Read Genesis 24
Last post we talked about Genesis 24:1, Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. We discussed how Abraham was blessed in every way, and how that included his trials because without trials it’s not possible to experience personal growth. In today’s post we’ll see another Old Testament picture of a New Testament principle in the story of Abraham sending his senior servant to get a wife for his son Isaac.
Our story begins with a conversation between Abraham and his senior servant. Now this servant isn’t what you might think. He’s not a menial servant but rather Abraham’s right hand man, the one who’s in charge of all that he owns and of all his affairs. He’s loyal, devoted, skilled, and powerful. In Genesis 15:2 we learned that Abraham’s senior servant’s name is Eliezer. But, even though his servant is the central character in the story of Genesis 24 he remains unnamed. “Why?” You may well ask. It’s because in our story he is a type of the Holy Spirit and as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit will not speak of himself. (John 16:13) The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to speak of Jesus and to bring the bride of Christ, the church, to the groom God’s Son. (Revelation 21:9) All of this occurs at the direction of the Father. So we see in Genesis 24 a beautiful picture of Abraham as God the Father, Isaac as the Son of God that is Jesus, and the unnamed servant as the Holy Spirit, bringing the bride to the son.
We’ll see an unnamed servant again in Ruth 2:5-6 when he introduces Boaz the kinsman redeemer to Ruth the gentile. Of course in that story also, the two are ultimately married. And that story also, is a picture of the Holy Spirit bringing the bride of Christ to the groom who is our Redeemer.
Now, in today’s story, Genesis 24, Abraham says to his servant, Put your hand under my thigh. (The hand under the thigh thing was simply a custom of that culture in that time to solidify an agreement when someone would swear an oath) So Abraham continues, I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you’ll not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom we live. I want you to go back to my old country and from my own extended relatives get a wife for Isaac my son.
The unnamed servant asks, at this point, what I believe to be a very intelligent question, What if she doesn’t want to come? If she won’t come back with me should I come back and take Isaac to her?
Abraham answers, Absolutely not. The LORD, the God of heaven, the God who brought me out of my native land and who promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’–He will send his angel ahead of you to arrange it so she’ll come back with you. But if the woman were to refuse to come back with you, then you’re released from our agreement.
I love this part of the story because it speaks of the Holy Spirit’s approach to bringing people to Christ. The Holy Spirit may woo, the Holy Spirit may persuade, the Holy Spirit may inspire a person in order to attract that person to the groom, Jesus, but, the Holy Spirit will always communicate God’s love in a way that leaves the free will of that person intact. There’s never any coercion or pressure. The Holy Spirit will never force the will of God upon anyone but will only extend God’s loving invitation.
I love that about the Holy Spirit. I love that about God’s nature.
So the servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh and swore an oath concerning the matter.
Then the servant takes ten camels and loads them up with some of the best that his master has in his household. And he sets off for the land of Aram Naharaim and specifically for the town of Nahor.
Once at the town of Nahor he has his ten camels kneel down near the well outside of town. When he arrived, it was late afternoon-evening, the time when the women of that community would go to the well to draw water.
It was at this time that the servant prayed, silently, in his heart, “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.”
Now what he was asking was no small thing. According to National Geographic a camel can drink up to thirty gallons of water in a day. So, say each camel were to drink ten gallons each, that means the woman who waters the camels would have to carry one hundred gallons of water between the well and the watering trough. That’s a lot of trips! To water ten camels would take hours. If this girl does offer to water the camels, it would be rather remarkable.
Before he had even finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was stunningly beautiful, and a virgin. She went down to the well, filled up her jar, and came up again.
The servant hurried to meet her. (This speaks of the Holy Spirit’s eagerness to meet us on behalf of Jesus) And the servant said, Would you mind sparing a little water from your jar?
Certainly, drink all you like, she said, and quickly lowered her jar to give him a drink.
After he had drunk from the jar she said, You know what? I’ll just go ahead and draw water for your camels too, until they’ve had their fill also. Back and forth she went from the trough to the well until she had filled the trough with enough water for the ten camels.
The servant just watched.
When the camels were through the servant gave Rebekah gifts, a gold nose ring weighing a beka or about one fifth of an ounce and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels or around four ounces.
This speaks of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy, wisdom, knowledge, the ability to heal, to perform miracles, to discern spirits, or to speak in different languages. (Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12;8-10) Good gifts. Wonderful gifts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the best gifts.
Then the servant asks, Whose daughter are you? And is there enough room in your father’s house for me and my company to spend the night?
She answered, I’m the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor and Milkah’s son. And yes, we have room for you, we have plenty of straw and food for the camels as well.
Then the servant bowed down and worshipped the LORD, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”
Rebekah ran ahead and told her mother what had happened. And her brother, Laban, as soon as he saw all the bling, the nose ring and the bracelets, and heard Rebekah’s story, hurried out to the well to see what was up with this stranger. Laban, as we’ll see in a later chapter, is a person who’s very interested in material gain and is even a bit of a con man.
Come, you who are blessed by the LORD, Laban said, Why are you hanging around out here? I’ve prepared our place for you and your camels.
Maybe there’s something in it for me, Laban might be thinking.
So the servant went to the house, the camels were unloaded, straw and food for the camels was provided, and water for he and his men to wash their feet. Then food was set before him, but he said something interesting at this point, he said, I won’t eat until I tell you what I have to say.
What a great work ethic we see displayed here. You and I should be so dedicated. Before I turn on the TV, before you play angry birds, before I check my email, before you jump on Facebook, I, you, we need to take care of whatever business the LORD has set before us. That’s what the unnamed servant is doing here.
Alright, tell us what’s up, Laban said.
So the servant tells Rebekah and her family, I’m Abraham’s servant. The LORD has blessed my master like you can’t believe, he’s wealthy. He has sheep, cattle, male and female servants, camels, donkeys, silver, gold, stocks, bonds, and a huge IRA. His wife Sarah bore him a son in her old age and this son of his has been given everything, the whole estate. My master made me swear an oath that I would bring back a wife from here, from right here, from my master’s old clan.
From there he recounts the whole story: how he made Abraham promise that he would be released from the oath if the woman wouldn’t come; how he was at the well praying in his heart that the LORD would show him who the bride should be by her offering to water his ten camels; how Rebekah came while he was still praying. He recounted the whole story right up to where he is right now.
Then the servant said, Now if you’ll show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me one way or the other, will you let her go back with me?
Laban and Bethuel said, What can we say? This whole deal is definitely from the LORD. Here’s Rebekah, take her and go. Let her become the bride of the son as the LORD has directed.
When the servant heard their response he bowed down before the LORD. Then he brought out gifts of gold, silver, jewelry, and clothes and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious gifts to her brother and mother.
Now, after he completed his master’s business, the servant ate, drank, and spent the night at Bethuel’s house.
But, when they got up to go the next morning, Rebekah’s brother and mother said, Let her stay with us for ten days or so, then you can go.
Some translate the ten days to mean ten months. But whether it’s ten days or ten months, that’s always how it is with the world. When the Holy Spirit is moving, when it’s time to take action for God’s kingdom, the world says, relax! What’s the big deal? Why do you have to be so radical? Just go on Sundays, you don’t need to be in church Wednesday night. Just stay home, go on that retreat next year. Just take the money and go on vacation, you can do that short term mission trip some other time. That’s always how it is with the world. When the Holy Spirit’s prompting you to move the world says, wait. But watch what the servant does.
Don’t detain me, now that the LORD has granted me success. The Lord wants me to be about His business, so send me on my way with the bride of the son.
So they said, Let’s ask Rebekah.
And Rebekah said, I’ll go.
Rebekah said, I’ll go to a land I don’t know, to with a servant who I barely know, to marry a man I’ve never seen.
It’s a picture of our acceptance of Christ as our savior. We’re going to heaven, a land we don’t know, with a strange servant the Holy Spirit, to connect with Jesus Christ, a man we’ve only captured glimpses of in scripture — but oh how promising are those glimpses.
So they sent Rebekah on her way with her nurse and with their blessing.
When Rebekah finally arrived, she found Isaac coming from the well called Beer Lahai Roi which means well of the living One seeing me. He was in the field meditating. When Rebekah saw him she came down off her camel.
Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. He loved her and was comforted after his mother’s death.
A word about the servant’s prayer:
“LORD, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today,” the servant prayed in verse twelve.
Make me successful LORD, I pray, as do you, most likely. I don’t know about you but I like being successful. So let’s see what we can learn from the unnamed servant in our story.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight, Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us.
In other words, like the unnamed servant, earnestly pray through everything! Lately I’ve been approached recently by several people asking for direction concerning choices that they have before them. In each of these cases there was no obvious answer. (yet there was still the temptation to offer my ever so humble opinion. Why is that?) However, my response was the same in each case: Get into God’s word, go to church regularly, pray earnestly and regularly, then do what you believe the Lord would have you do. Should I take this job offer? Earnestly pray through it. Should I date that young man? Earnestly pray through it. Should I move into that new place? Earnestly pray through it. Pray earnestly. Pray with your husband or wife if you’re married. Pray on your own in your prayer closet. Pray with your nose in the carpet. Pray!
The key to the success of the unnamed servant was that he executed his mission while in communication with the Lord.
Abide in Christ Jesus because He said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” And if that were not enough He also said that “…without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5-7 KJV)
Of course we’ve been given a brain to use and God desires us to seek wisdom. But most life decisions are best made with the perspective offered by the One who is all wise, all knowing, and can see what’s coming. You and I are but dust and ashes. (Genesis 18:27) Even after extensive research on a topic you and I have just a smidgen of wisdom and knowledge by comparison. And do you know what else? You can’t see one second into the future. But God can. Who wouldn’t want to tap into His infinite knowledge and wisdom.
Making decisions without abiding in Him and praying it through is like walking in the woods in the dark without a flashlight. It just makes no sense whatsoever. You’ll find yourself lost, you’ll find yourself on detours, you’ll find yourself experiencing hardship that’s just unnecessary.
Speaking of finding brides and as an illustration of praying through an important matter: for years while my two sons were growing up, every morning before I went to work I would quietly go into their room, kneel down, and lay hands on each of them separately, praying, among other things, that God would provide the wives He had in mind for each of them. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I prayed that prayer over Gabe and Nate all those years. He has answered generously. Today Charise and Anastasia are two tremendous blessings in our family. I believe they were chosen by the Lord in answer to prayer.
Abide in Him, pray earnestly, and He’ll reveal the way, he’ll provide the answer, even as He did for the unnamed servant.
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
A word about the ten camels:
When I read of the ten camels I can’t help but be reminded of the ten commandments. Here in Genesis 24 we see Rebekah riding one of the ten to her groom Isaac. It’s another great Old Testament picture, in this case, of how the ten commandments or the law bring us to Jesus. As I realize that I’m incapable of keeping the ten, I become aware of my need for a savior. It’s only after I’m united with the Son that I can come down off my camel, I can leave the law, and enter into God’s grace that’s found in Jesus Christ. At this point I’m not living out the ten commandments because I have to but rather I’m doing my best to live out the ten commandments in response to Christ’s love.
Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not so bad, really.” If you have a notion that you can follow the ten commandments, consider the words of Jesus.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28
You can’t live the law.
You need a savior.
Jesus Christ is that savior.
He’s made it easy to accept him into your life.
Click on: So Your Life Is Falling Apart.
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.”
The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
“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.
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 and made his way to the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward 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.”
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.
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.
When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”
Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”
The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 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.
So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 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. My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 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, but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’
“Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’
“He replied, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’
“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. 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,” 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.’
“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.’
“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.
“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, 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. 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.”
Laban and Bethuel 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. Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.
When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”
But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”
But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”
Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
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.”
Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.
Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 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.
Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 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.