Thursday, October 30, 2008

Genesis 23:3-7 God opens tightly shut doors

Genesis 23:3-7: Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site 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; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.” So Abraham rose and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth.

Abraham mourns for Sarah and then reality sets in as he realizes he has to find a place to bury her. So he goes to the sons of Heth who possessed the land Sarah died in. We first heard of Heth in Genesis 10:15. Heth was the great-grandson of Noah. My own who died in his ninth decade of life actually had enjoyed five great-grandchildren. In the days of Noah and Abraham when people lived much longer, the opportunity for seeing great-grandchildren was even greater than it is now. The genealogy went as follows: Noah begat Ham who begat Canaan, who begat Heth. And Abraham is now speaking to Heth sons.

Having been blessed to be wise and having learned to be a peacemaker, we note first of all how he approaches the sons of Heth. He tells them that he is a stranger in their land and really at their mercy. But he has a need to bury his dead “out of (his) sight” (the Hebrew word is translated as away from his face or presence). Perhaps it is simply a practical desire. Perhaps it is an expression of real pain that he is experiencing, seeing his dead wife still unburied before him. Decent people respond to real needs. Sometimes we hesitate to share our needs out of pride. But God often wants to help us through others if we allow Him to by sharing our vulnerability.

Because he was a respected man, the sons of Heth answer him with total respect, calling him a “mighty prince among us”. What an honor that would be. What an awesome responsibility before God to represent Him as you go about your life being recognized as a prince. With that honor goes reward, definitely from God, but sometimes arranged by God through man. They inform him that he pick any grave he would like from all their graves. It’s his choice to make. And furthermore, they tell him, he won’t be refused by anyone of the brothers, even if he chose the most preferred burial place to bury his dead. What an honor. What otherwise tightly shut doors God can open for those that have been tested and passed.

How would you react to such an honor? The verses that follow explain Abraham’s most interesting reaction.

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