Abraham eagerly waited for, sought, and longed for the city of foundations, New Jerusalem, in the new creation, the better country (Hebrews 11:10, 14, 16). May we have the same focus in our walk of faith on Abraham’s path (Romans 4:12).
Within the record of Abraham’s walk of faith, the whole of Genesis 23 records the death and burial of Sarah. Although many aspects of Abraham’s life are not recorded at all, God chose to record in detail the site and purchase of the burying place of Sarah. Later Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah were buried there too. Why?
Genesis 23 is a window through which we can see the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is not found in this chapter, but it can be seen through it.*
Abraham and Sarah were living at Beersheba. Here was a well obtained in a covenant for the price of seven lambs, and also a tamarisk tree (Genesis 21:25-34). These are a picture of the water of life and tree of life we obtain in the new covenant through the redemption of Christ, the real Lamb of God.
Sarah lived in Beersheba but died and was buried in Hebron, a place of fellowship on the way from Beersheba to Jerusalem.
The cave of Machpelah in Hebron is the gateway to the New Jerusalem….Sarah was not simply buried in the cave of Machpelah; she is now sleeping there, waiting for the day when she will wake up and find herself in the New Jerusalem.
Sarah’s death did not disappoint Abraham in his search for a better country and for a city with foundations. On the contrary, it stirred up his expectation of the coming day. Therefore, he devoted much attention and spent a large amount of money to purchase the burying place for Sarah, himself, and his descendants. If we have the light from the New Testament, we shall realize that this indicates the expectation of resurrection. Once again I say that the sepulcher is the passageway, the gateway, into the expected city, the New Jerusalem.
Our “tent” is our dwelling place in this age. If we die before the Lord returns, our tomb is our resting place, where we are asleep in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:18) until the time of resurrection.
[Genesis 23:6] speaks of the “choice” sepulcher, referring to the best sepulcher. When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He did not have a good dwelling place [Matthew 8:20]. But after He died, He was put into a very good burying place (Matt. 27:57-60). He lived in a poor home, but He was buried in a rich tomb. In the Bible, this is a principle. Abraham paid more attention to the sepulcher than to the tent.
Abraham gave, and the record in the Bible gives, more attention to the tomb than to the tent, because Abraham’s being was fixed on the coming city and the better country. May we be those who follow Abraham’s pattern, giving more attention to the new creation and New Jerusalem than to our current city and country.
* All quotes in this post are from Life-study of Genesis (online reading here), message 59, by Witness Lee, © Living Stream Ministry.