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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

February 3, 2016

Genesis 24:1-20

  1. Introduction. Genesis 24 is the longest chapter in Genesis, but since it is a unit, it's tough to break it down into several messages. We could treat the whole from several angles. We could learn about serving the Lord from the fine example of Abraham's servant. We could learn about faith and service from Rebekah. We could study the chapter as an illustration of God the Father (Abraham) sending the Holy Spirit (the servant) to seek a bride (Rebekah = the church) for His Son (Isaac) who had just been through death and resurrection (chapter 22). But I’m going to approach the text by gleaning some principles of divine guidance. Since it deals with God's guidance. Moses wrote Genesis to a people who were poised to conquer the land of Canaan which God had promised to Abraham and his descendants. They were a rebellious bunch who were not inclined to endure the hardship necessary to fulfill God's purpose. They put comfort for themselves ahead of obedience to God's will. The point of this story in its context is to show Israel the importance of maintaining their purity as God's people when they entered Canaan. They must not forget God's purpose to give them that land and they must not intermarry with the people who served other gods and practiced idolatry.

  2. Verses 1-4. Moses moves from an introductory comment to the storyline. As we have already noted, Abraham is an old man. Like many men Abraham makes use of his “golden years” by getting his house in order. High on his “To Do List” was finding a godly wife for his son, Isaac, who is about 40 years old at this time (25:20). So he sends his unnamed servant and asks him to make an oath to find a wife for Isaac. The oath Abraham makes with his servant seems a little bizarre. I don't know about you but I don't want another man putting his hand under my thigh! Yet this was customary in Abraham's day for a person to let someone sit on their hand as a sign of submission (chap. 47:29), and this oath alludes to circumcision (chap.17:11). The word testicle and testify come from the same root meaning. People in ancient times swore by their loins. Now we just raise our hands or shake on it. Abraham asked his servant to swear an oath not get a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites (chap. 9:25). Both Abraham and his servant had an unswerving commitment to the Lord and His purpose concerning the land of Canaan.

  3. Verses 5-9. A point of tension in our story hits in 24:5 when Abraham's servant says, “Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?” This is a legitimate question. This is not the age of the Internet. Abraham resolves the tension when he says, “Beware that you do not take my son back there!” Twice Abraham warns his servant not to take Isaac back to Ur (24:6, 8; cf. 12:1; Luke 9:62). This is faith! Abraham knows God has called him out of Ur and has promised him abundant descendants and land, so he is willing to trust the Lord in whatever He chooses to do. This is a great illustration of salvation. When God calls you, He is calling you out of something to something. He doesn't want you looking back to your old life. He wants you to move forward and press on, to new life in Christ. To know God's guidance we must put aside our own will and seek the will of the God who has called us. That is the basic principle in determining the will of God in any situation--to empty yourself, as much as you are able, of your own will and to commit yourself to seeking and obeying God's will. As you seek first God's kingdom and righteousness, He will reveal the specific steps you need to take as you need to know them. Abraham told his servant that he could expect God's angel to go before him and lead him to the right young woman for Isaac (24:7). So the servant went in obedience, called to God for guidance, and God gave it to him (24:11-14). So often we don't experience God's guidance because we get so caught up doing our own thing that we fail to stop and ask God to reveal His will to us.

  4. Verses 10-11. This is a good time to talk about finding a mate. One of the things we see in this text is that you shouldn’t just marry anybody. You should know what God would want you not to do. Abraham didn't know a lot about who God would pick for Isaac, but he knew what he should have. This is very important. You should at least know what you should get. This can be a part of your decisions on any matter. What do I know God does not want? At least you can rule out a few options and narrow down your choices. Often it is more difficult to go this route than it is to operate on the basis of human wisdom. For Abraham's servant, it meant a 500-mile journey across difficult terrain. It involved a lot of planning, expense, and hassle. “Why be so fanatical about this Abraham? Surely there were some nice girls somewhere in Canaan?” But Abraham saw that it was crucial for his son to marry a woman who would share his commitment to the Lord and His purpose concerning the land. Seeking first God's kingdom is the primary factor in knowing God's will for your life. Just as it was more of a hassle for Abraham to secure a wife for Isaac from his own people rather than from the Canaanites, so it will be more difficult for you to find a mate who is committed to God's purpose. Let's face it, there are a lot of nice, good-looking single pagans out there. And there are a fair amount of nice, good-looking church-goers who are living for themselves, not for Christ. But it can be pretty slim pickings to find a nice, good-looking (there's nothing wrong with good looks--Rebekah is described as “very beautiful” [v. 16]), godly single person. And as you watch other Christian singles marrying those who aren't so committed to the Lord, it's easy to begin thinking, “Maybe I’m being too rigid. Maybe there are some nice Canaanite girls (or guys) around.” But if you want God's guidance for a marriage partner, you must be unswerving in your commitment to God and His purpose.

    1. Not only did the brother trust God's guidance, but he used some common sense. Abraham's servant didn't sit in his tent praying for a wife for Isaac. He prayed a lot, but when Abraham told him to go to Haran and find a wife for Isaac, he arose and went (24:10). He moved out in obedience and he used common sense by taking the gifts needed to secure a bride in that culture. Sometimes we get super-spiritual about this matter of determining God's will that we forget about using some common sense. That's what Abraham's servant did. He didn't start hanging out at the local bars or discos in Ur. He went where he could find a godly young woman from Abraham's relatives, as Abraham had told him to do. So obey God and use the common sense He gave you. You won't find a godly mate in the club.

  5. Verses 12-14. The servant bows down and prays to God. Notice, this servant prays a bold prayer. He asks for God to provide a wife for Isaac “today.” I'm sure many young people looking for a spouse would like to pray that prayer: “Oh Lord, give the answer today!” But God does not always guarantee to be so speedy. Sometimes He desires us to persevere in prayer. Are you praying about decisions you need to make regarding relationships? Have you committed them to the Lord? If you need to make a decision regarding business, have you prayed about it? The servant prays that God will “show kindness” to his master, Abraham. This word translated “kindness” (hesed) refers to God's covenantal loyalty. Abraham's servant can pray with bold confidence because he knows that the God of Abraham is faithful to His promises. Culturally it was a normal act of hospitality to provide water to thirsty travelers. But the idea that a woman would also provide water for ten thirsty camels was going far beyond what would normally be expected. In praying this prayer the servant “stacked the deck” against finding someone. It would take a remarkable woman to volunteer for this lowly and backbreaking task.

  6. Verses 15-16. While the servant is praying the answer is already on the way. This is classic God! He is so gracious and faithful that He often answers prayer before or as we're praying. He does this to demonstrate His power. The servant’s answer to prayer is named Rebekah. She is the daughter of Bethuel, a second cousin of Isaac. This is exactly what Abraham was seeking for his son! Furthermore, in 24:16, we learn that “the girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her.” Rebekah was very beautiful. Her appearance isn't the primary basis of the servant's choice, but it is interesting to note that God chose a wife that would also be attractive to Isaac. She was a virgin. She did not practice “safe sex”; she practiced “save sex” for marriage. She understood that sex was a gift from God, to be enjoyed within the commitment of marriage.

  7. Verses 17-20. At this point in our story Abraham's servant is beside himself and ask the young woman for a drink. In these verses, Rebekah demonstrates an amazing servant’s heart. To grasp what a wonder this was we must understand that the ancient well was a large, deep hole in the earth with steps leading down to the spring water, so that each drawing of water required substantial effort. Moreover, a camel can consume 20-25 gallons of water in ten minutes. How would you like to get 250 gallons of water for ten camels? With a water jar holding about three gallons of water this means that Rebekah made 80 to 100 descents into the well. Rebekah's labors filled 90 to 120 sweaty minutes. To draw water for ten thirsty camels, each of which could drink about 20 gallons, and to do so without being asked, required a woman who was not self-centered, but who had a servant's heart. Since self-centeredness is the root of most marriage conflicts, the servant was going to the very heart of what Isaac needed in a bride to have a happy home life. He applied God's wisdom in seeking God's will. Note how Rebekah’s normal thoughtfulness and willingness to serve paid off for her. She didn't know who this stranger was. She wasn’t putting on her best “date” behavior to impress him. She was simply living as she always did, thinking of the needs of others and giving herself to meet those needs. God used that to make her the wife of Isaac, the mother of Israel (Jacob). Look for godly character qualities above all else in a prospective mate. Beauty is okay (24:16), but godliness is essential. Especially look for someone who denies self and is focused on loving God and others. Look for a person who bases his or her life on obedience to God's Word, who is growing in the fruit of the Spirit. If you marry a beautiful woman who is focused on herself or a hunk who thinks the world revolves around him, you're in for a miserable ride in marriage! Finding the right person depends on being the right person. Because Rebekah had a servant's heart, she found Isaac. If she had thought, “Who is this old man asking me for water?” and had gone on her way, she wouldn't have met Isaac. You've got to be the kind of person you want to marry. If you want a kind, loving, godly mate, you've got to become a kind, loving, godly person.

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