Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #5 Chai Sarah (Sarah’s life) B’resheit (Genesis) 23:1-25:18
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1;1-31
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:19-22; 27:3-10
This week we will explore Abraham’s hospitality in a different scenario from that which we explored last week with the three angels and his kindness toward Lot. Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah just died at 127 years of age. One hundred-twenty-seven reflects the ideal lifespan of 120 years plus 7, the number of spiritual perfection and the sabbatical year. In this way, Sarah is separated out as matriarch and the mother of those who believe in G-d. Abraham finished mourning for Sarah and then got up and got on with the business of burying her and moving on with his life. How long was this mourning process? The Talmud tells us that one weeps for three days, mourns for seven, and, in some ways, for thirty. His hospitality is shown again through his unselfish acts in relation to taking care of Sarah’s burial and his desire to continue serving G-d over his grief. He did not commit suicide, solicit secondary gain, or get angry at G-d. He grieved and moved on to the business of continuing to serve G-d, demonstrated by the way he conducted business with the selfish sons of Het and Efron specifically. Today I want to emphasize the difference between intellectual knowing and knowing through experience in the context of Sarah’s death and Abraham’s response. My prayer is that you will obtain a deeper understanding and reassurance that death for the believer is not something to be feared. For the true believer, death is merely a shedding of our physical, sinful shell, and a liberation of our soul back to YHVH/Yahshua, our Creator. After all, there is no further need of a physical body to serve G-d on earth, so we break out of the chrysalis of humanity and our soul returns to G-d. Our focus text is 23:1-25:18.
During our lifetimes, we will be faced with the death of loved ones. When many of us were young, we may have thought of death as something that happened to “old people”, and it seemed that we were immune. As we grow, we are generally taught in one venue or another about death, but we are inundated with conflicting messages. Many are taught that death is the end of everything, and the ancient saying of the Greek philosopher Epicurus who said “ eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die.” He believed that true happiness lay in the pursuit of pleasure, a philosophy held by our pagan society. Recall the bumper sticker that reads “he who as the most toys wins” all of the enticement to buy more, get more, do more to satisfy the self is in total contradiction to G-d’s Torah. Death is denied or pushed to the ‘back burner” of our psyches because it is thought of as “the end.” But the true reality of death became known through experience, a true “knowing” witnessed by children during the Holocaust. They became all too aware of the brutality of man and the indiscriminate killing of their families if even they survived to remember such atrocities. Today children the world over are exposed to death of friends and loved ones at all ages much sooner and more frequently due to the increase of disease, famine, plagues, terrorism, resulting from a general disregard for G-d’s commands; all prophesied because mankind has turned away from G-d and no longer sees Him as relevant in any context.
Death does not discriminate; it is an equal opportunity event that will affect everyone save those who will be raptured and perhaps those who will be sealed to serve G-d through the Great Tribulation. But there is a Light at the end of our physical lives than cannot be blotted out for those who follow G-d’s Torah. Our patriarchs and other biblical personalities experienced this Light through personal witness in some cases, and through faith and trust in others, such as was demonstrated by Avraham. This is the crux of the lesson today.
Fortunately, G-d knows how sad it is to lose a loved one; even to One who died without sin, making a way for those who are called by Him to become reconciled to G-d and begin the life-journey toward salvation. Studying and internalizing Abraham’s experience and subsequent actions at the death of his beloved Sarah can help us to address the reality of death in a way consistent with people who trust in G-d; that nothing happens without His knowledge and that all things work together for the good for those who love G-d and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
We can observe five behaviors that Abraham demonstrated that facilitated coping with such a loss:
1. He expressed sorrow and grief; he wept and mourned (v. 1-2). Note that he did not become consumed with grief to the point of being incapacitated and ineffective as a servant of G-d. Neither did he suppress his grief and descend into a state of denial that can eat away at a person unto death.
2. He was responsible; he arose and moved on (v.3). He understood there was more work to do; a mission not complete, and he continued to serve his G-d.
3. He confessed his faith. He was a stranger and sojourner on earth whose hope was for a permanent home in Canaan and in heaven (Heb. 11:8-10) (v.4).
4. He was a strong testimony to the power of G-d as he made all the funeral arrangements (v. 5-18). I can share from my own experience, it is quite difficult to arrange and conduct services for a member of one’s own family. Abraham demonstrated strength that can only come from G-d as he prepared for and completed the burial process.
5. Abraham buried his loved one in faith and love (v. 19-20).
Now we will focus on Sarah’s life as she is the only matriarch given so much detail in G-d’s Torah. Learning more about Sarah and her relationship with Abraham will help us to understand her love for Avraham and the depth of Abraham’s loss.
1. Sarah had willingly followed her husband Abraham in his call from YHVH
2. She had willingly left home, family, and friends; all she had, to follow her husband
3. She willingly travelled with Abraham as he sought to follow and obey the one true G-d; a concept much different that the society of idol-worshippers from which she and Abraham had come.
4. She had been steadfast through all their years together eventually believing YHVH’s promise of a child although she initially laughed at the thought.
5. She was renamed “princess” (Sarah) by G-d, changing her name from Sarai to Sarah (Gen. 17:15).
6. The story of her life provides an excellent illustration of YHVH’s grace.
7. She obeyed Abraham’s instructions to tell great leaders of the time that she was Abraham’s sister to preserve Abraham’s life.
8. She provided a dynamic example for believing wives to follow (1 Pet. 3:1-6).
9. She is listed in the great Hall of Faith as one of the great believers of faith (Heb. 11:11).
10. She is the only woman whose age and death are given in Scripture
Again, it is important to note that although Abraham expressed his sorrow, mourned and wept for his dear Sarah, he did not allow his grief to overtake and incapacitate him from continuing is service to G-d. In verse 3 he stood up and walked away from the side of his dead wife. He walked away on his own without prompting. No doubt that the deep pain and sorrow of losing a loved one pierced his heart and cut him to the bone. However, after he wept, he got up and went about his duties. How could he continue so quickly? The answer is that he knew that Sarah had followed the counsel of G-d throughout her life. Therefore, Abraham was confident in knowing that Adonai had taken her to glory. As an Old Testament believer, Sarah would have gone into Sheol until Yahshua descended there to preach to the Old Testament saints who would have ascended with Him as the first fruits. Psalm 73:24 informs us that YHVH “will guide us with His counsel and afterward receive us to glory.”
In Hebrews 11:13-14,16 we read and may understand that like Sarah, all true believers who die in faith are assured of this solemn promise: “ having not rejected the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they (you and I) were (and are) strangers and pilgrims on the earth who declare plainly that we seek and desire a better country; that is an heavenly; wherefore YHVH is not ashamed to be called their (yours and mine) G-d; for He (YHVH) hath prepared for them (you and me) a city.”
Simply written, Abraham did exactly what the Bible teaches. He did not sorrow like others sorrow… that have no hope… for Abraham believed (actively) G-d and His promises. If we trust (active) as Abraham trusted with the exception of the encounters with Pharaoh/Abimelech, we as believers know that YHVH has prepared a place for us and our loved ones that will last eternally.
As believers, we have hope:
1. Of being with our Creator immediately when we die (2 Cor. 5:8)
2. We have the hope of G-d’s return as Messiah ben David and of being united with our loved ones who have won the race to win the prize (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
3. We have hope of a better life in the next world (Ph. 1:23)
4. We have the hope of being with the Messiah and having a home and a mansion of glory made by YHVH himself (John 14:2-3:2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 11:10).
5. We have the hope of receiving a new and perfect body (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
6. We have the hope of appearing in glory (1 Pet. 5:4)
7. We have the hope of having pain, sorrow, and tears wiped away forever (Rev. 21:4)
8. We have the hope of receiving treasures (Matt. 6:20).
9. We have the hope of an eternal inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3-4; Tit. 3:7; Rom. 8:16-17)
10. We have the hope of seeing the heavens remade into a new and perfect heaven and earth (2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1; Is. 65:17; Is. 66:22).
Believers are pilgrims and sojourners on earth and we can show our true colors of faith at the passing of a loved one by emulating Avraham’s response to Sarah’s death. We do not know who of our loved ones will be saved. But we can hold to the promises of G-d that those who carry the testimony of Yahshua and guard the commands of HaShem will obtain a place in the world to come. This truth is written in many places in G-d’s Torah, but John chapter 14, Romans 2-3, and the Seven-fold Witness written in the book of Revelation are three places in the “New” Testament that affirm Old Testament scriptures that obedience to G-d’s Torah is a requirement for all who profess to believe and love G-d. Can we work our way to heaven? Of course not. But obedience to G-d’s commands is part of the equation for salvation with the other requirement being obedience out of love and a healthy fear of G-d.
We can also express our trust in YHVH by exhibiting a strong testimony in the process of making and executing funeral arrangements. To many, this may seem unimportant in the expression of faith. Nevertheless, we must be cognizant that Scripture takes 14 verses to address this subject, indicating there is something important for us to learn.
The lesson is clear and strong; the Promised Land of heaven is worth any price:
1. Abraham did not argue over the high price of the land
2. Abraham humbly and quietly paid the price and demonstrated that he was not living for this earth and its money. He had a higher calling. He loved the things that concerned his family and his G-d more than the things of this earth
3. Abraham also demonstrated a true believer’s testimony in this transaction. First, he showed proper prudence in business affairs and the purchase was secured before many witnesses.
The question of how we can cope with the death of a loved one is answered by carrying out our loved ones’ last wishes as completely as possible with faith and love and by believing the promises of YHVH Elohim and moving on with our lives. We must recognize that our life on earth is a training camp. It is a wilderness journey filled with opportunities to glorify our G-d as we traverse the hills and valleys on the way to our permanent home, made by G-d, just for those who have been found to be faithful servants. By the way, if there is no requirement for obedience to G-d’s commands, laws, and statutes, why will He call us faithful “servants”? This is something that begs research for the answer for those who say Messianic Jews and Judaism in general is “under the law.”
Yahshua assured us in John 14:2-3 with these words:
“In my Father’s house there are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” He also tells us that no one knows what awaits those who are found to be faithful servants and that many who say they are doing miracles in his Name are not going to make it:
“No eye has seen, nor ear has heard and no one’s heart has imagined all the things that G-d has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘L-rd, L-rd!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On that Day [note capital D], many will say to me ‘L-rd, L-rd! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we expel demons in your name? Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’ Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!) (Matt. 7:21-3)
Let us prayerfully read, study, internalize, and act upon these truths that we may all exhibit the faith and trust in G-d as Abraham demonstrated with the loss of his Sarah. To G-d be the glory forever and ever.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1;1-31
This week’s haftarah describes King David in his elder years, echoing this week’s Torah reading, which mentions that “Abraham was old, advanced in days.”
King David was old. As we age, we lose the insulation provided by fat in some areas of our bodies. David was not exempt from this and he was perpetually cold. A young maiden, Abishag of Shunam, was recruited to serve and provide warmth for the elderly monarch.
Seeing his father advancing in age, Adoniahu, one of King David’s sons, seized the opportunity to prepare the ground for his ascension to his father’s throne upon the latter’s passing — despite King David’s express wishes that his son Solomon succeed him. Adoniahu recruited two influential individuals — the High Priest and the commander of David’s armies — both of whom had fallen out of David’s good graces, to champion his cause. He arranged to be transported in a chariot with fifty people running before him and invited a number of his sympathizers to a festive party where he publicized his royal ambitions.
The prophet Nathan encouraged Bat Sheva, mother of Solomon, to approach King David and plead with him to reaffirm his choice of Solomon as his successor. This she did, mentioning Adoniahu’s recent actions of which the king had been unaware. Nathan later joined the Bat Sheva and the king to express support for Bat Sheva’s request. King David acceded to their request: “Indeed,” he told Bat Sheva, “as I swore to you by the Lord God of Israel saying, ‘Surely Solomon, your son, shall reign after me and he shall sit on my throne in my stead,’ surely, so will I swear this day.”
B’rit Chadashah: Focus on Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:19-22
“A Torah-teacher approached and said to him (Yahshua), ‘Rabbi, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Yahshua said to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Sir, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Yahshua replied,’ Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Son of Man: One of the titles of the Messiah based on Daniel 7:13-14, where the text has “bar-enosh” (Aramaic). “Bar-enosh,” like Hebrew ben adam, can also mean “son of man,” “typical man,” “one schooled to be a man,” or simply “man.” both heaven and on earth to be a man. Yahshua refers to himself by this title frequently, stressing his full identification with the human condition (Rom.5:12-21, 8:3-39; 1 Cor.15:21-49; Phil. 2:5-11.
In verses 21-22 we learn that IF we consider ourselves true followers, talmidim, disciples of Yahshua and lovers of G-d, we must rearrange our priorities. This disciple’s father is not physically dead. This son wants to return to the comfort of his current existence and remain home until his father dies. It is only after he gains his inheritance that he might consider following Yahshua. On this and other excuses read Luke 9:57-62. Yahshua explicitly refers to those who choose the existence in this world over serving G-d/Yahshua as “the dead.” Let the spiritually dead, those concerned with the benefits of this world, including inheritances, remain with each other in life and eventually bury their own physically dead. The true disciple must get his/her priorities straight. Consequences of not making this choice may be read (13:7,22 ;19:16-26; Luke 14:15-24).
R. Tamah Davis-Hart