"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Sunday, October 20, 2019

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter TWENTY THREE

Contributing commentaries by Sonny Islas and James Fire
Studies by Ray Steadman: GENESIS 23:Til Death Do Us Part 

GENESIS 23 – by James Fire

INTRODUCTION: There is, above all of the burdens and griefs of life, the curse of death – that unavoidable appointment that all of us face. Gertrude in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said it succinctly, “All that lives, must die.” The death of a dear friend was something that made GOD the Son weep at the tomb of Lazarus (JOHN 11:35). Every grave is a testament to the truth that:

“The wages of sin is death” (ROM 6:23). And they are cruel, but just wages to pay. While these wages have been “paid in full” (Christ declared it, when He said, “It is finished” from the cross; JOHN 19:30), we who are the saints of GOD, born again of His Holy Spirit still are contained in these corrupted bodies, under the curse of sin – these bodies that get sick, they often contain defects, they wear down, get old and eventually wither away and cease to live and are reduced to dusty, dry bones.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we understand that it’s not how long a life we live in this world that ultimately matters, but rather, how we live the life we live while here. That we are surrendered to Christ, having received salvation through faith in His atonement, and allow GOD’s will to be accomplished through us, to glorify Him – this is what truly matters.
Jim Elliot, missionary to cannibals in Ecuador was martyred on January 8, 1956. 
He was just 28 years old. 

He left behind his wife Elizabeth and a baby girl. In the face of her husband’s death, Elizabeth continued the missionary endeavor to the Quechua Indians, who were stunned that the wife of a man that they killed should show the kind of compassion that would risk her own life.

Her preaching resulted in repentance among these people that received Christ as LORD and Savior.
Jim Elliot once said,
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Scripture says that, “… none can keep alive his own soul” (PSALM 22:29). Since we can’t extend our lives (though good nutrition, exercise and healthy living can ensure a measure of quality of life), since we cannot keep indefinitely what we will eventually lose anyway, the wisest course of action we can pursue is to surrender these lives of ours, so that we can gain what we cannot lose – eternal life in Christ.

In this chapter we read about the death of Abraham’s wife, Sarah:

GENESIS 23:1-2
And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her

If I were to ask you the date of your birth, you would without doubt be able to give me the exact date, perhaps even the day of the week, and maybe even the hour. But if I were to ask you the date of your death, you couldn’t answer, because you don’t know. Yet as certain as you are of the hour of your birth, you can be just as certain that there will be an hour of your death.
That just as you drew your very first breath in this world, you will draw your last. 

I once read an article entitled, “The Dash of Life”. The author was commenting on his visit to a departed loved one’s grave site, and he noticed that on all the tomb stones, there were two dates – the date of birth and the date of death, and between them, everyone of those tomb stones had a dash. That small two-inch-long dash represented the entirety of that person’s life. Some dashes represented eighty years; others, only eight.

Yet whether eighty or eight, the duration of this life really, compared to eternity, is a wisp of smoke: you see it only for a few seconds and then that wisp of smoke is gone:

JAMES 4:14
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away
Again, the duration of our lives is not as important as where our soul is destined; and it’s important that we fulfill all that GOD intends for our lives before we reach our eternal destiny. In fact, we realize that everything we do in accord with GOD’s will in this life is in preparation for what He has prepared for us in eternity! 

And what is GOD’s will for each and everyone of us who profess Christ and who possess His Holy Spirit? To have revealed in us the very nature of Christ’s character and heart, to the glory of GOD the Father! And in so revealing this new nature that gives us love, peace, joy and all the riches of Christ, this world will see what they lack in their own lives, and see even greater poverty in their lives when we show them the requirements of the holy law, and offer the solution: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sarah was destined to become the miraculous mother of Isaac, the son of promise; and by faith, she fulfilled her purpose that GOD reserved for her:

HEBREWS 11:11-12
11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one
[Isaac], and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
Sarah lived 127 years of life, a full age in those days, but those days ended, and she died in Hebron, which means “association or fellowship”. Hebron was the place Abraham resorted to often and built an altar to the LORD, where he committed his life and all he had to the LORD.

That’s the way it is when we commit our lives to the LORD; we commit not only our hearts and minds, our own personal lives, but also everything and everyone we have – including our spouses and our children. He is the One Who grants these blessings to us, and because all these blessings come from Him, He is within His sovereign right to take them back, just as Job stated when he lost all he owned as well as all ten of his beloved children:

JOB 1:20-22
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly
We can sometimes charge GOD foolishly, getting angry at the LORD when one of our beloved die and depart from us; especially those who are very young. At such times we aren’t acknowledging that all souls belong to GOD (EZEK 18:4), and He is at liberty to recall anyone of us, any time He desires, and He doesn’t have to ask permission to do so.

In the book of JAMES we are asked to consider the end of Job’s story (JAMES 5:11): GOD blessed him after his severe trials with twice as much livestock, twice as much wealth, he fathered 10 more children – but he had 10 children originally – why didn’t GOD double His blessing on Job’s children and give him 20?

Because the original 10 children that died, weren’t really gone – they just went Home to heaven. As saints, the family that pass on who have also been redeemed by the blood of the LAMB aren’t really gone: they’ve just had a change of address!

The fellowship Abraham had with the LORD that when He took Sarah back, our father of the faith did not charge GOD foolishly. This did not mean he didn’t mourn or that he was wrong to do so. No doubt this sorrow was deep and painful, as his fellowship with his wife was a strong bond, a bond of fellowship that they both shared in their walk of faith together with GOD Himself.

Every funeral we attend, is a beneficial reminder to us of our own mortality, and to consider how we are spending our lives – are we making our lives count for the kingdom of GOD in service to the LORD? Brother Albert shared with us an account of some missionaries that retired and spent their last days collecting seashells. Was this a worthy use of the last days, hours and minutes of saints of GOD?

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better
How could the day of our death be better than the day of our birth? This is only true for the saint of GOD; when we were born, we were born into this world that is under the curse of sin – now to be sure, despite this, there are times of blessing and benefit in our lives since the day of our birth, but nonetheless, it is mixed with sorrow and pain – and souls who don’t know Christ in this world are separated from the Creator of Life and Peace and Love and when they meet death, this leads to destruction.

As Christians, the day of our death means that we cross the doorway that leads away from this sorrowful and sin-burdened world and into the life that is to come, free from the curse of sin, free from these mortal bodies and into the very presence of the LORD!

But whether sinner or saint, the time we have in this world is reducing daily – time is like a giant, widespread dragnet that’s drawing every living soul together, from the early ages of Earth’s history, throughout the thousands of years – scientists ‘guesstimate’ that from the beginning until today, there have been about 108 billion souls, all of these, without exception, caught in the dragnet of time and being drawn towards eternity and the Judgment Throne of GOD.

It’s vital that we know the LORD Jesus, and that we have eternal life as a result of believing the Gospel by faith:

1 JOHN 5:12-14
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God
It's been said that he who is born once, will die twice, and he who is born twice will die once. Essentially what this means is that those who are born physically into this world but never receive salvation through Christ, who are not born again of His Spirit, will die physically, and once judged at the Great White Throne Judgment (REV 20:11), will perpetually die in what's called the Second Death (REV 2:11; 20:6).
However, for those who are born again, they will only die once, physically (except for those saints who are alive at the time of the rapture of the church; 1 THESS 4:16-18). But because they've been born again, they will not suffer the Second Death as will those who are lost.

GENESIS 23:3-7
And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth

So Abraham, with no certain dwelling place in the land has to find a burial place for his beloved and he goes to some of the natives of the land, the sons of Heth and asks for a possession and they tell him, this great man of faith and honor – “select from the finest of our sepulchers and bury her Abraham! Which ever one you choose, we won’t withhold it from you!”

And this humble man of GOD bows himself in gratitude for their generosity. Now, remember, GOD had already promised Abraham all the land: He told him, look to the north and south, east and west, as far as your eye can see – all of this land, the LORD said, I am giving to you:

GENESIS 13:14-15
14 And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever
He could have told them, GOD promised me all of this land, so I’m taking this or that plot of land, whether you approve or not. Yet he asks and shows humble gratitude. This meek man is promised to inherit the land GOD promised him, and the same GOD of all creation promises the meek of the earth, His saints, that we will inherit the Earth, the entire globe (MATT 5:5)!!

GENESIS 23:8-12
And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar, That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a burying place amongst you. 10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying, 11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead. 12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land

Machpelah means “double” or “double portion”, and this is what Ephron is willing to give Abraham, a cave that is large enough not only for Sarah his wife, but also for himself – and willing to give it and the field surrounding it, at no cost! See how when a man honors the LORD, he himself is honored!

GENESIS 23:13-16
13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. 14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, 15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead. 16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant

Four hundred shekels in Abraham’s day would equal approximately $128,000. Considering that the average cost for a funeral today, roughly $10,000 altogether, this is a pretty hefty sum, but as we already know, Abraham was a wealthy man, and apparently so was this man Ephron, because he counts the cost as something trivial: “what is that between you and I”, he says. Though he offered it freely, Abraham nevertheless pays the full price so that this field in Machpelah is legitimately and legally his own.

GENESIS 23:17-19
17 And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure 18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. 19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan

In GENESIS 20 we learned that Mamre meant “strength and fatness” – it refers to plenty and health and prosperity. Yet here it’s mentioned in regard to Sarah’s death and burial. What is the significance of this?

Paul the apostle has the answer for us:

1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-17,18-21,25-26,49-54,55-58
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then Christ is not raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
There is coming a day when all of the hardships and struggles, doubts and uncertainties will be gone; no more sin, no more evil, no more corruption, no more hatred and violence and crime and war; no more will the strong victimize the weak. No more need for police stations and fire departments and courts of law or prisons; no need for medicine and hospitals, especially terminal wards! There will be grace and peace, and love and joy and unending and glorious fellowship among the saints and angels of GOD, with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

20 And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying place by the sons of Heth

HEBREWS 2:7-15
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him
[the last enemy being death for example; 1 COR 15:26]. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Thus for the child of GOD, death holds at the most a temporary fear of the unknown (how many of us have died before?). Death for the saint is considered "sleep" (1 COR 15:20). Just as we close our eyes and drift off into unconsciousness, we again and again wake up from that place and experience life, which is no dream.
But for that one solitary and fleeting moment of darkness as we leave this world and these corrupt bodies, we enter into eternity where there is Light and Love, Grace and Peace, all securely held in the embrace of our LORD Jesus Christ, Who even now bears the emblems of His love for us in the scars on His glorified body. The only man-made things in heaven. Our victory over sin and death is certain, as certain as the Word of GOD's Truth!


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