Genesis 089 – The Making of a MarriageGenesis 22:20‒23:2 • Dr. Andy Woods • August 21, 2022 • Genesis
The Making of a Marriage
August 21, 2022
Dr. Andy Woods
Well, good morning, everybody. Let’s take our Bibles this morning, if we could, and open them to the Book of Genesis 22:20. I want to thank Gabe for filling in last week and Pastor Jim for filling in last week Sunday School. The title of our message this morning is The Making of a Marriage. I guess the whole subject of marriage is pretty important to God since Jesus performed His first public miracle in John’s Gospel at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. And did you know that your own relationship to the Lord is analogized to a marriage? How a husband is supposed to treat his wife. How a wife interacts with her husband. That is all built on how the Lord, as the groom, interacts with us as the bride of Christ. The interesting thing about marriages is God puts them together long before the actual people getting married know what’s going on. Amen? And so, I think we see an example of that in our passage today. But this all comes up in the life of Abraham. Who is a very critical and central figure in the outworking of God’s purposes, because it’s through this man, Abraham, that God is going to start a nation and in fact, is starting a nation, the nation of Israel. And the nation of Israel, of course, is a big, big deal in the Bible, because if there is no Israel, there is no Jesus.
If there is no Israel, there is no Bible, because all these blessings have come to us through God’s work with Israel. We’ve used this verse here, Isaiah 43:1, to communicate this many times. It says, “But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by my name; you are Mine!’” And it is interesting that when you study this in Hebrew and you look at those words, “creation,” “creator,” “formed,” you can see those exact same expressions used in Genesis 1 which describes the creation of the cosmos. So just as God created directly the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1, the nation of Israel is something that He also directly created. It’s the only nation in the history of mankind directly created by God for the purpose of blessing the world with the Scripture, with the Messiah. And when God does a work, many times He will call a human instrument to that work. And in this case, the human instrument is this man, Abraham. That’s why so much information has been given about him, beginning really in Genesis 11.
Genesis 12‒21 Abraham’s Early Journeys
- Unconditional promises (Gen 12:1-3)
- From Haran to Canaan (Gen 12:4-5)
- In Canaan (Gen 12:6-9)
- In Egypt (Gen 12:10-20)
- Abram and Lot Separate (Gen 13:1-13)
- Reaffirmation of Abram’s promises (Gen 13:14-18)
- Abram Rescues Lot (Gen 14:1-24)
- Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 15:1-21)
- Hagar & Ishmael (Gen 16:1-16)
- Circumcision (Gen 17:1-27)
- Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen 18‒19)
- Abraham & Abimelech (Gen 20)
- Isaac’s birth (Gen 21:1-7)
- Ishmael’s expulsion (Gen 21:8-21)
- Abraham & Abimelech’s covenant (Gen 21:22-34)
- Abraham sacrifices Isaac (Gen 22)
- Sarah’s death (Gen 23)
And now here we are in chapter 22, Lord willing, getting into chapter 23 today. We saw Genesis 22 already, where Abraham was tested. They had waited, Abraham and Sarah, for Isaac. And then God says something that’s sort of irrational from the human perspective. He says, “I want you to sacrifice Isaac.”
Genesis 22 Abraham Sacrifices Isaac
- Abraham tested (1-10)
- Substitutionary provision (11-14)
- Covenant reaffirmed (15-19)
- Rebekah’s lineage (20-24)
And this is sort of a test for Abraham’s faith. And the test is, do you love Me more than the blessings that I give you? Do you love the work of God more than you love God Himself, in other words. Abraham, as you know, Genesis 22:1-10, passed the test with flying colors and at that point, Genesis 22:11-14, God provides a substitute for the imminent death of Isaac through a ram caught in the thicket. And this is where we get that tremendous Hebrew expression “The Lord will provide.” Jehovah Jireh, meaning that God’s provision for us is so comprehensive that He even will provide an innocent substitute to bear the penalty for our sins. Isaac’s life is spared and quite frankly, so is our life, because all that points forward 2000 years to Jesus Christ concerning what He would do for us on the cross, which is God’s ultimate provision for the human race. Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide. One man put it this way: There’s a pardon there available for you and it’s yours for the asking. It’s all been paid for. All you need to do is to receive this as a gift. And one of the great tragedies in Scripture, one of the saddest verses that I can think of is in Revelation 20:11-15; where in the great white throne judgment, many will be consigned forever into the place called the Lake of Fire, not because God’s provision for them was somehow short or somehow inadequate, but they never claimed their pardon by way of faith. And that really is the only unpardonable sin. That’s the only sin that sends someone forever into the lake of fire– failing to receive as a gift, by way of faith, what the Lord has provided for us in the person of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. It’s at this point that the covenant that God gave to Abraham is reaffirmed.
Genesis 22 Abraham Sacrifices Isaac
- Abraham tested (1-10)
- Substitutionary provision (11-14)
- Covenant reaffirmed (15-19)
- Rebekah’s lineage (20-24)
God’s promises going forward are a done deal. The issue is, can He really use Abraham the way He wants to? And because Abraham passed the test, God’s work, Gen 22:15-19, in this covenant is going to be accomplished personally through Abraham. The issue is not, is God’s work going to get done? It will get done. The issue is not, is Abraham saved? He was saved. He was saved as early as Genesis 15:6. The issue with Abraham is his usability. God, when He looks at the human heart, is not so much interested in our ability as He is interested in our availability. He is constantly looking for empty vessels that He can express Himself through. And if a person is bound up in idolatry, worshiping things instead of God, they disqualify themselves for usefulness.
Fortunately, in Abraham’s case, he passed the test and God not only reaffirms the Abrahamic covenant to him, Gen 22:15-19, but communicates the fact that he will be the key man that God will use in fulfillment of His purposes. And then you go down Gen 22:20-24, and a lot of people, quite frankly, will look at this, think it looks like a bunch of strange names here, and just sort of skip right over it. But the truth of the matter is all scripture is God-breathed and profitable for correction and for training in righteousness so that the Man of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Jesus himself was very clear that man does not live on bread alone but by every word, every, that proceeds from the mouth of God. And so, when you come to the passages in the Bible that seem sort of obscure and out of date and have strange sounding names, what you have to understand is you need to dig a little deeper because God has something even in those verses for all of us because of the promises that He’s given to us in His word; that all scripture is for our benefit. And so, we come to these sorts of verses today, and it has to do with Rebecca’s lineage.
Genesis 22:20-24 Rebekah’s Lineage
- Timing (20a)
- Nahor’s children (20b-24)
- From Milcah (20b-23)
- From Reumah (24)
Here’s an outline that we’re going to look at today, and we may get beyond this into chapter 23 as well, depending on time. But notice the timing of all these things, Genesis 22:20. It says, “Now it came about after these things-” After what things? –After the testing of Abraham’s faith that we just read about earlier in the chapter. We know that Isaac’s life is going to be spared. We also know that there is yet a future for Isaac, because if there’s no future for Isaac, there’s no future for the nation of Israel. And here is a reference, as we’ll see, to the rest of Abraham’s family going back to Genesis 11:27. We know that Abraham, when he was called by God out of Ur of the Chaldeans, was part of a family. It went from Noah to Shem to Terah. Abram at that time, his name was called. Abraham’s father Terah had three sons. So, Abraham has two brothers that are featured here, Nahor and Haran. And the focus here is on Nahor because something special is going to come from the Nahor’s lineage for the benefit of Isaac. The first time we read of Abraham’s extended family is after the flood and after the Tower of Babel. It says in Genesis 11:27, “Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; And Haran became the father of Lot.” We’ve studied a lot about Lot, so to speak. Lot was Abraham’s nephew. But here the focus is on Abraham’s brother there, Nahor. And so, we’re going to kind of get some information about what’s happening with his original family. Mention has been made of his original family at the end of Genesis 11. But what has become of that original family?
Genesis 22:20-24 Rebekah’s Lineage
- Timing (20a)
- Nahor’s children (20b-24)
- From Milcah (20b-23)
- From Reumah (24)
And so, what we start to learn about here is Nahor’s children, and we see that in the second part of verse 20 into verse 24. And notice what the second part of Gen 22:20 says. It says, “that it was told Abraham—” In other words, a message somehow got to Abraham as he was dwelling in Beersheba in the land of Israel, concerning his family. It says, “that it was told Abraham, saying, ‘Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor.’” So, we’re getting some information here about Nahor, Abraham’s brother. His brother was married to his wife, obviously, whose name was Milcah. And we get the names of some of the children that came from that union, Gen 22:21. It says, “Uz his firstborn and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram.” And then you drop down to Gen 22:22, it says, “and Chesed and Hazo and Pildash—” How would you like kids named like this? – “Jidlaph and Bethuel.”
So here are the different children coming from Abraham’s brother, who was married to Milcah. And so, you run into this name Uz. Now a lot of people, me included, think that it’s through Uz came the background that we have in the Book of Job. Job 1:1 says of Job, the oldest book of the Bible that we have, “There was a man in the Land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” So, this Uz may furnish the background for the Book of Job, the oldest book of the Bible, that we have featuring human suffering. I find it interesting that the oldest book of the Bible that exists is the Book of Job, in the Land of Uz, arguably coming from this person here, Uz. I find it interesting that the oldest book of the Bible that we have deals with the issue of human suffering. Why is it that the righteous suffer? Why is it that, as one person put it, bad things happen to good people? And because that issue is so much on our minds, even today, when you poll people and talk to people and listen to people, that’s what they want to know about. Why is it that if God is a God of love that we have so much human suffering? Particularly among the righteous? And I believe that because this issue is so much on our minds, God says, I’m going to deal with this right out of the gate, the sovereignty of God in human suffering; that I will dedicate the very first book biblically in Hebrew Bible on record to that particular subject. So, if you’re struggling with that issue, I would highly recommend to you the Book of Job. That’s why it was given. And from Nahor and Milcah come Buzz and Aram and Chesed and Hazo and Pildas– and you kind of keep reading here, and finally you get to Bethuel. And now we see why all these names are mentioned, because in Gen 22:23, it says, “Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.” That’s the key point. “those eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.” Isaac needs to marry somebody. And if we don’t have a Rebekah, we don’t have a marriage between Isaac and Rebekah. And if you don’t have an Isaac and Rebekah, you don’t have a Jacob. And if you don’t have a Jacob, you don’t have the 12 tribes, the beginning of the nation of Israel. And by the way, if you don’t have the 12 tribes, then you don’t have a very special tribe called the Tribe of Judah because Genesis 49:10 clearly tells us that the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, would be born into the world through the Tribe of Judah. And so, you can see very fast here the lineage that would be cut, leading to Jesus, unless you have a marriage between Isaac and Rebekah.
And I believe that what is happening here is God is preparing Isaac and Rebekah for a marriage before Isaac and Rebekah even knew each other. I’m here to tell you today that this is God’s specialty. God is an expert in preparing marital partners and marriages long before the members of that marriage get married, meet each other or even know that one another exist. I’ll give you just a little bit of testimony from my personal life, if I can do that. This would take us back to the year 1969 when I was the ripe old age of three years old. My wife would have been the same age as me. I’m a few months older, so I tell her to respect her elders as frequently as I can. But she would have been three years old. My father, who at that time was a practicing attorney, represented an individual who was Anne’s father in a legal issue. And it really had to do with a kind of a probate type of situation. And apparently my father, representing Ann’s father, had done such an admirable job of his work that my father basically gained respect in the eyes of Anne’s father. So, you flash forward from there 27 years, when the two of us, Anne and me, met each other. We started dating and of course, things aren’t going to go very far if the family that you’re marrying into doesn’t like you. I didn’t have that problem, believe it or not.
And the Lord probably knew I might have that problem and so he factored it in. Once it was figured out, who my father was, her father said, wow, you got to marry that guy because that guy is a man of integrity. That guy is a man of morality. That guy has a strong work ethic. And he made those statements to her without even really knowing me, because my father had set the whole stage properly, just by doing a good job as a lawyer for her family. And so, when we started dating each other, it was just interesting that the family members to some extent were more excited about the marriage than we were. And this person, you know, knew that person and this person is connected to that person and oh, yeah, that’s the son of so-and-so. My marriage to Anne is probably the closest thing I can think of to an actual arranged marriage in the 20th and 21st centuries. And this would come after a lot of frustrations that I had with failed marriages– not failed marriages, let me backtrack that. I’m the husband of one wife. Failed relationships, frustrations, and thinking, you know, gosh, there’s nobody out there for me. And the Lord had the whole thing under control. That’s what God does for people. So, my daughter, and we read the Bible and pray every night. Part of our prayer for her is that the Lord would do something similar for her.
Because I have no corner on God. God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And so, we pray that at the right time, God would bring into her life a man who, first of all, loves You first and foremost, the Lord. And that He would bring into her life at the right time the individual that God is already preparing for her. And I would submit to you that if you have children and if you have grandchildren, that you should pray this prayer over them consistently. You should probably pray it in their presence when you have the opportunity, because when you pray this way, they’re going to think you’re crazy. My daughter, when I started praying this way, she thought I was outright crazy praying this way, but it’s biblical. It’s what God does. In fact, God is an expert in this. He’s a specialist in this. He’s been doing this since the dawn of time. And we’re living in this age today of dating apps. And all the sitcoms and all of the emphasis on romance and all of these marriages all around us are dissolving, some in the world, some even in the church. You have to understand that the younger generation sees all of this catastrophe and they’re almost ready to throw in the towel on the whole thing. It just seems like such an archaic form of human behavior, marriage. But the truth of the matter is, God has a standard. The standard is given in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. There you’ll see, before sin entered the world, the first marriage. How God brought to Adam at the right time, Eve, formed out of his side. And therefore, if you find yourself today seeking to get married, wondering if marriage is going to work out. Wondering, am I ever going to meet the right person? Particularly the younger you go, these are major question marks on their minds. This is what the youth need to hear because they’re not getting this message anywhere else. In fact, what they’re told is heterosexual monogamy is really something that’s sort of passé. It’s something out of vogue. It’s no longer looked at as the standard, and yet biblically, it is the standard.
I understand that there are people within the sound of my voice that for whatever reason, have broken the standard. But that doesn’t change the standard and it doesn’t change the fact that God is a God of grace at the end of the day. And that God says in many, many places, (Matthew 7:10) “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt 7:9) “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf—” Jesus says, “will you give him a stone?” If you then, though you are evil, know how to bless your children, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask? And since God is the expert on organizing marriages before they transpire, I think that should be part of our prayer life for those we love as they’re contemplating one of the most important decisions a person can ever make; who they’re going to marry. The very most important decision a person can ever make is are they going to trust in Christ for salvation or not? That’s number one. Because that determines heaven or hell. The next important issue in their life is who they’re going to get married to because that will determine or dictate the course of one’s entire life. I could not imagine my life going in the direction it has, had I not been married to Anne. Had God not arranged that, had God not set that up, Lord knows where I’d be today. And that’s not just true in my life. That’s true in your lives, your life. It’s true in the lives of many, many people that you love and want the best for. And so, God is in the marriage business. The world will tell you something different. It has a completely different message. But God is in the marriage business and in fact, He’s in the business of putting marriages together in some cases before the marital parties are even born. And so, make that part of your prayer life to those that you care about.
You go down to Gen 22:24 and then you read something a little troubling. It says, “His concubine.” Whoops, where did she come from? “His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah and Gaham and Tahash and Maacah.” So, people read this and they say, well, I see a wife of Nahor earlier in the passage, her name is Milcah. But he also had a concubine, and he had more children through his concubine. So, I guess the Bible is teaching we can just go out and, you know, have a wife and then kind of have a side dish on the side, right? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that because it’s in the Bible. Well, you have to understand that Abraham, whose name at that time was Abram was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans.
In fact, in the Book of Joshua 24:2, of Abram, it says, “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.” So, when Nahor has a concubine, basically the reason he had a concubine in addition to a wife is because he was steeped in paganism. Abraham himself was steeped in paganism before God called him out of that environment, brought him to saving faith and called him to a life of sanctification. So, when it talks here in verse 24 about these other children born from a concubine, that basically is what we call descriptive language. It’s not prescriptive. Describing is simply a description of what happened. Prescribing is something we should do. There are many people, and I was sort of shocked to run into this even in seminary, who think, you know, the Bible is in favor of polygamy. And I say, well, why do you think that? And they say, well, look at Solomon. At the end of his life, Solomon had 300 wives and 700 concubines. And I’m thinking to myself, do you not know the difference between descriptive and prescriptive? That’s describing what happened in Solomon’s life. Because his many wives, it says it right there in 1 Kings 11 led him away from the things of God. I mean, this is a record of Solomon not promoting what we should do. It’s a record showing us what we should avoid. What we should stay away from. So, it’s describing what happened. That’s what you see here in Genesis 11:24. It’s not putting a happy face on it. It’s not putting a gold star on it. It’s describing what happened in the real world amongst Abraham’s relatives that were still steeped in paganism. If you want, not-descriptive language, but prescriptive language, go back to God’s standard before the fall of man in Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:8-15. God’s standard– and it’s not something that I made up, because people say you’re promoting a narrow way or something along those lines. Look, I didn’t make this up. Don’t shoot the messenger. God’s standard is one man for one woman for one life. Well, Pastor, what if I’ve already broken the standard? The grace of God is available. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a standard. The standard exists because God says it exists. So, when the United States Supreme Court gets into the subject of marriage, they’re getting into a subject that they have no right to offer a legal perspective on unless they’re imitating what God already said. The United States Supreme Court, politicians, sociologists, pundits on cable television, why would they even pontificate anything about marriage when they’re not the ones that created the standard? God is the one that created the standard. And God says, this is my standard, and this is for the betterment of the human race. This is for the benefit of the human race. And so, God is putting together a marriage through Rebekah and Isaac. We’re going to see more of that when we get to Genesis chapter 24. And just because Abraham’s brother is kind of wandering off the course here doesn’t make it right. It’s describing what happened rather than prescribing what should happen.
And so these are the children that were born through Nahor and his concubine, Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maacah. And in our story concerning Abraham, it’s just dealing with life’s circumstances. These are real people in the real world that lived a real life. And life involves a series of circumstances. And so, you move away from a prospective marriage at the end of chapter 22. What God is doing behind the scenes to get a marriage off the ground, we’ll see more on that in Chapter 24, to another one of life’s circumstances where Sarah, who’s been with Abraham all these years, dies.
Genesis 23 Sarah’s Death
- Sarah’s death (1-2)
- Sarah’s burial site (3-18)
- Sarah’s burial (19-20)
And so that takes us into chapter 23, where we see Sarah’s death verses 1 and 2. There’s a very interesting part of the deal– Can I put it that way? –Concerning Sarah’s burial site in Hebron, verses 3 through 18. And then Sarah’s burial verses 19 and 20. We’re going from marriage to death just like real life works because these are real people with real issues and real problems just like you.
But notice, if you will, Genesis 23:1-2, where we read of Sarah’s death. First of all, Sarah, her age, at the time of her death is recorded, Genesis 23:1. And it says, “Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” Now, Sarah is a big deal. And the reason Sarah is a big deal in the Bible is she is the only woman that I know of in the entire Scripture whose specific age is given at the time of her death. The best I know, this is something that is unique to Sarah. So, Sarah is very strategic in the outworking of God’s purposes. And in fact, the rest of the biblical canon always highlights the virtues and the significance of Sarah. For example, about 1300 years later or so, the prophet Isaiah would say this in Isaiah 51:1-2. “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn—” speaking to Israel— “And to the quarry from which you were dug.” Isaiah 51:2, “Look to Abraham your father And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; When he was but one I called him, Then I blessed him and I multiplied him.” In other words, get away from all this idolatry that characterized the period of Isaiah’s day. And look to your role models at the beginning of God’s outworking through the nation of Israel. Go back to the foundation. Look at Abraham and don’t just look at Abraham. Look at my pattern that I exhibited through Sarah. In fact, how should a woman respond when she gets saved in her marriage and her husband remains unsaved? What should she do? Well, the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:5-6 goes right back to the pattern of Sarah.
It says in 1 Peter 3:5-6, “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” In other words, if you find yourself as a female in that circumstance where you’re a believer and your husband at this point is unsaved, what should you do? Peter says, you know, don’t adorn yourself with outward beauty only. Now this is commonly misinterpreted in legalism; you’ll find people saying a woman shouldn’t wear earrings, a woman shouldn’t wear makeup, a woman shouldn’t beautify herself, she shouldn’t put on jewelry. That’s not what it’s saying at all. In fact, to quote the late J. Vernon McGee, he says, look, if the barn needs painting, then paint the barn. I didn’t say that. That’s J. Vernon McGee that said that. What it’s saying is, in this emphasis between external beauty and internal beauty, in terms of winning over your husband to the things of God, of the two, as they’re on a weight, you put more emphasis on what’s inside, the character. That’s what you really work on.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket completely and totally on external beauty, which, by the way, is going to fade anyway. Amen? And if you don’t believe that, go to your high school reunion and find the girl or guy that you had such a crush on in high school and you’ll start singing that country western song, Thank You for Unanswered Prayer. But physical beauty deteriorates. It’s not saying ignore physical beauty, but it’s saying when you balance the two, place more emphasis on character. The fruit of the Holy Spirit. Christlike character. That beautiful, quiet, and gentle spirit exhibited in Sarah. That will be the tool that God uses to bring your unbelieving husband to faith alone, in Christ alone.
So, you’ll notice how important Sarah is. First of all, her age at death is given, which is unique to a female in all the Bible. And secondly, look at the emphasis on Isaiah 51, look back at Sarah. The emphasis on the New Testament, look back at Sarah. And how young women today need a role model. You spend any time on social media, you spend any time on Instagram, it’s obvious that the youth of today are following the wrong role models. They’re following the talented people, the beautiful people. They all want to look like so-and-so or such and such. And the Bible is saying you have a role model. The role model is this woman, Sarah, that God used alongside of her husband to inaugurate or launch the nation of Israel.
I mean, why? Look at Madonna when you could have Sarah. Amen? And some of the young people are wondering, well, who’s Madonna? Well, as my professor Dwight Pentecost said, Blessed be your ignorance. Amen? But you’ll notice here that you have Sarah being spoken of, and then her age is given. It says, (Gen 23:1) “Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” So, Sarah dies at the ripe old age of 127. Now, in Genesis 17:7, it gives the ages of Abraham relative to Sarah, relative to Isaac. It says in Genesis 17:17, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” So, if Abraham is ten years older than Sarah, when Sarah dies at the age of 127, that means Abraham was 137. And since Isaac was 100 years younger than Abraham, that means Isaac was 37 years old at the time Sarah died. So, there is some chronological distance of a few years between the events of chapter 20, when Isaac was in his young thirties, perhaps 30 years of age, and now Sarah’s death, when Isaac is probably around 37 years of age. Why the emphasis on the details? Because these people lived. This is not fiction here. They had the same details in their lives that you have right now in your life.
And then Gen 23:2 describes the death of Sarah. Notice, if you will, verse 2. It says, “Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.” Where did Sarah die? The title is given, Kiriath-arba, which means “village of four.” That’s what it meant. But as the text says, that area was renamed to Hebron. Here’s where Hebron is located.
Where was Abraham at the time of Sara’s death? Most people believe he was in Beersheba, and he travels up north to Hebron. Now, what does Hebron mean in Hebrew? It means friend. Now, that’s very interesting because that’s who Abraham was. He was a friend of God. How did he become a friend of God? Did he become a friend of God when he believed for salvation? Genesis 15:6? Or did he become a friend of God later? I’m of the persuasion that he became a friend of God later, twenty years after Genesis 15:6, where he had been justified by faith alone. The Book of James 2:23 says “and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and (sequentially, in other words, later) he was called the friend of God.” What makes someone a friend of God? That’s a great question. Jesus himself answered that in John 15:14, in the upper room. He says, “You—” now who’s the “you”? It’s the eleven disciples huddled in the upper room. All of them were saved. They had been saved, each of them at least three years, or more. Jesus says to these eleven– the twelfth, Judas already having left the room in John 13. Jesus says to the eleven, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” He doesn’t say you’re My friends if you’re believers. What He says is, you’re My friends if you’re obedient believers. There’s a group of people that gets saved in John 2:23-25. We know they’re saved because it says they believed in Jesus. They fulfilled the condition of salvation. But at the end of John 2:23-25, it says something very interesting about them. It says Jesus did not entrust Himself to them because He knew all men. In other words, these are people that were believers in Christ, but they weren’t friends of Christ. Why were they not friends of Christ? Because they had no proven track record of obedience to Jesus Christ as His children. So, they have the very important status of being a believer, which is a big deal because that’s heaven or hell. But they had not yet graduated to the status of friendship because they were brand new Christians. What would they know about the walk of discipleship? What would they know about the walk of denying yourself daily and picking up your cross and following him? So, Jesus consequently did not entrust Himself to that crowd in John 2. They were saved but He had not yet entrusted Himself to them. But He says something very different to the eleven in the upper room who had been with Christ for three years and had a track record not of being sinless but sinning less. They took their walk with Christ seriously. And at that point, Jesus says, you’re now qualified for friendship. And that’s why He says what He says in John 15:14-15. “You are My friends (not if you believe in Me for salvation) if you do what I command you.” And then He says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” That’s why back in John 2, it says Jesus did not entrust Himself to them. He does not entrust His secrets and His riches to every Christian. When a Christian graduates from being a believer to being a friend of God, now they are open to further disclosure. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” You see, friendship is different than just believing status. Believing status means your fire insurance is paid up. Friendship, as demonstrated by a track record of obedience, means that your life and your mind are now open to the things of God in a greater way. And God can disclose Himself to you in ways that He does not do to people that are disobedient believers. See, you might be looking at the Bible saying, you know what, I just don’t get anything out of the Bible when I read it. Well, it’s not a question of intellect. It’s not a question many times of study methodology. But it’s a condition of the heart. You’re coming to your Bible and you’re saying to yourself, I’m not just reading this passage to get my quota done for the day, but I’m here to deposit myself in the presence of the Lord; and Lord, if there needs to be correction in my life, You have free reign. You start doing that regularly with the Lord, you wouldn’t believe how your level of understanding of the Bible will accelerate. I mean, you will see things that have always been there in the Bible that you didn’t see six months ago.
Because you’re not just a believer, you’re actually a friend of God. And when did Abraham become a friend of God? He did not become a friend of God in Genesis 15:6. He became a believer in Genesis 15:6. Genesis 15:6 says, “Then he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He (that’s the Lord) reckoned it to him as righteousness.” He received the transferred righteousness of God at the point of faith alone, in Christ alone. And then twenty years pass. I’ve given you the quotes from Dr. Constable, even John Calvin, who both contend that there could be twenty to thirty years in between Genesis 15:6 and Genesis 2. And in Genesis 22, twenty to thirty years later, God now tells Abraham, I want you to leave Beersheba, I want you to go to Moriah, and I’ll show you the Mount. And I want you to take Isaac, who’s in his early thirties that you’ve waited for, and I want you to sacrifice him. What did Abraham do? He did exactly what God said. God stayed his hand. The command itself seemed illogical. It seemed irrational, but Abraham put the word of God above and beyond what’s normal in human experience. He did exactly what God said and God at the last minute, you know the story, stayed his hand. Isaac’s life is preserved; but then God says to Abraham, Genesis 22:12, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son, your only son, from Me.” Did Abraham get saved at that point? No, he’s already saved. What he did, though, is he graduated into friendship. And because of the significance of the fact that Abraham was now a friend of God, this entire area where Sarah is going to be buried, Kiriath-arba, “village of four,” the name is going to be changed to Hebron which means friend. The truth of the matter is, folks, all friends of God are believers. But not all believers are friends of God.
I understand that when a person trusts in Christ, they are spared from the judgment of God. But what happens to so many of us is we drag our own sinful behavior and impulses into our newfound Christian life, and we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to correct us. And there are pockets and patterns of sin that we should have given up under God’s power a long time ago. And when we’re like that, there’s a category for us. It’s called the Carnal Christian. You say, well, does the Bible teach that? It’s right there in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Take the time to read it. It’s as clear as crystal. And Paul calls them babes in Christ, infants in Christ, fleshly devoted. It’s like looking at a baby sucking their thumb at age two. It’s cute and it’s appropriate, a baby in their crib at age two, sucking their thumb. Well, when the child is 16 years old and 17 years old, still sucking their thumb, still in the crib, still not potty trained, it kind of loses its cuteness, doesn’t it? Because it’s not age appropriate. That is the difference between a friend of God and just a believer. You say, well, my goodness, how could you make a disobedient Christian saved? It’s because of the principle of grace. Unmerited favor. God does not treat us on the basis of human merit. If that were true, no one could get saved. And because God looks at us through the eyes of grace, you can be God’s child and still be disobedient, but you haven’t graduated into friendship. Because you haven’t graduated into friendship, you’re reading the Bible over and over again, you’re attending religious services and church services over and over again and you’re not getting anything out of it. And the carnal Christian will blame the preacher. Oh, the preaching is not good enough. I’m going to go down the street and try another church. Oh, the pastor over there, you know, he parts his hair on the wrong side of his head. I’ve got to go find another church. And they’re just like pinballs. They bounce from place to place to place to place, discontent. When nine times out of ten the issue is, there’s something going on in their life, a pocket of disobediences they’ve never surrendered to God. They’ve never asked the Lord to help them with it. And so, they’re still at the status of a believer, but they have not graduated into friendship. Let me tell you something. When I got saved, my life didn’t just all of a sudden get corrected. There is a long walk I had with God where He was dealing with issue after issue after issue after issue. A lot of times it’s not a lot of fun being in that position, being corrected by the Holy Spirit over and over again. And so, there’s a tendency to resist that correction. But the truth of the matter is that correction under God’s power is essential because you cannot become what God has called you to become in that state. Arrival in heaven because of grace, that’s a done deal. But in terms of usability, in terms of God wanting to use your life to expand his purposes on the Earth– can’t happen.
Unless Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, he would have never become the man that we read about in the Bible. And so, all friends of God are believers, but not all believers are necessarily friends of God. And so, our exhortation to you as you listen to this as a Christian is just to ask yourself, you know, Lord, I want to graduate. I want to move into friendship with You. I want to know You at a deeper level and a deeper way. I’m not content with spirituality as it’s been the last ten years. I want something different. You know what the Lord will do? He’ll start to say, okay, this needs to change in your life. This needs to change. You need to erase that and fill it with this. Let the Lord do that. You wouldn’t believe the end product and how God will take your life really to the next level. One other quick thing and with this we’ll close. It’s there in Gen 23:2, the beginning of verse 2. “Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.” That’s a big deal because Abraham is walking in the promises that God gave him. Even though Canaan was filled with Canaanites, it never looked like those promises would be fulfilled, he wants to have Sarah buried not in Ur of the Chaldeans where he’s from, but in a specific burial site, burial plot in Hebron; which as you can see from the map, is in the land of Canaan. He’s walking by faith here. And it’s not just going to be Sarah buried here. As you go through biblical history, many of the other great patriarchs will be buried here as well. So, this is actually a work of faith on the part of Abraham trusting what God said.
But it says, end of verse 2, “and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.” So, at the age of 127, she dies and Abraham cries like a baby. Why bring this up? Because there’s a doctrine. I don’t know how this got unleashed in Christianity, but there’s an idea out there that says when a Christian dies, you’re not supposed to weep. Because after all, Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 concerning the deceased Thessalonian Christians, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” There it is in the Bible. You’re not supposed to cry at the death of a believer. That’s not what the verse says. It doesn’t say don’t weep. In fact, if you’re telling someone who experiences the death of a fellow brother or sister in Christ and you tell them not to weep, you’re putting on them something that a human being is unable to do. There is nothing more human than to weep when somebody dies, even a Christian. I mean, Jesus Himself, shortest verse in the Bible, right? Death of Lazarus, who He was going to raise from the dead in the near future. What is it, John 11:35? Right there. “Jesus wept.” Lazarus died; Jesus cried like a baby.
Sarah dies, Abraham is crying like a baby, even though he fully understood that he would see Sarah again at the first resurrection. First Thessalonians 4:13 never says, don’t weep. What it says is, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest—” Oh, there’s a clause that follows this— “who have no hope.” He does not say, don’t weep. What he says is when you weep, don’t weep like the world does. Don’t go on and on emotionally as if you’re never going to see that deceased loved one again. Because you will see them again at the point of the rapture. When a Christian dies, it’s not a goodbye. It’s a see you later. Now a goodbye is painful. Weep at that. But don’t weep as if the goodbye is a goodbye forever. Because it’s not. And so, Abraham at the death of Sarah is weeping. And now the issue is, here I am in a foreign land, I don’t own a millimeter of real estate and yet God has given me this land in the Abrahamic Covenant. I’ve got to find a place for her to be buried.
Genesis 23 Sarah’s Death
- Sarah’s death (1-2)
- Sarah’s burial site (3-18)
- Sarah’s burial (19-20)
And so, the next time we’re together next week, verses 3 through 18, we’ll see Abraham actually involved in negotiations with the Canaanites of the land in order to find a proper burial site for Sarah.
Oh, just take her body and ship it back to Ur of the Chaldeans.
Can’t do that, Abraham says. I’m walking by faith here. God made me a promise. She’s going to be buried in Hebron within the land of Canaan even though I own nothing in the land of Canaan.
Yeah, but Abraham, there’s already a family burial site in Ur of the Chaldeans. Just ship her over there.
Can’t do that because I’m walking by faith.
He understood that his future was in the land of Israel because that’s what God said. That’s why this man, Abraham, is held up to us as a person of great faith. What does it take for a person to get saved? A look of faith. Jesus: crucified, buried, resurrected from the dead. He took care of, in our place, a problem that we can’t fix, which is our sin debt. And Jesus says, I’ll take care of that. But I want you to do something. You can’t contribute to what I did. But you can receive it as a gift. There’s a pardon with your name on it. You’ve got to claim it. And the only way you can claim this pardon is by trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. If you’re here today and you’ve never done that, you’ve never entered the grace of God, our exhortation here at Sugar Land Bible Church– as the Holy Spirit convicts men and women of their need to trust in the Savior, either convicting people in the building, convicting people watching online, convicting people watching the archives after the fact– is to respond to that convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit and receive what Jesus has done as a gift. Put your faith, which is another way of saying your trust, your reliance, and your confidence, completely in Jesus for your eternity and the safekeeping of your soul. It’s not something you have to pay money to receive. It’s not something you have to walk an aisle to receive. It’s not something you have to join a church to receive. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where the Lord places you under conviction and you, by way of faith, claim your promise and your pardon. And that, and that alone, justifies the lost sinner with no other conditions attached.