A Public Witness
“And so, when the servant of Abraham heard their words he bowed down in worship to Yahweh.”
Take notice at how many times this servant praises or worships God for his provision and for his grace. That is a fabulous thing, but is it not convicting to us? How often we neglect to praise God for his good works in our lives or we wait until a more “convenient” time. Here, the servant of Abraham bows before the Lord right there in the presence of everyone around. He does not worry about their reaction, their impression of him, or whether they will join him or not. He doesn’t even invite them to join in anything formal, but he simply bows before the Lord and worships.
How different the world would look were Christians to behave in this way, neither afraid or intimidated to kneel even in a crowded place and give God thanks for both big and small things. How different this world would look were Christians to pray with others on the spot, not afraid of the responses of onlookers, rather than to vaguely commit to praying for another and then going on their way without a second thought. How interesting it is that Eliezer, who is a relatively minor figure in these accounts, can teach us so much about living out the Christian life — he has clearly learned much by watching Abraham live out his faith. I wonder how much people learn about the Christian walk by watching us live out our own faith.
Whether we like it or not, the world is watching our lives and behavior and sadly what the world has often seen from Christians is that our lives look no different than any other person who walks the streets. In fact, I think that one of the the things that is attracting a younger generation to false religions like Islam and Mormonism is that they see a difference in the way these people live. Sad. Friends, may we too be intentional about living out our faith publicly as well as privately and may Christ be glorified in our witness, even that witness that takes place in the things that we do even apart from the words we use.
WIll You be Faithful to My Lord?
“Now, if it is in you to show steadfast love and truth to my lord, declare it to me; if not, declare it to me so that I may turn to the right or to the left.”
It is interesting to me how Eliezer couches his request for Rebekah to return with him. He does not say here, “Are you willing to wed your daughter to Isaac, son of Abraham?” What he says is, “Are you willing to be faithful to Abraham.” The first would simply be a yes or no question based on the wishes and preferences of the family. This way of asking bases the question on the relationship that Bethuel has with his Uncle Abraham. If Bethuel rejects this requests, it is no longer a matter of preference, but it is a rejection of the relationship that is had between these two men. Indeed, it is a rejecting of Abraham’s family line and right to find a wife for his son within his extended covenant family.
The idiom of the right hand and the left hand is often one that expresses a lack of knowing where else one should turn even to find what is true. God has led Eliezer here and Eliezer is basing his actions upon the principle that what God directs is true and right. If he is rejected, then where can he go? Can one hope to honor God by looking for a spouse in a place other than where God has led him? Abraham and Sarah know the difficulties that come as a result of trying to circumvent God’s design, for that is how Ishmael came into the world. How often we pursue our own ends rather than submitting to God’s and found we have embarked on that which will bring disappointment and failure?
Loved ones, it is God’s plan and design we are to follow. Indeed, discerning that design is the trick at times, though the principle that Eliezer is following is sound. Ask God to open the doors through which you are to go and wait on him to do just that in His timing. God is about to work in Rebekah’s life in a visible and magnificent way; he does that in our lives as well. May we be faithful to that call.
Praise God, not Man
“Then I asked her saying, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor whom Milkah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her hands and I bowed and worshipped Yahweh. I repeatedly blessed Yahweh the God of my lord Abraham who led me in the true path to take a daughter of the brother of my lord for his son.’”
Eliezer’s retelling now comes to a close, but notice what it is that he closes this dialogue with: praise to God. He could have closed his account by saying, “and she brought me to you…” or “and she showed me here to her father’s house…”, but Eliezer closes with the most important thing: “I gave praise to God.” In fact, the verbal form used when it speaks of Eliezer’s “blessing” Yahweh is in the Piel construct, which reflects a repeated action. His words might have been, “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, oh Lord…”
Loved ones, I also hope that this is your response to the hand of God working in your life — that God is rightly honored for bringing about such good things and for leading you on the true path that leads to his glory. Sadly, our response is not to do so or only to do so as an afterthought. Often we desire the glory for ourselves and do not give honor where honor is due. As my friend and I were discussing just last night, the only good in me is the good that God is doing in me; may He get the credit for he is the agent at work in my life.
Fidelity to God’s Word
“And my lord made me swear, saying ‘You must not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I dwell. Instead, to the house of my father you should go and to my family. From them take a wife for my son.”
We have already discussed the importance of a believer not marrying a pagan in the plan and decree of God (see verses 2-4), though it is a principle of which we ought regularly be reminded. This does not mean we cannot do business with or be neighbors to an unbeliever, but it reminds us that for the covenantal union to make any sense whatsoever, both parties in a marriage must be committed to the same God who is forming the union. If both are not committed to Christ, how then can two become one? They would be a divided person at best. Thus Eliezer explains his vow to the family of Rebekah as commanded by his master, Abraham.
Having already discussed being unequally yoked, what is worth noting here is Eliezer’s fidelity to the call. Here he takes great pains to quote Abraham verbatim and not to simply summarize his master’s words. Because Eliezer recognizes that he is a servant and thus an emissary of Abraham, he recognizes that he does not have the liberty to insert his own interpretations here.
Inserting interpretations, of course, is what always gets us in trouble. It was Eve’s error when debating with the Serpent in the Garden and it is regularly our failure when speaking of God’s word with others in the community. We feel like we have the gist of the statement and just choose to summarize it rather than sticking to the literal word itself. When we summarize like this, we typically insert our own preferences into the teaching and we also tend to denude the Word of its sharpness and power.
Of course, unless we hide the word of God in our heart, regularly meditating on it and memorizing it, how can we have fidelity to that word that God has given us? We have often become lazy in our approach to God’s word and in doing so become guilty of making it say what we would prefer for it to say. When we do this, we cease to be a faithful servant, committed to God’s call upon our lives. Friends, mark the example of Eliezer well, for his fidelity to the very words of Abraham should be reflected in our fidelity to the word of our Almighty God.
Rebekah’s Mother’s House
“The girl ran and she told these things to her mother’s household.”
As simple as this verse is on the surface, it is once again a reminder to us of the humanity of all the people involved in this account. This is no fable; it is history. Yet, how often it is that when we read these ancient narratives, we mythologize them by forgetting that those facing these events and speaking these words were flesh and blood human beings just as you and I are. Rebekah had hopes and dreams just like any other young girl of her age and probably one of those dreams was what it would one day be like when she was wedded. Surely the events surrounding the arrival of Eliezer must have been different than anything that she had fantasized about, but how often that is the case when God works in the life of his people.
It is interesting that the narrative describes her as running to her “mother’s house” and not to her “father’s.” There are only three occasions in the Old Testament where this language is used in this way: here, when Naomi instructs Ruth to return to her mother’s household (Ruth 1:8), and then in the Song of Solomon where the Shepherd Girl sings of her love (Song of Solomon 3:4). In contrast, the phrase “father’s household” or “father’s house” is found in 172 verses in the Old Testament alone. We should be careful not to speculate too much as to the choice of language, but later on in this passage we will find Rebekah’s mother playing a significant role (along with her brother) in negotiations regarding the timing of Rebekah’s departure (see verse 55). Perhaps that is an indication as to the influence of the matriarch in the events that would transpire. We should be reminded as well of the manipulations that Rebekah would later engage in with respect to her own two sons and gaining favor for Jacob over Esau. Such may simply have been the only model that she knew. Again, we must be careful not to speculate too far lest we leave the text and pursue the fancies of our imaginations.
All of the pieces of the puzzle have now been laid out on the table and Eliezer is about to meet the rest of Rebekah’s family, including her brother, Laban, but we get ahead of ourselves. Again, do not lose sight of the human-ness of these people. They are not characters in a story told to thrill children and adults alike, but historical people whose lives are intertwined with God’s redemptive plan…as are our lives. May we never lose sight of that great truth.
Nose-Rings and Bracelets
“And it came to pass as the camels completed drinking, the man took an nose-ring of gold, its weight being half-a-shekel, and two bracelets for her hands, their weight being ten gold shekels, and he said, ‘Whose daughter are you, please tell me. Also, in your father’s house is there a place for us to lodge?’”
Having had his request of God confirmed, now Eliezer begins to follow through on his mission. He must confirm that this girl is genuinely from Abraham’s relatives and then he must begin negotiating the marriage price, something similar to a dowry. Essentially Eliezer must demonstrate to her father that Isaac will be able to provide a comfortable life for Rebekah. This begins with some gold trinkets as an initial indication of his wealth.
Some translations render the first item of jewelry simply as a “ring.” Hebrew is vague as to identifying pieces of jewelry and relies largely on context to communicate what kind of ring this is — or more accurately, on what part of the body this ring is to be worn. Scholars seem to be inclined to believe that culturally, this ring would have been worn in the nose (oh my, nope, nose rings are not a new fad, but at one point in time were very much in style!). Anyway, wherever this ring was to be worn — the ear, the nose, the finger… — a gift of a ring weighing about a quarter of an ounce was offered. The second gift was that of bracelets. Again, some render this as “armbands,” but the text states that the jewelry was for her hands, implying they be worn closer to the wrists. The weight of ten shekels (just over 4 ounces) is likely a combined weight of the two bracelets together. Still, this is a good deal of wealth, especially to be handed to a girl that he has just met.
Not only does he set forth to confirm her lineage, but in confidence that this is the woman to which God has led him, he begins making plans to lodge with her family. True, if she is the wrong girl, he would be staying in the wrong house. Yet in faith Eliezer moves forward with his plan. God’s design begins to unfold in this adventure that Eliezer has been on — notice too that he uses the plural (us) when he asks about lodging, reminding us again that he has an entourage with him (protection is essential) and that this group of people is also witnessing the unfolding of God’s plan.
How often it is that we get bogged down in worry when it comes to making decisions in life. The best philosophy is a different one than is typically taught in schools or in self-help seminars. The best philosophy is the Biblical model of taking God at his word that he will lead us. That means, when God opens doors, we should step through those doors for he will make a straight road for us to follow. But it also means that until God is ready to open doors, we should stay put with a clear focus on what God has designed for us where we are and in what we happen to be doing at the time. Our tendency, when doors are closed, is to try and beat them open with our fists or knock them in like the police do when raiding a building. Also, our tendency, when doors are opened wide, is to drag our feet, wondering whether this is really God’s design for us. When we live according to our human tendencies, the paths are rocky and crooked at best. How sad it is that we so often choose the latter rather than the former. Eliezer has chosen to trust and follow in faith recognizing that it is God’s hand that has opened the door and thus he will faithfully go through. May we all commit to doing the same.
The Woman at the Well
“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.
What, Me, Worry?
“‘Behold, I am positioned over the spring of water and the daughters of the men of the city are coming to draw water. May it be that to the girl to whom I say, ‘Please extend to me your pitcher that I might drink’ and she would say, ‘Drink and I will also water your camels.’ Let her be the one appointed to your servant, for Isaac, and through her may I know that you work covenant faithfulness for my lord.’”
Notice the language of appointment being made here. There is a clear expectation on the part of Eliezer that God has orchestrated things from beginning to end and that one of these girls coming out to water will be the one that God has chosen to marry Isaac. He sets the standard as he prays, asking that the one whom God has chosen shall show courtesy toward him, offer him a drink, and water his camels for him. Certainly, the young girl that shows this kind of grace and hospitality will be the one that God has appointed in his covenant faithfulness. And thus, he waits and will soon meet Rebekah — again, an instance where God demonstrates his control, for he sees Rebekah coming out of the city.
How quick we can often be to doubt the faithfulness and grace of God. We doubt and worry and second-guess, but none of these things befits us as children of the living God who loves us. Jesus says that it is the role of the pagan to worry for these things that we need (Matthew 6:32); indeed, the pagans have gods that neither can speak nor hear nor move (Psalm 135:15-17) and thus neither can hear nor answer the prayers of those who serve them. Our God is living and active and not only hears but acts in the life of his loved ones — we need fear nothing.
Worry robs our hair of color, our nights of sleep, and our friendships of depth. We fear committing because we fear that the end might soon be near. Loved ones, fear the Lord and him alone. He is the God over the heavens and the earth and he has chosen to come into a relationship with you. He promises to provide for all of our necessities and he promises to never leave or forsake us…what more do we need? God is even the God who ordained the timing and the manner in which Rebekah comes out to the watering hole for her family — who knows, she might have come down with a cold and been sick that day — and that is the point; when God so appoints, this things will come to pass — and God has appointed (Ephesians 1:11), so why worry?