Saturday 14th November 2020
27th Cheshvan 5781
PARASHAT CHAYEI SARAH - חיי שרה | Sarah's life FFOZ
Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18; Haftarah: 1 Kings 1:1-31; Gospel: John 4
Stranger in a Strange Land
God promised Abraham the whole land of Canaan, but the reality was that Abraham did not even own enough land to bury his wife. Abraham was a stranger in Canaan without any property of his own. He did not have a family tomb. He had to purchase property from the locals. Abraham approached the Hittites who lived at Hebron and said, “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you.” The author of the book of Hebrews paraphrased that statement in his remarks on Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan: By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:9-10) Having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the [land]. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16) The author of the book of Hebrews inferred from Abraham’s statement “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you” that Abraham was seeking after Messianic Jerusalem and the kingdom of heaven on earth. He looked for “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” and “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” If he had merely been seeking a homeland to call his own, he could have returned to Aram in Mesopotamia where his family still had holdings. Abraham had plenty of opportunities to return to Aram, and later in this parashah, he sends his servant Eliezer back there. That being the case, why did Abraham and Sarah choose to live as nomads and strangers on a little scrap of a promised land that they themselves were not going to inherit? The author of the epistle to the Hebrews says, “These died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). They lived as strangers and exiles in the land of Canaan, but they did so confident in the future inheritance. They sought the promised land of the Messianic Era. They anticipated the transcendent, “holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). In the world to come, the Jerusalem above will descend to unite with the physical Jerusalem below. Then the upper waters will be rejoined with the lower waters. Though Abraham and Sarah could only glimpse it as if from a distance, and even then, only through the eyes of faith, that glimpse of the Messianic Era and the New Jerusalem of the world to come made this current world and all it had to offer pale in comparison. Abraham identified himself as a citizen of the future kingdom and city. As to this present world and all it had to offer, he said, “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you.” Therefore, God was not ashamed to be called the God of Abraham.