“And he caused the camels to kneel outside of the city near the well of water; the time was evening, the time when those come out who are drawing water. And he said, ‘Yahweh, the God of my lord Abraham, please ordain success for me in my presence this day and demonstrate covenant faithfulness to my lord Abraham.’”
Abraham’s servant stops outside of the gate, a place to where visitors would come and a place where the animals could be watered at the end of the journey. A typical baggage camel can travel about 40 miles per day, so here they close about a 2-week journey from the wilderness of Canaan to the city of Nahor. This would be a typical place for a traveler to stop, water the camels, and inquire as to a place to stay for the night.
Though most of our English translations speak of the time of the evening as the time when women come to draw water, this is inferred from the feminine use of the term for those drawing. More specifically, we should state that these ladies coming out to draw would typically have been servant girls and young daughters in service of their mothers, not so much that all of the women of the community were coming out to draw at this time. Indeed, this sets the stage for the introduction of Rebekah, but before introductions are made, Eliezer goes to the Lord in prayer.
What is particularly interesting in this prayer is that he addresses it to “Yahweh, the God of my master (or lord) Abraham.” Here he does not say, “my God,” but only speaks of Yahweh as the God of his master. There are several things that can be implied by this choice of language. The first is that of the Federal Headship of his master, Abraham. As he is in the service of Abraham, he has chosen to submit to the authority of Abraham’s God in this task. Arguably, as second aspect is that Eliezer was a circumcised member of Abraham’s household (Genesis 17:12-13), and in submission to Abraham’s headship over his life and household, Eliezer himself has made Yahweh his God, but is praying in this way to reflect the authority of Abraham in his own life.
This is worth noting because in our modern, individualistic and pluralistic society, this idea of submission to authority and covenantal headship is something that has been all but forgotten. Rarely are fathers recognized as the spiritual heads and authorities in their homes and often families take the attitude that it is perfectly fine for children to choose their own religious preferences. Neither of these attitudes are Biblical, nor are they healthy to society, which is based on the Biblical institution of the family. If you don’t have a strong base of families upon which a society is built, you will not have a strong or vibrant society — and strong families are built on and around the idea of headship and authority…with the ultimate authority being God himself.
Loved ones, as Christians we often pray that God will bring revival to our land, and that is a good prayer that needs to be prayed. Yet often, those who pray for revival are unwilling to do the hard work of heart-work to prepare themselves for such a revival. Jesus told a parable about a sower casting seed and the seed falling on various types of ground, but only that which fell on fertile ground bore fruit (Matthew 13:1-23). Yet, we forget that it is preparation that makes fertile ground fertile in the first place. It has been cleared of weeds and rocks, fertilized, tilled, and irrigated — this takes the work of many hands. In terms of preparing our individual souls for the seed of the Gospel, this is work done through the Holy Spirit, though often the Spirit uses people as tools in that process. But for the soil in churches and in communities to be changed the Holy Spirit clearly demands that Christians order their lives according to God’s law and put away their evil practices. Are we willing and ready to do that? Sadly, I am not convinced that we are. One thing is for sure, though, God will never let go of those he has claimed as his own; yet when his own stray, he draws them back to himself and that process is not always a pleasant one. May God bless America with revival once again, but may he also bless the church with reform such as that his people reorder their lives in a way that would prepare them as a community to receive the anointing of his reviving grace.
“And Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelek and his wives and his handmaidens and they bore children because Yahweh had completely worked restraint throughout all the wombs in the house of Abimelek over this thing of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.”
As we discussed in the passages above, God protects his own, and here he not only preserved the chastity of Sarah, but he also closed wombs of all of the people under the spiritual authority of Abimelek. What is striking about this is that it helps set a timetable for how long Sarah was in the house of Abimelek, for the barrenness of the women could not have been known were there not a sizable enough period of time for the young women to realize that they were not unable to get pregnant. At the very least, that places Sarah in Abimelek’s house for a month but more likely than not, as people sometimes don’t notice their pregnancy right away, it was a period of several months to a year before it would be utterly confirmed that no one who lived under Abilelek’s authority.
Often we do not see the timetable of events in scripture. Often one chapter ends and there are several years that pass before the beginning of the following chapter begins. More importantly for us is that sometimes we can be impatient with God’s timing on events. We want everything and we want it “now!” Thankfully, God does not exist to satisfy our whims—how many things we have prayed for we have been thankful that have not come to pass! We exist to serve God. That is the beginning and the end of our role here on earth—we shall serve him by seeking His glory over and above that of this world. It is in that glory we will find our peace and joy—it will be found nowhere else. At the same time, we will also experience that glory only in God’s timing and not in our own. Sarah was confident in her preservation and rescue. Shall we also not be the same? How many times has God preserved us in our own experience of this world already? He will continue to preserve his people.
“Now, return the wife of this man, for he is a prophet and he will pray on your behalf so you will live. And if you do not return her, know that you will surely die—you and all who are yours.”
What I find fascinating about this encounter is that even though the event took place as a result of Abraham’s lie, it is Abimelek that is threatened by God. As before, God turns this event on its head to benefit Abraham and to better situate Abraham in terms of the promise. In Egypt, Abraham was given the wealth of the kings to leave; here, he is given flocks and 1,000 pieces of silver as well as an invitation to remain on the land and God opened the wombs of those in Abimelek’s house which had been closed as Gods judgment while Sarah resided in Abimelek’s household.
Yet notice that even though the sin is Abimelek’s, his whole household pays the price and suffers judgement. And, had Abimelek not returned Sarah to Abraham, God threatens to destroy his entire household. Once again the principle of Federal Headship is illustrated by this point. Those who are under the authority of the head of the household are held guilty of his sin. The good news about Federal Headship, of course, is that those who have faith in Jesus Christ have their Federal Head in him and thus, we are no longer condemned by the sin of our forebears, but stand in the righteousness of Christ. That is good and joyful news!
Beloved, as we reflect upon these narratives, do not miss the theological principles that are contained within; God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, thus we ought to expect that he would interact with us as his people in essentially the same way today as he did more than 4,000 years ago when Abraham was walking in Canaan. Our God redeems and he does so through working faith in the lives of those he calls his own. We should never cease to be thankful for this grace.
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
“Abimelek had not come near to her, and he said, “Lord, will you kill a nation that is also righteous?’”
Abimelek is making an interesting statement as well as having a deep theological insight. The recognition that he makes is that if God brings judgment against him as king over the people, then the people also will suffer. In the previous verse, God’s judgment is to say, “you are dead…” Most of the standard English translations floating around seem to translate this statement as “you are a dead man…” They infer from the context that individual judgment is given for an individual crime. Yet, God says, “you are dead” and Abimelek’s response is to understand that accusation as a sign of God’s judgment against his nation.
The principle at work is what is called the principle of Federal Headship. He who has authority over the nation both brings blessings and cursings upon the nation. When the head acts faithfully, the nation is blessed; when the head acts sinfully, the nation is cursed and suffers. Hence, when David disobeys God and conducts a census, 70,000 people of the land suffer and die from the pestilence that God sends in judgment (2 Samuel 24:10-17).
In an ultimate sense, this principle is demonstrated in Adam and in Christ. Adam sinned and as a result the whole of the human race has suffered the effects of the fall (as well as creation itself). Yet, through the one man, Christ, redemption is brought to all that are under his federal headship. All mankind are physically descended from Adam, thus we have all inherited his sin. Those whom God has elected from the beginning of time, who will come to Christ in faith, are those who, in faith, are put under the federal headship of Christ and thus given life.
There is typically a part of us that wants to say that this principle is not fair, and in a sense, that is right. This principle is not fair in the most basic sense of the term. What would be perfectly fair is that we would be judged according to our actions and condemned to eternal damnation—each and every one of us. Yet, God in his mercy chose to be unfair to some so that grace may be demonstrated. Thus, to those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, salvation is offered not because of us or because of our name, but because of our Great Federal Head, Jesus Christ.
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.