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Abraham: From the Judean Wilderness to the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Episode Four)

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WHEN I LEAVE JERUSALEM, I
FEEL LIKE I CAN BREATHE AGAIN. I LOVE JERUSALEM STORIES. I LOVE SHARING
JERUSALEM STORIES. BUT I FEEL LIKE WHEN I’M IN THE
CITY, I’M HOLDING MY BREATH, AND HERE, I JUST LET IT OUT. THIS IS THE ENVIRONMENT
THAT I FEEL MOST ALIVE IN. BUT I HAVE TO TELL YOU,
LIFE HERE WAS HARD. IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT, AND IT
SHAPED THE WAY PEOPLE THOUGHT, AND IT SHAPED THE WAY
PEOPLE BELIEVE. THE BIBLE IS A LOCAL BOOK. ITS STORIES, AND ITS
POETRY, AND ITS METAPHORS CAN’T BE MOVED TO
OTHER LOCATIONS AND HAVE THE SAME
IMPACT AS THEY DO WHEN YOU READ THEM
AS PART OF THIS SPACE. SO LET ME HELP YOU GET TO
KNOW THE JUDEAN HILL COUNTRY JUST A LITTLE BIT BETTER. YOU CAN SEE THAT
WE’RE IN THE CENTRAL MOUNTAINS OF THIS LAND. AND THEY ARE BIG MOUNTAINS. VERY STEEP SLOPE, 60 PERCENT
OF WHICH IS ERODED TO BEDROCK, AND THEY PLUNGE AND TERMINATE IN THESE VERY, VERY NARROW
V-SHAPE VALLEYS BELOW US. THE ONLY NATURAL
FARM FIELD THAT EXISTS IS AT THE VERY
BOTTOM OF THIS SYSTEM. AND IF YOU’RE ONLY
GOING TO FARM THAT, YOU ONLY HAVE FOOD
FROM A VERY FEW ACRES. YOUR ONLY OPTION,
YOU HAVE TO BUILD. YES, YOU HAVE TO
BUILD YOUR OWN FARMLAND ACRE BY ACRE BY ACRE BY ACRE, BRINGING THE SOIL FROM
THE BOTTOM OF THE VALLEY UP TO YOUR TERRACED FIELD,
BAGFULL BY BAGFULL, DAY AFTER DAY, WEEK AFTER
WEEK, MONTH AFTER MONTH, YEAR AFTER YEAR. IT TAKES 4 TO 12 YEARS
TO BUILD JUST ONE ACRE OF FARMLAND HERE. THAT MEANS THAT
YOU BUILD FARM FIELDS MOSTLY FOR YOUR CHILDREN
AND GRANDCHILDREN, RATHER THAN FOR YOURSELF. (PEACEFUL MUSIC) WHEN THE LAND TAKES GENERATIONS
TO PREPARE FOR CULTIVATION, IT BECOMES AN EXTREMELY
VALUABLE INHERITANCE. SO WHEN WE READ ABOUT
GOD’S FOUNDATIONAL PROMISES TO ABRAM AND SARAH
IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS, A PROMISE OF OWNERSHIP AND
PROSPERITY, IT IS SIGNIFICANT. ABRAHAM HAD FOLLOWED GOD’S CALL
GIVEN OVER 50 YEARS EARLIER TO LEAVE HIS FATHER’S
LAND IN THE EAST AND MIGRATE TO THIS LAND. ABRAHAM WAS A FOREIGNER,
AN IMMIGRANT. ABRAHAM EVEN GIVES
HIMSELF THE TITLE, YARE. THIS MEANS HE IS SOMEONE
LIVING OFF THE LAND, SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T OWN
LAND, A TEMPORARY RESIDENT. NONE OF THESE IMPLY BELONGING. AND SO, ABRAHAM WAITED FOR
GOD’S PROMISE TO COME TO LIFE. HE WAITED AND WAITED AND WAITED. ABRAHAM AND SARAH WERE NOW
BOTH OVER 120 YEARS OLD, AND LIKE THOSE WHO HAD BUILT THE TERRACED FIELDS AROUND THEM, THEY WONDERED IF THEY
WOULD EVER SEE THE RESULT. (GENTLE MUSIC) WE’RE IN HEBRON, ABOUT 18
MILES SOUTH OF JERUSALEM, AND AS ABOUT AS FAR SOUTH
AS YOU CAN GET IN JUDAH’S HILL COUNTRY. WE’RE HERE TO TALK
ABOUT ONE OF THE SADDEST AND THE MOST ENDURING OF THE
JUDEAN HILL COUNTRY STORIES AT THIS LOCATION, THE MACHPELAH, OR THE TOMB OF THE PATRIARCHS. AS READERS OF SCRIPTURE,
WE’VE BEEN WAITING SINCE GENESIS 12 TO
FIND ABRAM IN POSSESSION OF THE LAND THE LORD HAD
PROMISED TO GIVE HIM. GOD HAD NOT KEPT THE
PROMISE HE HAD MADE TO ABRAM AND SARAH. HE HAD PROMISED ABRAHAM
GROWTH IN HIS FAMILY. HE HAD PROMISED HIM LAND,
AND HE HAD PROMISED HIM THAT FROM THAT FAMILY
ON THAT LAND, BLESSING WOULD BE RESTORED
TO THE NATIONS. BUT THE MOMENT COMES
INTO SHARP FOCUS WHEN THE FAMILY FACES A CRISIS. SARAH HAS DIED, AND THEY
HAVE NO PERSONAL PROPERTY TO USE AS THE FAMILY TOMB. ABRAHAM GRIEVED. I MEAN, THE TEXT TALKS ABOUT
HIS POURING OUT HIS HEART OVER THE LOSS OF
HIS BELOVED SARAH. HE DRAGS HIMSELF TO THE
ANCIENT CITY GATE OF HEBRON AND INQUIRES IF THERE
MIGHT BE SOMEONE HERE WHO WOULD BE WILLING TO
SELL HIM A FIELD WITH A CAVE WHERE
HE MIGHT BURY HER. THAT’S WHERE THE STORY COMES IN THAT INVOLVES THIS
LOCATION HERE, THE TOMB OF THE PATRIARCHS. EPHRON, THE HITTITE STEPS UP AND BEGINS THE
BARGAINING PROCESS. HE SAYS, “OH, WHAT IS
LAND COST BETWEEN FRIENDS? “TAKE IT, THE FIELD AND THE
CAVE THAT I OWN, THEY’RE YOURS.” ABRAHAM RESPONDS, “LOOK,
I’LL PAY YOU A FAIR PRICE,” HIS GRIEF WEIGHING HIM DOWN. EPHRON COMES BACK,
“OKAY, YOU KNOW, “IT’S WORTH 400 SHEKELS, BUT
WHAT’S THAT BETWEEN FRIENDS?” ABRAHAM SAYS, “OKAY.” THE BARGAINING THAT WE
WOULD EXPECT HIM TO MAKE IS SIMPLY ABSENT, HIS
GRIEF HOLDING HIM BACK. AND HE TAKES HIS BELOVED
SARAH AND PLACES HER HERE. AND ONLY AT THIS MOMENT,
WHEN THE DEAL IS SEALED WITH EPHRON THE HITTITE,
DO WE FIND THE FAMILY THAT HAD BEEN PROMISED LAND
ACTUALLY OWNING DEEDED PROPERTY. AND WHAT’S ALSO INTERESTING
ABOUT THIS PLACE IS THAT ABRAHAM AND SOME
OF HIS PROMISED DESCENDANTS WERE ALSO BURIED HERE. ABRAHAM’S SON ISAAC
AND HIS WIFE, REBEKAH, AND THEN ISAAC’S SON,
JACOB, WITH HIS WIFE, LEAH. THAT’S ACTUALLY WHY
HEROD THE GREAT BUILT THIS INCREDIBLE
MONUMENT HERE. IT’S A 39-FOOT HIGH WALL
THAT SURROUNDS THE FIELD AND THE CAVE. IT’S BECAUSE PEOPLE THROUGHOUT
THE OLD TESTAMENT ERA AND INTO THE NEW TESTAMENT ERA, AND TO THIS VERY MOMENT,
COME HERE TO REMEMBER THE VITAL RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN THIS PLACE AND THE PROMISES THAT GOD
MADE TO ABRAM IN GENESIS 12. (UPBEAT MUSIC) THE PROMISE OF GOD
NOT ONLY STARTED HERE. THROUGH SARAH’S DEATH,
IT TOOK ROOT HERE. IT WASN’T UNTIL SARAH
WAS BURIED IN THE GROUND THAT THE PROMISE BEGAN
TO BE FULFILLED. THE PROMISE OF BLESSING,
OF LIGHT, OF TRUTH, NOT JUST FOR ABRAHAM
AND HIS FAMILY, BUT FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. BUT JUST LIKE THE
LABOR-INTENSIVE, SLOW AND PERSISTENT CONSTRUCTION OF THE JUDEAN HILL
COUNTRY CULTIVATED LAND, THE PROMISE WOULD
ONLY FULLY BLOSSOM FOR A FUTURE GENERATION. (GENTLE MUSIC)

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