal to you, who raised your hand? You're looking for biblical names; you're thinking, forget it, right? Good move. I dare you. Try this one: Pildash. No, I'm just kidding. Now it says Bethuel. Now look at verse 23: "Bethuel begot Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah. There's another one: Maachah. Now why is this little information given to us? Because the narrative is going to show, because the promised seed is Isaac and Isaac in a couple chapters is going to get married, and now we have a hint of Bethuel who's going to have a child named Rebekah and Rebekah will have a brother named Laban and all of these characters are very important in the next few patriarchs. Isaac and Jacob.
Now we get to chapter 23 and it's an obituary, chapter 23, it's the death of a princess. Sarah dies in this chapter. Sarah, originally her name was Sarai which meant contentious. God renamed her, thankfully, to princess; Sarah means that, she's 127 years old when she dies. Ok, you're thinking, it's about time that she dies. When you get to 127, ok, that's like, old. I got an email today from a friend overseas and I don't know how true it is but they're trying to corroborate. A family from the country of Georgia, these ex-Soviet states, that there's a woman, I saw her picture even, that she's going to be 130 years old, they say, on July 8th. And so they're trying to make, they're trying to contend with Guinness Book of World Records because the record holder is 114-year-old woman from Japan and they're saying, look, we have the documentation. She's going to be 130 years old July 8th. And you know what, honest, I don't know when the picture was taken, but she didn't look that bad, I mean for 130. If you're just breathing air, you're looking pretty good, but this lady didn't look too bad. So it says, "Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah." It's the death of a princess--Abraham's princess.
Now some of you, most of you, will remember back to September 6th, 1997, when the people's princess, she was called, died. Princess Diana. The most photographed woman in the world died in a car crash. When she died, it was such a huge deal, a million people showed up in person, lining the streets of that death march as that flowery casket drove in that glass hearse to her burial place. 2.5 billion other people, billion, watched it by television. It was a huge deal. The people's princess. But here we have Sarah. Now she's a big deal and here's why. As the wife of Abraham, she's the mother of the Jewish nation. There's no other woman in the Bible where her age is mentioned, her death and her burial and burial place is mentioned, besides Sarah. And it's because of who she is. She occupies such a huge place in the Bible. In fact, women are told to emulate her; she's an example to women. Now I find that interesting. Here's something you might find interesting. Nowhere in the Bible is Mary, the mother of Jesus, ever given as an example for people to follow. Did you know that? She's never held up as a supreme example. But Sarah, twice in the Bible, is. Once is Isaiah chapter 51, where the children of Israel are told to look back over their own history, remember where they've come from, and Abraham and Sarah are listed in that. The other is 1 Peter chapter 3, where the outward woman isn't to be emphasized, but the inward woman is to be emphasized and Sarah is given as a beautiful example once again. An example to be followed.
Now here's what I love about the language of the death of Sarah in chapter 23. Follow me. Number one, the language is straightforward language. It talks about death very openly and plainly. You know why? Because death is a fact of life, that's why. And the lesson for us, in the straightforward language of chapter 23, is we should learn, in preparation for our own death, or the death of people in our family, is to learn to talk about it openly. In many families, it's not discussed. Don't talk about it; I don't want to talk about it. Well, if you don't talk about, then you're not going to deal with it until that person dies. Then you have to deal with it. Better to talk about it, and get the right attitude about it, first. So it's straightforward language. Second thing I want you to notice as we work our way through chapter 23, it's personal. Sarah is mentioned by name. She's not called the dearly departed or Abraham's loved one, but she's personalized. Again, I think that's huge. Number three, Sarah is not given into the hands of specialists who handle the body and handle the funeral, but she's in the loving hands of her husband, Abraham who seeks to bury his wife. I'll tell you, one of the things I'm grateful for, I lost my father and my mother and my brother, is the ability at my mother's death to be next to her and not have her at the hospital, but be next to her in that last week of her death. And to take care of her and to watch her leave earth and go into heaven. That was wonderful! Painful--but wonderful. Holy ground, I feel.
And so "Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her." No matter what commentary I read about this chapter, inevitably one or more commentary will bring up the longevity issue. How could someone be 127 years of age? They make a big deal out of how old people were and then they go back to earlier times, anti-Deluvian times, before the flood, when they lived to be really old. You know, Adam was, like, 930 years old when he died. Seth, 912 years old when he died. Methuselah, 969 years old when he died. Now that's old! After awhile it's just hard to blow out candles on your birthday cake. But the kind of longevity, even in the 900's, is not even unique to the Bible. There are records that show, records from India, records from Egypt, records from Persia and other countries of that era, that talk about longevity, besides the Bible. And scientists, and we've covered this in earlier parts of Genesis, talk about the canopy that could have been around the earth and protected the cells from the bombardment of radiation that cause a breakdown in the genetic system that they see a drop-off immediately after the Flood and they like to trace it back to that vapor canopy being disposed of. But, but to me, living to be 127 isn't the issue. For me, the big question is how did she look so good at 90, so that Abraham, remember a couple of chapters ago, had to lie about her? It's my sister, you know, she's good-looking, stay away from her, she's 90! Really? And you're worried? Go figure.
It says in verse 2 that Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Now here's the first mention in the Bible of tears. First time you read about somebody weeping for somebody, tears shed, it's right here, Abraham weeping for Sarah. Now those tears are going to continue throughout the Bible, throughout history, throughout our history, on into the future, until we get to Revelation chapter 21 where God will wipe away every tear. They're now a part of the stain of human life, of humanity. Until Revelation when it's the end and He restores all things. Abraham mourned for his wife. I don't know why, but sometimes I meet Christians who try to be really pious and say, you shouldn't cry, you shouldn't weep, you shouldn't get emotional, you're loved one's in heaven. I want to slap that person! Because that defies even the design of the human body that God gave you. He produced little things in the corner of your eyes called lachrymal glands and they secrete what we know as tears. They do a lot of things. They provide moisture for the eyes, they take out dirt and foreign bodies, but they also are triggered to the emotional centers of your brain. And those lachrymal glands get very active when there's a deep, stressful loss in a person's life. And the Bible even says, "There is a time to weep and there's a time to laugh, there's a time to mourn, there's a time to dance," so if some pious believer tells you you shouldn't weep over somebody that has died and go to heaven. Great, they've gone to heaven; I'm still here on earth without the one that I love. It's very natural; it's very normal. In fact, it's very unnatural, it's very unnormal and I'm going to even say unspiritual, to not sorrow. It would defy the way we have been built by our Creator. He wept for her; he mourned for her.
And then it says in verse 3, "Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, "I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight." And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, "Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us." Ok, something to note here. Back in those days if you were in a country, you moved from your hometown, like Abraham did, Ur of the Chaldeans and he's in Canaan, it would be typical if your loved one died, to want to take them back home to where you came from and bury them in the land of their origin, the land of their family, the land where they were born. The fact that Abraham does not want to do that indicates that he is believing the promise of God that that land they're in is the land of promise, not only for Abraham and Sarah, but for his descendants as God promised that land to be. It's an indication that this is his new home. He's willing to take some property here and bury somebody in it so he has a stake in it, indicating that he's believing the promises of God, not taking his wife back home. Now when it says that he, verse 3, it's a beautiful phrase, "stood up from before his dead," I read a commentator that said this indicates a change, a new, a new corner that he's turning in his grieving process. It indicates, says this commentator, a squaring of the shoulders, a lifting of the eyes, a firming of the step, and a desire to move on now. There's a time to mourn, in other words, and there's a time to move on. Now the Hebrews mourned for 30 days--30 days. We mourn, we have a funeral day, and we might mourn for a few days, but they had, I mean, services of mourning that lasted for 30 days. The Egyptians, 70 days. I mean, they really got into it. And they demonstrated their sorrow. They would rip their clothes, throw dirt in the air, and, even in later Hebrew times like the New Testament, they would hire professional mourners. So when you just sort of got tired of wailing, they would be paid to stand outside your house and go, "Ahhhhh, huhhuhuh!" and just so people passing by would know what had happened. I know it sounds goofy but they wanted the emotions to be let out and freely expressed. So he now stood up from before his dead. He's going to do something. He's going to be proactive. And I think this is again, very healthy. There's a thing called, well, I'll just say what we usually say in slang, good grief. My mom used to say that, "Good grief!" But you know what I found? Grief is good. It's good to grieve. But prolonged grief is not good. When my brother died, I watched my mom for years never get over it. Never get over it. Until finally we had an aunt in the family who took my mom and just took her in her room, closed the door, and said, "You're going to have to move on," and just got her to talk it through and not. Well, she just didn't deal with it very well. And my brother said the same thing to us after he died. It was a period of mourning and a week of reminiscing and then my brother got us all together and said, "Ok. It's great that we share these things. It's important that we grieve but there comes a time now where we're going to have, we have to move on with our lives." And he was right.
So Abraham does something. He selects a burial plot for his wife, puts her in the ground, in chapter 24 he gets a bride for Isaac, and in chapter 25, he gets remarried. Now you go, well now wait a minute, how old is he? Yeah, it's interesting, because here he's like 137 years old. And he's thinking of number two? But he dies at 175 years of age so he's got some time. He's not thinking about that yet, but as the time wears on he will think about it, he will move on, and it indicates a healthy way of dealing with it. Now I want you to notice something else in verse 4, and I do notice the time as well. He says, "I am a foreigner and a visitor among you". Now of course he means that I've been living in tents, I don't own any real estate, I know this is the land God has promised me but I don't even have a single acre yet, but we know something else. That in Abraham's own mind and heart he is thinking spiritually. I'm a foreigner--I'm just a pilgrim here. Because Hebrews 11 makes a big deal out of this, saying, "Abraham," chapter 11 verse 10 or 12, I can't remember which verse, says that "Abraham waited for a city that has foundations whose builder and maker was God." So he's moving toward eternity and that's the city he's really going to put his roots down in. God has promised the land for his descendants, but he himself is moving toward heaven. So it's good language. I'm a foreigner and a visitor among you.
By the way, this is why Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4, as he talks about Jesus coming back and he says, "I write this to you lest you sorrow like those who have no hope." Do you remember that little text? The reason we sorrow, and he sorrows here, but we sorrow differently, it's a, it's a hopeful sorrow, is because if our loved ones know Jesus Christ then the moment they die we know exactly where they are. And we rejoice for them. And so his wife has died, she's 127. Now she's with the Lord. It's a coronation day. He's a foreigner; he's a pilgrim among them. "And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, "Hear us, my lord: you are a mighty prince among us". Now watch, this is a very long account of a real-estate transaction. And he says, "Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places." We'll give you a grave. "None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead." Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. And he spoke with them, saying, "If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me at the full price, as property for a burial place among you." So they're saying, look, just bury her, you can have the place for the grave and he goes, no, I want to buy some land. Now why does he want to buy land? It's indicating that he believes God's promise that this land, that he's just been a tent-dweller in, now he's going to buy some acreage because he believes this is the land that God wants us to live in, die in, get buried in, and our family will possess eventually as according to the promise of God.
"Now Ephron dwelt among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the presence of the sons of Heth, all who entered at the gate of his city, saying, "No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of the sons of my people. I give it to you. Bury your dead!" Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land; and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, "If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there." And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, "My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead." And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver [400 shekels is 100 pounds of silver] for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants." Ok. To our ears this sounds like a polite conversation. What you should know is this is a typical ancient Middle Eastern transaction where they try to out-courtesy each other but the owner of this land has no intention of giving it to him. So he says, bury your dead! No, I want to pay for it. Well, what is that to us, it's worth 400. Now 400 shekels, you go, wow he's getting a bargain, no he's not. This is a huge price. And every commentator, every ancient historian, will say, 400 shekels is huge, because David will, later on, much later on, for 1/8 that price, buy the entire threshing floor of Arana, 2 Samuel chapter 24, to build the temple that his son will build. He'll buy it for 50 shekels--that whole huge top of Mount Moriah for 50 shekels. 1/8 this price. 400 shekels was exorbitant. So when he says, look, I'll just give it to you, the ancient Hittite tradition was to offer it but then to expect some kind of gift or several gifts, especially since Abraham was wealthy, for the land. So it's not like he's just trying to give it away, he's expecting, you know, something in return. So he announces this exorbitant price, 400 shekels, probably thinking Abraham says, I'll give you 200 or I'll give you 100. Now I just got to give you a little bit of insight. Things haven't changed much. If you go to Israel today and you walk through the shops of Jerusalem, you're going to walk into some of the shops, heads up to those of you who are going on our tour, and if they announce a price to you, do not say, oh, ok! Now they're looking for naïve Americans to do exactly that. But nobody does that. They all start at a price and then they allow themselves to be worked down. They put a huge margin up there and then you work your way down. So you walk into the shop and they'll say, I'll tell you what, this'll be 20 shekels. And you go, 20 shekels, that's like ridiculous, I'll give you 4. 4 shekels, sir, you insult me! But, I like you. And because I like you, 18 shekels. 18 shekels? Oh, come on. That's a rip-off! I'll give you 8 shekels. 8 shekels? Why would you do this to me? Do you not like me? And they'll just lay it on. But tell you what; because you're my first customer I'll give you a special price. The first customer price. And they have got all sorts of language so be careful. Don't go in there, oh, that sounds like a great deal, I couldn't get one of these back home! Yeah--there's a reason for it. So it's like that a little bit in reverse, where they seem to be very courteous to each other but they're really not.
And Ephron answered Abraham, verse 14, saying to him, my lord, listen to me; the land is worth 400 shekels of silver what is that between you and me? Bury your dead. Abraham listened and he paid the full amount. "So the field of Ephron," verse 17, "which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city." Something else that would maybe help us understand a little bit more. According to Hittite law in those days, it was frowned upon to sell any of your land to a foreigner. Abraham was considered a foreigner. He had settled in the land but he was moving around in a semi-Bedouin kind of an environment. He was from Ur, not from this land, not from the Canaanite region. He's considered a foreigner. They did not want to sell it to him but he basically is saying I'm not going anywhere; I'm going to stay here. And because it was his wife they were willing to sell it. But according to Hittite law once again, if you owned land, let's say you owned this section of land, and you were to sell a smaller portion of that one section, you had the deed to the entire section. If you were to parcel out a smaller portion of that deeded property to somebody else, as the original owner you have to pay the taxes on the full amount. If you can unload the whole property then they have to assume the tax responsibility. So if that gives you a little bit of insight into what this Hittite is thinking when he says, 400 shekels, yeah, if I can get that price I'm doing real good and plus you're going to pay the taxes on it.
So it's called the Cave if Machpelah. Now today if you go to Hebron, you can see where Abraham is buried. It's one of the places that we know is authentic because it dates all the way back, and it was carefully preserved, even 2,000 years ago, when Herod the Great built the temple in Jerusalem. If you go to Hebron, there's a Herodian wall, built by Herod the Great, to preserve the Cave of Machpelah. In fact, it's probably, in the land of Israel, the best-preserved Herodian architecture in existence. I've been there; it's wonderful to see. It's under Muslim occupation now, but there was a time when we could bring our tour groups there. It's unsafe; we won't be able to this time. But when you go up to it, there's a little peephole and you can look down into a lighted tunnel and see the entrance at the end of the field of the Cave of Machpelah where Sarah was buried. And then verse 19, "And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place." Now by the time we get to the end of Genesis this cave is going to be full. Sarah is put in it now, later on Abraham will be buried in it, Isaac will be buried in it, Rebekah will be buried in it, Jacob will be buried in it, and Leah will be buried in it, by the end of the book of Genesis. So he's buying it as a family plot and many of his family members to come will be buried there. Now Rachel, I didn't mention her because she's not buried in it. She's buried at a special tomb just outside of Bethlehem, which is visible even to this day. But she's not buried in it, but it'll be full by the end of Genesis.
And so, we already ended it, didn't we? "So the field and the cave that is in it were deed to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place." Ok. I want to give you a few quick take-home lessons on this whole thing of burial and death. Number one; learn to get comfortable with the idea of death because that's where you're going. You're marching down that road. Now I'm hoping Jesus will come back before then. But He hasn't come back that. And barring that eventuality, we're all going to die. I know that just from history. Isn't that right? Everybody so far kicks the proverbial bucket. One out of one is the going rate. There are some exceptions, Lazarus was raised but he had to die still and some were taken up into heaven. But the general population it is appointed unto man once to die. You're going to keep that appointment. Billy Graham was at university years ago and this student said, "What is the one thing, Dr. Graham, that surprised you most about life?" He was quick to answer, "Its brevity." It's a very short time we have on this earth. So in your own families with your own children, would you learn to discuss death and life and get the proper attitude toward it? Learn to broach the subject, even when people say, don't want to talk about it. Well, you're gonna have to deal with it, so it's best to get comfortable with it.
Number two; get your house in order. Abraham did. He got this burial plot and for the eventuality of not just his wife but his own death and the death of his children. Do you have a will? Or do you have a trust or a living trust? Do you have insurance? Have you thought about those kinds of issues? I know a lot of Christians, I don't worry about that. Well, somebody else, in your place, like your children, will have to worry about it. So I recommend that you get your house in order. Number three, I recommend that you clear strained relationships. Nothing complicates death more than strained relationships. Before entering the ministry I worked in the medical field and I stood in a lot of emergency rooms as loved ones died. And then relatives would come in and they would completely break down because of the last word that was said to that person and the inability now to reconcile. It's over. I wanted to say this to him, but I said something very foul instead. Clear up those relationships. Number four; get a good network of friendships around you now. If you're the type of individual who's a loner and you're isolated, when somebody you know or love dies and you're isolated, not good. But if you can now develop a good, strong network of believing friends, brothers and sisters, hold you accountable, give you strength, give you encouragement, that's your fallback. And you know what? We all need that fallback. Fifth and finally, the most important. Get prepared spiritually. Get prepared spiritually. Are you ready to meet your Maker? Are you ready to stand before a holy, righteous God come the day of judgment? Are you spiritually prepared? I remember as a kid I used to say, if I should day before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul? To take! Did you pray that, too? What if that actually happens? What if you die before you wake? Are you ready for that? Now I used to read this illustration in commentaries and different illustration books until I finally was given a photograph of a tombstone taken back on the East Coast and I have a photograph of it. And on somebody's tombstone it reads: "Pause stranger as you pass me by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now so you will be, so prepare for death and follow me." Very profound to put on a tombstone, is it not? Pause stranger as you pass me by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now so you will be, so prepare for death and follow me. We're all going there. Well, that's the photograph that I have. I hear that somebody in going by this cemetery saw that sign and wrote on a makeshift sign and put it next to this tombstone, these words, "To follow you I'm not content, until I know which way you went." Now that's even better! Ok. So he's saying prepare for death and follow me. Ok, so where did you end up? I don't want to follow you unless you want to heaven. Because if you went to the other place, I don't want to go there. "To follow you I'm not content, until I know which way you went." It is appointed unto every man once to die and after this the? Judgment. That's an appointment we're all going to keep. Moses in Psalm 90 said, "Teach us to number our days that we might have a heart of wisdom."
So that's where we're all going. Are you spiritually prepared? Are you sure that if you were to die tonight that you would be in God's presence? Acquitted of all of your sins, in right relationship with Him, enjoying heaven forever? Well you know what? If you're not sure, then you better make sure tonight! Because we don't know how long we're going to live. Oh, I plan to live to 127. I don't. And I might go tonight, tomorrow, this week. We never know. So it behooves us to act while we can with what we do know--to be spiritually received. And to receive the only solution for our failures, our shortcomings, that the Bible calls our sins. By receiving the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross that assures us of resurrected life in glory. Are you sure you have that? If not, be sure.