THE FAMILY BURIAL SITE

I was raised in Oklahoma.  Both of my parents’ families settled two generations back near the towns of Prague and Stroud on land in which they farmed in all kinds of ways to earn a living.  They raised stock and planted gardens that provided a self-sustaining lifestyle.  They sold off the rest to buy more stock and pay the bills.  They had other talents and abilities that God used to build his church among them. 

My grandpa was a talented carpenter, for example. He helped to build the church I grew up in by being the general contractor as well as all the wood related work inside. Uncle Archie was a barber that gave my little brother his first haircut.  Many were musicians. My grandpa’s brother was a preacher and began a church in another area in the country.  Though not rich, just rich in faith, they lived in gratitude to God. They were not perfect but knew the God of forgiveness.  When family or even strangers were in trouble, they stepped in to help.  This is my heritage. 

On “Decoration Day” also known as Memorial Day, my parents, taught by their parents, would drive around to the family burial sites to lay flowers on graves.  This was important to my family.  When I was a child, we would meet other family members who had moved away at one of the grave sites.  After laying flowers, having prayer, we then had a picnic at the nearby park in town, played ball, and laughed while hearing stories of the past about our loved ones who had gone on before us. 

Later, as a young adult, my parents took great joy in driving me and my family to all the now sold off farms of our family members to show us where everyone was buried so we wouldn’t forget. They told stories of their own childhood, the churches they attended, their faith stories, the places they went to along with the experiences they had with their cousins and best friends growing up.  They told me everything of who did what to whom with a complete commentary!  (Smiling) Yes, my grandparents and parents kept the memories alive, impressing their journey upon me by showing me the places they had traveled.  I hold these memories close to my heart.  Seeing the places brought me into the story. 

Yes, in those days most people were buried on the farmland they owned in a specific, peaceful location typical on a hill under some trees.  It was the custom.  It still is the custom with people who own their own land of sizable proportion.  But now, life is different.  Like many of us today, we must buy a burial plot on land designated as a cemetery to bury our dead or we have the option to be cremated, avoiding the cost of a plot of ground. It is big business to accommodate the dead with dignity.  Many people in mourning are taken advantage of in this time of grief.   

A company or organization cares for the land where people lay to rest their family members.  You don’t own the land, only the few feet of a rectangular piece about six feet under the ground to accommodate the casket in which the body turns back to dust and bones.  Some will come to lay flowers on the grave year after year, but many do not. 

We understand why Abraham, a “stranger” in the land God gave him, wants to buy a piece of land to bury his precious Sarah. He wants it to be his own place.  He wants to purchase it in front of the town council which makes the transaction legal and binding with witnesses the see and hear what takes place.  (That was the custom of making transactions legit.) He is mourning for his Sarah and wants to honor her with a dignified place to bury her body.  We get it, don’t we?  We are sad with Abraham.  Isaac is a young man around 27 years of age at this time.  Abraham’s example will be impressed upon his son.

Genesis 23, The Message

1-2 Sarah lived 127 years. Sarah died in Kiriath Arba, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Abraham mourned for Sarah and wept.

3-4 Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites: “I know I’m only an outsider here among you, but sell me a burial plot so that I can bury my dead decently.”

5-6 The Hittites responded, “Why, you’re no mere outsider here with us, you’re a prince of God! Bury your dead wife in the best of our burial sites. None of us will refuse you a place for burial.”

7-9 Then Abraham got up, bowed respectfully to the people of the land, the Hittites, and said, “If you’re serious about helping me give my wife a proper burial, intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar. Ask him to sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, the one at the end of his land. Ask him to sell it to me at its full price for a burial plot, with you as witnesses.”

10-11 Ephron was part of the local Hittite community. Then Ephron the Hittite spoke up, answering Abraham with all the Hittites who were part of the town council listening: “Oh no, my master! I couldn’t do that. The field is yours—a gift. I’ll give it and the cave to you. With my people as witnesses, I give it to you. Bury your deceased wife.”

12-13 Abraham bowed respectfully before the assembled council and answered Ephron: “Please allow me—I want to pay the price of the land; take my money so that I can go ahead and bury my wife.”

14-15 Then Ephron answered Abraham, “If you insist, master. What’s four hundred silver shekels between us? Now go ahead and bury your wife.”

16 Abraham accepted Ephron’s offer and paid out the sum that Ephron had named before the town council of Hittites—four hundred silver shekels at the current exchange rate.

17-20 That’s how Ephron’s field next to Mamre—the field, its cave, and all the trees within its borders—became Abraham’s property. The town council of Hittites witnessed the transaction. Abraham then proceeded to bury his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah that is next to Mamre, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. The field and its cave went from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burial plot.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

As Abraham buries Sarah, memories must flood his mind, remembering all they had experienced together.  They left the home they were raised to go where God led.  Together they learned to be obedient to God.  Now they are separated, but God is still with Abraham. 

Abraham wants to do what is right in the eyes of God.  God is still leading this man of faith.  To those living in the land around him, Abraham is recognized as a man of great character, “prince of God”, along with being a man of great integrity.  We can learn much about living our lives before God from Abraham’s relationship with God and with those around him in the land of Canaan.

Even in mourning, be the person who lives for God, led by God’s Spirit, as a habit of doing what is pleasing to God.  Be all-in with God, doing more than is required by the standard of the world.

Lord,

You are God and we are not.  I trust in you alone to teach me what is right, good and pleasing to you.  May the power of your Holy Spirit continue to guide me, teach me and show me your way to follow.  Grow the fruits of Your Holy Spirit in me so I will live a life pleasing to you.  From the inside out, I want to please you.

In Jesus Name, Amen

About randscallawayffm

Randy and Susan co founded Finding Focus Ministries in 2006. Their goal as former full time pastors, is to serve and provide spiritual encouragement and focus to those on the "front lines" of ministry. Extensive experience being on both sides of ministry, paid and volunteer, on the mission fields of other countries as well as the United States, helps them bring a different perspective to those who need it most. Need a lift? Call us 260 229 2276.
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