PERMISSION TO MOURN
Lord God, how great You are. The God of the universe, the Lord of the heavens is with me.
Read GENESIS 23
The Death of Sarah
23 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.
3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”
7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”
10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give[b] you the field, and I give[c] you the cave that is in it. I give[d] it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”
12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”
14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels[e] of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”
16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.
17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Thank God for His biblical permission to mourn and weep, just as His own Son did, knowing that this process brings healing to the broken-hearted.
The purchase of a burial site for Sarah is full of significance. This is a proper land transaction: by purchasing the cave and field, Abraham becomes the owner of Canaanite land and can establish the tomb for future generations.
When ministering to the bereaved, I often ask individuals how they are coping. ‘I’m keeping busy’, is a common response, which can be a sign of not coping well at all. In some cultures, people feel embarrassed to mourn openly; other cultures may mourn and weep freely. The Scriptures, however, encourage healthy mourning. The emotional trauma of loss experienced by the bereaved cannot be overstated. Mourning is a necessary process and activity that aids the healing process. ‘Keeping busy’ is not what Abraham wanted. He wanted to mourn and to weep.
In mourning, he wanted to reflect, to remember and to grieve the loss of his beloved wife. In weeping, he wanted to shed tears of inner pain and anguish at losing his life partner. The Bible holds Sarah in exceedingly high esteem. She is the only female whose age at the time of her death is recorded (1). Further indication of esteem is reflected in the biblical injunction to follow her example.1 Sarah is one of two women commended for faith in Hebrews 11.2 Is there a loved one that you have lost and have you felt forced to rush the grieving process through acts of busyness? If so, reread this chapter slowly and deliberately and assign a special period of time to dedicate yourself to mourn the loss of your loved one. Remember him or her with love, affection and thankfullness to God for their influence in your life.
Invite the Lord to minister to any wounds that you may be carrying concerning your loss. Thank Him for His tender mercies and the healing that He brings.
Comforting One, I am grateful for a friend who shared these words with me: “He comforts us enough to bring solace now, but leaves enough of a void to make us anticipate the reunion.” Thank You, Lord, for Your comfort and hope.
1 Isa 51:1,2; 1 Pet 3:3–6 2 Heb 11:11