[Note: essays on every chapter of the Bible may be accessed by going to www.amazinggraceinternational.com/blog. The on-going articles in this space are meant to supplement those and follow along with our daily Bible reading schedule, found at the calendar tab on this site.]
Noah comes out of the ark and the first thing he does is build an altar to God. Abraham builds an altar at Shechem, between Bethel and Ai. He builds another at Hebron and still another on Mt. Moriah. Had we been alive then, we could likely have traced Abraham’s travels just by the altars he builds. He “calls on the name of the Lord” and “worships” and from his example, his servants learn to pray and worship – as does his son.
All of this seemingly Abraham does on his own, without prompting from the Lord. He does it because God is great, and his greatness deserves recognition and honor. He does it because God is gracious, and his graciousness deserves gratitude and praise.
We should remember this. I read far far too often the comments of Christians who call us to “get out of our churches and into the world.”
No no no. A thousand times no. Don’t buy this shallow mindset.
We spend nearly every waking hour in the world. While we are there, let us be lights in the darkness, salt of the earth and the pillar and ground of truth. May the world come to see Christ through us. It’s what Jesus calls us to.
But let us also take time to step out of our world and into the Divine Presence through worship. It’s in worship we are reminded of our place. It is in worship we are reminded of the divine order (and it is why worship assembly often adheres to rules foreign to the world – reminding us of the way God made things). It is in worship we are reminded of God’s care for us, and in worship we openly and unreservedly remember, thank and praise God. Think not that all of life is worship. Abraham would not have agreed. While all of life should honor God, there comes a time to separate from life’s busyness and commune with the Lord. May our lives be tracked not just by the services we render, but by the worship we offer.
Chapter twenty-four is the longest chapter in the book of Genesis and for that reason alone, it deserves some pointed attention. It focuses on just one subject: finding a wife for Isaac.
Abraham is living in the land of the Canaanites and while they recognize him as a mighty prince whom God blesses, and while Abraham has tremendous spiritual influence in his own family (as we shall see in the life of his servant in this chapter), he apparently has little influence on the lives of the people among whom he lives. Abraham doesn’t want his son to marry one of the girls of Canaan.
Abraham sends his servant to the home of Abraham’s brother, Nahor, in northern Mesopotamia to find Isaac a wife. We’ve already been introduced to this family in chapter 22 and learned that among Nahor’s sons is Bethuel, who has a daughter Rebekah. The servant is on his own to select Isaac’s wife. The only condition is that she must be willing to leave her family behind and come to Isaac. Isaac may not go to Mesopotamia.
The journey is long – some 500 miles. Abraham may not live long enough to see the marriage of Isaac, so he leaves the whole affair in the hands of his servant.
The thing to notice in this story is the presence of God, and not just any god, but The Lord, the God of Israel. The servant prays to “the Lord” and expects Him to answer his prayer and he leaves it in the hands of the Lord. There is no backup plan. As the story unfolds, there are a few tense moments, but everything falls into place.
No, wait. That’s not quite right. Everything doesn’t “fall into place,” the Lord puts it into place.
It’s an important lesson, deserving of the longest chapter in Genesis. When we trust the Lord, take our challenges to Him, and totally trust Him with every thing, He will come through for us as He did for Isaac. Jesus summarizes it best: If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).
The importance of chapter twenty-four is immediately seen in the length given to this story. The story is about getting a wife for Isaac. But that’s not its real point.
Isaac does not have the luxury of selecting a wife for himself – that was not the custom. This puts Abraham between a rock and a hard place. He cannot stomach the thought of Isaac marrying one of the Canaanite girls. The implication is always that the Canaanites are detestable people because of their behavior. Abraham also cannot risk sending Isaac back to Haran to select his own wife. As the story unfolds later, Abraham’s family is conniving and if Isaac goes to the home of his ancestors, he might not return (it will take Jacob twenty years to get himself free from Laban).
The whole focus of the story is on the work of God. Abraham leaves it in God’s hands to direct his servant to the proper place and person. The servant leaves it in God’s hands to show him the proper wife for Isaac. Throughout, there are reminders of God’s providential care:
*24:7 – “The Lord, the God of heaven, . . . —he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. (see also verse 40)
*24:12 – Then [the servant] prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today . . . (see also verse 42)
*24:26-27 – Then the [servant] bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying, “Praise be to the Lord, . . . who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. . . . the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.” (see also verse 48)
*24:50 – “Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.”
*24:56 – But [the servant] said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”
Note there is no “plan B.” Abraham expects God to act. If He doesn’t, the servant is released from his oath and everyone is on their own. This is the hardest thing for God’s people to do: to put complete trust in God. And yet, it is the only way to success. Solomon will write: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).