The mourning of the faithful.

Genesis 23 shows Abraham going through the most extreme trial of an aged Christian’s life. He loses his wife Sarah, whom he had been married to for 100 years or more! How Abraham endures this agony is a great lesson to us.

Faith Never Kills Affection (verses 1-2)

People of faith never belittle or undermine affection. They do mourn and weep when they lose a loved one. The natural sorrow of a person of faith reveals their character and shows how much they’ve loved.

Losing a spouse or a next of kin is one of the most excruciating experience an aged saint can endure. At these times, saints demonstrate how genuine their faith is. They become even more pronounced examples for those who are younger, watching how great faith responds. Their life is a walking spiritual lesson.

Abraham lost the princess of the nation of Israel. It was appropriate for him to mourn. In fact, people of faith mourn more deeply than others. Abraham and Sarah had lived, travelled, and walked with God together for 100 years or more. Remembering times of investing in eternity together makes the sorrow of a believing spouse even deeper, though it is not without hope.

Christian couples who walk with God are inseparable in life and ministry. Two really are one when they walk with God and serve the Lord together for years. When an older saint loses such a spouse, they experience an agony so deep, they can’t look around anymore – they have to look up. Their hope becomes even more fixed on Heaven.

Faith Believes the Promises of God (verse 3)

Faith is not defeated by loss; the most godly people get up and keep walking by faith. Abraham didn’t go back to Ur. His faith doesn’t regress when tragedy struck. He continues to make progress as he claims the promises of God.

God had promised Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would possess all the land where they were travelling. They did not possess any of it yet, but Abraham shows his faith in God’s promise by purchasing some land to bury Sarah. All the people of God benefit from Abraham’s legacy of faith.

Faith Influences the Unfaithful (verses 4-20)

The text is very clear that all the sons of Heth or Hittites had heard and seen Abraham and Sarah’s testimony. Abraham shows 6 virtues in his interaction with the Hittites:

  1. Consistency – Abraham had become a leader of leaders and was called a “prince” though he had no official standing.
  2. Courteous – Abraham bowed to the people in verse 7. People of faith should be known as the most polite.
  3. Just – Abraham was fair and equitable when purchasing the land. He valued it and didn’t ask to pay less than what it was worth.
  4. Prudent – Abraham had witnesses to the transaction.
  5. Honest – Abraham didn’t pay with counterfeit silver.
  6. Confident – Abraham lived his trust in God’s promises for all to see. The purchase was a testimony to his children as he mingled the dust of his life with the promised land.

Application Points

  • Saints over 60, this study is not intended to bring pressure. You already show the grace of God in unique ways by your perseverance. Thank you for your example, and keep walking by faith!
  • Believers under 60, watch and mirror the lives of our older saints. Be like them! There is always much to learn. If you don’t know how to handle something, ask someone who is spiritually mature and aged.
  • Never forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us, who invested and sacrificed for eternal purposes. Success of any church in the long haul comes from the committed service of faithful saints over time. Learn simple obedience from those who have gone before, and imitate their consistency in worship and service.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Titus 2:1-5 – Older saints’ lives are a walking spiritual lesson.
  • Isaiah 51:1-2, 1 Peter 3:1-6, Hebrews 11:11 – tributes to Sarah.
  • Psalm 91:16 – God grants long life to the faithful.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – Grief of a believer is not like unbelievers’.
  • Matthew 5:5 – New Testament Christians also have a promise of inheriting the earth.
  • Proverbs 12:26, Matthew 5:16, Proverbs 24:27 – Virtues shown by Abraham.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears, received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

I now am reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

Quotes to Ponder:

In an hour of his sorrow, Abraham is seen as a man full of dignity, which results from his faith.

Here, Sarah, who has forever been to Abraham a princess, was taken from his side. And in her removal, he lost what undoubtedly had been the strongest human prop to his faith. She had accompanied him all along the pathway of obedience, from Ur of the Chaldees. She had shared his darkness and his blessing. She had doubtless sometimes been the cause of fear and faltering, but more often, she had strengthened him.

--G. Campbell Morgan.

God does not dehumanize us when we’re saved. He knows our frame and remembers we are but dust. In our affliction, God Himself is afflicted.

For Abraham, losing Sarah was far more difficult than the amputation of a leg or an arm, for he that loves his wife loves her even as he loves his whole body. In true love between believers, the first thrills of what the world calls romance grow into ties that are as real as the sinews which control our muscles. When these are severed, it seems that life itself is cut. But the heart turns more eagerly to the homeland of Heaven, and the heart finds lodging there.

Faith weeps beside its dead and then moves out to fulfillment of duty, and it puts a check on sorrow. Faith takes hold on earth’s greatest despair, death, and makes it the occasion of a possession which holds within itself all of the future.

No Christian who understands the word of God is going to spend much time hanging around the cemetery. There will be thoughtful and respectful care to see that all things are done decently and in order, and there will be purposeful, perpetual care for the grave – but life is to be lived among the living. If the survivor wishes to meditate upon the departed loved one, the last place in the world in which to do so is a cemetery. That is the site of human decay. The best place is the warm home where there are vital memories, the open Bible, and the recollection of worship together.