Hayyei Sarah
For the week of November 22, 2008 / 24 Heshvan 5769
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 1:1-31

Temporary Residents

I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. (Bereshit / Genesis 23:4; ESV)

Last week I mentioned a contrast between Abraham and his nephew Lot. Abraham had accepted God's call to leave the familiar and the unknown to live as a sojourner (temporary resident) in the land of Canaan. Lot, on the other hand, was drawn to the security of city life and strove for place and position, which, in the end, counted for nothing.

God had promised Abraham to make him into a great nation and to give his descendants the land of Canaan though he was childless in his old age. Abraham lived the remainder of his life anticipating, but never fully realizing, this promise. He knew that the God of the Universe had determined to give him the very land in which he lived as a foreigner until the day he died.

Abraham is the Bible's prototype of a man of faith. Living by faith means relying on the unchanging truths of God no matter how things appear. In the words of the New Covenant Scriptures, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1; ESV). This is how Abraham lived. He believed God's word and followed his lead, albeit not always perfectly, not always without fear. He didn't look to people and circumstances for security. He didn't seek to build his own kingdom. When he, at times, took matters into his own hands, and God would clarify the situation and direct him otherwise, Abraham accepted God's correction.

Abraham's determination to remain true to God prevented him from finding permanence in the Promised Land. God protected and provided for him, but never directed him to acquire the land. This means that he had to live with the tension of knowing that while the land was set apart for him, he remained a stranger in that land. If anyone should have felt entitled to acquire something it was Abraham. Yet he held back. He waited on God and was willing to live with that tension, something that Lot wasn't willing to do.

God calls us to live with that same tension. Receiving God's promises doesn't mean that we will necessarily see the fulfillment of those promises in our lifetime. Yet as we hide his promises in our hearts God will often use the events of our lives and the things that we do like seeds in preparation for a harvest in the future. Just like planting looks very different from harvest, so the circumstances of our lives while we anticipate God's promises may look very different from the days of their fulfillment.

God is preparing us for the Messiah's return when he will set everything to rights. The world in which we live today looks very different from what it will one day be. Yet we are called to live in anticipation and preparation for the day when Yeshua returns. This puts us at odds with the world as we know it, as Abraham was in his day.

Yeshua once said to a religious leader who claimed that he would follow him wherever he would go, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20; ESV). Like Abraham, Yeshua's earthly life lacked the kind of permanence many of us strive for. It is not that we are all called to a literal nomadic existence, but that we are to live as temporary residents in the world as we know it now (see 1 Peter 2:11). Until the Lord returns we can never be fully at home in the societies in which we live, for we are anticipating something much better.

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