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To Your Offspring

Date: Jul. 15, 2018

Author: Bob Henkins

Genesis 24:1-67

Key Verse: Genesis 24:7

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

In today’s passage we see one of the most important events or milestones that happens in a person’s life taking place, their marriage.  Marriages are one of our most celebrated events. What other event do we invite so many guests to attend? Maybe a graduation or a funeral? This is a special wedding because this one happens to be between Isaac and Rebecca. Abraham’s son of promise. The only sad thing about this is that Sarah, Isaac’s mom, wasn’t around to see it. Even though this was such an important event, it happens almost anti-climatically, quietly one night with only a few people in attendance as Isaac and Rebecca are married in the confines of Isaac’s mother’s tent. Let’s see how it happened.

By this point in Abraham’s life, he was already very old and God had blessed his life in every way. There was only one thing he lacked, grandchildren. So, in this chapter, we find Abraham addressing this issue by making one of his last requests of his servant. Take a look at verses 2-4. “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.” At this point, Abraham was about 140 years old and as I mentioned, he had everything he could ever want except for grandchildren, but before there could be grandchildren, there needed to be a daughter-in-law for his son. And since they lived in a remote area, there weren’t a lot of female prospects around. So, Abraham wanted to find a woman for his son, but because of his age, there was no way he was going to make the trip himself. And one of the things we see here, is that even though Abraham has grown greatly in his faith, he still has to trust and depend upon God. We never seem to get to a point in life where we can say, “Ahh, I’ve finally made it. I’m so spiritual now that I really don’t have to bother God anymore, I can do it myself.” That never happens. As a young Christian, I remember asking, “When do we get to a point where our life of faith gets easy?” “It doesn’t”, was the response. Our life in God is a vine a branch relationship where we always need to depend upon God for he is our creator. We see this in Abraham’s life, he has to trust in God continually even for the next stage of his life, for the sake of his children. He also has to trust his servant to help him out.

It’s good to have people in your life that you can trust and Abraham has learned over time that he could trust his servant. Verse 1 tells us that everything Abraham owned was in under his servant’s control. (I find that a bit odd because Isaac is 40) He was a faithful steward of Abraham’s household. We don’t know who this servant was. For all we know, it could have been Eliezer of Damascus, (who we read about in Genesis 15) he was the servant that Abraham said was the heir of his house before Isaac came along. But we don’t know for sure. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that he was trustworthy, and faithful to Abraham.

Abraham asks his servant to swear an oath to God by putting his hand under his thigh. I always wondered about this, to me it was weird. But there are many customs from different cultures when it comes to making promises or swearing to the truth. For example, we may be familiar with locking our pinky fingers, or putting your hand over your heart, or on a Bible. Still I wondered why the thigh? In the ancient world they had their own customs. Allowing someone to sit on your hand was a sign of submission to authority. Also, the thigh was considered the source of posterity being so close to the loins. The Hebrew custom was to swear on circumcision, which was the mark of God’s covenant. But the idea of swearing on one’s loins is found in other cultures, as well. Did you know that the English word “testify” is directly related to the word testicles, remember that next time your in court.

Abraham challenges him to find a wife for his son from his own people. This is no small task. I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. First, if Abraham had Isaac marry one of the local Canaanite girls, it would’ve meant that he was no longer a foreigner. It could’ve (politically and worldly speaking) been a huge benefit for him. It would have given him allies in the land. But back in chapter 15, God told Abraham that he was taking the land away from the Canaanites, and other peoples, and giving it to Abraham. So, he probably didn’t want to confuse things by mixing their blood lines. It’s also interesting, because Abraham doesn’t tell his servant to go find his nephew Lot and have Isaac marry someone from Lot’s family. This indicates that either Abraham didn’t know that Lot had survived the destruction of Sodom, or he didn’t know that Lot’s daughters had children, or maybe Abraham considered them just as corrupted as the Canaanites by this time. Faith has a passive side and an active side. In other words, faith is resting in God’s promises and provision, but it’s also acting on what God has told us. Simply put, if you believe what God tells you, you’ll do what God tells you. And we see this in Abraham’s faith by sending out his servant. So, Abraham trusts his servant, and ultimately God, to provide a wife for Isaac.

Now, let’s take a look at Abraham’s servant’s response in verses 5-10. “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. 10 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.” From these verses we can learn several things about Abraham’s servant. Firstly, he wasn’t a simple yes man. He didn’t just agree and run off but thought deeply about this important task given to him. He was dealing with two people’s future and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. He thought through the possibilities of the situation. What if the woman is unwilling to come with him, should he come back and get Isaac to convince her to come? Or should Isaac go and live with her family after Abraham is gone? The servant was didn’t take this task lightly. He was honored that Abraham trusted him with such an important responsibility and he wanted to do his best and be successful for his master Abraham. He wasn’t locked into this task as if he had no other choice, Abraham gives him an out incase he can’t get the woman to come back with him. So, it’s not as if he is forced to do this, but rather he wants to do this. (Dan mentioned that this servant was like Batman’s Alfred who was entrusted with little Bruce Wayne. Alfred cared about the family because he was entrusted with their most precious thing, their young son.) When we look at this servant’s attitude toward work, we can ask ourselves: What kind of person are you at your job? How can you glorify God at work? Why is work not merely work but a test of our worth, walk and witness to God? What kind of relationship do you have with your colleagues? Do you have a good relationship with your employer? Do you understand your boss’ heart and mind? Do you trust each other? What are his or her fears and weaknesses? Do you have initiative, work independently and labor influentially? I realized through this I have a long way to go. I need to be a better employee.

We also learn that his servant is wise, and that he has faith as well. We see his wisdom because of how he goes about fulfilling Abraham’s command. He takes along ten camels. History tells us that camels weren’t used on a wide scale until about 800 years after the time of Abraham so that means camels were a sign of wealth. And since this servant takes ten with him, anyone who meets him would probably think, “if the servant has ten, how many does the master have?” Also, we can see that he was well organized and prepares a huge caravan of ten camels. To me it’s like he organizes this caravan of ten limo’s (because camels are like limos) filled with all kinds of good things, like about $10,000 worth of jewelry and the accompanying personnel drive and maintain the camels, protect the goods from robbers, to make this road trip. We just came back from vacation yesterday and we only had one van with six people and it takes work to plan things. We were gone only eight days this servant would be gone for months traveling around 450 miles one way. There probably weren’t many restaurants or hotels they could stop at along the way so they would have to pack for all those people for that long period of time.

We see how much Abraham has grown in faith. He is no longer fearful or shaky but rock solid in his faith. He is confident in God’s calling he says in verse 7, “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.” This time he is clear that God called him from his home and sent him on his mission. He is sure that God promised him that God would give the land he lived in to belong to his son Isaac even though he only owned a family grave site at the moment. He was confident that God will provide what they need and that God would even send his angel to go ahead of his servant and prepare the way for him to be successful. Abraham is very different. Gone are the days of fear and speculation. All he can see now was God’s faithfulness and kindness.

Verses 11-14 tell us, “11 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.  12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 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.”

Again, we see the servant’s wisdom to stop at the well, because back in those days, the single women would go to the well to get water. But we also see the faith side of him here as he prays to God and asks for help to be successful and for kindness to his master. He prays for help and for a specific sign from God to know what he should do. Sometimes we pray so vaguely that we may never know if God answers our prayers because we have a hard time quantifying the results. But that is not the case here. Also, it’s interesting that for the first time God is called the “The God of Abraham,” from this point forward God is identified with his people. The servant is also looking for a woman with a special kind of character, one who is diligent, kind and generous. He is looking for the best possible partner for his master’s son.

I am always amazed by this chapter and how quickly God answers this servant’s prayer. Take a look at verses 15-25. “15 Before he had finished praying,( The words were barely off his lips and God was already answering his prayer.)  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. 16 The woman was very beautiful, (Sarah was known as beautiful but Rebekah 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. 17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.” 18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. 19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly ( notice her actions- quickly/ran ) emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.( the servant was very thorough in his work. He didn’t see just one step and take it for success he went the full 9 yards )  22 When the camels had finished drinking, ( This was no easy task. According to Wikipedia a camel can drink up to 50 gallons in a single 3 minute drink. That would mean she would have to get 500 gallons of water for these camels. At 8.34 lbs per gallon, that would be 4170 lbs of water. She quite possibly carried more than 2 tons of water for a stranger. Let me ask, who here would have done that? ) the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. ( the servant paid her for her labor – showing his generosity ) 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? ( this was the final piece to the puzzel ) Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.” ( notice how she added straw and fodder, without his asking, showing her concern not only for the servant but also for his camels – she was the perfect girl, beautiful on the inside as well as the outside )

How would you react if you had just completed a super important and difficult task? Jump for joy, fist pump or hit your chest with a #1 finger raised? Would you shout, Yes! Look what I did! Am I the man or what! What did the servant do, take a look at verses 26-27? “Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 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.”” This guy bowed down and worship God at his point of victory. Godly people in times of victory become humble while the ungodly become puffed up with pride.

At this point Rebekah ran off to tell her family all that had happened. What I find interesting is her family’s response to the servant’s recounting of all that happened. (we won’t go through it all over again… I know some of you are interested in the world cup finals today) But Laban and Bethuel’s response is interesting verse 50 says, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”” I thought that Abraham’s family didn’t believe in the Lord but their response indicates otherwise.

Another glimpse of the servant’s wisdom is how he deals with Laban. When Laban sees all the costly gifts, he tries to delay the servant’s trip back but the servant wasn’t going to have it and deals with the shifty Laban shrewdly. They bring Rebekah in and ask her if she is willing to go. Amazingly she says, “I will go.” “59 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.” 61 Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.” To me, Rebekah was an amazing woman. She had tremendous faith to leave the safety and comfort of her family to go on a journey with a guy she doesn’t know and marry a distant relative. There is no doubt about it, she had courage, faith, and trust in God. But somehow God worked in her heart and she made this incredible leap and acted on her faith. And I believe because of her faith, God was with her.

Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the first meeting of the special couple was at hand. Like a scene from the Bachelor, (which in my opinion is not a very good show and I wouldn’t recommend watching it), what is going to happen? Will they hit it off or will everything fall off the rails and they can’t stand each other? Oh, the suspense is killing me. Take a look at verses 62-66.  “62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 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. 66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done.” As Isaac is out in the fields meditating, Rebekah approaches. I’m not sure if this was a regular practice for Isaac, but at least it’s a good first impression upon his would-be wife. That he is a spiritual man that seeks God.

I wonder how Isaac must have felt about all this. Did his father even ask him if he wanted a wife? We don’t really know the inner workings of it all, but we can learn something about Isaac from his reactions. Verse 67. 67 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.” Through this verse we come to realize how Isaac has been feeling since the loss of his mother. He had been missing his mother and when he meets Rebekah, she is a comfort to him and he loved her. This couldn’t have worked out any better. In fact, I feel like it worked out better than anyone expected. It was a beautiful scene as the two become one and they love each other deeply. This is the hope of every parent, to see their children happy and blessed.

In conclusion, this passage is more than just a father wanting a good wife for his son, although that is important. Rather, the main point of this passage is the continuation of God’s promise. This has been the main theme since we’ve hit chapter three in Genesis. There has been this battle going on between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. And through this passage we see God’s power and faithfulness in fulfilling his promise that he made to Adam and Eve so long ago. The picture here between Abraham and his servant is like between God and us. He is our father and we are his servants. Abraham’s servant serves him not because he has to, but because he wants to. He loves and respects Abraham. He could have been set free if he didn’t find a wife for Isaac. He could have given a halfhearted effort, however he didn’t, he gave his best effort and found a wife. And what a beautiful scene it was. What a wonderful servant this guy is. Every manager would be thrilled to have someone on their staff that is such a blessing as this guy. And yet again we see God’s faithfulness in keeping his promise to his people. God blessed Abraham and provided such a wonderful woman for his son and passed on the covenant promise as well. What more could a parent ask for. How wonderful is God. I pray that you may have a blessed day.

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Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
  seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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