Abraham’s servant


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Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24, selected verses)

  • Years ago when I was a lad of about 9 or 10, I played the part of the Prodigal Son in a Sunday School performance.
  • The bit I remember most vividly was when I returned home and the servants put a new robe on me… rings on my fingers, and so forth
  • I recall this event so vividly because the ‘servants’ were girls and I was hugely embarrassed!

In the reading that follows, the servant was male, which was not uncommon in the time of Abraham…

  • Girls were often more like slaves than servants…
  • A wealthy man would depend heavily upon a trusted man-servant
  • In fact, the servant could even inherit the man’s property if there were no male heir

And the servant, whose name is not mentioned but is probably Eliezer (Genesis 15) is trusted with the sacred task of finding a suitable wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac…

In the Bible passage that follows, you will notice that the chronicler provides precise and detailed information…

  • The history of Israel relied upon oral means, as stories were passed down from generation to generation… so they had to be accurate
  • Old Testament chroniclers were particularly interested in demonstrating that God still loved Israel and His covenant faithfulness would not fail while the people remained faithful to Him

Genesis Chapter 24 

Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.’

Eliezer was a servant/steward but had considerable responsibility as the number one person in the household

  • Being a servant does not mean being inferior… Jesus was the ‘suffering servant’, who said that the one who wants to be greatest must first learn to serve others

Verse 6 ‘Make sure that you do not take my son back there,’ Abraham said. ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, “To your offspring I will give this land”– he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.’ So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

The oath taken by the servant was important… it signified serious intent… full commitment… wholeheartedness…

  • And it was rooted in the Lord God, not in an ideology or a person
  • In our legal system, the majority of people still “swear by Almighty God…”
  • And the task given to Eliezer was a vital one… to ensure that the Jewish line remained pure… Not least, in preserving the lineage through to Jesus Christ Himself, through whom the world would be saved

Abraham was old and was ‘setting his house in order’… My Dad has begun to talk in these terms and I’m trying to convince him that he is of more value alive than dead!

  • Nothing was more important for Abraham than guaranteeing that Isaac’s future was aligned to the will and purpose of God
  • I wonder if we have the same eagerness for those whom we know and love?
  • It’s possible to ensure that our loved ones are secure financially… yet neglect their spiritual inheritance
  • Remember how the Apostle Paul gave thanks that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were such godly folk and provided a foundation for Timothy’s walk of faith

One characteristic of growing older is that we begin to get life in perspective…

  • We realise that money, fame, success and status have their place but nothing can substitute for leaving a healthy spiritual legacy
  • And nowhere is this aspiration more relevant than within our own families

Perhaps we should all be asking constantly what legacy we are leaving

  • What do you want to be said about you, not only when you’re gone, but here and now?
  • It’s easy to say nice things about someone after that person has died out of politeness… but so much better if the kind words are true!

More importantly, what does God think about our legacy?

  • Here’s a poem expressing one lady’s perspective…

 When You Stand Before the Lord

The day will soon be coming

When we stand before the Lord

God will hold the sacred Book of Life

Where all the names are stored

 

We’ll look into the Saviour’s face

Stand on holy ground

Kneel before the King of kings

So pray your name is found

 

The time will come; it’s drawing near

It’s closer than you think

Eternal life with God above

You’ll either rise or sink

 

God doesn’t care about your job

Your gems of pearl and jade

Your style of home, the car you drive

Or money that you’ve made

 

He’s not concerned with age or height

The colour of your hair

The number of the friends you have

The brand of clothes you wear

 

He’ll ask you if you spoke His name

And thought of Him each day

Knew He gave His life for you

Took the time to pray

 

He’ll know about your closest friend

About the books you’ve read

The kind of thoughts that fill your mind

From which your spirit fed

 

He’ll take a look inside your soul

He’ll go beyond your pride

Your sins will be as crimson red

There’s nothing you can hide

 

For once you stand before the Lord

He’ll see through every crack

And if you were to die today

There’d be no turning back

 

You’ll gaze into His crystal eyes

He knows the things you did

There’s nothing you can keep from Him

No secret thoughts are hid

 

So then before you meet the Lord

You’d better make it right

Start by going on your knees

Confess to Him tonight

 

Get rid of all your worldly ways

They only lead astray

Find time to walk with Jesus

He’s the Truth, the Life, the Way

 

When life on earth is over

He’ll take one final look

When the roll is called up yonder

Will your name be in His Book?

 

You can be sure it’s not too late

God’s waiting by your side

So yield your life to His dear Son

For your sake, crucified

Marilyn Ferguson (altered)

 
Verse 10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim (the area between the Tigris and Euphrates) and made his way to the town of Nahor (the name of one of Abraham’s brothers). 11 He made the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was towards evening, the time the women go out to draw water. 12 Then he prayed, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,” and she says, “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too”– let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.’

Much of life consists of ‘the trivial round, the common task’… but it should still be infused with a consciousness that all we do is “unto the Lord”

  • For example, the camels had to be looked after… an angel wasn’t going to do the job!
  • Despite his seniority, Eliezer still attended to the small but important practical tasks and set a good example to the other members of the party

And see how naturally he prayed…his prayer was simple but sincere

  • It focused on his master’s needs, not on himself
  • It was specific and immediate
  • It was a prayer of faith… trusting… childlike…
  • No shouting or reciting a prayer thoughtlessly…this is a humble man speaking to Almighty God as a child might speak to his father

Verse 15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother, Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

Note that she was Abraham’s grandniece and Isaac was her second cousin

  • What are the chances of such an encounter!
  • God doesn’t deal in coincidences

God is never fazed by circumstances… He knows the end from the beginning… His ways are higher than our ways

God is not limited by our circumstances, only by our lack of belief

  • We think that we are so advanced, so sophisticated
  • Science gives the answers… our intelligence and knowledge mean that we have no need of a “fairy tale God” in the 21st century
  • But the Lord looks down upon us as if we were grasshoppers

The One who made heaven and earth and the stars and the planets is not going to be overwhelmed by our problems… or people’s cynicism

  • He waits for us to do what the servant did… pray, wait and expect Him to act
  • Not pray and agonise and fret!

And notice that Rebekah was very beautiful… so normally she would have been married by now

  • But God had preserved her for something better…

Sometimes, we wonder why we are forced to wait… or why God does not give us the desires of our heart… There is always a good reason!

  • God’s looks down… we look up… He works within us and through us to bring about His purposes in His own time

Verse 17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar.’

18 ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.’ 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

Notice how Rebekah had a servant heart… and based her actions on caring concern rather than ‘etiquette’

  • Some shop assistants say the ‘correct’ words, such as ‘Sorry to keep you waiting’ or ‘Have a nice day’… and seem to mean them… others do not!
  • The catch-phrase “love you” that originated in America is preferable to “hate you”… but without sincerity is meaningless
  • We say things for many reasons… to keep the peace… to be courteous… to reassure… to comfort, and so on… but God sees the heart and knows whether our motives are right

And notice how the servant watched Rebekah closely…

  • We are all ‘under scrutiny’ as we live our lives… People might not say anything but they notice what we say, how we say it, and how we respond to people and situations
  • It is claimed that children are 10 per cent influenced by the words we say… and 90 per cent influenced by the way in which we say them

Motive and motivation are important factors in life…

  • Years ago, I determined to make a better impression on people to show that I cared about them…
  • The Holy Spirit challenged me: “Don’t just give the impression that you care, actually care… the impression will follow!”

Here is a poem that expresses the need for demonstrating care today… and not waiting until we are gone >>>

POEM:   Don’t bring me flowers
Though they are lovely,
their scent heavenly,
splendid in all their bouquet
Don’t bring me flowers
after I’m gone –
show me you love me today.

What good will they do
lying on a grave?
Though pretty, their meaning I’ll miss
Express to me now
you’re thankful I’m here
Give me a hug or a kiss.

My age has crept up
I’ve wrinkles aplenty,
my good years behind me, at best;
But wisdom and spirit

I’m happy to share,
Indulge me now, not when I’m at rest.

When I was so young,
with nothing but time,
all plans for the future could wait
But my future is now,
my time almost done—
So love me before it’s too late!

Don’t bring me flowers
after I’m gone
Show me you need me today
So happy you’ll make
this lonely old heart – you might just convince me to stay!

Lori Williams (modified)

And Eliezer’s motive was clear… he watched Rebekah to see if the Lord had made his journey successful… God was in all and through all…

  • God isn’t a ‘sideshow’, standing apart from the warp and weave of our lives… but intimately involved in every aspect of it
  • Eliezer judged success by God’s standards and not using his own criteria

Someone has said that FAILURE is when we succeed at things that don’t really count for anything much!

CT Studd penned these verses: “Only one life; it will soon be passed; only what’s done for Christ will last”

Verse 29: Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 ‘Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,’ he said. ‘Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.’

32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33 Then food was set before him, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.’

‘Then tell us,’ Laban said.

There are times when something is of such importance that even food and drink must wait

  • Remember when Jesus was speaking with the woman of Samaria by the side of another well?
  • The disciples were rightly concerned that Jesus had not eaten… but He replied that “doing the Father’s will” was His food and drink!

We need wisdom to discern when to immerse ourselves in what might be termed “community action” and when to focus on spiritual matters directly

  • Steve Chalke once said, provocatively, that the problem with ‘friendship evangelism’ was the ‘evangelism’ element
  • An article in a missionary magazine (Medical Missionary News) asked the question: ‘When should medical work be a means to an end… and when should it be an end in itself?’
  • There’s a time to persevere… and a time to shake the dust off our feet and move on

Verse 50: Laban and Bethuel (Rebekah’s father) answered, ‘This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.’ 52 When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord.

The two men were taking a major step of faith and releasing their precious daughter and sister…

  • We don’t have our children forever and one day our influence will cease when we or they die
  • But we are stewards of younger members of our family and community
  • They are our responsibility… there is no one else to do the job
  • Young people come under many pressures… we may feel that our voice is ignored amidst the clamour… but we would be mistaken

A godly relative or friend has a powerful influence on their thinking… and even if, for a time, they seem to wander “far from home”, they will still hear a voice behind them saying: “This is the way, walk in it”

And see how all three men were of one mind… it was the will of the Lord and therefore the best path to take… the only way to choose

  • This attitude should not be confused with ‘fatalism’, which is based on a belief that everything is predetermined
  • The Bible makes it clear that we are faced with a choice… we choose this day whom we will serve
  • Bad choices actively frustrate the will and purpose of God, though only for a time

TO CONCLUDE: Jesus told a number of parables and stories about stewardship

  • The steward who was told by the master to give all the workers the same wage, regardless of when they started working in the fields
  • The steward who was told to treat his workers fairly … but failed to do so
  • The steward who used his wisdom to clear a debt, though by using devious means!

And in Titus 1: 6-8: For a bishop/overseer must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled…

Stewardship comes in many forms: protecting the weak … handling money wisely … utilising resources… demonstrating even-handedness

But perhaps the most important aspect of stewardship is about honouring God in our daily lives, as Eliezer did

  • What might be called “spiritual stewardship” … on behalf of God Himself

Trusting Him to guide and direct… receiving His word… checking our decisions with Him… guiding and loving others… being wise in our relationships… making sure that God (and not we) receive the glory and praise…

AND SO ONE DAY TO HEAR GOD SAY:

Well done, good and faithful servant…”

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