“Life of Sarah”
Torah: Genesis 23:1–25:18
PROPHETS: 1 Kings 1:1–31
APOSTOLIC WRITINGS: Matthew 1:1–17
These devotionals are designed to supplement, not replace, your Bible reading.
Torah 1 and 2
Sarah’s Death in the Land
When Sarah dies (vv. 1–2) a grieving husband begins negotiating for the legal rights to bury his wife (vv. 3–7).
While God promised him the entire land, Abraham eyes a small patch of land with a cave on it to become the first installment of this promise. This small patch of land is in the heart of Judea, popularly referred to today as the “West Bank” or “occupied territories.”
Abraham closes the deal by paying a huge sum of money to ensure his undisputed legal ownership.
Sarah’s burial and Her Son’s Need for a Bride
After receiving legal rights to this “firstfruits” of land, the patriarch-in-mourning buries his wife.
Next, Abraham entreats his most trusted servant (cf. 15:2) to promise that he would fetch a bride for his beloved son. According to Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3–4, what is one danger of Isaac marrying a local Canaanite woman? (Isaac repeats this matchmaking plan for his own son Jacob in 28:1–2. Unlike his father who acted through a servant, however, Isaac instructs his son directly.)
After negotiating the details and exact terms of the promise (vv. 5–8) the servant promises to do as Abraham has asked (v. 9; the “hand under the thigh” promise was an ancient near eastern custom that we might liken to a modern day “hand on the bible” promise to tell the truth in court, cf. v. 2). Consider the implications of this publicly recognized land purchase that is a “firstfruits” of God’s fulfilling His land promise. God promised the Jewish people this much disputed strip of land (a tiny island set apart amidst a sea of other nations and peoples) as an eternal inheritance. God divinely designated “stewardship” authority and responsibility to the physical descendants of Abraham through the line of promise.
Let’s publicly support the Jewish people’s legitimate authority and right to exercise this responsibility even as we passionately pray for the revelation of Yeshua, the peace of Jerusalem, the salvation of all Israel, and revival among the nations. Do you see Jewish sovereignty over the land as an obstacle to Jerusalem’s peace? Or could Israel’s exercising this sovereignty over the land actually be part of God’s means to once and for all accomplish this historically elusive peace under her Sovereign King?
Torah 3 and 4
Search for the New Matriarch
Abraham’s servant travels with “camel loads” worth of gifts for a dowry.
His prayerfulness reveals both faithfulness to his master and an exercising of his own faith in God. From the servant’s prayer, what can you discern about the character traits he is looking for in a woman?
He then carefully watches for God’s confirming lead (vv. 15–21) and offers the woman costly gifts even before knowing her identity (vv. 22–23)!
Upon discovering that God has faithfully led him to the perfect household (vv. 24–25), what is his response (v. 26; “bowing” is a sign of respect; “worshiping” is a sign of dependence and gratitude)?
Rebekah is God’s Provision
Pause to identify with the heart of this servant by meditatively comparing his prayer of praise in v. 27 with his original prayer of petition in v. 12. How do Abraham’s initial words to this servant at the end of v. 7 lay a foundation for the faith that inspired the servant’s prayers? What does this teach you about God and His power over every circumstance? How can you apply this to your own “faith walk” in dependence and gratitude to God?
When you read of Laban’s hospitality, what do the opening words of v. 30 teach you about his motives (cf. Matthew 6:24)?
The servant enters Laban’s family’s household and gives a lengthy report of the facts (vv. 33–48) followed by a passionate plea (v. 49). Is the servant struggling and striving to get what he wants or is he resting in God and walking in faith?
When Laban and his father recognize and submit to God’s hand upon their circumstances (vv. 50-51) the servant again “bows” before the Lord (v. 52).
torah 5 and 6
Rebekah’s Dowry and Isaac’s Delight
Abraham’s servant enters into the final negotiations with Rebekah’s family. Consider the faith it took for Rebekah to leave everything she knew (cf. Abram’s similar challenge). How does the family’s blessing upon Rebekah in v. 60 compare with God’s blessing upon Abraham in 22:17? What are the modern day implications of these ancient blessings today?
The next section is a dramatic “boy meets girl” story. Compare v. 67 with the name of this portion. Rebecca, the character introduced in the final section of last week’s portion, both comforts the promised son and carries on the matriarchal line. There is a sense, therefore, in which Sarah’s life is carried on through Rebekah.
Isaach is the Line of Promise
While Abraham has other sons (25:1–4) his supernaturally promised son is uniquely set apart (vv. 5–6). Natural sons receive their inheritance and are sent away while the son of promise receives everything belonging to his father: name, land, possessions and promises.
After Abraham dies (vv. 7–8) his sons bury him with their mother (vv. 9–10; cf. 23:17–20).
God blesses Isaac after the death of both his father (v. 11) and his mother (24:67). God is not only faithful but also tremendously merciful. Matthew 5:4 and Isaiah 61:2 tell us that God comforts those who mourn. Godly comfort, however, is not necessarily what makes us feel better in the moment but brings us closer to Messiah-like maturity and soul rest in God alone!
What kind of “things” do you accumulate as a way to seek personal comfort? What do you try and avoid as a way of avoiding discomfort? How does this worldly comfort differ from the comfort God grants through godliness and faith-filled obedience? What can you do specifically today to put off seeking comfort through circumstantial ease and instead pursue your rest in Him? Read, meditate on, and consider how you can apply Matthew 11:28–30 today!
torah 7 and
Ishmael’s Family LIne
True to His word, God gives Ishmael twelve sons who grow into what might be considered a national confederation with twelve representative leaders (cf. 17:20).
Ishmael’s death is reported in the maftir, or “concluding section.” Isaac’s preeminence is further highlighted with Abraham, Sarah, and Ishmael all dying in this portion.
Also true to His word, Ishmael’s population growth is wrought with tensions and conflict (cf. 16:12). Understanding where we’ve been (recorded in Torah) helps us make sense of where we are (usually misrepresented and misunderstood in news media) and recognize where we are going in future redemptive history (both the scary and the reassuring).
Ishmael’s Family Disunity
What are some of the modern day implications of this ancient corporate family dynamic within the household of Ishmael?
King David’s Successor
1 Kings 1:1–31
The book(s) of Kings records history from the end of David’s life to the nation’s tragic exile (our English bibles contain 1st and 2nd Kings but it is really one book, broken in two because ancient scrolls were too short to hold all of it). Adonijah is David’s fourth-born son (cf. 2 Samuel 3:2–4 or 1 Chronicles 3:1-2) who declares himself king (1:5). Solomon, son of David through Bathsheba, however, is the one that David appoints as his successor (vv. 29-30). Power politics and family squabbles, all stemming from our fallen nature, will not thwart God’s purposes. David’s oath will be fulfilled. God’s purposes of redeeming us from slavery to this fallen nature will also be fulfilled.
Are you ensnared in family squabbles? Are you caught up in power politics at work? What can you do to walk in faith and participate in God’s redemption in those relationships? Do you fear the backlash from them more than you crave God’s approval? Abraham in the Torah portion, and David in the Haftarah (Conclusion from Prophets) portion, face the problem of who will be their successor. Successorship is ultimately not about favoritism but destiny. God’s “pre-destined” plan is unfolding and Yeshua will lead us home. What is He calling you to trust Him for today?
David’s Ultimate Successor
“David’s dynasty of kings and Abraham’s heir to [household] promises converge in Yeshua haMashiach [Jesus the Messiah]. The sacred text introduces Yeshua as the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). His heritage passes through Isaac, Jacob, Judah among the brothers, and Perez among the twins (Matthew 1:2–3). It passes through David and Solomon among the kings (Matthew 1:6). Four gentile women appear as matriarchs. The test climaxes with [Miriam] Mary, mother of Yeshua (Matthew 1:16). Sarah’s household has its ultimate fulfillment in Yeshua, King at the end of a dynasty of kings! The genealogy is segmented into three periods of 14 generations each—Abraham to David, David to the exile, and the exile to the birth of Messiah (Matthew 1:17)” (Feinberg, J. Walk Genesis!, 1998, p.97).
This passage reveals God’s faithfulness that ensured the fulfillment of His promises even as it reveals the sovereign power required to bring it all to pass. That same faithfulness applies to you and your covenant relationship with God. That same power is also available to you to equip you in your “faith walk.” What can you do to walk more closely to God and let His redeeming power be poured out? Share your faith with someone else today and pray that God’s power would work unto that person’s salvation!
Rest. Fellowship. Discussion.