Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said,I am an alien and a stranger among youGenesis 23:3-4a
I love the phrase
Abraham rose from beside his dead wife. That signified squaring his shoulder, lifting up his eye, firming his step, and facing life again, and it is followed by a wonderful confession of faith:
I am an alien and a stranger among you This is the word of a man who looks beyond all that earth has to offer and once more sees the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God.
Although Abraham has been weeping in the valley of the shadow of death, he somehow senses there can be no shadow without a light somewhere. Have you learned that? When shadows come into your life, it is a sign that there must be light somewhere. Of course, if we turn our back on the light, then we ourselves are the ones who cause the shadow. I think people today are living in a constant shadow because their back is turned toward the light, and they themselves cast a pall upon their own existence. But if we face the light, looking at that light streaming from the city whose builder and maker is God, then the only shadow comes temporarily when some object obscures the light for a moment.
After all, that is what death is; it is simply a temporary obscuring of the light. But the man of faith lifts his eyes and looks beyond the shadow and sees the light still shining, and he says to these people,
I am an alien and a stranger among you. Nothing satisfies me down here. I can never settle down among you. The whole land had been given to him by the promise of God, but the dead body of his wife before him reminds him that it is not yet God's time. His faith is not weakened by Sarah's death; rather, it is strengthened by it.
If Abraham had not remembered that he was a pilgrim and a stranger, his heart would have been crushed to despair by the death of his beloved life's companion. But Abraham lifts his eyes beyond this to the light from the city beyond. He remembers that nothing in this life was ever intended to fully meet the needs of the heart of the pilgrim stranger passing through.
Dr. Barnhouse told of a young woman whose husband had been killed in action during the war. When the telegram came, this Christian woman read it through and then said to her mother,
I am going up to my room, and please don't disturb me. Her mother called her father at work and told him what had happened, and he came hurrying home and immediately went up to the room. His daughter didn't hear him come in, and he saw her kneeling beside her bed. The telegram was spread open on the bed before her. She was bowed over it. And as he stood there, he heard her say,
Oh, my Father, my heavenly Father, The man turned around and went back down the stairs and said to his wife,
She is in better hands than mine.
This is what faith does in the hour of grief. The very strength of Abraham's faith in the midst of anguish is that he is an alien and a stranger, a pilgrim passing through to that city that can alone satisfy the human heart.
Father, I know life can often strike with terrible blows. May I be captured by One who said that I can never be fully satisfied with what is here, and may my eyes be caught by the light that streams from the city beyond, that I may be here fitted for that place.
Are we living in shadows created by turning our backs on the Truth and Life that are ours in Christ Jesus? To whom do we go when life tumbles in?