We are going to pick up the story in Genesis 24. In Genesis 24 is a few decades after Abraham’s test with Isaac. The family ones more settled near Hebron, a village about 35km south of Jerusalem. Sarah, Abraham’s wife and companion of many decades has died, and Abraham has buried her in a tomb he purchased from Ephron the Hittite. Like the incident with the well that Abraham purchased from Abimelech in Genesis 21, Abraham insisted on purchasing the plot of land, so that it would be his own possession in Canaan, a step closer to seeing the promise of God fulfilled, even if it is only a small field. This demonstrates again that Abraham has learned that God is El Olam, the eternal God who will bring about his purposes through generations, and we get a sense in these chapters that, especially with the death of Sarah, Abraham is growing especially concerned with his legacy - what will he leave Isaac, how can he steer Isaac so that Issac will continue to walk in the way of the Lord.
Some preachers seem embarrassed by this passage, that it would be this superfluous love story in the middle of such a serious theological work, and so the labour hard to imagine that this text is some sort of allegory for evangelism - and such it might be! However, it is first and foremost the story of Abraham securing a wife for his son. So before we get into any more fanciful interpretation, let’s not despise this passage as it speaks of marriage. As John Calvin writes in his commentary on this text, it is precisely because we do not hold marriage in honour, that Moses would insist on giving us a detailed picture of the marriage of Issac.
Now when we say this is a text about marriage, and an important text about marriage, and we can take some principles from this text without getting absorbed into the details and say, this is the key to finding a wife - first, get a really rich dad; second, have him send his servant back to his people and find a wife for you; third, there’s a lot of camels involved for some reason. Right, so we want to listen to the text, and what it might teach about marriage, but not get overwhelmed by the particulars.
Marriage is designed by God to sustain legacy. There is an explicit connection in the text between the death of Sarah and the finding of a wife for Isaac, the passing of the generation of Sarah and Abraham, and the passing of a legacy down through Isaac and his soon-to-be-wife. Notice the emphasis on Abraham’s age in the first verse of this chapter, and the two references to Sarah in the last verses.
Gary L. Crawford writes in his book, “In Celebration of Love, Marriage and Sex”: “Here is the point: marriage is more than about us. It is about our children and grandchildren. It is about the generations to come. It is about a legacy, a legacy of love. And a lasting fulfilling marriage is the foundation for such a legacy. Yes, a good marriage has purpose in its own right, but legacy gives marriage a transcending purpose.” Albert Mohler, a contributor to the small group study, “The Art of Marriage” writes, “You are an ancestor to someone yet to come. If you live your life knowing you are an ancestor, that will change the way you make decisions, the way you live your life, the way you love your wife.”
If God were to have exalted lust as the highest virtue, then marriage is not necessary. Even love does not require marriage. You can love many people to whom you are not married. But marriage is an institution created by God so that legacy can flourish. This means first that marriage is about more than attraction or even personal happiness. Attraction and desire come and go in marriage, but marriage is built for decades and generations. It is designed for the building down of legacy and the passing down of values. This is why as marriage has broken down in our society, there has been a breakdown of so many other cultural indicators. We have made marriage optional, and thus we have no legacy to pass down. The breakdown of the family has led to societal upheaval.
And so here, after Sarah has passed away, and being aware of his own age and as his son reaches 40, Abraham is focused on this legacy God is building in his family and will continue to build through his son after he is passed on.
You can help who you fall in love with. A second big picture truth about marriage this passage teaches is that you can help who you fall in love with, and not only that, but parents have the moral responsibility to teach their children that this truth.
Abraham made his servant swear to him that he would see to it that Isaac would not take a wife from among the Canaanites. This is not be used as if it were a justification for racism, but that Abraham knew that God had separated him from the peoples of the land for a spiritual legacy. And thus, Isaac was to remain separate from and not marry the peoples of the land. We are given a spiritual command as well to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. It doesn’t matter how much I am attracted to them, or how lonely I get, or how much I desire a companion, there is a set of people that i must guide my heart away from.
An earlier generation sang, “I can’t help falling in love with you” and Selena Gomez now sings, “The heart wants what it wants”. That’s a lie. The children of Israel were commanded from intermarrying the people of the land who would lead them into idolatry. The Christian is commanded in the New Testament to be not unequally yoked together with those who are not of the faith. If you’re married, everyone who is not your spouse is off limits, and everyone who is already married to someone else is also off limits to everyone else. Your sister is outside of that boundary, so is your brother. If you a man, other man are outside of the boundary that God has fixed, and so also are women if you are a woman. The point is, we do not believe our heart, our passions, our desires, our attractions set the course, or that we are slaves of our emotions.
How do you keep yourself from falling in love with someone you can fall in love with? You for love in the right places. Abraham sends his servant 500 miles away from the Canaanites. Do not entertain any option of a relationship with someone outside the boundaries. Set limits on how close you allow yourself to get in those relationships. I love brownies. But i am gluten intolerant. I am not tempted to eat brownies, because I know that they are off limits - they kill me. It is not a question of maybe this brownie is tasty or just this one time.
It is better to remain single than to turn against the call of God: There is one thing that Abraham is very clear about: Isaac is not to return back. If the servant found a suitable wife willing to come, great, but if the servant was not able to find anyone willing to return with him, Issac was not to compromise and leave the land of promise. This is what Abraham made his servant swear.
Now for any of us, this would take great faith, to truly accept that it is better to remain single than to compromise, but remember how important legacy is to Abraham - if Issac doesn’t marry, how is the promise going to be passed down? Won’t it mess up God’s plan if the servant can’t find a wife? No, Abraham has learned over many decades of faith that God’s plan cannot be thwarted. He is certain that the Lord will provide a wife for his son. However, If the servant can’t find a wife for his son, Abraham will not try to twist God’s arm or his will. He has learned to trust that God will provide one another way. And if Abraham dies before the servant returns from the trip, Abraham requires only that his son will never return to the Land out of which God has called them. Singleness is not a curse to be overcome in scripture, it is a gift of grace, says the apostle Paul, that God uses for His purposes. In my observation, those who marry out of desperation do so to their hurt, yet those who are most content in their singleness are most ready to marry.
God is Sovereign Over the Search
He prays [vs. 12], and prayed , and worshipped . He is the first instance in the bible in which such direct, detailed, personal prayer is made. He believed God was sovereign. He prays specifically that his prayer might be answered on that day, and that it might be answered in a discernible way, and in a way that would reveal to him not only the woman whom the sovereign God would give to Issac, but also the character of the woman.
Listen, I don’t think it is wrong to ask God for a sign, or a clear direction, or a specific answer to prayer. It can be one way that God can reveal his will, and when it happens, it is pretty amazing and leaves us with an amazing story of how God guided us. What’s interesting in this passage is that when Rebekah does comes out and waters his camels, he doesn’t immediately presume that she is the one, in fact, verse 21 says, “The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not.” He needs more confirmation to find out if she is in fact the one.
He pursues He did not simply pray and then assume God would bring someone to him as he passively waited. In obedience to his master, the servant pursued a plan by which, under the sovereign guiding of the Lord, he would identify the woman. Some of his actions are subtle - asking the girl for a drink. Some were quite bold - before stating his purpose, he gave her the gifts of a gold ring and bracelets. He asks her about her family and whether he could meet her father. Now obviously some of these specifics are fixed to time and place; however, the help me to make a larger more important point - to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over a situation does not excuse our inactivity or passivity. God works his sovereignty through our activity, this is true of every area of our lives, not just in the finding of a spouse, but in the searching for a career, in the upkeep of relationships, in the ministry of the gospel. We don’t just pray, we pray and act, and understand that both our praying and our acting are under the sovereign will of God.
I just want to break in here quickly just to remark what an exceptional young lady this Rebekah is. The text doesn’t just remark on her beauty, though she is striking, but that she had kept herself for marriage as well (which would have been a given in their culture, not so much in ours). But what is really highlighted is her industry and her servant heart. She was a hard worker.
“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 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”
Rebekah had no idea that when she left her home that day, her life would change. She had no idea that when she offered the stranger her labour, that her forearms cramping and sweaty would soon wear golden bracelets. She was going about her business and going about it with kindness. Yet it was this kindness that caught the servants eye and was the answer to his prayer. Perhaps one thing we could say is that the best way to pursue marriage is to adorn your outward beauty with character and virtue. This is I believe part of the message of the book of proverbs. Many people are struck by the picture of the virtuous wife in chapter 31, but we must note that Solomon describes this virtuous wife to his son, only after 30 chapters instructing him to be a virtuous man. So yes, pursue a spouse, but pursue virtue and character in yourself as well, even first.
He proclaims He stated his intentions clearly, not only to the woman but to her family. the text says that when they invited him into his house, they set food in front of him, but  he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” and he proclaimed his full intent as to his visit. There is an intentionality and honesty within Christian dating relationships. Do not lead each other on. If you have interest, state it clearly, if you do not have interest, state it clearly. The failure to clearly state your intentions derives from cowardice and a lack of faith. If you are serious, get family involved early. They will have wisdom and they care about your selection of an appropriate mate, often more than you do yourself.
He was ready to punt: Even after all of that and the clear signs that seemed to indicate that Rebekah was the one, the servant was willing to punt. Punt is a football term, describing a strategy that an offensive team can use. When the team sees that it is unlikely that it can make no further progress down the field, they give up the ball to the other team. They let it go, in the hopes that they can have another, better, opportunity in the future.
How can you punt? First, remember you serve a sovereign God.
Second, guard your heart. There’s a whole book of the Bible which celebrates romantic love, Song of Solomon, and the refrain of the song is, “Do not awaken love before it desires.” The Song of Solomon celebrates the love of a couple as they meet one another, get engaged, marry, and grow in their love, and three times at various points in the song, the listeners are cautioned not to awaken love before the proper time.
Song 8:8 We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? 9 If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver, but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
Rebekah, however, is willing. Here words, “I will go” have been taken as her vow of consent. After which she returns with the servant, and we get this scene as those out of the movies.
I recognize that todays message has been geared mostly to young and single people. I hope that all of us, whether single or married, have been challenged to think of our spiritual legacy and how we are passing it own to a younger generation, be thy our own children or the children of others. We all can understand what it means to trust in God’s sovereignty over all of our pursuits, for we all are tempted to pursue that which is forbidden, to compromise our standards, to lack in prayer, or to passively expect God to do everything, to conceal our motives and not be honest about our intentions and to hold on to possessions and opportunity and people long after God tells us to punt.
Another application you may take home is that married couples and parents, its so important that you, like Abraham, take the lead in overseeing your children and the younger generation that they may be wise in their pursuit of marriage. If you are a married couple, I’d encourage you to take some time this summer, invite a young man or young woman over to your home. tell them your story of how you met, remind them of God’s plan and encourage them to be patient and content in where God has placed them.
The chapter ends with a sort of coronation. Issac brings Rebekah into his mother’s tent and loves her. The promises made to Abraham have been passed down to a new generation. Generations will come and go, but the Lord will fulfill his promise to bring about the deliver/Messiah. When it was time for the son of God to be revealed, God also sent a servant before him, John the baptist, preparing the way for the Lord, and preparing a people ready for the Son. Jesus left his father’s side to come into our world and and claim for himself a bride. We the church are a people gathered unto him, being washed and readied for him by his word and Spirit. His will be the final wedding, when he returns to set up his kingdom and he gathers the nations together for what is called the wedding supper of the Lamb.