With his mother dead and him pushing 40 years old Isaac was in need of a wife. Abraham takes the initiative and commissions his servant to find him a wife. But he must not get a wife from among the Canaanites where he lives. The servant must return to his homeland, Abraham says, and get a wife for Isaac from his own relatives. The servant leaves and upon arriving he prays to God for help. God answers and brings Rebekah to him, and then Rebekah’s family hosts the servant and his entourage.
Over dinner the servant tells the story of his commission, his prayer and his meeting Rebekah. He gives expensive gifts to Rebekah and her family from Abraham, and the family agrees to send Rebekah home with him. The next day when he tries to leave the family hesitates. But hearing Rebekah confirm she wants to go her family sends her off with their blessing. The chapter ends with the servant delivering Rebekah to Isaac and they are joined together in marriage.
Finding Rebekah was important because she was essentially the next-gen Matriarch. Isaac was succeeding Abraham
There are 4 Lessons I want to bring out for us: Selecting a Spouse, Faith, Prayer, Faithfulness
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SPOUSE
Choosing the right spouse matters. Read verses 1-9.
Sarah is dead. Isaac is 40 years old. Abraham is compelled to find a wife for his son. At the end of the chapter it says that Rebekah was a comfort to Isaac after his mother’s death. So maybe Abraham saw Isaac’s grieving and realized it was time for him to meet a woman.
So Abraham calls his chief servant, probably Eleazor (ch15), and commissions him with the task of finding Isaac a wife. He makes the servant swear to him by putting his hand under his thigh. Jacob made Joseph do the same thing in chapter 47. I don’t know the meaning of that, but they probably would look at us pinkie swearing and wonder the same thing.
For the servant it means travelling. Abraham insists Isaac must not marry a local Canaanite woman. Instead he must marry within the family, and that means the servant would have to return to Abraham’s homeland.
Two things. First, Isaac could not marry a Canaanite woman because they were corrupt. Rebekah, the woman Isaac was going to marry in this chapter, would later complain about the Canaanite women and in very dramatic form saying that if her son married one then her “life would not be worth living.”
But there was more to the reason why Isaac was not to marry a Canaanite woman. There was a “bigger-picture” reason why a wife had to be imported from Abraham’s homeland: the Canaanites were going to be judged by God. Isaac represented a new people that would someday displace the native Canaanites in the land. The descendents of Abraham and Isaac would someday take over the land and drive the Canaanites out – that is one of God’s promises to Abraham. To marry someone from that land would be completely inappropriate. So in the meta-scheme it was very significant that the promised son, who was promised the land, would not marry any native woman in the land because they were under judgment. It would be to yoke light with darkness, God’s blessing with his cursing.
APPLICATION: After seeing those two points let me offer a couple applications: Parents: Pray for your children’s spouses. Abraham is like many godly parents and has a deep concern regarding who his child marries. I know I’m already praying for my childrens’ spouses. Annie’s parents said they began praying for her spouse when she was little. I like to tell her that I’m God’s answer to her parent’s prayers. She likes to tell me they should have fasted and prayed.
APPLICATION: If you’re single, make sure you do not marry a Canaanite. If it means waiting then wait so that when in God’s time you meet someone it is an equal yoking.
Now I see three people in this chapter who demonstrate remarkable faith: Abraham, the Servant, and Rebekah.
Abraham’s faith is seen right away in the commission. His servant asks a very important question in verse 5, “Hey, look Abe, you want me to go find a woman in a far off land I’ve never been to and somehow convince her to just pack up and head back with me, whom she doesn’t know, and marry someone she’s never met or heard of? Can’t Isaac just get on Match.com or Christian Mingle?” The servant’s concern is that he won’t be able to convince a young woman to come back with him to marry Isaac and he wants to know what to do.
Abraham’s response is yet again proof he is God’s man. Follow along in verses 6-7 with me….Abraham is confident that God will make this undertaking a success: “…he will…so that you can…” See the certainty Abraham has? That is his faith.
Now notice three things here. First, Abraham knows who his God is, “The LORD, the God of heaven…”
Second, Abraham recounts his history with God, “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’” This is key because God’s faithfulness yesterday strengthens your faith today in what you’re going through. That is why you must “remember” your history with God and his history with you.
Third, notice that Abraham in the midst of all his faith leaves the results in God’s hands. Notice verse 8, which is the answer to the servant’s question, “If the woman is unwilling to come back with you then you will be released from this oath of mine…” Later in the chapter when the servant was having dinner with Rebekah’s family and regaling them with the story of how his journey began, he recounted for them what Abraham said. In verses 40-41 he says….
So on the one hand Abraham just declared his certainty God will lead them to a woman who will be Isaac’s wife. On the other hand, Abraham says “but if a woman is not found…” In other words, if God chooses not to grant success to the journey, then my servant you are released from this oath. In other words, Abraham “leaves room” for God to be God and have the final say in what He will do. And that’s because God may have other plans that Abraham doesn’t know about – something Abraham certainly would have learned at this point!
APPLICATION: And this leads to a very important application for us in our faith: We must have a rock-solid faith that God CAN do something we are asking but we must always acknowledge that He may not. It is up to God at the end of the day whether He is willing. Turn with me to some scriptures where this balance is perfectly seen:
- Daniel 3:16-18
- 2 Samuel 16:11-12
- Mark 1:40
This same perspective is what Abraham had.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: I believe from Scripture that there are things God will not do simply because He is not “asked” – as James says “You have not because you ask not.” God can carry on with His plans whether you get that want or not – it doesn’t affect his plans at all. If you don’t ask you won’t get it if you do ask you will get it.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: It is not unbelief or skepticism or doubt to acknowledge that God may not answer my prayer because it is not in His perfect will to answer it. Faith is seen in allowing for God to have a different purpose in this situation than what I want to happen because God is sovereign, and His ways are higher than my ways and better than my ways and if I don’t get what I want God is still good and perfect and just.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: We must avoid presuming upon God. What I mean is that we must avoid believing that simply by our “brute” belief that God will do something that it is therefore certain that he will. This really is us trying to control God – its us trying to obligate God to us or make Him do what we want with no allowance for His sovereignty or His wisdom. Whether it is healing from a health issue or a wayward child or finding a spouse or the ability to have a baby or an aspiration we hope comes true, we must not make the mistake of believing that by believing that therefore God will do it. This really is not biblical faith . It’s not submission to His will and it’s not faith that while I may want something or think that what I’m asking is truly the best possible thing – real faith would be ready to trust that if God has something else in mind its because His ways are better, His thoughts are higher, His purposes are perfect, and I know nothing next to Him.
And it will create one of 2 problems if God sovereignly denies answering your prayer and you believed he was supposed to. One: you will have a crisis of faith, or two you will develop a cognitive dissonance in your faith.
A crisis of faith will happen when you can’t understand why God didn’t do what you wanted and your faith implodes because you don’t see how you could ever trust God again since he didn’t do what you wanted. The problem though is you didn’t have a right to expect God to do what you wanted. You never considered that God is sovereign and he will do what he will do. Faith for you has been believing God will do what you want because you can’t imagine God wanting something different than what you want. But biblical faith is knowing God is able to do what you ask but it is His choice whether to do it and whether he does it or not you will continue to trust him and praise Him as just, good, right and true.
Cognitive dissonance on the other hand is having contradictory thoughts in your mind while being completely blind to how contradictory those thoughts are. In the point I’m making, its when we Christians hold on to the thought that says “Believe and God will do it” while at the same time there are all kinds of things in our life that God has not done even though we believed with all our might that he would. We can say and sing with triumphant hearts that God WILL do it because we believe it all while one honest look at our lives and we’d see that that isn’t at all how its been.
I think the cognitive dissonance is something someone develops as a protection against going into a crisis of faith. They don’t want to believe that God wouldn’t do what they thought He should do, because the God they believe in would have done it. But, they can’t bring themselves to accuse God, so, they keep believing God is that kind of God, who does what they want, all while He doesn’t ever seem to do what they want. In other words, its a self-delusion because how can they say God will do something simply by believing if there has been so much belief and not much doing from God?
Both of these are dangerous places to be, and the solution to solve each case is the very solution that would prevent them. Rather than saying “God I believe so I know you will” we must say instead like the leper, “God if you are willing, I know you are able.” This is what Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego said. This is what the Leper said. That’s what Abraham said.
And what great faith Abraham had. But not just Abraham. The servant had great faith too. Check out verses 12-14.
There are just 2 things about his faith I want to point out. First, his faith reflected his master’s faith. How worthy of Abraham was this man? His faith honored Abraham the man of faith because he himself was a man of faith.
Second, his faith is seen in his reliance on God. Verse 12 and 42….
By its very nature faith is “dependency.” The servant was depending on God for this journey to succeed. Joseph relied on God in the dungeon. Daniel relied on God in the lions den. Moses relied on God in the wilderness. David relied on God when he attacked Goliath. Depending on God means putting yourself in His hands knowing that God has the power to either make it or break it for your situation. Relying on God means
- You don’t have enough love
- You don’t have enough money
- You don’t have enough energy
- You don’t have enough courage
- You don’t have enough wisdom
- You don’t have enough
FInally, I have to point out the faith of Rebekah. Here you have a woman who it says was beautiful, industrious, kind and hospitable, and sexually pure. But her faith is seen at the very end of the chapter in verse 58 when she agrees to go back to Isaac.
Now I understand that her dad apparently was dead, which meant her brother cared for her and that probably should only last so long since she was a real catch. But as a Dad I’m really thinking about some dude and all his buddies showing up on my doorstep I’ve never met, says his family knows my family from wayback, he liked the way my daughter took his order at Chic Fil A, and now he’d like to take her back with him across the country because he just feels like God is telling him to marry her,, and then he started writing checks with big zeroes and drove up several brand new vehicles for me and Annie as gifts to show he’s serious…..I’d have her bags packed so fast!
But all that aside, the fact that she was ready to leave and go back, to me speaks of her faith. Someone might say “Well it was the money!” Maybe, that helped. I mean you have to keep in mind her devious scheming later on to trick Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing of the firstborn. So yeah, maybe the bling played a part. Someone might say, “She was looking for anything to get out of that small town and get some adventure.” Maybe.
But I think God selected a young woman worthy of the covenant blessings – because remember that is what she was getting into. She was about to marry Isaac, the promised son whom God promised all the covenant blessings to and through -which included her if she married him and had kids with him. Why was she worthy? Because the kind of woman who would be worthy was a woman who had faith. The whole theme of the life of the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – is faith. Here a woman of faith was selected and secured for
Finally we come to the last point I want to bring out: and that is faithfulness. The faithfulness of the Servant and the faithfulness of God. After his entire journey I can’t imagine the satisfaction of that moment when the servant watched Isaac and Rebekah lay eyes on each other for the very first time. I can’t imagine the joy he felt as his commission came to an end successfully with Isaac walking hand in hand with Rebekah through that field, his grief over his mother’s death alleviated. I can’t imagine how he felt knowing he had brought great joy to his Master by accomplishing his task.
The entire undertaking was done with the most sincere concern for his Master’s welfare. He planned, prepared and the set out on the journey. He was a man who bathed the whole thing in prayer – notice in verse 12 how he wanted God “to show kindness to my Master today.” Then the end of verse 14, “by this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” Then verse 27, “PRaise be to the LORD the God of my master Abraham who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master.” The whole mission was done not with himself in mind, but with his master. He cared about finding a wife for Isaac as much as Abraham cared – because Abraham cared…and as though Isaac were his own son.
This is true servanthood: relieving our master of any worry regarding a task. Giving them the gift of complete confidence that with us in charge it is as good as done. True servanthood is truly caring for our Master’s business like it is ours and wanting it to succeed as much as if it were ours. Its like Joseph in Potiphar’s house. Turn to Genesis 39:6 with me.