We Walk In Dependence Upon God As We Live By Faith In His Promises (Genesis 24)
Some people have incredibly memorable last words. Nathan Hale, an American Revolutionary officer who was hanged for treason against the British when he was caught spying said,
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” (Nathan Hale)
Otto Lilienthal, who worked hard to try and perfect manned flight. He flew over 2,000 flights in gliders that he had made. In 1896 a glider stalled and he fractured his spine. The injury would kill him. His final words were spoken to his brother.
“Sacrifices must be made!” (Otto Lilienthal)
These last words, in some sense, sum up the work of these two men. One man gave his life for his country and the other gave his life for technological advancement. And their final words reveal a lot of what they thought of these things.
I am not sure what Abraham’s final words were, but we will see his final recorded words today. And it should be no surprise to you that these words are directions that exhibit profound faith in God’s Promises.
God made incredible promises to Abraham, and he believed God and trusted those promises. In fact, we read in the Book of Hebrews concerning Abraham and Sarah.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8-12 ESV)
This chapter takes up a lot of space in the narrative. It’s because the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah is of massive importance to the message of Genesis. We are going to see a few people walk in dependence upon God as they live by faith in God’s promises. And as we think through how to apply this to our own lives we will see that we must walk in dependence upon God as we live by faith in His promises.
We Walk By Faith In God’s Promises (1-9)
Time and time again we have witnessed Abraham walking by faith in God’s promises. And we see it happen one more time at the end of Abraham’s life.
It seems as if this is, if not a deathbed conversation, then close to one. Everyone seems to know that this is the end of Abraham’s life. The description is that Abraham was “advanced in years” and that God had “blessed Abraham in all things” (Genesis 24:1 ESV). This is the end of Abraham’s life. It is the end of a good life, a life well lived. And the description states very clearly that blessing upon blessing had been poured out upon Abraham and everyone could see it. But there was still one thing left to do and Abraham was going to see to it that this one thing was finished.
Abraham called his most trusted servant to himself and made him swear an oath. The oath was that he would not find a Canaanite wife for Isaac but would find a wife among the women of his own kindred (Genesis 24:2-4). This was very important to Abraham because of the promises that he’d been given by the Lord. The Canaanites were to be removed from the land. It is Abraham’s kindred that are to live in the Promises Land. These are important decisions because they are being made based upon God’s promises.
There is hesitancy in the servant. This hesitancy, at lest in part, means that he understands the task quite well. He is being asked to travel back to Abraham’s homeland and find the right woman for Isaac. This is a little like finding a needle in a haystack and he knows it. Even if he finds a good woman for Isaac to marry, whose to say that she or her family will allow her to come back and marry Isaac. I hope you can see the reason for the hesitancy.
But there was no hesitancy from Abraham. Abraham expressed full faith that God would bless this task and give to Isaac a wife from his kindred (Genesis 24:7). But it does seem that, to put his servant’s mind at ease, that he gave the servant a way out (Genesis 24:8). If he couldn’t get her to leave her homeland then he would not be obligated to fulfill the oath.
And then the two of them made an oath. This seems like a strange way to make an oath. But the custom was to make an oath with a hand on or near an object that had sacred symbolism. Since the sacred symbolism for Abraham and his people was circumcision. Therefore, making an oath with the hand under the thigh was making a sacred oath. And this sacred oath and the discussion of it were the final words we have from Abraham.
Abraham’s life has been one of walking by faith in God’s promises. So it is no surprise to see what is likely his final instructions, be about finding a wife for his son according to God’s Promises.
When we consider the place in time this occurs, and what it means to Abraham, this set of directions is incredibly powerful. He knows God’s Promises. And he also knows that Isaac needs to marry a non-Canaanite woman to live according to God’s Promise. Therefore, Abraham gives stern directions not to find a wife for Isaac from the land of Canaan, but go back to his family and find a wife.
Do you order your life and the lives of your family according to the promises that God has given? Because, time and time again we see Abraham doing that very thing. He trusts the promises that God has given him and he builds his life upon those promises. And here, the directive goes forth to not find a wife for Isaac from the land of Canaan, but to go and find a wife from his kindred.
I have said this repeatedly and I hope that it is sticking. Those promises that God made to Abraham were fulfilled in Christ and they are yours in Christ.
“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)
The land that was given to Abraham’s offspring is expanded in the Old Testament to encompass the world (Isaiah 65:17-25, 66:22; Micah 4:1-5). I am not arguing that the Promised Land is not the inheritance of God’s people today. I am arguing that those promises expanded and now the whole world is the inheritance of God’s people. And the New Testament says as much (Hebrews 11:10, Romans 4:13). In fact, when Paul discusses the promise given to Abraham this expansion is such a given for him that he just says that Abraham’s descendants were promised the world.
“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13 ESV)
And how is it that we become partakers of this promise. It is through Christ. Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham that would be the blessing to the nations. And if you are “in Christ” then the world is your inheritance. You are an “heir” to these great and glorious promises.
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29 ESV)
How is this possible?
How could a non-Hebrew become an heir to these promises?
Because God the Son came to Earth. He was born of a virgin, who was part of the family of Abraham. She was of Abraham’s lineage. This is how, rather mysteriously, He took on human flesh. He was completely God and completely man. And through this, He made Himself killable and able to be sacrificed. Jesus Christ accomplished all righteousness by living a completely sinless life and doing everything a human should do. And He died on the cross and paid the punishment for sin for all who would believe. And three days later, He rose from the grave. All those who turn from ruling their own lives and trust in Christ are united to Him by faith. They are ”in Him”. Jesus paid the punishment for their sins on the cross and His perfect righteousness is credited to them.
Do you want to inherit the promises of God? Then kneel your rebellious heart at the foot of the cross and become an heir to God’s promises. Turn from ruling your own life and entrust yourself to Him.
Build your lives upon those promises.
Teach them to your children. Teach them of Christ’s grace and mercy. Teach them of the great inheritance we have. And teach them how to live according to God’s Word in the world that He created as the children of promise.
You should be thinking constantly about how an heir to the promises should raise their children. Millionaires do it all the time. The child who is going to run the family business, learns the business inside and out so that they are able to do the work necessary.
Discussions at your home should center around what it means to be an heir to God’s Promises and how that affects your life. How does an heir respond to the onslaught of the enemy? What are the promises that heirs are holding on to? What is it that was done to make us heirs to these promises? Speak on these things constantly in your home.
Husbands love your wives as heirs of the promises of God. Build her up in God’s Word. Wives, serve your family, they are heirs of the promises with you. Build a home that smells of the fragrance of God’s promises and preaches that message to your husband and children. You are the house despot, use that role for this. Children, you are being shepherded by your parents in the ways of the Lord. Obey them. Honor them. Follow their commands.
We are heirs of the promises of God. We must order our lives as if this is the case.
And we, as a church, go forth knowing that the preaching of the gospel will be successful. We go forth knowing that people will come to faith in Christ through the preaching of God’s Word and work of the Holy Spirit. That is why we make the outreach plans we do. That is why we learn how to share the gospel with others. That is why we make the plans that we do.
But even the best made plans will not be accomplished without the Lord working in our lives. We must base our lives on God’s promises and live in dependence upon Him.
We Walk In Dependence Upon God As We Walk By Faith In His Promises (10-21)
The servant had a rather daunting task. Remember, he has to venture into Abraham’s homeland and find a wife for Isaac. And he knows that this will not be easy. Far from it. Abraham has asked him to do what seems impossible. But the servant took with him a lot of expensive things. 10 camels were rare currently. Only the wealthiest of people had one camel, let alone 10. This speaks of how tremendous the financial blessings were that God had blessed Abraham with. This would be like a person having a collection of BMW’s. It was not something that most people could do. And he also took “choice gifts”. And these choice gifts were, in part the bride price or dowry. In other words, he was preparing to do what was asked of him. And he went to the place to find young women. The camels kneeled down at evening time at the place the young women would come out to draw water (Genesis 24:11).
He had made the oath and laid out the plan. Now all that was left was what seemed impossible. What did the servant do? He prayed. (Genesis 24:12-14).
He prayed for the Lord to grant success. He prayed that he Lord would show His steadfast love to Abraham and answer this prayer. And he even put a test down in the prayer. He would simply say to the prospective woman, “Please let down your jar that I may drink.” And if she was the one then she would respond with “Drink and I will water your camels” (14). And these were not random signs. The woman that would care for such a household would need to be hospitable and a hard worker. She could not be a lazy and self-centered woman. So, the test is a test hat answers a lot of questions. But it is a test and a way that he would recognize that the Lord had answered his prayer.
And immediately, even before the servant had finished praying, God answered his prayer. Before he was finished praying, Rebekah showed up. And she is not just one of Abraham’s kindred, but one of his close relatives (Genesis 24:15). She is attractive (Genesis 24:15). She is a virgin (Genesis 24:16). And she did even more than the servant asked for (Genesis 24:18). Not only did she offer to water the camels, but she offered to water them until they got their fill (Genesis 24:19-20).
I chuckle as I think of the servant’s response. He was shocked. The answer was so immediate and so perfect that he stood there in stunned silence (Genesis 24:21). God answered his prayer and it was a little hard for him to believe how quickly and thoroughly the Lord had done so.
Some of us have a tendence, me included, to make a lot of plans and not put a lot of it to prayer. But that is not what we see here. We see a dependence upon the Lord that is necessary for us to partake in today.
Pray. Devote yourselves to prayer.
Why? Because those who are dependent upon God will pray.
Even with the best plans you cannot love your wife as well as you should. Wives, even with the best plans you cannot love your husband as you should.
Parents, even with the best Bible Study curriculum and time devoted to it, you cannot raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord well enough.
And, as a church, we cannot love each other or reach out to the community well enough for them to come to faith in Christ. We cannot do it on our own. Planning is a good thing and is something that we need to do. But we need the Lord to work. We must walk in dependence upon the Lord in this life.
Make plans that are based upon God’s promises. And proceed in dependence upon the Lord.
God Is Faithful To Keep His Promises (Genesis 24:22-67)
With all of these events having transpired much easier and faster than the servant could have ever imagined, be began to do the work of wooing the family. And he began with Rebekah. Knowing that she is the one does not mean that she has yet agreed to come with him to marry Isaac. She and the family still must let her go.
So, he went into action to begin to woo Rebekah. He gave her a large gold ring and two large bracelets (Genesis 24:22). And this screams of the prosperity of Abraham and his family. And as they conversed, he found out how closely related the two families were (Genesis 24:27), which was an incredible answer to prayer that led him to again bow in worship. And she let him know that there was plenty of space for him to lodge with her family. God had been faithful to keep His promises. God brought him to someone who really was one of Abraham’s kinfolks.
The servant then went into action to woo Laban, who is Rebekah’s brother. Though we are not told why, it seems that Laban and not their father was the gatekeeper in this situation. You need to mark Laban’s character. We will see him again and he will play an important role in upcoming sermons from the Book of Genesis. He is very impressed with the wealth of Abraham and seemingly very little else. Later we will find him to be quite greedy. But right now, the ring and bracelets spoke volumes to Laban (Genesis 24:30). And when he saw the camels, we are told he became very kind to Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:31-33).
The servant then went into action to woo the family. Laban, Bethuel, and Rebekah were together and he had some words to say. He would not eat until this was said. He told the story of Abraham and the great blessings the Lord had bestowed upon him (Genesis 24:34-35). And all of this wealth would be passed down to one child, Isaac (Genesis 24:36). I am certain these things impressed Laban. He recounted Abraham’s command and the oath that was made (Genesis 24:37-41). And he recounted the prayer he prayed and the answer that was given, along with the giving of the ring and bracelets (Genesis 24:42-49). And he even recounted his own awe and worship because of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to Abraham.
After all of this, Laban and Bethuel consent to the marriage (Genesis 24:50-51). We are not told why Bethuel seems so distant and uncaring in this story. Maybe he really didn’t care what happened. Maybe he was ill and Laban was making all of the decisions. But these are the only words he speaks in this narrative, and he speaks them alongside Laban. Whatever the case may be, both Bethuel and Laban are convinced. And everything seems to be going as planned. This led Abraham’s servant to again bow before the Lord for God had proven Himself faithful through all of this, yet again.
There seems to have been a celebratory dinner (Genesis 24:54). It was at least a merry affair. And then everyone went to bed. But there is a bit of a hiccup. There usually is when thing seem to be working out perfectly. But the servant trusts the Lord will fulfill His promises and moves with that understanding.
When Abraham’s servant attempted to leave with Rebekah the next day, Rebekah’s mother and brother wanted them to stay (Genesis 24:54-55). Our contemporary translation of this discussion really doesn’t do it justice. It also seems to paint Abraham’s servant in a bad light. They asked for, what seems like ten days, and if that’s all they wanted then none of us probably see the big deal.
I don’t believe the servant was being rude to reject this. What we have translated as “at least ten days” is literally translated “days or ten” and was a vague amount of time. It could mean up to a year. They may have been asking for a long period of time, or a vague and hard to decipher amount of time. I also believe that the conversation Abraham had with his servant was a deathbed sort of a conversation. Genesis 24:1 makes it seem like this happened at the end of Abraham’s life. He wanted to get back and show Abraham what had taken place before he passed away.
Rather than acquiesce, the servant says that he needs to leave immediately so that he “may go to my master.” (Genesis 24:56). Ultimately, the decision was left to Rebekah and she decided to go immediately (Genesis 24:58).
The family blessed Rebekah as they sent her away. The blessing that the family gave sounds an awful lot like the promises that were to be fulfilled in her. If Abraham’s descendants were to be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and stars in the sky then she would need to become “thousands of ten thousands””. And Genesis 22:17 clearly stated that her offspring would possess the gate of their enemies (Genesis 24:60). God will do all of this, He has promised to do so.
Finally Isaac, who has been in the background of the entire story appears. As of yet, he has only been mentioned. It is, after all, his wife that is has been found.
Isaac is now living in the Negeb and is no longer in Beer-lahai-roi. Beer-lahai-roi was the place Hagar saw the Lord in Genesis 16:7-14). And Negeb is in Southern Israel. It is sometimes called the land of the South in Scripture. Here, Isaac was meditating in a field when he saw the camels coming in the distance (Genesis 24:64). I wonder what he was thinking as he saw his future bride coming. He probably didn’t know if the servant had been successful. I wonder.
We know what Rebekah was thinking. She was excited. She dismounted from the camel and began asking questions about the man she saw coming to them in the distance (Genesis 24:64). And the servant’s response was, “my master” (65).
Abraham had probably passed away after the servant left. Otherwise, it would be strange to call Isaac his master.
Rebekah uncovered her face and the two of them saw each other for the first time. The servant, probably excitedly told Isaac of all that had happened. And Isaac took her to his mother’s tent where they were married, came together, and loved one another. In an arranged marriage the love would come after the marriage, and it seems to have happened just this way. And she gave him great comfort after the passing of Sarah.
God was faithful throughout this text. God was faithful to keep His promise. He was faithful to answer prayer. And God was faithful to get them back to Isaac safely.
I hope that you see God’s faithfulness to keep His promises throughout this text. And where do we end up at the end of this text. God made promises to Isaac that required him to marry a woman from Abraham’s family. And God provided a wife.
When you decide to base your life on God’s promises, you are not doing something foolish, you are walking in wisdom. And the reason I say that is that the Lord is faithful to keep His promises.
You are foolish if you answer the email of some prince in Kenya who is looking to offload some cash into your bank account. And the reason is that person is not trustworthy. You are not foolish if your trusting in the kind promises of someone you love, such as your parents. You know they love you and you trust them to do what they have said.
God is more trustworthy than your parents. And He has made glorious promises to you. And He will keep His promises. So, go forth and follow the example of Abraham and his servant and order your life after God’s promises.
For the unbeliever that means, repent and trust in the Savior. All those who trust in Christ will not be put to shame for God keeps His promises.
For the believer, that means you need to order your life after God’s promises. And you can do so confidently because you know that God keeps His promises.
The final recorded words of Abraham have a lot to say to us today. They teach us that we are to order our lives after God’s promises as Abraham did time and time again. The servant also teaches us that we are to do this as we walk in dependence upon the Lord. And through it all we see that God is faithful to keep His promises.
Order your lives after God’s promises. We must base our lives on God’s promises and live in dependence upon Him.
R. Dwain Minor