In today’s parshah, we are at the final section of the book of Genesis where Jacob is at the end of his last days on earth. He already commanded Joseph to take an oath that he would bury him in the cave of Machpelah, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs – located near the ancient city of Hebron in Israel.
What is the significance of this place? As recounted in Genesis, Abraham purchased the cave and the surrounding field as a burial place for his wife, Sarah, making it the first plot of land to become the legal possession of the Jewish people and a promise to be a great nation.
This is the promise foretold by God in Genesis 12 where he said: “I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great.” And God reiterates this in Exodus 3:17:
He will bring his people up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:17).
Joseph had a similar request as his father Jacob. He told the sons of Israel to take his bones with them when the Lord would bring them back to the land of Canaan. Joshua 24:32 tells us that this request was fulfilled:
“And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried in Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.”
Today, did you know there are a myriad of white rectangles and a labyrinth of tombs that extend on the side of the Mout of Olives overlooking Jerusalem?
This place is known as Cedron valley, or the valley of Jehoshaphat, which in Hebrew means judgement of God. According to Jewish tradition, the messiah will come from the golden gate to raise humanity from the dead. This is why many Jews still ask to be buried in this area, with the hope that at the end of time, they will rise earlier than those who are buried elsewhere.
Location of burial is important for all of us. Before my grandmother passed away, she already had bought a plot of land to be buried next to her husband (my grandpa) and her mother and father. She had lived in this small community of Indiana her whole life and so it made sense for her to be buried next to those whom she loved and cherished the most in life.
Having a proper burial is also significant because we want to be honored and set to rest where our family and friends can pay their final respects with closure. I recently lost a good friend of mine who was a pastor. He had a significant impact on my life and countless others.
Now with social media, people were able to write comments or posts of their favorite memories on his Facebook wall, showing the world how much he truly meant to each of us, which brings peace and comfort to the family. Even people that can’t drive across the country to attend the funeral can join through the internet.
In the brit chadashah, 1 Peter 1: 3-9 reminds us that God will surely remember His people. In his great mercy, God the Father and Yeshua his Son has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you and I, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last days.
I think of the people of Egypt, who mourned for Jacob for 70 days in honor of his status as a great prophet. They remembered him and memorialized his great accomplishments. I think of my own friend Paul who went to be with the Lord a few months ago. Flowers, letters, a memorial service at the church he pastored for over 10 years, and all those whom he affected honored him. That day of his funeral, thousands of pictures were shown of him ministering to the lives and making a kingdom impact for the gospel of Yeshua.
I am also reminded of the hundreds of thousands of people who want to be buried in the holy land, next to the Mount of Olives in preparation for the second coming of Yeshua. All these desires are good and biblical, but ultimately our burial location and honor will be overshadowed by the glory of the Lord.
He is the one who will raise all of us from the dead, no matter whether we are buried in Jerusalem, the United States, or anywhere else. His omniscience will find each one of us, and we will all have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account.
Revelation 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
There is coming a day where all of us will die and be buried, but the resurrection is what we have hope for if we have trusted in Yeshua as our Savior and Lord. The jailer in Acts 16:31 asked Paul and Silas: Sirs, what must I do to be saved. They replied: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”
The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no one who does good. Not even one. Even our greatest works are like filthy garments to the Holy one of Israel. That’s why salvation is a free gift. It is by grace through faith that we are saved according to Ephesians 2:7-8.
You see, we don’t follow God’s laws to be saved. We follow God’s laws because we are saved. When God regenerates our hearts and we are born again, we have been brought from death to life. This is the key to following Yeshua. If you aren’t prepared to meet your Creator, I implore you to seek Him now while he may be found. Blessings to you. Shabat shalom.