Bible Readings for January 22nd
Abraham and his wife, Sarah, lived their lives as pilgrims in the land God had promised to them. Theirs was a hard life, characterized by unfulfilled longings, constant danger, and disappointment. Still, they obeyed Yahweh, following him to the land of Canaan, out of their love for him and their faith in the covenant promises he made to them.
But in Genesis 23, Sarah dies, never fully receiving the promises that Yahweh had made to her and to her husband. She received her son Isaac, but she never saw her son become a great nation or come into possession of the land of Canaan.
This is a theme that occurs repeatedly through the Bible, as well as in our own experience. We live for a brief time, waiting for God to do all that he has promised, and yet generation after generation is laid to rest in the grave before seeing the culmination of what God has spoken. And yet, with every succeeding generation, God continues his mission to expand his kingdom in this world until the day when Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.1
So how should we conduct our lives in the meantime while we await the fulfillment of God’s promises? Abraham gives us a magnificent example of living by faith in this chapter, even in a passage that appears on the surface to be nothing more than a business negotiation.
First, Abraham insists that his wife be buried in the Promised Land. There is not even a thought of returning to the land of Sarah’s birth to bury her because Abraham believes God’s promise that Canaan is their home—even if they are still only sojourners and aliens there (Gen. 23:4).
Second, Abraham seeks to purchase a piece of land as his possession, refusing to receive any kind of special discount on the property for his wife’s burial place (Gen. 23:5–16). Abraham’s attitude here matches his response in Genesis 14:22–23, when he refused to keep for himself any of the spoils of war, lest the king of Sodom should say, “I have made Abram rich.” Abraham understood that God, not the Hittites, would give him the land. Even when it meant a financial burden to himself, he refused to purchase the land at less than full price lest the Hittites should say, “We have made Abraham rich.”2
To those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God has promised something even greater than the land of Canaan—in fact, God has promised us that we stand to inherit all things in Christ (Luke 12:32; Rom. 8:17). While you wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises, are you grasping for whatever possessions you can find, no matter how you acquire them? Or are you waiting for God to give you the kingdom as your inheritance, just as he has promised?
1 Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 407–13.
2 John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 180.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.