Beauty Redefined…Or Defined
“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?