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Friday, February 3, 2012

Isaac and Rebecca Met Through the Faithfulness of God and the Trust of Abraham and his Servant

Genesis 24:34 So he said, “I am Abraham's servant. 35 The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, 38 but you shall go to my father's house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father's house. 41 Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’

42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master's son.’

45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. 49 Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”

I think we have it all backwards when I take a look at this passage.

At first glance, this passage is about how Isaac and Rebecca came to become man and wife. Some people, rightly so, refer to this as the godly approach to finding a wife. I think that as much as it is true that the principles of spouse finding are rich in this text, there is a greater principle at hand. The writer of Genesis, took careful measure to make sure that the readers understood what was happening in this passage. Throughout the chapter, he replays this incident twice - like the creation story at the beginning of Genesis, but instead of taking a purely poetic approach, he takes an approach that walks us through both the events that took place in an objective sense as well as the servant's perspective on the events. The thing I hope we discover together is that when we know God and enter into a covenant with Him, we are able to see His sovereignty in all things and trust Him through the moments of greatest trials.

Abraham was 100 years old when he had Isaac. Isaac was the most important thing to Abraham next to God. Isaac was also at the age when he should get married, but because of the significance of familial ties in old Hebrew culture, Abraham did not want Isaac to wed someone of a distant clan. However, if we remember, Abraham was told by God in chapter 12 to "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all families of the earth shall be blessed." Thus, he was a man without a country, and only a promise of one to come. In chapter 15, God made a covenant with Abraham and fleshed out the details through the middle of chapter 18. After his covenant, Isaac is born, then told to be offered as a sacrifice, then saved by God painting one of the most incredible pictures of the Gospel in the Old Testament.

Fast forward to Isaac and Rebecca. The reason I love this passage is because it calls us to approach everything in life through the lens of God's sovereignty, goodness, and trustworthiness. It puts us right in between the reality that we are always stuck between trying to do things on our own versus trusting in God to do what He knows is best. It also shows us that there is a type of partnership in that we are able to participate in as we obey God simply by showing up.

In this passage, the certainty Abraham had in God was evidenced through two things: first, his willingness to release his servant from his oath and second, the fact that the servant turned to this God that his master served.

Abraham had no obligation to release his servant of this oath. In fact, because of the power distance that occurred between the two, the servant had legitimate reasons to fear for his life if he couldn't produce a wife for Isaac. But what is most incredible is that Abraham releases the outcomes to the LORD and just tells his servant to show up and see what God does. Abraham tells him to go ahead because God will send His angels ahead of him and bring about a positive outcome, BUT even if he doesn't that it is okay because his trust wasn't in the outcome, but in the producer of the outcome. Abraham essentially says that God will do what He will do and even though he knows God can, he believes God will, that even if God doesn't, that he will still praise the LORD. This, we see happen in the book of Daniel as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego were about to be thrown into a blazing furnace for worshipping God.

Abraham trusted God because He knew God was faithful to His word and would not forsake him because of the covenant that was made in Genesis 15.

The servant, now charged with going to Abraham's home tribe was given a task associated with great responsibility. He was in charge of finding someone who was going to be the wife of the heir to his master. This means that the pressure to find someone that would bring honor, bear children, and submit faithfully was on. If the servant failed to bring someone of high character, he would most likely be reminded daily of the poor selection he made for his master. He would be haunted with a miserable existence. I think the servant had the thought to attempt to find someone, and then return home to tell his master that no one wanted to return with him. That way, he would be released from his oath as well as from the burden of bearing the responsibility of having found someone that brought dishonor to the tribe. Instead, this servant goes to the well at a time when he knew that the women would be coming out to draw water from the well. Instead of playing the numbers game and approaching each one as most people would, he sat back and asked God to be the one to lead. In no way did he do this to neglect his responsibility, but he called upon YAHWEH by name with the full knowledge of who He was to Abraham. Before he finished praying for the one chosen for Isaac to be revealed, Rebecca appeared and offered to feed him and his camels drink. Through Abraham, the servant came to know and trust God in a way that it seems the majority of people today have a hard time doing. This servant understood something about the sovereignty of God that we often times forget.

When I look at this passage, I think of three things:

1. We must know God and His promises in order for us to know what we can and are holding onto. Through the Bible, God reveals Himself in ways that shows He interacts with us throughout all of human history. Why wouldn't we want to know such a personal God? In the Bible are thousands of promises God makes to those who trust in Him. Why wouldn't we want to know them?

2. We must trust that God's sovereignty will take care of everything - and that we must guard our hearts with wisdom from trying to control the unknown in a faithless manner. It's easy to try and conjure up formulas and methods in reaction to the nastiness of life. Many times, we do things to either protect ourselves from experiencing hurt without trusting God or to get to a place where we don't think we will need God at all. Both are marked with a danger sign that can only lead us to a place of self-reliance and an existence that prevents us from experiencing the fullness that God has in store for us.

3. We must pray at all times with the understanding that we are in a covenant that exceeds anything we could ever hope for. I can't emphasize prayer enough. Prayer is the method of communication God gave us to be able to access Him in a personal way. Why wouldn't we take advantage of this? The more I read through the Word, the more I find I have to pray for. The more I get involved in people's lives, the more I have to pray for. The more I examine my own life and the world I live in, the more I have to pray for. Prayer allows us to release our burdens to Him who bore all burdens on the Cross so we wouldn't have to for eternity.

In this passage, I see the Gospel lived out by Abraham and his servant. To release someone from an oath is to release someones obligation to produce. There is no performance pressure involved. His servant knowing fully what was at stake went to God first, and because of God's covenant with Abraham (and everyone else who believes that Christ died for their sins), the servant found it to be the wisest course of action to trust God before his options were exhausted, not after he had tried everything. We can trust in God because He is worthy of our trust. My hope is that we live according to this magnificent truth.

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