Devotional & Reflection

Week 2, Oct 2002

Genesis 23:1, 2 & 4 - Dim Promises
By Pang Hee Hung,
Trainer & Director of Ezra Resources & Katartizo Resources Ltd, NZ

Gen 23:1,2 "Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her." Gen 23:4 "I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead."

Have you followed and obeyed God's direction only to find His promises dim and bleak? Sometimes after obeying God, the promises don't materialize - at least for as far as we can see.

In Gen 12:2-3 and 15:5 Abraham was promised that he will have offspring as numerous as the stars in the heavens and he will be a great nation. A great nation would possess at least 2 important elements:

1. Offspring / descendants / people and
2. Land.

So the Father of faith obeyed God and moved to a distant land - a migration and uprooting from a comfortable and secure habitation. But that move was filled with perils that could have thwart the promise of God. Firstly, the promise looked so hazy as no offspring was delivered for 25 years. Hence the introduction of the surrogate, Hagar. Secondly, Abraham nearly jeopardized the promise of a son as Pharaoh (Gen 12:10-20) and king Abimelech (Gen 20) took in Sarah after Abraham's ill-conceived "Sarah is my sister" ruse. Only after 25 years did his one and only true son, Isaac was born (Gen 21), although he was promised to be the father of many. The promise doesn't look too bright to begin with.

Here in the bulk of this chapter, we see Abraham negotiating to buy a cave (Gen 23:9) and was offered a field (23:11). Ephron wanted Abraham to buy the whole field including the cave, so that Abraham would be responsible for all the dues and obligations from the field as the new owner. If Abraham buys just a part of the land i.e. the cave, then Ephron would still be responsible for the land dues.

Why did the narrator of Genesis devote so much space on this negotiation process. What is its significance? A thought came to mind. Abraham did not possess any land! Indeed this land that was promised to him, the land of Canaan - is not his yet! God's promise of numerous offspring (15:5), nations (17:5) and land (17:8) look very dim.

When we obey God, His promises may look dim, bleak and hazy many a time. People may laugh, jeer or sneer at us - which may be the case when Abraham left his home. People may sneer or wonder why we resign from good positions to serve God, or downgrade lifestyle, or migrate or not dancing to tune of unrighteous bosses (witness the tango that goes with the many tales of accounting manipulations in recent months that finally caught up with the perpetrators.)

When we follow God, His promises may look dim, at times. But we must not be discouraged by it. For indeed, Abraham did become the father of many nations and the land of Canaan was finally his - Israel! The purchase of the burial site was a commitment not to return to Paddan Aram, that is northwest Mesoptamia from where he came. It was an important ritual in Ancient Near East that people buried their dead in their native land. For Abraham, Canaan was now the native land; and the burial cave was reserved not only for Sarah but for Abraham and his immediate descendants. There is no going back on the promise of God.

1. What are God's promises to you that look dim now?
2. How encouraged are you knowing the outcome of the book of Genesis?
3. What positive steps of faith can you take concerning the promises of God when He seems to be slow in fulfilling them?

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