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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?’”

(Genesis 24:22-23)

 

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.’”

(Genesis 24:17-18)

 

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.

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!

“You love all of the words of confusion on a tongue of trickery.

But God will tear you down forever,

He will take you and drag you from your tent;

He will repeatedly uproot you from the land of the living.

Selah!

(Psalm 52:6-7 {verses 4-5 in English Translations})

 

Here we transition and David proclaims the judgment of God against those whose words are filled with deceit, whose ends are their own stomachs, and whose love is to confuse (some translations render this word as “devour” as it shares a root with the word that means “to swallow,” yet in context, “confuse” seems to be a more accurate choice given the word’s range of meaning). Though the wicked love words of trickery (that double-tongue, speaking out of both sides of their mouth), God loves words of truth and will punish those whose ends differ from his own. God will tear them down, he will drag them from their homes, and over and over, he will uproot them from the land of the living. He will lay bare their generation.

How liberating it is to know that we have a God who will bring those who tear us down and destroy us into judgment — a God who will frustrate the plans of the wicked and establish the righteous in places of security. Your initial response might be, “But wait a minute, in the world we live in it seems like the wicked prosper and the righteous get beaten down.” Indeed, that was David’s experience as he was writing this psalm. At the same time, while David did not see the whole of the big picture, he did stand in the confidence of knowing that God does see the big picture and his hand controls every step we take. All too often, when we are in the midst of trials, we cannot see what it is that God is doing, or, we get focused on how we would like God to work out his plan for his church and not on how God is working out his plan for his church. And we are HIS church, by the way…

Ultimately life and blessing and judgment is about God and not about me. It is his will and his design and we can find our comfort in knowing that once everything is said and done, and we are finally able to understand the plan and design of God for our lives from His perspective, our words of response will be, “Blessed is the Name of the Lord, Amen!”

What to do when We Cannot See Our Way out of a Mess

“Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the waterskin and gave a drink to the lad.”

(Genesis 21:19)

 

Sometimes people look at this passage and wonder at how Hagar could not have seen a well nearby. There are two elements we need to keep in mind when we begin to ask this question. The first is that God is sovereign and sometimes he deliberately blinds us to the reality around us to humble us and to teach us of his abundant grace. Essentially, God uses instances like this to get our attention focused on what is important. Sometimes we allow ourselves to get into a “funk” where we just cannot see past the dilemma that is before us; we get frustrated and we get tired and when this happens we just don’t think straight. The solution to our problem might be standing practically in our midst, but we just don’t look because we are selfishly focused on our problem. And here, in cases like these, God keeps our eyes shut. It is only when he can get our attention back upon himself, that he allows us to see the means by which he will lift the problem from our midst.

Hagar is in as great a time of distress as one could imagine. She has been kicked out of her home with her young son, has been given relatively little in the way of provision, and has wandered aimlessly into the wilderness with no plan and no way out. She collapses and just gives up, ready to die and hoping that she will not have to watch her son die as well. And here God comes to her. He reminds her of his promise and then opens her eyes. How little faith Hagar showed, but how often we too, who know the risen Christ, show a faith that is just as paltry.

The second thing that ought to be pointed out is that sometimes wells or springs are not as obvious as others. In the wilderness, wells are essential for maintaining your herds as they grazed and sometimes wars were fought over the “water-rights” to the wells…things haven’t changed much even today. Water is a precious commodity. We don’t want too much of it, but we need enough of it to survive. Sometimes, in the ancient world, wells were larger and more pronounced, but out in the wilderness, they were typically smaller and not always designed to stand out. The term that is used here is rEaV;b (be-er), which can refer to a small well or to a small underground water source. All that might have been there is a small spring trickling up to just below the surface, something that would not have been readily noticed lest it were pointed out. Either way, God’s hand of grace is directing Hagar to the spot where she get renew her strength with some water before they push on.

Again, how often we allow the difficulty of our immediate situation to cloud our vision of what God has promised to us in our lives. How often we throw up our hands in defeat rather than engaging the situation for the glory of God. And how often God shows himself to be faithful even though we fail to trust in his never-failing faithfulness. Beloved, do not fall into the trap of Hagar. God is faithful and he is faithful all of the time. He will work things through in his own timing and for his own glory and it will be far better than we could have designed were we able to design life ourselves. Do not doubt, but press forward in the design that God has for your life trusting him to provide that which you need physically and spiritually—trusting in his ever-flowing grace.