Live By the Word (Genesis 22:20-23:20)

After the intensity of Genesis 22:1-19, the events described in Genesis 22:20-23:20 seem rather benign. In fact, if we are honest, we might even call them boring because they seem so “ordinary”. Sadly, we might interpret such “boring” events as being unimportant. However, it actually seems like the main point of this section is found in the very “ordinariness” of the situation. In these verses (Gen. 22:20-23:20), we see God working out His plan and purposes even in the midst of “ordinary” life – achieving and accomplishing things even as no one really seems to take notice.

First, we read about Abraham’s brother having children – eight from his wife and four from his concubine (22:20-24). Apparently, God chose to make it far easier for Nahor to have children than for Abraham. But why do we care about these verses? Why did God choose to tell us about the family of a person who has no part in the story himself? The answer is found in verse 23: after listing the names of the eight children born to Nahor by his wife, Milcah, the text says that one of those eight – Bethuel – became the father of Rebekah. This is the same Rebekah who would later become the wife of Abraham’s son, Isaac (Gen. 24). God is drawing our attention to a person who will play a key part in the upcoming story. Even though Abraham and Isaac did not know what was coming, God did. He knew the plan before it ever came to pass and was working to bring about situations and circumstances just as He saw fit.

Second, in chapter 23, we read of the death of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Abraham weeps and mourns for her – evidencing his deep love for her…love that serves as a wonderful example of the love every husband should have for his wife which points to Christ’s love for the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). The rest of the chapter is taken up with Abraham negotiating to buy a burial plot for Sarah’s body. Even though – out of respect – the people of the land try to give the land to him, Abraham refuses to take it without paying for it. Eventually, one of the men throws out a price, and Abraham – in front of everyone – counts out the money and pays for the land. From that moment on, the land belonged to Abraham. Again, who cares? Why is a real estate transaction in the Bible? The answer is that it is not just any real estate transaction. This is actually the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise regarding the land. God repeatedly promised Abraham that he would possess the land (Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 17:8), and here we see that promise coming to pass. Again, even in the midst of life’s ordinary circumstances – in this case, the death of a spouse, God is at work accomplishing His purpose.

Though it might seem “boring”, these verses point us to one of life’s most important truths: God is always at work accomplishing His purposes – even when we cannot see it or understand it. God has ordained everything that happens in this world, and it happens according to His will and purpose. This is not simply true of the “major” events in life but the “ordinary”, “normal” events that take up the majority of our lives. God is at work, and He will bring His purpose to completion. Even if we cannot see the work happening, it is. Even if we cannot understand how it will come to pass, it will. God is faithful – He always keeps His promises. And God is powerful – He always accomplishes what He wants to accomplish. These chapters in Genesis remind us of that. And the same thing that was true then is just as true now.