This week’s parasha is entitled Chayei Sarah, meaning ‘The Life of Sarah’, a seemingly ironic title, since the very first verse describes her death at the age of 127. Why such a title then? I believe it reflects the great legacy she left through her son Isaac and the generations to come; as well as her commitment to serving God, who blessed her with a son at the unlikely age of 90. Sarah served her husband Abraham faithfully and honorably as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh; and raised Isaac with a reverence to Adonai. This Parasha is truly a story of the life and service of Sarah.
The action quickly shifts to Abraham bargaining with the sons of Heth for her burial place. Abraham speaks to Ephron the Hittite, and negotiates the purchase of the cave of Machpelah and the surrounding land. He agrees upon and pays the price of 400 shekels and buries his beloved wife. There is quite a long narrative dedicated to this transaction, and there is a reason for it. As Israel came out of Egypt into the land of Canaan, they had a full, legal, legitimate claim to this parcel of land. Not only because Adonai had given it to them, but also because Abraham had bought and paid for this land with many witnesses present. Even by human standards, this solidifies the rightful Jewish claim, past and present, to the city of Hebron, despite the uproar and belief to the contrary.
Central to chapter 24 is the continued theme of servanthood. Abraham sends his senior, most-trusted servant (most likely Eliezer) to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham would not have Isaac marry among the Canaanites, and asks his servant to swear by the Lord to find his son a wife from his own country, among his relatives. Abraham stresses his concern to not allow Isaac to be pulled into a pagan society, marrying a woman that could possibly influence him into worshipping false gods. In verse 7, Abraham tells his servant that God would send an angel before him to make his path straight and successful. After swearing this oath, Eliezer set out on a 450-mile trek to fulfill his commitment of service to Abraham. Although Eliezer initially expressed some doubt that he would find the right bride for Isaac, he trusted God and kept his oath. As he approached the communal well just outside the city of Nahor, he stopped there and he prayed to God.
He said, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
Before he had even finished this prayer, Abraham’s faith in God and Eliezer’s dedicated service to Abraham were fulfilled and rewarded. Rebekah came out with her jar and graciously served him a drink upon his request and offered to water all 10 of his camels, exactly as he had prayed.
After Rebekah served Eliezer, he was invited to rest and have a meal with her family. Though they placed food in front of him, he refused to eat until he had explained who he was, whom he served and the particular business that brought him to their home. When he relayed everything that had happened, including his prayer to God and its immediate answer, they all agreed it was God’s will that Rebekah go to Canaan and become Isaac’s wife. Rebekah agrees to leave immediately with Eliezer despite her parents’ wish for her to remain an extra ten days. What an amazing servant of God Rebekah was! She had just agreed to travel to a distant and unknown land and marry a man she had never met because of her great courage and faith in God. A faithful Rebekah and Eliezer return to Isaac and the end of the chapter reads, “So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
In chapter 25, we learn that Abraham took another wife after the death of Sarah. The woman’s name was Keturah. This section also lists the children fathered by Abraham, and the various gifts and blessings he gave his descendants, most of which went to his son, Isaac. The remainder of the chapter tells of the death of this great and faithful patriarch at the age of 175 years. His two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, came together and buried him alongside his cherished wife Sarah, in the cave of Machpelah.
Chayei Sarah contains a very powerful message. Some of the greatest and most faithful servants in the Bible are described in these chapters. The courage, faith, humility and servanthood of Abraham, Sarah, Eliezer, and Rebekah throughout these verses provide a valuable lesson which we should all take to heart, and from which we can all learn. Their service to God and to one another are examples we should strive to emulate; not out of obligation, but because we want to please Him.
Let me share some closing thoughts. Contrary to this world’s thinking, Yeshua told us that the key to enjoying maximum blessing is servanthood. When we serve others, we help them to love and serve God, and in the process we please Him. We should all take note of the examples of service to Adonai in this parasha and put that level of trust and servanthood into practice in our own lives.
How could we, as those created in God’s own image, having been blessed by Him in so many ways, especially through salvation and reconciliation, give Him any less? Yeshua’s people should be the first to stand and declare, “Lord, I will serve You in whatever you ask of me!” or “Lord, I will serve the people you bring to me in order to bring them to You as You have asked!”
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” In our journey toward spiritual maturity, we must not avoid that quality which so completely characterized the life of Messiah Yeshua, the quality of selfless servanthood and reliance on God the Father. A servant is someone who seeks to meet the real, genuine needs of others…willingly giving themselves to minister to and do whatever it takes to accomplish what is best for them according to God’s will. When you serve, you give, but in the process you also receive.
Let me leave you with one final example from Messiah Yeshua that illustrates the nature of the heart of a servant. It is found in John 13. In an upstairs room the night before His crucifixion, Messiah Yeshua dramatically showed what it means to be a servant. Everything was prepared for this last Passover Seder with the disciples – except for one thing. According to the custom of the day, a servant with a basin of water and towel in hand would wash the feet of the arriving guests who had traveled dusty roads. But evidently no servant was there to perform the task. Yet Someone did indeed offer Himself to wash their feet. As a perfect example of servanthood, our Lord rose to the task; He laid aside his garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, took water in a basin and began washing the feet of the disciples. As if it wasn’t enough that Messiah had already humbled Himself by being born into humanity, now He assumed the role of a servant.
After washing their feet, Yeshua returned to the table and said, “Do you understand (meaning: do you grasp the significance of) what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and you are correct, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example: you should do just as I have done for you.”
God’s purpose isn’t to pamper us physically or emotionally, but to perfect us spiritually, conforming us into the character of Yeshua. The Lord gave Himself to restore us to God and create a people who would live as God’s servants in the service of others, proclaiming the Good News and extending love to others in His name. As Yeshua gave Himself, so God wants us to give ourselves for the sake of others. Brothers and sisters, let us consider the courage, humility and obedience of these great servants of God, and determine to love our neighbors, ministering to one another in devoted and selfless service to His glory.