The heading of this word for today might seem strange at first sight but I suggest that it sums up the narrative of Genesis 23 which on first reading might seem to have small relevance in the big scheme of things – in the unfolding of the ‘History of Redemption’ which is what the Old Testament is all about.
The term ‘to stake a claim’ dates from the mid 1800s and although I have not checked this out would seem to be linked with the Californian God Rush as prospectors marked out their pierce of land with stakes indicating that it was theirs and no one else’s! Last Sunday evening we read these words in Deuteronomy 27.17 ‘Cursed is the man who moves his neighbour’s boundary stone’, indicating that there was something special about the land which a person owned and on which they lived.
When the people of Israel moved into the promised land it was allocated piece by piece to the 12 tribes and their inheritance was assured in various ways through appropriate law making.
This land was special having been promised to Abraham by God and here in this chapter he takes the sad occasion of the death of Sarah to ‘stake a claim’ on just one part of the land on which, at that time he was a stranger. In the goodness and grace of God Abraham’s standing with the Hittites was such that when he said to them ‘give me property among you for a burial place that I might bury my dead out of my sight’ v. 4 (ESV), after some negotiation they sold him the plot he asked for and he now owned a part of the land God had promised – an indication that the promise was on course.
Thus when Abraham died Isaac and Rebekah had a physical stake in the land, a guarantee as it were, of the promise yet to be fulfilled.
When we set out to follow Christ he gives us his Holy Spirit who seals us (Ephesians 4.30) for the day of redemption. By this we know that what God has promised he will bring to pass so that we can face what lies ahead in confidence that what we have ‘in Christ’ cannot be taken away.
The challenge is to live as if we believe it.