One of my favorite genres of music is Christian rap/hip-hop. It cracks me up. Don’t get me wrong, some Christian hip-hop artists write really good music, especially these days. But there are some songs, circa 2009 and earlier, whose lyrics and delivery just have me rolling. So many of them sound like they’re trying so hard to be like the cool mainstream rappers, especially when they rap and sing about all the money and cars and fame they’re raking in! Granted, the Christian artists clean this up by explaining that the cars are blessings from God from doing the right thing (okay) and that they’re going to pay tithes on all their money (I swear I am not making this up), but nonetheless, it is hilarious.
Besides make me laugh, these songs are interesting to me because of the way they view the Christian life. The artists all seem to have the same basic assumption: that true Christians are blessed with wealth and success. I have a different view. Having grown up Seventh-Day Adventist and reading all about Ellen G. White and her story, I’ve always assumed that true Christians usually meet with struggle and hardship in their lives.
Neither view is always correct, and Abraham’s story is just one example of the wealth God lovingly bestowed on one of His faithful children. Not only was Abraham wealthy, as we have seen in chapters past, but he came to be respected and admired, so much so that when his wife Sarah died at 127, the peoples living around Abraham were eager to offer him land on which to bury his dead.
Abraham could have taken their land for free, but he insisted on paying, urging Ephron the Hittite, the man who owned the land in question, until he half-heartedly declared a price for the field (verses 10-14). Respectful and full of integrity till the end, Abraham paid for the field of Machpelah near Mamre, and then buried his wife there.
The Treasures Within:
In The World
We’ve been hearing for a while now that Abraham was rich, but in this chapter we discover that he was fairly well-known, too. The Hittites living near him called Abraham “a mighty prince” (verse 4) – they greatly respected him. It couldn’t have been Abraham’s riches alone that endeared him to the Hittites so much that they were willing to give up their property to him for nothing. I imagine that Abraham was friendly with some of them, the way He was with the Amorites in chapter 14. Maybe he hung out with some of them regularly or invited them over for dinner. He may have even been actively witnessing to some of the Hittites. Whatever the details, Abraham obviously did not avoid people just because they did not believe in His God. Instead, he respected them and perhaps even loved them.
But Not Of the World
Abraham was not aloof around his Hittite brethren, yet they could probably tell that he was different from them. For one, Abraham was extremely humble. His humility oozes out of this chapter; it’s almost too much. Abraham refuses to take the Hittites’ land for free. He speaks to the Hittites with great respect. He even bows down (verse 7) to them, to people who called him “a mighty prince”!
But that’s not all. Abraham further distinguishes himself from the Hittites with his words. He calls himself “a foreigner and a stranger” among the Hittites. Perhaps he was just declaring the fact that he was of a different nationality from them. Still, this statement makes me think of Lot, Abraham’s unfortunate nephew, who also tried living near people who did not believe in the true God. Lot could not find a balance between kindness and friendship with his neighbors and respect for his faith and his God. He compromised, a lot, and then paid the price for it. Abraham seems to have avoided this fate, managing to coexist peacefully with the Hittites while at the same time subtly, yet firmly, declaring a separation between those who did not worship the Lord and his own household, one firmly following after the one true God.
God’s Message To Us:
“When you surrender to Me, I will transform you completely.” This short chapter is really only about a business transaction. Yet the characteristics of a true man of God are displayed even in something as simple as the purchase of a field. Humility, devotion, kindness, and integrity are all revealed in Abraham as he interacts with the people around him in the most mundane of ways. This is the effect that God’s transformative power has on His children. Once touched by Him they will talk different, act different, and even buy different. Even the people around them will be affected. They will take notice. Time and again, God has told Abraham that he will be a blessing to tons of people, even to those outside of his own family. When we commit our hearts and lives to Christ, the same will be able to be said about us.
What do you think? What jumped out at you from this short chapter of the Bible? What do you think God wanted to you understand from this chapter?
One thought on “Ballin’ (Genesis 23)”
You know, I don’t think the Hittites were especially honoring Abraham when they let him buy the burial site for Sarah. I think they were displaying common courtesy. I think the way they came up with a price for the field was polite bargaining. However, Abraham was truly honored among them.