Genesis 23:3-20: Respect.
“3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, 4 ‘I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so that I can bury my dead.’ 5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 ‘Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.’ 7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, ‘If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so that he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.’10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 ‘No, my lord,’ he said. ‘Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give[c] you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.’12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, ‘Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so that I can bury my dead there.’14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 ‘Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.’16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre – both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field – was legally made over 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterwards Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were legally made over to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.” NIV UK
‘’Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land…Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land…’’ (7 and 12).
As ‘’aliens and strangers in the world’’ (1 Peter 2:11), we should treat the people of the world with the greatest respect. Their beliefs, ways and customs will inevitably differ from ours, but it doesn’t meant that we can be discourteous towards them. Much influence for good may be had by handling people well.
Verses 17-20 cause me to reflect on the New Testament truth that the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a ‘’deposit.’’ He is the ‘downpayment’, the ‘first instalment’ of our inheritance. He is the ‘guarantee’ of what is to come. Tom Hale makes the point that with the purchase of this field, Abraham gained, we might say, a ‘toehold’ in the promised land. The final possession of the land was still some 500 years away.
This particular cave was to be the final resting place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob.
‘Death is an ever constant reminder that the world is not our home. We rise up from before our dead to confess that we are only strangers and sojourner on the earth. Though the whole country, by God’s deed and gift, belonged to Abraham, it had not as yet been made over, hence the necessity for this deliberate purchase with all the stately formalities of the leisured East. Abraham’s insistence on buying this grave, and the care with which the negotiations were pursued, show that he realised that his descendants would come again into that land and possess it. It was as though he felt that he and Sarah should lie there awaiting the return of their children and their children’s children. See also Gen.49:29,30. In the same way, the graves of martyrs and of missionaries who have fallen at the post of duty are the silent outposts that hold those lands for Christ…’ F.B Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.23.
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that your promises are sure, and we can count on you to bring them to pass in your own good time.