Genesis 24:1-67 – Finding the right girl for Isaac
A pilot was flying over a city. As he looked down from his aircraft he saw a driver struggling to overtake a truck. Whenever the road was straight there were oncoming cars, and when there were no cars the driver could not tell because of the blind corners. As the pilot saw the driver getting more and more frustrated he wished he could communicate with him because from high above the pilot could see way ahead and knew exactly when the driver should overtake.
God is in a position like that pilot, he can see far ahead and knows how the decisions we make today will impact tomorrow. He desires that we seek him concerning our important life decisions.
If you are about to make an important decision, the account of how Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac may help you.
This story happened at a time when parents arranged marriages and finding the right person was important. Abraham was old and so he delegated the task of finding a wife for Isaac to his senior servant saying, ‘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 Canaanites among whom Abraham lived worshipped other gods and Abraham did not want Isaac and his offspring to end up doing that, so he insisted that his servant travel to Nahor to get a wife from his own people.
The Old Testament is quite clear about the need for Yahweh’s people to avoid marrying those of other religions. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 says, ‘Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods.’ And the New Testament says something similar in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers (non-Christians) … What fellowship can light have with darkness? … What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?’
So here we find the first thing we need to ask when making an important life decision. What does the Bible say? What does it say about the kind of person we should marry, the type of job we should get, the place we should live? Whatever we decide should not go against God’s written word.
But Abraham’s servant then asked ‘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?’ And Abraham’s answer is clear ‘Make sure that you do not take my son back there.’ Why was this important? It was because God had called Abraham and his descendants to Canaan.
So here is the second thing we need to ask when making an important life decision. What has God already said? Will what we are about to decide conflict with the calling he’s already given?
Now Abraham is confident that the servant will have success, in fact he says God will send an ‘angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son.’ But how does Abraham know that? Well, God must have told him. But obviously God had not spoken to the servant because the servant was saying ‘What if the woman is unwilling to come back?’ And so Abraham says ‘If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath.’
Note that Abraham did not expect his servant to believe because the servant hadn’t personally heard anything from God. This is important. We must not expect others to act on our revelations; they can only act on what God gives them. If someone says God is saying something, do not feel obligated to act on their word unless God speaks to you personally.
In this case the servant goes to Nahor simply because he is a servant. He does not know if he will have success, but goes to see if he will have success. And if someone gives you a prophetic word, which you are unsure about, you have every right to just wait and see if it comes to pass.
So here is the third thing to ask yourself before making an important decision. What is God saying to you, and has he confirmed it through others?
Abraham’s servant then travels to the town of Nahor and on arriving there he goes to a well knowing that all the young girls will be there to draw water. And once there he starts to pray saying, ‘See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.’
So here is the fourth thing to think about when making an important decision. You may be praying for God to act, but are you in a position for him to act? You may want him to provide a partner, but that person isn’t going to fall through the ceiling as you pray at home. You have to put on your make-up, your best dress and go ‘Where the boys are’ (a very old song). And if we want God to guide you to the right job you must pray while you go knocking on doors.
Abraham’s servant then says to the Lord, “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.” Asking God to give you the exact sign that you ask for is known as ‘fleecing’ (after Gideon used a fleece – or sheep skin – for that purpose).
There is no indication that Abraham’s servant was divinely prompted to ask for that fleece, but I would strongly advise people to not fleece unless divinely prompted. The reason is that God is sovereign and he may not act on a fleece that is dictated by you.
A safer option is to simply ask God for a sign and let him decide what the sign will be. I usually ask God to confirm what I should preach on, and he has often given a sign. But I let him decide what the sign will be.
As it turns out, things happened exactly as the servant asked, and the first girl he approached was Rebekah who gave him a drink and offered to water all his camels.
So here is the fifth thing we can apply when making an important decision. Ask God to give you a confirming sign.
The servant then ‘Without saying a word … watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.’ Notice that even though part of his request had come to pass, he did not shout ‘Hallelujah!’ He continued to wait and watch for the complete sign. He was making an important decision and wanted to get it right.
Too often we get carried away because the girl is beautiful or the job pays well or the house has a good view. We assume that because it is positive it is right. But it may not be. Positive and right are two different things.
So here is a sixth thing we can apply when making an important decision. Be patient; take the time to know if it is God. Don’t rush in just because it looks good.
The servant then discovers that Rebekah is from Abraham’s wider family – which is further confirmation – and so he asks if he and his men can stay the night at the family home. And she says they can. The servant then meets Rebekah’s mother and brother (it seems her father had died) and tells them why he had come and how God had given him success. He then asks for their decision and they say ‘This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go.’
So here is the seventh thing to do when making an important decision. Ask those who play an important role what they think. This could be parents, a pastor or close friends.
Armed with their approval the servant wanted to leave with Rebekah straight away, but her mother and brother said ‘Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.’ Then the servant said ‘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.’
This is a good thing to remember when making a decision to marry someone. If everyone is agreed, don’t delay. So many Christians wait till they can afford a big wedding or a nice place to live. And here in East Africa parents often want you to put together a dowry before you can marry. But this can tempt the couple to sleep together before marriage and sometimes the initial romance dies before they have got close to the wedding day. So if everyone is agreed, get on with it, don’t delay!
Finally we see the confirmation in Isaac and Rebekah as they meet each other. In modern times we would require this to be the first step. But in the days of arranged marriages the parent’s decision took priority.
It’s worth noting that the signs had been building in Rebekah from the moment she first met Abraham’s servant. She ran with eagerness to tell her mother and brother, which suggests that she sensed something was right about this. Then when her mother and brother asked if she was willing to leave straight away she said yes. Again this suggests that she knew this was good. And when she first saw Isaac from some distance, she asked ‘Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?’ It seems she sensed that he was the man for her.
The story ends saying ‘So she became his wife, and he loved her.’ And this is what we expect when God is involved in the decision. We expect that it will have the best chance of success. So we see that Abraham was right. God’s did go ahead of his servant and did guide him to the right girl. Divine guidance is essential when making important life decisions.