Community Group Study “Genesis: Longing for Home”
Read Genesis 23:1-20
We have all had the experience of being away from home for a while and longing to get back. It could be at the end of a road trip, being away on business travel or time away at college. There is something in most of us that longs for the feeling of home as a place where we can rest and be at ease. Jesus uses this longing in the human heart to talk about the relationship we were designed to have with God. In John 15 Jesus called his disciples to be connected to him deeply with the word “abide”. God desires for us to be called home from the exile that sin created back in Genesis 3 and that happens in and through Jesus.
We have seen hints of this over the course of Abraham’s journey of faith in God. The Lord ] promised him three things in his initial call back in Genesis 12. God would give Abraham a people of his own making him a father of a great nation, God would bring blessing to the world through a promised redeemer in that family line (Jesus!) and God would give them a place of their own in the promised land of Canaan. So far the story of Genesis has mostly focused on the promised heir, Isaac, but now the story shifts to show us how God is establishing that promise of a place in the promised land.
Genesis 23 opens up with a sorrowful time in Abraham’s life when his wife Sarah passes away. We will see that this experience is emotionally traumatic for Abraham and Isaac as both mourn and grieve the passing of Sarah, but God uses that experience to move forward his plan to give them a place to call home for the family and nation that God is creating. In this section of scripture, Abraham works out a deal to have a burial plot in the promised land which serves as the first major foretaste or foothold in the land that God led Abraham to all those years before.
Abraham identifies himself as a stranger and foreigner in the land (23:4), but through an elaborate negotiation he gains legal rights to an area of land. As a sojourner Abraham had no rights to purchase land. The Hittites see his need and offered him a burial place, but not a permanent site. Abraham continued to negotiate and Ephron offered to give him a cave and a field for free. This would seem like a good financial move, however it could be contested and likely would not be perceived as permanent so Abraham keeps pressing until they would accept a purchase of the land. This may seem like a transition section of Genesis, but it shows us Abraham’s believe in the future generations that God had promised him and God’s provision of a permanent place in Canaan. We should also be encouraged when we see Abraham’s desire to find a burial plot in the promised land instead of going back to his homeland of Haran. It shows us a full commitment from Abraham to be in the promised land. This has been a battle for him in the past as he came and went from the promised land during difficult times, but here he is saying “this is my home”.
The story of humanity is one of exile/sojourning and longing for home. The passage starts out with the devastating consequence of sin — physical death and the pain of mourning and weeping that comes with it. We are immediately confronted with our need for God and that something is still not right in this world. In light of all we have read in Genesis, we have learned that we were created for relationship with God and a need to be in his presence. This began in Eden and in the scripture it ends with New Creation. In the middle of those two places we battle with being an exile longing for home. This passage is more than a transition passage, instead it points us to God’s promise to give his people a place to call home and it reminds us that God is faithful to that promise.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read through Genesis 23:1-20. What problem is presented in Genesis 23:1-4 and what puts Abraham at a disadvantage in this passage?
Why is it important that Abraham have a burial plot for Sarah and why does he reject the deal to have the cave and field given to him?
Read Hebrews 11:13-16, how does this help us understand the bigger significance of Genesis 23?
How does Abraham’s life of being a stranger in the promised land point forward to followers of Jesus being strangers in the world looking for home? Look at 1 Peter 2:9-12, Luke 15:11-24 and Hebrews 13:14 for some ideas. What times or experiences in life remind you of this truth? How can we be encouraged to look to God’s faithfulness and promise during those times?