GOD’S PROVIDENCE GRANTS US SUCCESS AS WE TRUST HIM FOR HIS PROVISION TO ACCOMPLISH HIS DIVINE PLAN
Some situations are critical for the consummation of God’s kingdom plans. Abraham finds himself in one of those critical situations in Gen. 24. His life is drawing to a close. God has committed Himself to momentous covenantal promises regarding Abraham’s seed and the possession of the Promised Land. But his son Isaac needs a wife – not just any wife – but a wife appointed by God for the fulfillment of these covenantal promises. Abraham has seen God provide for him and Sarah and protect the two of him in many crisis situations. Here, after the passing and burial of his precious companion, Abraham does not waver in his faith but displays full confidence that:
Not looking for dramatic miracles here … counting on the Providence of God in the everyday events of life
J. I. Packer: Believers are never in the grip of blind forces (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice.
Application: Our church planting group is looking to God to provide a suitable meeting facility as the focal point to reach a specific community with the gospel of Jesus Christ in the overall Catonsville/Linthicum area of Baltimore. This is a need that we judge to be critical for the consummation of God’s kingdom plans as they involve our outreach and goals of evangelism and discipleship. What can we learn from Abraham’s faith and the obedience of his faithful servant?
Parunak: This chapter has four scenes. It begins and ends in Canaan. The middle two scenes are in Haran, one by the well and the other in Laban’s house.
I. (:1-9) FAITH LOOKS TO GOD TO PROVIDE — RETURNING HOME TO FIND THE BRIDE
A. (:1-4) Servant Commissioned by Abraham – Defining the Mission
1. (:1) Setting for the Commissioning
a. Context of Family Continuity
“Now Abraham was old, advanced in age;”
Parunak: he is somewhere between 137 (at 23:1) and 175 (his age at death, 25:7).
In biblical times. Old age associated with God’s blessing
b. Context of Favor from the Lord
“and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way.”
God had kept His promises to Abraham to bless him
Borgman: Abraham looking back with gratitude for blessing; sometimes older people can become bitter people – focus on their hardships and difficulties
2. (:2-4) Significance of the Commissioning
a. Significant Because of the Servant Chosen to Carry Out the Mission
“And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned,”
Parunak: Perhaps the “Eliezer” of 15:2. Trusted, like a son to him.
b. Significant Because of the Lord Who Witnessed the Solemn Oath
“Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth,”
Borgman: “under my thigh” — euphemism – the oath is taken at the place of the sign of the covenant = place of circumcision
Emphasis on sovereignty of God
c. Significant Because of the Difficulty of the Mission
“that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you shall go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Negative: Don’t take a wife from cursed line of Canaan
Positive: Take a wife from my country and my relatives
Parunak: Abraham here is making a distinction between the land and the people.
• By purchasing a burying ground in ch. 23, he shows his faith that his descendants will inherit the land.
• By avoiding union with the people, he avoids any kind of alliance that might enable them to remain there. God has promised to put out the Amorites, 15:12-16; to join with them (as Lot did, having sons in law in Sodom) would go against the promise.
Keith Krell: But I would suggest that if you want to find a godly spouse you look where godly Christians should be. Furthermore, if you want a godly spouse you need to be the kind of person a godly spouse will be looking for.
B. (:5-8) Servant Counseled by Abraham – Delineating the Mission
1. (:5) Question Regarding Possible Plan B
“And the servant said to him, ‘Suppose the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?’”
2. (:6-8) Answer Affirming Confidence in Divine Providence
“Then Abraham said to him, ‘Beware lest you take my son back there! The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there.’”
Hughes: Isaac was never once permitted to leave the land, even in time of famine (cf. 26:2). Isaac encapsulated the divine promise of a people and a land.
Parunak: Abraham no doubt has in mind here not just any angel, but “his angel,” the angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Word. This one has been instrumental in untangling impossible situations before.
• He met Hagar when she first fled from Sarah and brought her back, 16:7
• He met her again when she was expelled and cared for her, 21:17
• He stayed Abraham’s hand in the offering of Isaac, 22:11.
He will surely not leave the servant in an impossible situation. This attitude is fundamental to faith. Consider God’s previous deliverances, and from them take confidence concerning his future faithfulness.
Borgman: Abraham’s life oriented around God’s Call and God’s Promise – life of faith
C. (:9) Servant Confirmed by Solemn Oath – Dedicating the Mission
“So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him
concerning this matter.”
Borgman: swearing forms bookends to this scene
Application: If we truly are looking for God to provide, we will take appropriate action with the expectation of God granting us success.
II. (:10-27) FAITH FOLLOWS DIVINE GUIDANCE — RECOGNIZING THE BRIDE VIA GOD’S GUIDANCE
A. (:10-14) Proper Positioning
1. (:10-11) Staging at the Well
a. Rich Provisions
“Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s in his hand;”
A lot of camels and provisions
b. Right Place
“and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.”
c. Ready Position
“And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water.”
Borgman: servant puts himself in the path of Providence where something is bound to happen; wise positioning; this is where the chicks hung out; place where women would come and socialize as well
2. (:12-14) Supplication for Divine Favor
a. Petition for Success
“And he said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.’”
“lovingkindness” – hesed = covenant faithfulness
Parunak: Lit., “cause it to happen to me today.” The servant believes that God can cause things to happen; that he can act in the world. Contrast this with the perspective of many today who believe in God only abstractly, and don’t really think he can change anything. The servant has faith in God’s ability to work.
b. Providential Sign
“Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’;– may she be the one whom Thou hast appointed for Thy servant Isaac;’
Camels have capacity to drink a lot! Quite a servant-hearted commitment
Borgman: each camel could drink 25 gallons; her jar probably held 3 gallons; 250/3 = 83.3;
3 gallon jug would weigh 25 pounds; quite a test
Parunak: His request rests on an important assumption: that God has “appointed” a bride for Isaac. The servant’s view of his task is not to select a suitable bride, but to discern the bride whom the Lord has selected.
Hughes: This was not a fleece (cf. Judges 6:36-40). The servant did not ask that the normal effects of nature be suspended.
Keith Krell: Culturally it was a normal act of hospitality to provide water to thirsty travelers. But the idea that a woman would also provide water for ten thirsty camels was going far beyond what would normally be expected. In praying this prayer the servant “stacked the deck” against finding someone. It would take a remarkable woman to volunteer for this lowly and backbreaking task.
c. Proof of Divine Favor
“and by this I shall know that Thou hast shown lovingkindness to my master.”
B. (:15-21) Providential Encounter
1. (:15-16) Identification of Rebekah
a. Her Lineage
“And it came about before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder.”
Prayer answered before he finishes praying
Not some daughter of a concubine but legitimate line
b. Her Beauty
“And the girl was very beautiful,”
c. Her Availability
Parunak: betulah, not a technical term as in English, but a young woman of marriageable age
d. Her Purity
“and no man had had relations with her;”
Keith Krell: She did not practice “safe sex”; she practiced “save sex” for marriage. She understood that sex was a gift from God, to be enjoyed within the commitment of marriage. Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s nice to preach, but I have already made those mistakes. What should I do?” First, seek the forgiveness of God (1 John 1:9). Then make a new commitment to God and to the person whom you are dating. Begin practicing God’s standard for moral purity.
e. Her Activity
“and she went down to the spring and filled her jar, and came up.”
2. (:17-21) Interaction with Rebekah
a. (:17-18) Encounter Initiated
“Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jar.’ And she said, ‘Drink, my lord’; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink.”
b. (:19-20) Extra Test Completed
“Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels.”
c. (:21) Evaluation Contemplated
“Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the LORD had made his journey successful or not.”
Parunak: The verb means “to accomplish what is intended.” This entire chapter is about a mission undertaken and fulfilled, and now that we are in the fulfillment, it is time to talk about “prosperity” in this sense. The servant’s attitude is one that we should have in all our daily undertakings: that prosperity can come only from the Lord. Both the purpose and its accomplishment must be of him; Phil 2:13, “to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
C. (:22-27) Purposeful Closure
1. (:22-23) Presents to Adorn Rebekah
“Then it came about, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold,”
Borgman: reward for her kindness way out of proportion for the labor performed
2. (:24-25) Petition for Hospitality
“and said, ‘Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to lodge in your father’s house?’ And she said to him, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.’ Again she said to him, ‘We have plenty of both straw and feed, and room to lodge in.’”
3. (:26-27) Praise for Divine Guidance
“Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD. And he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers.’”
Borgman: Overcome by clear hand of God’s Guidance and Providence; responds in worship and praise
Application: If we truly are following God’s guidance, we will be in position to experience God’s providential provision.
III. (:28-49) FAITH EXPECTS GOD TO GRANT SUCCESS — REQUESTING THE BRIDE FROM HER HOUSEHOLD
A. (:28-32) Reception by Laban
“Then the girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. And it came about that when he saw the ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, ‘This is what the man said to me,’ he went to the man; and behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. And he said, ‘Come in, blessed of the LORD! Why do you stand outside since I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels?’ So the man entered the house. Then Laban unloaded the camels, and he gave straw and feed to the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.”
Borgman: Laban plays major role instead of father Bethuel – maybe he was aged or infirm
B. (:33-46) Review of the Mission
1. (:33-41) The Goal
“But when food was set before him to eat, he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told my business.’ And he said, ‘Speak on.’ So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. And the LORD has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys. Now Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master in her old age; and he has given him all that he has. And my master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son.’ And I said to my master, ‘Suppose the woman does not follow me.’ And he said to me, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send His angel with you to make your journey successful, and you will take a wife for my son from my relatives, and from my father’s house; then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my relatives; and if they do not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’ “
2. (:42-44) The Sign
“So I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now Thou wilt make my journey on which I go successful; behold, I am standing by the spring, and may it be that the maiden who comes out to draw, and to whom I say, Please let me drink a little water from your jar; and she will say to me, You drink, and I will draw for your camels also; let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’”
3. (:45-46) The Reaction by Rebekah
“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder, and went down to the spring and drew; and I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ And she quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’; so I drank, and she watered the camels also.”
C. (:47-49) Response by the Servant
“Then I asked her, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him’; and I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists. And I bowed low and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had guided me in the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. So now if you are going to deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, let me know, that I may turn to the right hand or the left.”
Application: If we truly are expecting God to grant us success, we will be looking for God to work in all of the details of our particular situation to turn the heart of others to do His will.
IV. (:50-67) FAITH CELEBRATES THE CONSUMMATION OF THE DIVINE PLAN — RECEIVING THE BRIDE TO HER NEW HOME
A. (:50-51) Submitting to the Divine Plan
“Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, ‘The matter comes from the LORD; so we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken.’”
B. (:52-61) Securing the Release of Rebekah
“And it came about when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he bowed himself to the ground before the LORD. And the servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night. When they arose in the morning, he said, ‘Send me away to my master.’ But her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go.’ And he said to them, ‘Do not delay me, since the LORD has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.’ And they said, ‘We will call the girl and consult her wishes.’ Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’ Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘May you, our sister, Become thousands of ten thousands, And may your descendants possess The gate of those who hate them.’ Then Rebekah arose with her maids, and they mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed.”
Keith Krell: The “I will” statement is typical of countless marriage ceremonies. At my own marriage ceremony Lori surprised me by singing a song by Steven Curtis Chapman entitled “I Will Go There With You.” By singing this song she committed herself to me—to go wherever I felt God calling us to go. The “I will” statement is also typical of the Christian life. Indeed, marriage is the greatest illustration of the love between Jesus and His church. The Christian life is a matter of putting ourselves in the hands of Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to us and says, “Will you go with this Jesus? Will you go to Him? Will you spend the rest of your life in fellowship with Him?” And we respond and say, “I will.” The best way to know God’s will is to say, “I will,” to God.
Parunak: His response is three-fold.
1. He thanks the Lord, visibly. Now that they have acknowledged the Lord’s role in this decision, he can return thanks to him without appearing “holier than thou.”
2. He offers them rich gifts.
3. Finally, he satisfies his hunger and that of his servants.
Note the priority: the Lord first, then others, and finally his own needs.
C. (:62-67) Sealing the Marriage Relationship
“Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. And she said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my master.’ Then she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
Application: If we truly are celebrating the consummation of the divine plan, we will find that God does exceedingly above all that we could ever ask or imagine.
Hughes: God provides and controls in three grand arenas – history, nature, and the lives of individual people. God’s providential control of life is illustrated by virtually every narrative in the Bible.