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.Genesis 23:13
The supreme lesson here is to show us the thorough independence of the man of faith. Abraham will not consent to own one foot of ground without paying for it. He courteously insists on taking nothing from the world, though he is ready to take everything from God. He shows a great independence here; he will not allow the world to make him rich in any degree. God had promised him this land, and no stratagem of the enemy, no temporary expedient, will satisfy his heart. At the end of his career, although he owned the land by promise, the only part he actually possessed was the field and a cave where he buried his wife.
There is a great dearth of rugged individualism in our world today. What is the secret of it? We learn from the life of Abraham that the secret is essentially fixing our eye upon another place and not being satisfied with anything that earth offers. Then we can be quite indifferent to the appeals, the claims, and the pressures that come from every side. If our hearts are really wrapped up in this scene down here, we are sitting ducks for all the pressures that come, in whatever form. If our eyes are fixed upon the city that God alone builds, where the person of faith looks, then we can be very independent here.
The letters of Samuel Rutherford are a wonderful treasury of the devotional life of the heart that is enthralled and captured by Christ. He was a great, sturdy man. I remember reading about how when he lay dying in prison in St. Andrews, Scotland, the king sent a messenger to summon him to appear in court in London to answer to the charges of high heresy. When the messenger came in before the old man and announced that the king had ordered him to appear in court, he said to him in his Scottish fashion,
Gane and tell yere master, I have a summons from a higher court, and ere this message reaches him, I'll be where few kings or great folk ever come. It was a stirring rebuke to a man of earth who thought he could summon a man of faith.
Abraham owned a burial cave in the end. That was all. It is a reminder to us, and to all men and women of faith in all times, that all we can ever really own down here is a burial ground in which we may lay to rest all the hopes and expectations of this life. All we hope for and all the fine things we hope to have someday, all the experiences we would like to live over again, all these expectations are buried in the grave.
We are made to be creatures of eternity. The book of Ecclesiastes says that God
also set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are not made to be creatures of time. We are not made to be satisfied with this brief period of life and then to pass into the endless, silent realms of death. God has set eternity in our hearts. But the great tragedy is that we can so easily lose sight of the goal. We begin to be wrapped up in the problems of time, and we lose the broad view of eternity.
Lord, teach me to live with the same kind of independence as Abraham, who fixed his eyes on those things that no person could take from him.
Are we held hostage to the things that relate simply to this time warp? Do we live each day as creatures of the values and hope of eternity?