In 1974 a hippie kid hiked into the Philippine jungles searching for the existence of wild Panda’s the Abominable Snowman and one Lieutenant Hiro Onoda.
Hiro Onoda was a young Japanese Soldier in his 20’s In 1944. The 2nd World War is raging in the Pacific. Lieutenant Onoda is dropped off on one of the innumerable, heavily jungled Philippine Islands and is told to do what he can to hamper allied activities in the area. And to continue fighting until he heard order to the contrary from the commanding officer who sent him on the mission.
That order did not come until the 9th of March, 1974, 29 years after the 2nd World War ended. This guy had been fighting, shooting, being shot at, killing and injuring the locals for 30 years.
He came out with 100’s of rounds of ammo, a well maintained working rifle and hand-grenades.
The guy who formally dismissed him, his commanding officer had long since retired from military service and was working as a bookseller. He had to be flown in by the Japanese government to this Philippine Island before Onoda would come out.
People asked him why… to which he replied that he sincerely didn’t believe the war was over. He would find newspapers with reports about life in Japan, which he thought to be propaganda by the enemy. Because he was convinced as long as a single Japanese citizen was living the war was not over.
Can you imagine spending 30 years in the Jungle only to emerge in the 70’s, to DISCO? Think of all that had changed.
Change is an inevitable part of life - we change personally, and the world around us changes. That’s why the wisest man who ever lived Solomon compared life to a series of Seasons. Learning to embrace a new season and celebrate it is one of the keys to a happy life. Rather than like Hiro Onoda climbing into a jungle and waiting for it to pass.
Today we are looking at one of life’s most challenging seasons - the season of loss. How do you face life when someone you love passes from this world?
The statistics on death are staggering, one out of everyone one persons that live die.
3 people die every second, 180 people die every minute, 11,000 people die every hour, 260,000 people die every day 95 million people die every year
I hope you have no need of this sermon today, but the day is coming when you will need these words…. Death is the Great Equalizer - Death visits the elderly, the youth, the strong, the weak, the rich, the poor. Strong young men die, and occasionally small children drop their toys to wrestle with the strong arm of death.
I’ve buried people who have died in a drunken stupor and I have buried preachers of the Gospel. I’ve buried saintly senior adults and a war veteran who died an atheist.
But nothing is as sad as ministering to a man who is burying his wife.
That is the case in our text this morning – At this point in our story Sarah is 127 and Abraham is 137. She and Abraham had been married well over a hundred years.
BTW, “What do you get someone at their 100th wedding anniversary?”
It had been exactly 62 years since they had left Ur of the Chaldeans to follow God on their Journey of Faith.
Sarah and Abraham were the parents of a 37 year old son named Isaac.
It was then that Sarah met her appointment with death.
THOUGHT - We know of only two people who never tasted death – Elijah and Enoch. Quite possibly they are the two witnesses who will stand and prophecy in the last days as recorded in the book of revelation. Then, even they also will taste death.
It’s important that you realize that there are a certain number of days ordained for you. When those days are complete, there isn’t a doctor on the planet that can extend them.
ILLUSTRATION: Kind of kills any motivation for dieting doesn’t it? We take care of ourselves to improve the quality of our life, but the quantity is already determined.
TEXT: Moses our human author, the Holy Spirit our Divine author gives one verse to the death of this great woman. Genesis 23:1 (NAS) 1 Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.
One verse – then the remainder of the chapter focuses on how Abraham dealt with Sarah’s death. I find that interesting. You see, her story was over. Nothing could be added or taken away from the account of her earthly life. Her story continues in Heaven.
Paul speaking of the believers death in 2 Corinthians 5:8 (NAS) 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Sarah is at home with the Lord. But Abraham isn’t, he’s here on earth alone. As some of you are, as many of you will be one day. What are we to learn from the Patriarch’s example?
Genesis 23:2 (NAS) 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
I’ve heard preachers rebuke families for mourning, reminding them that this is to be the celebration of a home going. But friend, that’s all well and good, but it’s sad just the same and it’s ok to weep. I believe the ability to weep is a gift that helps us cope with the pain of loss.
ILLUSTRATION: Carly space camp: I remember when my daughter Carly went to her first Summer Camp – Space Camp here in H’ville. I remember watching her walk away with the counselor with her little pink back pack on. Thinking that at any minute she was going to turn around and run back to me and call the whole thing off. But she didn’t, she never even looked back. Well, I knew she was going to be fine. I just didn’t like the separation. I knew the house would be a little quieter now.
Some of you have had that experience when a son or daughter went to college. You know they are safe, but it doesn’t make it easier.
In the same way when you loose someone who is a Christian – you know they are safer than ever. But it still hurts.
1 Corinthians 15:26 (NAS) 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Friend I hope you live the kind of life that people will mourn your death.
I’m telling you some of you the burning question on the minds of people after the dirt is on your grave is, “Where is the potato salad??”
But that is why I beg you to make your life count for eternity, “life is short will soon be passed only what is done for Christ will last.” If that’s true – everything else is a utter waste.
Abraham mourned the death of Sarah…
Mourning is one of the healthiest things you can do when you experience the loss of a loved one.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember over 10 years ago my wife Julie miscarried… we lost a child just a few weeks old… but I mourned… I remember thinking - I wanted to give that child so much! I wanted to give them a home, an education, a car… but all I could give them were tears… so I gave the child my tears.
Genesis 23:3–4 (NAS) 3 Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, 4 “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” It is a sad fact that you aren’t able to mourn for long before your attention must be turned to matters of business. Specifically, securing a proper burial.
NOW – Why is this important? We as Christians believe that the person is with God right? So what difference does it make how we deal with the body left behind?
Well you need to understand that there is something very special about the particular body you inhabit.
2 Corinthians 5:8 (NAS) 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Paul explains in 1 Thes. 4:14 … God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep”
1 Corinthians 15:52 … the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
The Body and Spirit are rejoined to the resurrected body.
Jesus says in John 5:28, “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment”.
Jesus also says in John 6:39, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39–40)
Well what will that body be like? The same, but different - 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (NAS) 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
NOW – with this reality in mind, what are we to do with the body of those who die before the return of Christ?
We are to honor the body of the deceased.
2 Kings 13:20–21 (NAS) 20 Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet. NOW think about this – the soul of Elisha was with the Lord, but the Spirit of God still used the body of Elisha.
We are to mourn the loss, honor the body…
In verses 3-20 Abraham engages in a series of typical Middle Eastern negotiations. They follow a well established pattern of respect and request.
The sons of Heth offer to give Abraham a cave to bury Sarah, but Abraham refuses to receive the cave as a gift, as a matter of fact, ultimately, he pays far more than the land was worth to purchase both the cave and a large spot of land here in the heart of Canaan. Why?
Why did he not take her body back to Ur of the Chaldeans? We will see in Chapter 24 they still had family there.
Because God had promised that he would give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants.
By insisting that he purchase the land in a public way, paying far more than it was worth Abraham was saying that he intended to put down roots in Canaan.
We don’t hear about this land until the end of Genesis Israel makes a request of Joseph that he be buried back in this same cave.
When God called Abraham he promised to give him the land from River of Egypt to the Euphrates River… but Abraham did not receive that promise in his lifetime… the only land Abraham took possession of was this little field and a cave in which to bury his wife.
How would you feel if you followed God expecting a NATION but ending up with FIELD?
Speaking of Abraham and Sarah - The writer to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 11:13–16 (ESV)
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
In taking possession of this field Abraham greeted from afar that which God had promised…. Like the little cloud that Elijah saw and ran for the hills lest he be swept away in the flood… this little field was evidence that his faith had not been in vain.
Ultimately Abraham’s descendants would receive the territory promised… but better than that…Abraham’s eyes were set elsewhere…
16 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 for them a city.
There are a few times in life when your faith is placed on display -
ILLUSTRATION: Dr. Barnhouse tells the story of a young wife who received the news that her relatively new husband had just been killed in battle. After the military personal left the home the young lady ran up to her room and closed the door. Her mother called her father and he quickly returned home. He went upstairs in her room and found his daughter with the letter opened on her bed, she was bowed down on the floor praying, “Oh Father, Oh Heavenly Father, Oh heavenly father”. The dad closed the door, went back down stairs, hugged the mother and said, “She’s in better hands than mine…”
Perhaps the light of the gospel never shines brighter than it does at the graveside – where you weep with hope.
You say, but pastor didn’t you tell us we should grieve? Yes but 1 Thessalonians 4:13 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
We know that the shadow of death is inevitable, but we also Remember there can be no shadow without light – the fact that death is difficult reminds us that eternity is set in the hearts of man.
ILLUSTRATION: The story of two boys in the back seat of the car when a bee stung the younger. The elder brother was stung first. The bible says, 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 55"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"[b] 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Jesus took deaths sting on the cross. So now death is a precious friend that escorts us into the presence of our Savior.
"I have performed my duty to my God, my country, and my family. I have nothing to fear in approaching death. To me it is the mere shadow of God's protecting
wing . . “ Andrew Johnson (Written just before his death in July 1875)