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Genesis 23:20 - Homilies By J.f. Montgomery

Lessons from the sepulcher.

"And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying-place." Abraham's first and only possession in Canaan, a sepulcher. The importance of the par-chase appears in the careful narrative of the transaction. For himself he was content to live as a stranger and pilgrim (cf. 1 Peter 5:7 ); but Sarah's death led him to acquire a burying-place. Declining the offer to use any of the sepulchers of the people of the land, he bought the field and the cave, and carefully prepared the evidence of the purchase. The purchase showed his faith in God's truth; one of the branches of Adam's temptation ( Genesis 3:4 ). It had been promised that his seed, after dwelling in a land not theirs, should return and possess that whereon he stood (cf. Jeremiah 32:14 , Jeremiah 32:15 ). Type of entrance into rest after pilgrimage (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1 ). It showed also his faith in a resurrection (cf. Psalms 16:10 ). The desire that he and his family should lie in the same sepulcher speaks of a life beyond the present. Parted by death, they were one family still. Sarah was to him "my dead." There was a link between them still. The living and dead still one family. Doctrine of communion of saints (cf. Matthew 22:32 ). Death was the gate of life (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ). Canaan a type of the rest which remaineth; Abraham of the "children of the kingdom," pilgrims with a promise. No rest here. Life full of uncertainties. One thing sure, we must die. But—

I. WE ENTER THE HEAVENLY REST THROUGH DEATH ; THE CITY OF GOD THROUGH THE VALLEY OF BACA . Here we walk by faith. Great and glorious promises for our encouragement, that we may not make our home here; yet we know not what we shall be. Sight cannot penetrate the curtain that separates time from eternity. Thus there is the trial, do we walk by faith or by sight? We instinctively shrink from death. It is connected in our mind with sorrow, with interruption of plans, with breaking up of loving companionship; but faith bids us sorrow not as those without hope. It reminds that it is the passing from what is defective and transitory to what is immortal. Here we are trained for the better things beyond, and our thoughts are turned to that sepulcher in which the victory over death was won; thence we see the Lord arising, the pledge of eternal life to all who will have it.

II. THE SEPULCHRE WAS MADE SURE TO ABRAHAM . In time he should enter it as one of the company gathered there to await the resurrection day; but meanwhile it was his. And if we look upon this as typical of our interest in the death of Christ, it speaks of comfort and trust. He took our nature that he might "taste death for every man." His grave is ours ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 ). We are " buried with him," "planted together in the likeness of his death.' The fact of his death is a possession that cannot be taken from us ( Colossians 3:3 , Colossians 3:4 ). He died that we might live. If frail man clings to the tomb of some dear one; if the heart is conscious of the link still enduring, shall we not rejoice in our union with him whose triumph makes us also more than conquerors?

III. THE FIELD AND CAVE . How small a part did Abraham possess in his lifetime, but it was an earnest of the whole; he felt it so, and in faith buried his dead (cf. Genesis 1:25 ; Hebrews 11:22 ). An earnest is all we possess here, but still we have an earnest. In the presence of the Lord ( John 14:23 ), in the peace which he gives, in the spirit of adoption, we have the "substance of things hoped for," a real fragment and sample of the blessedness of heaven.— M .

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