Genesis 24 The Bride for Isaac, The Bride for Christ!

Weddings are grand events in our age. People spend a lot of money on them. According to Reuters, the national average for the cost of a wedding in 2012 was just over $27,000.[1]  Many of you are thinking, “I would never pay that much for a wedding.”  And I hope that is true, in many ways the cost of weddings has gotten out of hand and is beyond exorbitant but viewed in a different way, might the lavish cost of a wedding betray something deep within our souls?  Might our weddings be a foretaste or a picture of the great wedding awaiting Christ and his Bride at the end of the ages and so the grandeur and cost are illustrative of the great bounty as well as the great expense it has taken, is taking and will take to put on the wedding of all ages, when the chosen bride marries the Chosen Son?

Genesis 24 is a story of a wedding, but more importantly it is the story of the seeking of a bride suitable for Abraham’s covenant child, Isaac.  In this story, there are four main groups of people who are all called upon to exercise a great amount of faith as the story unfolds.  First, there is the faith that Abraham must exercise as he trusts God to provide a suitable wife for his son.  Abraham trusts that God has a special bride from his own people and not from the pagans among whom he lives.  Abraham has faith that God will go ahead of his servant and specially prepare the way so that the right girl will be chosen and brought home. 

 

This is seen not only in the words he makes his servant swear: (Gen. 24:3-4) “I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”   But also in the fact that he approaches the whole oath with great solemnity by asking his servant to put his hand under his thigh (v2).

 

There are a number of differing opinions about this act. Many evangelical Christians say it was just a way of promising to carry out a task no matter what, akin to our raising of the right hand when we take the witness stand in a court of law.  But in the Judaic world, there are two other main lines of thought.  Some rabbis see it as symbolic of the servant being under his master’s authority, literally his master is sitting upon him and by promising, he is recognizing the authority being uttered and guaranteeing that he will fulfill his duty to his master.[2]  However most of the orthodox Rabbis and the many scholars recognize that the word thigh in this passage is a euphemism for certain parts of the male anatomy.  If you recall, God had commanded Abraham to have this part circumcised and so it was the sign of the covenant.  As a sign, Abraham was asking his servant to take an oath on the covenant God had made with him, to give him this land, to bless him and to make him fruitful.[3]  So in taking this oath, the servant is being told to look to God to fulfill the oath, which you are taking, just as I have looked to God to fulfill his promises to me. He will go ahead of you and provide a wife for his covenant child.  Now that is faith and evangelism and action all working together is it not?

 

But Abraham wasn’t the only one exercising faith in this story.  His servant exercised faith as he loaded the camels and trekked across the Fertile Crescent back to the land from which he came.  And when he arrived at the wells of Aram Naharaim, he prayed to God and asks God for a sign as to which girl was the bride.  That takes faith; this was an exercise of faith even greater than Gideon’s double test with the fleece in Judges 6.  In Gideon’s time, he had heard the command of God to go and conquer but had asked for 2 signs to guarantee that he heard right, whereas in this situation, the servant simply asks for a girl willing to serve him and his camels water, but he hasn’t heard anything from God. (Gen. 24:14) “May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ — let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” The first one to do it is the girl; no further proof or assurance is needed.

 

That is faith, trusting the entire outcome of who will wed your master’s son to a prayer.  Or is it?  The first thing I would like to say about this is that prayer is a part of the process of actively living a life of faith.  Prayer is a part of the way God goes about preparing a bride for his Son.  And so, prayer is faith lived.  But this prayer wasn’t just any prayer; the prayer of the servant was designed to bring out the character of the woman whom the servant desired for his master’s son.  And as such it wasn’t a blind faith simply trusting God to bring about whatever, it wasn’t a naïve faith, either.  It was a wise prayer.

 

The test of watering a man and his camels, though it seems odd to our ears was actually a brilliant way of saying, “God, bring Isaac a woman who is a servant at heart.  Bring him a woman unafraid of hard work.” (To water a camel takes 35-50 gallons of water. When Rebekah waters the 10 camels of this servant, she is undertaking a giant task, to hoist water from a well until every last camel has finished drinking.  This is a multi hour task.)   The servant is asking God to send a woman who is trustworthy and true to her word, no matter how difficult, i.e. for a faithful bride, as well as a hospitable bride who can make a home a place fit for guests, even to the point of exuding great generosity.

 

Do these qualities sound familiar to anyone?  These are the qualities of elders, deacons and deaconesses listed in 1Timothy 3:2-4, 7, 11: Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect…He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap…In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.  And if you recall from a number of months ago when we installed elders and deacons, you will remember that the qualities of the elder and deacon are really the qualities of one who is striving for Christ-likeness.  This faithful servant wants a bride for his master’s son who is Christ-like and so he prays a prayer aimed at asking God to reveal the Christ-like ones, and he believes that it will be answered.

 

But not only do Abraham and the servant exude faith in this story, but the family expresses faith as they hear the story retold and they choose to believe it. (Gen. 24:50-51) Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.” They listen intently to the story of God’s faithfulness in the choosing of a bride for Abraham’s son and they recognize in the story the acting of God Almighty and so in faith they step out and are willing to release their daughter to a man whom they haven’t ever met.  That is faith.

 

And finally, Rebekah, as an individual exercises great faith when she is willing to leave and go, immediately to a man she has never seen, but whom she recognizes to be a recipient of God’s blessing and direction.  And she doesn’t leave hesitantly, but cheerfully and eagerly and when it is all do, the servant worships again because a bride has been found.

 

Finding a bride for the covenant son is the theme of the chapter, and as we have seen faith plays a big part in this process, as does prayer.  So before we move on to the spiritual applications of the text, lets talk a little about some practical applications?  For all those who are single and of marriageable age, or for those who are younger looking forward to being married or for you parents wishing your children would marry, let me ask you some simple questions:

  1. Do you believe that God wants you to be married?  And if so, what purpose does he desire for your marriage?  Many people marry these days because they think it will make them happy or keep them from being lonely, but Abraham understood that the marriage of his son was the way the covenant was going to be extended.  Marriage was a means to producing the prolific descendants that God had promised.  Without marriage there would be no children and without children there wouldn’t be much to the promise of descendants like the sands of the sea or the stars of the heavens.  Are you prepared to marry because you believe that (Psa. 127:3-5) Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him? Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.  Are you prepared to fill the earth with covenant children raising them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength?
  2. If you do believe this, have you entrusted your desire to God in prayer, laying out before God the things that are most important to his heart, (Prov. 12:4, 31:10) A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones…A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Are you willing to lay aside all the things of physical beauty that are so important in our society in order to find a spouse for yourself or your child who is like Christ, eagerly desiring the kingdom of God and willing to live into it no matter how much effort it takes?  Are you that person who would make a good mate to one of noble character? Are you raising your children to be these people?
  3. For those not seeking marriage, this passage speaks to us as well.  Are you trusting God to provide for the things of importance in the furtherance of his kingdom?  Even though the servant wasn’t getting married, he had to give a lot in the process of seeing the Kingdom of God come.  Are you praying for the Kingdom to come?  Are you seeking the fellowship and company of those who exude the Kingdom?  As the servant sought the fellowship and company of a family whom God had been working in as well?  Are you prepared to work hard as you seek God’s best and are you prepared to pray hard with eyes wide open for the answers of the Lord?
  4. How is your faith being exercised in life?  How is your faith meeting the tangible challenges of the day like Abraham’s, the servants, the family’s and Rebekah’s?
  5. Finally, do you worship whenever you see the answers God is providing?

 

Now, how about the Theological Import and meaning of this text?  In my opening sentences I alluded to the spiritual meaning of the text.  Let me repeat it here: Genesis 24 is a story of a wedding, but more importantly it is the story of the seeking of a bride suitable for Abraham’s covenant child.  But instead of it merely being about seeking a bride for Isaac, consider with me for a moment if this is not a story about the true Son of the Covenant, Jesus Christ and the seeking of a bride suitable for him.  God the Father desires a bride for his beloved Son, Jesus, and God sets out to find a suitable bride through the work of the Holy Spirit, the great comforter or helper.

 

As the Spirit goes through life he isn’t unsure of his ability to find people suitable to the kingdom, because he is empowered with divine glory and power to change the hearts of men and women so that they become people of character.  He brings with him gifts and to adorn the bride and he works in their hearts to will and desire the things of God.

 

As the Spirit travels throughout the world, through the ages, the family of God have been told the story of God’s working to bring forth a people suitable to the kingdom and when they hear the story, the believe it and rejoice in it.  As such, there are individuals within the world, exposed to the story, invited into the great banquet and called to the wedding supper of the lamb but they must be willing to go to the strange lands that God is preparing them.  Lands where love and charity reign, where servanthood is king and worship and prayer are daily fare.  Lands where the power of God is exerted and the ways of the kingdom are set in opposition to the narcissism of this world.  All of that requires an individual to respond in faith to the invitation to come and marry the Lord of Creation, just as Rebekah had to respond to the invitation of the servant to marry Isaac.

 

Ultimately, this story is a story about God’s desire to find a bride for His Only begotten Son.  A holy, pure, spotless bride who will live into all that the kingdom and the covenant have to offer.  Will you respond to the invitation of the king for The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his Son (Mt 22:2).

 

And as communion reminds us, (Rev. 19:7) Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  We ready ourselves through repentance and grace; through faith in the promises of the word and hope in the things to come.  Communion is that outward sign that testifies to our souls that we have staked our claim in the New Jerusalem as Christ’s bride and we await his return.  But Communion is more, it is the assurance that a bride is being sought for God’s Son and the Spirit is making us ready to receive Him in all his radiance and splendor, where he will take us into his house and forever provide us with lavish love.

 

So as you come today, rejoice and celebrate but also reflect on the work God is doing in you to prepare you to meet his Son.  Will you cooperate? Would the elders come forward…

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon Outline

  1. God will find a bride for his son, Isaac
    1. Faith exercised by:
      1.                                                i.     Abraham as he trusts God to provide suitable wife for his covenant child (Gen 24:2-4)
      2.                                              ii.     Servant as he prays and tests the girl (Gen 24:14, 1Tim 3:2-11)
        1. Prayer is part of the process of God preparing a bride for his people
        2. Test displays the kind of woman who is appropriate as a bride
          1. Servant, not afraid to work, hospitable, trustworthy, does what she says, generous
      3.                                             iii.     Family as they hear story and believe (Gen 24:50-51)
      4.                                             iv.     Rebekah as she is willing to go and marry
    2. Worship is response when the bride is found
  2. Practical Applications (Ps 127:3-5, Prov 12:4, 31:10,
  3. God will find a bride for his Son, Christ
    1. Church is the bride of Christ
    2. Holy Spirit goes forth to find the bride, not wondering about success, but working in heart to change people to be the bride with the right character, bringing gifts to enable her and adorn her
    3. Church must hear the story, believe it and rejoice in it
    4. Individual must respond and be willing to go to strange lands that are not the same
    5. We await the consummation or banquet feast and will live in comfort forever

[2] The Soncino Chumash, edited by A. Cohen, London, 1956, p. 122.

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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