So, all Scripture is profitable for teaching (2 Tim 3:16) and things written down from the former days were for our instruction to give us hope (Rom 15:4).
So we confess, but often when we read our Bibles we get to a passage like Genesis 23 and wonder how this is profitable, or how it instructs us.
Genesis 23 recounts the story of how Abraham bought a field to bury his wife Sarah who had just died. Why is this important? And then, why do Jacob’s sons carry his bones back from Egypt to be buried in the same cave (Gen 50:5, 13)? And why does Joseph make the same request (Gen 50:25)? Why did it matter where the dead were buried?
God promised to Abraham that the families of the earth would be blessed in his offspring (Gen 12:3), and his offspring would be more numerous than the stars of heaven (Gen 15:5). He promised to Abraham that he would give the land of Canaan to his descendants (Gen 15:7). In other words, God promised to make Abraham into a great people and put them in a place.
However, Abraham lived his entire life as a sojourner in a the land of Canaan. As did his offspring, and his offspring, until his descendants of 70 people moved to a different land entirely, the land of Egypt (Gen 15:13). God did tell Abraham that he would give him a place (Gen 15:7) and when Abraham asked how can he know that he will possess it (Gen 15:8) God assures him that he will die in a good old age (Gen 15:15)!
So did God keep his promise to Abraham?
By Genesis 23, Abraham is a man of faith in the promises of God (Gen 15:6) who obeys the Lord (Gen 18:19). He has just lost his wife, and he realizes he needs a plot of soil in the promised land where his dead can lie. Why? It is likely that Abraham did not have it all worked out—just like when he went to sacrifice his son Isaac still believing somehow God would provide the ram (Gen 22:8)—but he believed that God would give him a place for his people. And if he was going to die, then God must somehow give it to him after his death. And so, it is important that Abraham ensured that he and his offspring are buried in the promised land. This was an act of faith in the promises of God when all looked impossible.
The author of Hebrews notes this about Abraham’s faith: that he believed God could even raise the dead if needed to keep his promises (Heb 11:19). The author of Hebrews, though inspired, did not know Abraham and so he must have come to these conclusions by reading the book of Genesis. He writes “these all died in faith not having received the things promised” (Heb 11:13). And furthermore, by acknowledging themselves to be sojourners, they showed they were seeking a “better city,” whose foundations are built by God (Heb 11:10), namely a “better country,” a “homeland,” a “heavenly home” (Heb 11:14, 16).
Abraham, had faith that God would keep his promise of giving him a place. And since God told him he would die as a sojourner, Abraham by faith concluded that God, who never breaks his promises, would have to fulfill his promise to him after his death. In other words, God would have to resurrect him to then give him a homeland. And so he and his sons, Jacob and Joseph, sharing a similar faith were concerned with where their bones would be after their death, because one day they expected to have them back.