Finding a Wife For Isaac (Genesis 24)

Abraham’s servant played a vital role in fulfilling the purposes of God; see Genesis 24, selected verses

In the readings that follow, 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 passages that follow, you will notice that the writer 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: 1-4

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. Thus, in verses 6-9:

‘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…”
  • 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’

  • 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 and even better if such sentiments are expressed now to encourage that person!

More importantly, what does God think about the legacy that we are building in our lives?

The reading from Genesis 24 continues, verses 10-14:

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). 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. Then he prayed, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 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 His glory

  • 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

In verses 15-16, we are introduced to Rebekah…

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. 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 circumstancesHe 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

See how the series of events unfolded to bring about God’s purposes (verses 17-21):

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

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

After she had given him a drink, she said, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.’ 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. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

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 appear to mean what they say… others clearly do not!
  • The catch-phrase “love you” is preferable to saying “hate you”, of course… but without sincerity it 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 good impression will follow!

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 much!

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

The story continues in verses 29-33:

Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 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. ‘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.’

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. 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

  • An article in a missionary magazine asked the question: ‘When should medical work be a means to an end… and when should it be an end in itself?’ Good question!
  • There’s a time to persevere… and a time to shake the dust off our feet and move on

Verses 50-52 reveal the godliness of the people involved in these events and their submission to the will of God…

Laban and Bethuel (Rebekah’s father) answered, ‘This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.’ 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 younger people’s 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 mindit 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, and bring us sorrow and regret

TO CONCLUDE:

Stewardship comes in many forms: protecting the weak … handling money wisely … utilising resources… demonstrating even-handedness… being scrupulously honest and transparent in our dealings…

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” … acting on behalf of God Himself… a big responsibility!

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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