When we look thru scripture, we usually think of men and women who are named. In the Old Testament, we have Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Noah, Deborah, Saul, David. In the New Testament, of course there are Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Priscilla. In almost every case, these men and women were surrounded by, or at least assisted by others. They were not solitary figures operating on their own.
This morning we have the account of Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, and the choosing of his wife Rebekah.
Remember – God promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. In their old age, Abraham and Sarah had only one child, Isaac. And if the promise was to be fulfilled, Isaac needed a wife.
In our reading this morning, it is not Abraham, or even Isaac, who does the heavy lifting in finding a wife for Isaac – it is Abraham’s servant, who is unnamed. Abraham leaves the choice of his son’s wife, a most important issue, to his servant.
All the more important that God be involved!
Sarah has died, and Abraham is on his deathbed. Before he dies, he must arrange the marriage of Isaac. He assigns the task to “the eldest of his house” – his upper servant. Abraham makes the servant swear he will not take a wife for his son from the Canaanites, but from his home country, and his kindred. The servant is forced to take an oath, in case Abraham dies in the meantime. Isaac is the heir to the Promise – perhaps he could be seen as “the world’s most eligible bachelor.”
As the servant is receiving instructions from Abraham, he asks a question, “What if she says she won’t come back [with me]?” Now, is this such an unreasonable thing to ask? It looks to me like the servant is already thinking of contingencies. Do you suppose he had doubts about the mission?
How many of us receive instructions from God, or from another leader, and we immediately pick it apart? What if this happens? What if this doesn’t happen? Have you thought about __________?
Abraham dismisses these issues, continuing to believe in the Promise from God. Essentially, Abraham says, “Don’t worry, God has given me the Promise, and the Promise will be fulfilled. No more questions!”
The servant makes his preparations, and leaves. He arrives at a particular watering hole, and as the camels are resting, he prays that Isaac’s wife would appear. A beautiful young woman comes out – gosh, she might be the one!
Even at this, the servant does not give in to first impressions. He tests the circumstances, and continues to pray that she is the one. When she tells him of her family, and that she is a relative of Abraham, he praises God.
The girl, named Rebekah, invites the servant to her brother’s house. The servant has given her a number of gifts, and naturally the brother is interested in what this might mean. He invites the servant into his house, and invites him to eat with them.
But the servant says (verse 33), “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”
Let’s read the first portion of our passage, verses 34-38: So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’
The servant explains to Rebekah’s brother Laban why he is there, to go his master’s family and to his own clan, and to get a wife for his master’s son.
Let’s continue, verses 42-49: “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’ 45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ 46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also. 47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ “She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’ “Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son.49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”
The servant is quite explicit in his prayer about God showing him the right person. He even wants God to make the girl say the right sentences, so he would know!
How many of us would even dare give such explicit instructions to God? Sometimes I pray, “God, please make things perfectly clear…” If you have been listening, I have been praying for that to happen to the PNC AND to the person whom God is calling to be your next pastor.
But our servant was even more precise, even down to the dialogue! And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as he’s finished praying, the girl appears!
I knew a woman in a previous church who was a widow, and one night she prayed specifically to God that someone would enter her life. As soon as she was finished, the phone rang. It was a man who would eventually become her husband. She specifically asked God for something, and God answered.
It’s not in our reading today, but Laban’s response is completely obedient to Abraham’s plan, and to Abraham’s faith in God’s plan and God’s promise. Essentially, Rebekah’s brother says, “This is from the Lord, and we cannot say anything to you one way or the other.” After hearing this, the servant again praises God.
Just a comment on Laban’s response, “This is from the Lord, and we cannot say anything to you one way or the other.” My prayer is ALSO that the Hillcrest congregation reacts this way when the candidate for the pastor is presented. “This is from the Lord, and we cannot say anything to you one way or the other.”
Then, in a rather unusual move, they decide to ask Rebekah if SHE is willing to marry Isaac, verses 58-61: So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. 59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the cities of their enemies.” 61 Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.
Notice the blessing given to Rebekah by her family: it’s quite similar to the blessing to Abraham by the Lord in 22:17: “Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.”
Again, the purpose is to show just what careful attention to detail the Lord has shown in choosing this wife for Isaac. In God’s plan, the same blessing has been given to both Isaac and his bride.
Let’s finish, verse 62: Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Isaac enters the story for the first time, just as the servant is bringing Rebekah to him. They both lift up their eyes and see the other in the distance.
Again, this is the literary beauty of Scripture:
- We know what is happening, but the characters in the story do not.
- We watch as God’s providence unfolds before their eyes
- We watch as the providential ordering of events takes place
- We watch as Isaac and his bride, chosen by God, discover the greatness of God’s leading.
- The servant tells Isaac everything that happened.
- The final remarks show once again that God’s guidance in the mundane areas of life is good for those who put their trust in him.
Isaac takes Rebekah as his wife, he loves her, and is comforted after his mother’s death.
What have we learned from this amazing episode?
The promise of God has a future: even though we might get bogged down in all the details, God will keep his promise.
It’s OK for us to pray specific prayers: the servant had his prayer right down to the dialogue between him and Rebekah!
And what did the servant do when he got to the watering hole?
He prayed! QUOTE: “[The servant]trusted that a wisdom greater than his own would light his way. But he did not assume that this guidance would be arbitrary. It would enlist his own intelligence and his consecrated common sense.”
It would enlist his own intelligence and his consecrated common sense!
Ever consider this? God will consecrate, make holy, set apart, our own intelligence and common sense!! Talk about a miracle!
And something else – did the servant have any other criteria?
Did the servant specify:
- Hair color?
- Astrological sign?
- Family history?
- Net worth?
- Income potential?
- No, it was something more important – it was her spirit.
And what was the servant’s name? We are not told…
My friends, there are hundreds, if not thousands of unnamed characters in the Bible. We don’t know their names, but they played important roles in the plan, the promise of God.
Do you suppose anyone will be reading your name 2,000, 4,000, 8,000 years from now?
Will anyone recall what happened at 1622 James Street thousands of years out?
Probably not, but I do know one thing.
Like this servant, your life, your words, your prayers, your work, your touch can have and will have eternal consequences in God’s eternal kingdom.
You also will be a best supporting actor.