Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years; this was the length of Sarah’s life. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Abraham rose up from beside his dead, and said to the Hittites, “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight…”
So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, passed to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, in the presence of all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it passed from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burying place. Genesis 23:1-4, 17-20
So now we draw near to the end of the story of Abraham and Sarah. Sarah is the first to go. After a long life, after mothering the child of the promise, after following Abraham far from the land of their birth, it is over for Sarah. Abraham purchases his first little corner in the promised land. A burial cave.
As we have walked through this story over the past month, we’ve done so by dancing within the tension of “what it says” and “how it says it”, between “what it meant” and “what it means.” We pay attention to both our head and our guts, to what we read, and to how we react to what we read. I think this is a faithful way of listening to the Bible.
Today we read of the death of a beloved life-long spouse. Even apart from the narrative of the Bible, following the promise, we still hear this as a love story.
Earlier this month, Harold and Ruth Knapke died in the room they shared in a nursing home in Dayton, OH. Harold went first, less than 11 hours later, she joined him. August 11th was just days before their 66th anniversary. Harold was 91; Ruth was 89. They had known one another since childhood and shared a beautiful life together.
There is something in that story, as there is at the end of Sarah’s life, that resonates within us. That is as good as it gets. Lives well lived. Abraham mourns and he takes care of business, as we all do when we lose someone close.
Abraham negotiated the price of the cave. What is priceless is the assurance that, even as Sarah, Harold, and Ruth drew their last breathes, they did so remembering the promise that guided and sustained them throughout their lives – “I am the Lord your God, who drew you out of the wilderness, to bring you to the Promised Land.”
Let us pray: Dear Lord, thank you for the promises that sustain us in this life and give us hope for the life to come. Thank you for those relationships in our lives which model your steadfast love and devotion. Thank you for making a place for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.