The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“An Example of Integrity”
And he said to them, “If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.”Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” Ephron answered Abraham, “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.
Most American retail stores don’t operate on a system where prices are negotiable. But in many parts of the world, negotiating prices is a normal part of the business culture. If you’ve ever sold or purchased anything through Craigslist, you may have an idea of how temperamental and even volatile these transactions can be. In our passage today, Abraham enters into a negotiation with Ephron the Hittite for a plot of land. If there is anything we can learn from this passage, it’s the exemplary integrity of Abraham in a business setting.
- First, they hold the transaction in a public place, the gate of the city in front of all the people. They could have done this deal privately, behind closed doors, but he was intentional about being transparent in his business dealing.
- Second, Abraham shows respect by bowing before the people. The Hittites were not exactly Abraham’s friends. They didn’t follow God; they weren’t part of the community of faith. In fact, they would later become enemies of the descendants of Abraham. Nevertheless, Abraham treats them with respect.
- Third, Abraham listens to Ephron and then insists on paying the full price. It may seem like Ephron is trying to gift the land to Abraham, but this back-and-forth dialogue was actually the customary way to bargain. When Ephron hints that the land is worth “four hundred shekels” he is effectively naming his price. Rather than haggle for the lowest possible bargain, Abraham gives him what he asks. Furthermore, Scripture mentions that he used the current weight measurements to ensure that he wasn’t swindling Ephron.
Could Abraham have gotten a better deal? Probably. Could Abraham have muscled his way onto the land and taken it by force? Perhaps. Why, then, does Abraham insist on paying full price, with full transparency, and respect, when dealing with strangers/enemies? Abraham wasn’t a sucker who overpaid the Hittites. Rather, there was a sense of honor and integrity that Abraham carried with him, even in the midst of business transactions. I can imagine that Ephron and the surrounding citizens must have been confused as Abraham began counting off four hundred shekels without even attempting to bargain. Prior to the meeting, one can assume that the Hittites were bracing for a heated exchange of negotiations. Instead, Abraham came to them, showing transparency, respect, integrity, and generosity.
Drawing from the example of Abraham, let us carry the character of God with us into our workplaces and classrooms today. Instead of approaching our work with worldly intent, let us approach it with godly intent. I believe that doing so will fundamentally change the nature of our work.
Prayer: Lord, help us to walk with transparency, respect, integrity, and generosity, not just within the church walls, but wherever we go. Transform the fundamental nature of the work of our hands, so that it may glorify You, as well as to testify of Your character to those looking on. Highlight the areas in which we are lacking godly character so that we may repent. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 29
Lunch Break Study
Read Joshua 7:1-5: But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
Questions to Consider
- According to this passage, in what way(s) did the people of Israel break the faith?
- What was the consequence of this breach in faith?
- What does this story tell us about the effect of hidden sin?
- Joshua 7 tells us that the people of Israel broke faith because one person, Achan, took some of the devoted things. In other words, the entire nation was at fault because of the sin of one man.
- Because of the sin of Achan, the anger of the Lord burned against the entire nation of Israel. Their very next military endeavor turned out to be a complete failure. They lost the battle and 36 of their men were killed. Furthermore, the hearts of the people “melted and became as water” because of this defeat. At first, this may seem like a small loss, but you have to realize that until this point, this Israelite army had not lost a battle. Big or small, they always won because they knew that God was on their side, fighting for them. This defeat was demoralizing because it meant that something wasn’t right with the Lord. All of a sudden, He wasn’t fighting for them anymore… and that was a terrifying thought.
- It’s shocking to see that God would withdraw His presence because of the sin of one person. This shows us how severe it is to keep hidden sin. It doesn’t just affect the one person; it affects the entire community. Of course, the power of Jesus’ blood is enough to cover and forgive every sin. Nevertheless, when we choose to incubate hidden sins, the consequences can be tremendous, even tragic. If you are part of a community of faith, let us practice walking in the light.
This evening, spend some time praying for your workplace/campus/neighborhood. Oftentimes, it’s hard for us to sense God’s presence in these places. But let us grow in our faith that God is just as alive in these places as He is in the place of our corporate worship. What are some ways you can serve and bless the people outside of church?