And he charged them, and said to them, I am to be gathered to my people…
I. AN EXPRESSION OF NATURAL FEELING. A natural feeling it is, a strong instinctive impulse of our humanity, this concern about the body, this concern about it to the last, this desire that, when the spirit has fled, it should not be neglected — should not be thrown carelessly into the ground anywhere, but should receive a respectful interment where its mouldering remains may mingle with the dust of our nearest relatives. How instinctive the thought that the dust in the family sepulchre has still some relationship to our material frame I How instinctive the desire that our bodies and those of our beloved friends should take the long, still sleep together I Not less natural is the wish to be remembered — to be remembered in connection with those who have been so near to us in kindred and kindly fellowship. Such feelings, my friends, are not unlawful; but neither are they unprofitable. If they be kept in their own place, if they be cherished in subordination to higher principles, if they be not permitted to overgrow and stifle the desires and expectations of that which is spiritual, they are neither unbecoming nor useless. We are the better of feeling that the body is a part of man, an integral part of our personal identity, and not lost, or unworthy of care, even in its dissolution. We are the better of feeling that beyond death there is still some tie of kindred between our dust and the dust of our beloved relatives, as well as between our souls and their souls. We are the better of feeling the wish to be remembered after we are no more seen in the world — to be remembered in association with those whom we esteem and reverence.
II. In their holier import, the words before us expressed THE PEACE AND FAITH OF THE DYING PATRIARCH. "I am to be gathered unto my people" — "I am being gathered unto my people" seems to be the proper force of the expression, pointing rather to a present than to a future event. It was the language of one who felt that the last short journey was already commenced, that his feet were already dipping into the swellings of Jordan. But there was no appearance of alarm, no token of anxiety, no struggling search as if he wanted something to rest upon, or as if the anchor of the soul were not holding firmly. All is quiet, untroubled, and peaceful. Thus he passed down — down into the dark valley — down into the rushing river — as you might speak of going home from your day's work at evening. A similar inference may be drawn from the manner in which he conveyed to his sons the charge concerning his burial. Observe his careful, leisurely description of the place to which he referred, and its purchase by his grandfather: "Bury me in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite," &c. That was no hurried glance at a secondary matter, amid the agony of an arduous and uncertain conflict — no snatching of a moment out of engrossing anxieties and apprehensions about his spiritual interests, to indicate his desire regarding the body which was about to be resolved into the dust from which it had been taken. If he had not been at rest in reference to his undying soul, if he bad not felt a quiet, holy confidence that it was safe, would he have been so deliberately careful in describing the situation and the purchase of the sepulchre? Let us not marvel, my friends, that saints about to depart can dwell upon the thought of some earthly and temporal matter; neither should we grieve to hear them then speaking with interest about other things besides the spiritual and heavenly. It may be the very strength and quiet assurance of their hope of immortality that permit them to give some special attention still to the body, or the household, or the world which they are leaving. Whence that peace, that terrorless tranquility of Jacob in the death-hour? Here he made no particular reference to the source of it. This was not necessary. He had indicated, by his religious profession, and by the consistent piety which adorned his life, especially the latter portion of it, that his trust was in the covenant mercy of Jehovah. In the prophetic blessing also, the sound of which had scarcely left the ears of his assembled children, he had spoken of the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel; he had named the Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the nations would be; and had concluded his prediction respecting one of the tribes with these words, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." There was no need of further explanation there was no need for his declaring now that his peace was the fruit of faith, faith in the saving grace of that God who had given him the covenant with its blessings and promises, ratified by sacrifice and predictive of the Messiah.
(W. Bruce, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,