Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”
33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
When a believer dies, they are gathered to their people in more ways than one. We recently buried my dad’s ashes in his parents’ grave in Lancaster. The ashes of his sister and brother-in-law are also in that same plot. I understand it was his cherished wish to be ‘with’ his parents and, for us, as a family, there was a sense of taking him ‘home.’ But as a Christian, it is my conviction that dad is ‘home’ in a far more significant way, and it is comforting to think of the family reunion they are having in another world, another dimension. However, greater than any of this is the reality of being ‘forever with the Lord.’
Jacob was still living by faith when he died, and his last instruction shows it. (This is a repetition of 47:29,30, but in greater detail. He had already spoken to Joseph about the matter, but now he wanted all his sons to be aware of their joint responsibility.) Jacob, too, wanted to be in the same grave as his parents and grandparents, and one of his wives – Leah. But for him it wasn’t primarily an emotional request. It was a statement of faith. Tom Hale explains that that this burial place, where Abraham and Isaac and their wives were buried, was like an “advance” or “deposit” on the family’s eventual inheritance of the promised land. Later, Joseph was to request that his bones be carried to Canaan (50:24,25). ‘In this way the founding fathers of Israel confirmed their faith that indeed, one day, the land would belong to their descendants.’ ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.202.
PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the hope of a richer, fuller life beyond this life for all who trust in Christ
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