“Then the servant ran over to meet her and said, ‘Please provide a drink for me of a little water from your pitcher.’ And she said, ‘Drink my lord.’ And she hastened to put down her pitcher by her hand and provided him drink.’”
You almost need to picture the site of this event to really grasp the intensity of what is taking place. The servant, Eliezer, has been sent out blind to find this girl. He has made a long journey and now he is here. He says a prayer to God asking for God’s grace and then he sees the young lady whom he perceives is the one — clearly there is a nudge of the Holy Spirit in this action. Now he is ready to put his plan to the test. Will she give him water and water his camels or will she retreat from this man whom she has never met? You can feel the electricity in the air and Eliezer dismounts his camel and rushes over to this woman — can you imagine his excitement he must feel? Can you imagine the wonder that would have been going on in Rebekah’s mind as she sees this unknown man running in her direction? Don’t lose sight of the humanity of these people.
Notice the contrast between the request and the response. He asks for a “little water” — essentially, a small sip to wet his lips; she provides a full pitcher to refresh him. The text even states that she put the pitcher down by her own hand. She doesn’t hand him the pitcher and say, “draw some yourself,” but instead, she lets down the pitcher herself and provides him with a drink. What will follow is a watering of the camels (again a willingness to work and labor to bless), but what we find in her is grace and hospitality. Truly this is a woman of noble character.
There is much about this event that is reminiscent of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4), but the contrast is also remarkable. Here it is the woman that does provide the servant with water rather than receiving water from him. Here, Rebekah is marked as a virgin and a woman of virtue; the woman Jesus encountered had numerous marriages and was living in immorality — even the other women would not come to the well with her. Perhaps the contrasts we see between these two scriptural encounters are to remind us of how far sin has caused people to fall and how desperately we need a redeemer. Jesus indeed provides redemption for the woman at the well. Eliezer provides something different for Rebekah. He comes to bring her into the covenantal family of Isaac — to become the woman through whom God’s promised line would flow. Indeed, Jesus the savior would descend from Isaac and Rebekah’s union.
There is much we can learn from this interaction about trust and hospitality, but the most important thing is that we recognize the God whose hand is governing all of these events to bring about his good and glorious purposes. We should never be tempted to forget that we serve the same God and that he is also working in our lives to bring about his ends and purposes as well.
“The girl had a very good appearance — a virgin which no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled up her pitcher and came back up.”
When we read this passage, it might be our first assumption to suggest that Eliezer was attracted to Rebekah because of her beauty, but remember, being “good of appearance” does not necessarily speak of one’s physical beauty, but can also be applied to the wholesome character and demeanor of the person in question. Peter writes:
You must not be external, elaborately braiding your hair and wearing gold, or wearing the clothes of the world. But let the hidden person of the heart [be your adornment], with the imperishable thing of a gentle and a quiet spirit, which is precious in the face of God. For in this way, the holy women who hoped in God adorned themselves, also being submissive to their own husbands.
(1 Peter 3:3-5)
In the west, we have become so obsessed with the physical that we forget God’s intent that we focus on the spiritual. Physical beauty only passes away; spiritual beauty grows and matures as one goes through life; which is more valuable? Paul says that our physical exercise is of some value, but godliness of life has eternal value (1 Timothy 4:8). Surely what distinguishes Rebekah from the others is not simply that she is an attractive young lady, but that her spiritual attractiveness (we might say, “grace”) also exceeds that of the other young women coming out for water.
Similarly, the language of Rebekah’s virginity stands out to modern readers in the west as being remarkable, yet in Abraham’s culture it would not only be expected, but her virginity would be one more “jewel in her crown” — a thing to be honored and celebrated as a part of her good character. How sad it is that in the western world we have sunk so deep into the morass of immorality that virginity is something that many young girls are embarrassed about rather than celebrating.
Friends, how quick we are to take the statement: “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7) as the normative end of our interactions with others. Indeed, we cannot clearly see and read the heart, but does that mean we should not try? May it never be so! Let us strive with one another to look and interaction on the basis of the heart, the character, the integrity, the godliness of a person, not on the basis of their physical beauty. The things of this world are passing away, but the things of God will last forever. Which will you choose to honor in a person’s life?