The Old Covenant texts are preserved for learning (Romans 15:4). When one opens the pages of the Holy Bible, it doesn’t take long until the introduction of a pivotal character named Abraham. A lot of drama surrounded this figure during his life. He was called to leave his extended family and go to a land that would be shown to him (Genesis 12:1-3). God promised to make a great nation out of him though he was childless (Genesis 12:2). This took 25 years of faith and perseverance (Genesis 21:1-3). In the midst of waiting for the promise, there were many trials. Abraham and Lot separate because of strife (Genesis 13:8-9). Lot was taken during the battle of the kings and Abraham rescued and recovered him (Genesis 14:12-16). The record divulges the failures (Genesis 19-20) and the faith of Abraham (Genesis 22). In all the records of Abrahams life, by his side was Sarah. Sarah was Abrahams beautiful wife (Genesis 12:11). All the travel and toil they experienced together. All the struggles and memories they made.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Life always equals out, there is a death for every life.” Life’s cycle caught up with Sarah, and then Abraham (Genesis 23 and 25). When Sarah died, Abraham secured a field that contained a cave to bury his beloved. This cave would serve as the final resting place for the Patriarchs and Matriarchs save Rachel, who was buried in Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). This is addressed by Jacob as he requests to be “gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah” (Genesis 49:29-31). Speaking of Abraham and his posterity, the Hebrews writer penned, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having received them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
Abraham is recorded as mourning and weeping over the death of Sarah (Genesis 23:2). She was his bride, his life partner, the mother of their promised child, the companion of their wanderings, and his friend. The Bible says bluntly what was taking place as Abraham was coming to grips with the fact that Sarah would no longer accompany him. Imagine the pain and bitter tears as he prepared to do what no loving spouse desires. Abraham had to bury his wife.
What the text reveals after this is interesting. Abraham was 137 years old at the point of Sarahs death (Genesis 17:17; 23:1). The next 38 years would end up being the most productive years of his life. After he laid to rest his bride, Abraham continued on his journey of faith. He kept trusting in God. He remarried a woman named Katurah and she bore him six sons, and an unknown number of daughters. Abraham’s life is characterized by God in this, “Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, full of years; and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). For 38 years, Abraham continued to live the life that God would have him live. For 38 years Abraham continued to live by faith so it could be said that he “died in faith” (Hebrews 11:13). And it is from a cave in Machpelah, that Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs tell their story and help prepare the faithful to finish theirs.
Just what do these heroes of faith tell mankind from a cave in Machpelah? They teach that (1) God is faithful in life and in death. (2) They teach that the eternal abode is far more valuable than a temporal dwelling and (3) Faith is lived, tested, tried and rewarded.
First, from a cave in Machpelah, the Bible teaches the lesson of Gods faithfulness. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God of supreme loyalty. God dealt directly with these men and they believed in the promises God made them. Over and over, God proved himself to them, and although they died, God hadn’t forgotten them. God used them as examples of faithfulness for those under the Christian dispensation (Hebrews 11; Romans 4). The prophet Zephaniah said, “He faileth not” (Zephaniah 3:5). How salient that is, and eternally true, that God has never once failed. These patriarchs died “in faith”, having not only believed in the promises of God, but in obedience to His will for their life.
Second, from a cave in Machpelah, the Bible teaches the lesson that the eternal abode is far more important than a temporal dwelling. Abraham left what luxury afforded in Ur of the Chaldees, to dwell with his family in a tent. Isaac and Jacob also dwelt in tents, instead of an established, fixed, settled, home (Hebrews 11:9). They are referred to as “strangers”, “pilgrims”, and “wanderers” (Hebrews 11:9, 13, 38). The only “place” they actually owned was a cave, to bury their dead. The text tells us that they were not “mindful of that country of whence they came out” (Hebrews 11:15), but they desired a “better country, that is an heavenly” (Hebrews 11:16). Nothing on this earth was more important than following and obeying God.
Finally, the Bible teaches from a cave in Machpelah that faith is lived, tested, tried and rewarded. If one will peruse the Genesis record, all of these men and their families faced certain trials and burdens. Abraham gave up his extended family to follow God, offered his son Isaac, sent away Ishmael, fought to recover his nephew, stood scared before kings, buried his wife, and on and on we could go with the troubles and trials of Abrahams life. Isaac and Rebekah dealt with barrenness, and plead with God to open her womb. The problem of infertility plagues many today. Countless people know the pain of the inability to conceive. This was a life struggle and a test of faith, just as it is today! Isaac had two sons which caused him grief… does anyone identify with that? Do you have children that don’t get along, that do not treat each other right or even you? Isaac knew your pain. He lived it before you! Jacob was “the chosen” between the boys and he fell in love with Rachel (Genesis 29:18). He made a covenant with Laban for the hand of his youngest daughter, and then Laban pulled a fast one and married off Leah to him instead (Genesis 29:23-26). Have you ever been lied to and “gotten over on” by family (Genesis 29:14-15)? Well, if so, you’re in good company, because Jacob also experienced that kind of deceit and ill treatment.
The point is, no matter what life throws at a child of God, God is looking for your faithfulness in such. God is looking to approve you, not destroy you (John 3:17). God knows the benefits of a faith that is proven in the crucible of life, being tried and tested. It is His ultimate desire to reward those that “hold on” and “keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Thus, Peter would write, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).
So whether you have buried the loved one who seemed to be your entire reason for existing, or your children seem to wreck your heart and make your life a tragic mess, if you cannot have a child and the emptiness of home tears your heart to pieces, if your family and close associates have betrayed you and used you… make sure you are living by faith, so you can die in faith! Right now, you are writing your own legacy for your posterity. There is so much to learn from a cave in Machpelah. Chief of all lessons is that submission to Jesus Christ is what makes you an heir of Abraham according to the same promise he waited on (Galatians 3:26-29). And in doing such, you will find you have left a blessing for those who will remember your life from your cave in Machpelah.
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