Proposition: The bride for Isaac is Rebekah and how she is found, wooed and led to marriage is a picture of the way God prepares the church for Christ.
Introduction: Last week we looked at the passage that described the death and burial of Sarah. This week the focus is on a wedding, Isaac’s wedding and the wonder of how that came to be. There are four scenes in this chapter and each scene has a central principle, a key point upon which the others are built. There are many who say that this chapter is like a picture of Christ and His bride the church. We’ll look at that towards the end but let’s begin with the first scene of Genesis 24.
Scene 1 : The Command to be Holy (Verses 1-9)
We think the servant that is referred to in these opening verses is a man named Eliezer (Genesis 15:2), the one who was going to inherit Abrahams estate if Isaac had not been born. This man was to go back to where Abraham had come from and there find a bride from within Abrahams brothers family. The concept of holiness is built on the idea of being set apart to God, being spiritually separated from the peoples around you. It’s the heart of what Abraham is after when he cautions Eliezer not to go to the Philistines to find a wife for Isaac. There is this strange oath that Abraham makes Eliezer swear. Eliezer is to put his hand underneath Abrahams thigh as he takes the oath. This might be similar to way people put their hand on the Bible in a courtroom as they swear to tell the whole truth. Perhaps the hand under the thigh was a putting of the hand near Abrahams loins, an oath that was honoring the covenant God had made with Abraham to be the father of many nations. It is a holy vow that he takes to not go to the Philistines, to be separate. That’s when Eliezer speaks the obvious, what happens if the girl won’t come, should I take Isaac back so she can meet him? You can almost hear the intensity of Abrahams response, “Beware that you do not take my son back there.” The risk of Isaac wanting to settle and stay in Mesopotamia was too great a temptation and it would be dead against what God had promised Abraham in giving the promised to his descendents. To not be unequally yoked and to avoid temptation, these seem to be the starting points for holiness. It is the way that God is honored and the way that His promises are fulfilled and it is the very best for your family.
Scene 2 : Keep the Blade of Prayer Sharp. (Verses 10 -28)
Eliezer sets out with ten camels and a team of men as they leave Mamre and head towards the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia. Days later they arrive and it is early evening and they stop at the well outside the town. It’s here at this place and time that we first see Eliezer pray. He prays for himself for success, he prays for Abraham to be blessed. He confesses to God the impossibility of his circumstance, how to find the one woman among hundreds if not thousands. He asks in faith for a specific thing, a girl that will not only give him a drink of water but will of her own offer to water all his camels. They say a camel can drink about 20 gallons of water. Eliezer had how many camels? Ten. That would be 200 gallons of water with a pitcher holding maybe two gallons. The point is that this would be a girl who would offer to do something exceptional, something that would take several hours to do. It would be something that demonstrated a willingness to work, to persevere, to be generous, to care for a complete stranger, to do when it least suited, it in the evening after a long day. There would not be many people, men nor women, who would voluntarily offer to do that. In fact it would be an exceptional person, one who had heard the Spirit of God say, “Do this”. Here’s the amazing part, before Eliezer could finish this prayer there in front of him is Rebekah. That means that before Eliezer started praying God was already directing Rebekah to be the answer of that prayer. So what does it mean to keep the blade of prayer sharp? Well first of all it means that prayer is an instrument, like a scalpel, like a kitchen knife or maybe even like a chain saw. It is a tool to be used for the purpose of joining God in something He is already doing. It’s an instrument that God designed. Prayer is our conversation with God, our dependence upon Him and our invitation from Him to us to invite Him into every area of our lives. Secondly prayer can become dull, in more ways than one. What keeps your prayer sharp is for Whom you pray, where you pray and how specific, earnestly, expectantly you pray, the faith with which you pray. That will sharpen the blade of prayer, but there’s more. Eliezer watches, likely for hours, as Rebekah brings water until all the camels have finished drinking. When that is finally finished he gives her gifts of appreciation, then he asks her name, if they might have room for them to stay. It’s when Eliezer realizes that she is the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, that he is overcome by the full realization of what has just happened. In front of Rebekah, he bows his head and worships God, praying to Him words of praise for answered prayer. This is the third aspect of how you keep the blade of prayer sharp, be quick to see God’s method of response and be quick to worship the Lord with praise. Matthew Henry once said, “What we win by prayer we must wear with praise.” It begins with the call to be holy, it’s built upon by keeping the blade of prayer sharp.
Scene 3 : God Uses Testimony, Belief and Grace to Save. (Verses 29- 60)
Your story, what you have experienced and seen, that is what testimony is. A similar word is ‘witness’, you are God’s witnesses. This is essentially what Eliezer does from verse 32 to 48. He confesses with his mouth the amazing way that God has worked. He believes this is the hand of God and invites the family of Rebekah to see that as well. Rebekahs brother Laban, though a man of questionable motive, sees it and agrees. The testimony of Eliezer is marked by several things: 1. It’s urgent to the point that food comes second 2. It’s transparent, he tells plainly his idea to pray and his amazement at how the prayer was answered 3. It’s expectant, he tells what he has seen and he invites response, even compliance to what God is asking of them through Eliezer.
God uses testimony and God uses belief which is the response to testimony. Just think about what took place in the space of an hour or two. A total stranger comes into your home, tells you he is sent by a distant relative and is here to take your only daughter to a distant land where you probably will never see her again. Their response is a cautious, YES, Rebekahs response, YES. That’s belief, it moves from the realm of safe and sure to the place of faith and assurance based on the belief that what has been said is absolutely true. That is an example of the way God uses belief to move people. The gifts Eliezer gives are expressions of grace, prepared beforehand for the response of belief. The wooing of Rebekah was all about testimony, belief and grace.
Scene Four: With Immediacy and Humility Meet at the Well (Vs 54-67)
Laban proposes that Rebekah stay for at least ten days, to say goodbyes and prepare to leave, Eliezer says, ‘Now is the time’. Rebekah chooses, ‘Now’. So in this last scene we see Rebekah leaving where she has been all her life, travelling in the care of Eliezer to meet her future husband. The next thing we see is Isaac out in a field, meditating, praying for the coming of his bride. It’s very near a well called Beer Lahoi Roi. You’ll remember that name from Genesis 16, Hagar named that well when she ran away. It was here she discovered she was pregnant with Ishamel, it was here that God spoke to her sending her back to Sarah. The name Hagar gave that well was Beer-lahai-roi, "well of the Living One seeing me". This the well where Rebekah first meets Isaac. She sees him and in humility covers her face as she begins to approach him. Eliezer goes before her, he introduces her to Isaac by telling him all that has happened. From the providence of God in finding her, to the integrity of her heart to serve others, to the effect of the testimony, to the act of faith to leave all behind, Eliezer presents Rebekah without spot or wrinkle. Isaac’s response is to take her into a place of honor, to a house he has provided for her, that where he is she may be also.
When God draws us to Himself with a call to be separate or holy, to sharpen the blade of our prayer, to hear and give testimony and stand in belief through grace, He intends that we respond with immediacy and humility. Don’t create opportunities for delay, don’t procrastinate on belief but respond with humility as you put your life into the care of His guide, His comforter.
In the story before us the person of Eliezer is much like the person of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father to gather together the bride, the church, for His Son Jesus Christ.
Pastor and Author David Guzik lays out these comparisons:
Both Rebekah and the Church:
- Chosen for marriage before they knew it (Eph 1:3-4).
- Necessary for the accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose (Eph 3:10-11).
- Destined to share in the glory of the son (John 17:22-23).
- Learn of the son through his representative.
- Must leave all with joy to be with the son.
- Are loved and cared for by the son.
Both Isaac and Jesus:
- Were promised before their coming.
- Finally appeared at the appointed time.
- Were conceived and born miraculously.
- Given a special name before birth.
- Offered up in sacrifice by the father.
- Brought back from the dead.
- Head of a great company to bless all people.
- Prepared a place for their bride.
- Had a ministry of prayer while the bride comes.