Please open your bibles to Genesis 24. We are continuing our series titled “Beginning With Moses: Christ in Genesis.” We have not covered every chapter. We have not focused on every event or character in Genesis. Our purpose with this series has been to take some of the key passages and show how they ultimately point forward to Jesus.
We focused on the death of Sarah last week and we come now to the final recorded act of Abraham as he commissions his servant to find a bride for his son Isaac. The chapter begins with Abraham asking his most trusted servant to take an oath before setting off on the mission to find a bride. Abraham, in his last appearance before his death is recorded, shows his covenant faithfulness by preparing for Isaac’s future.
Before we read this passage let us look to the Lord in prayer for his help in understanding it.
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. 11 And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 16 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. 19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. 21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” 26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” 28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.
Have you noticed that ever since the moment God gave Abram the covenant promise, it has been in jeopardy? God gave Abram a promise of land when he had none. He still has none. God gave Abram the promise of innumerable descendants. He has one. God gave Abram the promise that he would be a blessing to the nations. So far, he has experienced more threats from the nations than had the privilege of being a blessing to them. Now, as he nears the end of his life his only son has no wife. Once again, the promises of God are in jeopardy.
You may be tempted to skip over this romantic story thinking it is void of theology or any practical purpose. This isn’t just a sappy love story made for daytime television. This is the longest chapter in Genesis. This account is second only to the account of the flood in terms of length. It’s an important episode that chronicles the passing of the covenant promises from Abraham to Isaac.
We can really take this passage in several directions. We could focus on the characteristics of each of the main characters. We could consider each of the four scenes that make up the setting of this story: We are taken from Abraham’s house, to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia, to Rebekah’s house, and finally to Isaac’s home.
But ultimately, this passage is about the covenant faithfulness of God and the way he draws people into that covenant and blesses them within it.
So we will consider three aspects of the covenant this morning: First, we will look at The Covenant Prayer. Second, we’ll see The Covenant Priority. And third, we will note The Covenant Privilege.
We begin by looking at verse 10. The entourage of ten camels would have been huge. Not only does it reveal the wealth Abraham had begun to accumulate, it also shows the confidence he had in his servant returning with a wife and all of her belongings. The servant strategically positioned himself by the well in the evening where he knew the women would come to draw water (v.11).
Let me make it clear that this servant belongs to the covenant community. Abraham would have circumcised him back when God commanded him to (Gen. 17:12-13). This servant’s actions reveal that he was loyal, prudent, tactful, and persuasive. But more than anything, this account reveals a servant who is prayerful.
Verses 12-14 record his prayer for us emphasizing an important word. “Khesed” which is translated “loving kindness” in the English Standard Version, really has to do with the covenant faithfulness of God. This servant was motivated by a confidence in the covenant faithfulness of God.
In his prayer, the servant devises a way for him to know which particular girl, out of the many who might come to the well, is the one God has designated to be the wife of Isaac. He asks God to give him a sign that would reveal the girl’s selflessness. Would she be willing to provide water not only for him, but would she offer to provide water for his camels too? (Without any prompting from him!) The most important characteristics of this woman was that she would be hospitable and compassionate.
In verse 15 we see God’s providential timing. This is quite possibly the shortest wait for an answer in all of Scripture! Before he is finished speaking, Rebekah appears on the scene. I don’t know how you think of God when you pray. Do you think of His as listening and then debating with the Holy Spirit and His Son about how he will respond? He doesn’t hear our prayers and scramble to respond. He isn’t caught off guard by our prayer. In fact, he knows what we need before we ask.
Although the Lord never speaks He is truly the main character in this chapter. He is the One orchestrating the events according to His sovereign will. Each of the main characters refers to the Lord. He is mentioned some 17 times in this narrative. This entire chapter is a display of God’s covenant faithfulness working behind the scenes.
We will consider Rebekah’s response in a minute, but look with me at verse 26. The episode at the well is framed by prayer and praise. He worshiped God before the assignment was complete. He will go on to retell the story to Rebekah’s family ensuring that God receives all the glory. This servant knew the Lord and he was fully dependent upon His guidance.
It should be obvious, but who told him about God? Where did he learn to pray? Of course he learned about God and prayer from Abraham. Abraham was a man of prayer, so his home was a house of prayer. Prayer is not something reserved for a particular building. We can pray to God whenever and wherever we are. If you limit your “spiritual” intake to those times when you are in a church building, do not be surprised when you and those closest to you are unchanged.
The lives we live outside this building are testimonies that will either compliment or contradict the faith we proclaim. And it can make all the difference in whether or not those closest to us ever respond to the gospel message. Because Abraham prayed for guidance, his servant did the same.
The servant’s steps were covered in prayer. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” The servant prayed often, but he kept traveling. He was praying for God’s will, but he was also strategizing a plan.
We sometimes complicate things when it comes to finding God’s will. If we are being faithful to the covenant, the Lord will guide our steps according to his sovereign will. Don’t get stuck waiting for a clear sign from God that you become paralyzed from action. God answers prayers in his timing, in many ways. You might not have perfect clarity about which way to turn, but God will put up a roadblock when you’ve gone the wrong way. Just be sure you’re willing to flip a U-turn when necessary.
Kevin DeYoung has written an excellent little book titled Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. He writes, “So go marry someone, provided you’re equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it’s not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God’s sake start making some decisions in your life. Don’t wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God’s will, so just go out and do something.”
The covenant prayer is one that is fully dependent upon the Lord, accompanied by a complete willingness to take part in the answer. It also recognizes the superior importance of the covenant over anything else in life. And that’s what we see in Rebekah’s response…
Rebekah reveals herself to be the perfect wife for Isaac. She is eager to serve others. She is compassionate and hospitable. And she exhibits a faith filled obedience to the Lord’s will.
Notice how eager she is to give the servant a drink of water. She “quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink” (v.18). Then again “she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels” (v.20).
Volunteering to water ten camels would not have been a small task. Each camel might drink up to 25 gallons. And we know they would have been thirsty from the journey. This task might have required over 50 trips with a typical 3-gallon jar!
It’s interesting that he would simply gaze at her in silence this whole time (v.21). Why did he just stare at her? Why not help? Maybe there was some cultural restriction that would have kept him from accessing the well. I don’t know. But it does seem like she could have perceived him as being rude.
There is a YouTube channel that I enjoy watching from time to time where a guy does really awkward things to see how people will respond. For instance, there is a video of him holding the door for people when they are still hundreds of feet from the door. It’s funny to see people begin to job and forward so he isn’t standing there forever.
As I was imagining Abraham’s servant staring as Rebekah is making numerous trips to feed ten thirsty camels, I thought of another video this guy did. He is walking through the halls of a college campus and just as someone is walking past him, he drops a big stack of papers. Typically, one or two passersby would stop and kneel down to help him pick them up. But just as they begin to help, he stands up and watches them do all the work. It’s really funny! Some of the people would get upset and walk away. But others would keep gathering the papers as he awkwardly stood over them.
It really says something about the quality of a person’s character when they are willing to serve those who never contribute to the work. Part of the “camel test” was to see whether she would follow through on her word. We find her to be eager to serve others.
I’ll be honest and say this really convicts me. I’m quick to delegate, but not quick to offer help.
In verse 25 we also see how hospitable Rebekah is. And in verse 28, once again, she is running to tell her household, presumably so they can be ready for his arrival. Later on, after the servant has retold the story for her family, we see Rebekah’s faith-filled response. She is willing to go with this man to marry someone she has never met.
Rebekah’s willingness to leave the family is reminiscent of Abraham (Gen. 12:1, 4). She is not reluctant to follow the Lord’s will. Everyone acknowledged that this was the Lord’s work. The only question was if she would obey, and when.
Her swift obedience is just like Abraham. Called to circumcise all the males in his household… “on that very day” (Gen. 17:23). Called to send away Hagar and Ishmael… “early the next morning” (Gen. 21:14). Called to offer his son Isaac on the altar… “early the next morning” (Gen. 22:3).
I want to point out one final thing regarding Rebekah from verse 61. “Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man.” The fact that Rebekah had maids means she comes from a higher social status. She’s the daughter of nobility, not a servant. But she serves a servant! And his camels! It is even telling that she was the one fetching water at the well instead of sending one of her maids.
Rebekah’s actions reveal a commitment to God above all else. She understands the priority of the covenant. She is willing to serve and show incredible compassion and hospitality to a stranger. She routinely puts others above herself. She is even willing to leave her mother’s household as soon as she understands it is the will of God.
What is keeping you from following the Lord’s will for your life? Are there fears or particular sins preventing you from being fully committed to God’s will? If God is leading…Go! Don’t delay. Yes, it’s wise to pray and seek the Lord’s guidance. But don’t remain idle as you pray. In your going, always be praying. If God is calling you to something risky. If you fear the consequences of a certain decision, let Rebekah’s eager response encourage you.
We’ve seen the covenant prayer and the covenant priority, but the story is incomplete without…
The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah takes place at the close of the chapter revealing the privilege of the covenant. This is the great reward to Rebekah for her compassion and obedience. It is also the reward to Isaac for his obedience and patience. It is the best kind of arranged marriage, because no one has any doubt that it has been arranged by God. But each of these main characters points to a bigger picture of the Love of God in salvation.
Rebekah is representative of the Church. Donald Barnhouse says, “She was thought of before she knew it and was chosen when she did not know of the existence of her bridegroom.” Ephesians 1 puts it like this: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world…predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (vv.4, 11).
Isaac is a type of Christ who was born in miraculous circumstances and has already passed through a type of death and resurrection in chapter 22. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
Abraham’s servant is a type of the Holy Spirit. He sought a bride for Isaac, found her, and brought her to him prepared for marriage. The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah points to the union the Church experiences with Christ even now, but awaits the fuller consummation in eternity.
The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 66 asks:
“What is that union the elect have in Christ? Answer: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.”
Marriage was designed to point us to the union of Christ and His bride (Eph. 5). That’s the privilege of becoming a member of the covenant. We are united to Christ, now and for eternity!
Will you go with this man? Just as the servant was sent by Abraham to find a bride for his son. As an ambassador for Christ, sent by God, I seek a bride for His Son.
As a minister of the gospel I offer you union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe you have not yet experienced that union with Christ. Hear the covenant call of God’s Word upon you this morning! The greatest promises of life and eternal riches are before you right now! This Christ is willing to receive sinners and to eat with them. There is nothing on His part to prevent you from coming to Him. His invitation is free and wide open to all who will humble themselves in repentance and who come to Him in faith!
Will you receive the promises of the Lord this morning? Will you hear him declare you to be his “beloved” this morning? Will you go with this man? Will you devote your life to this man? Will you give up everything to follow him? Will you submit yourself to his leading and lordship?
Christ stands before you this morning, calling—as to his bride—He says “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will you go to him? Don’t delay your response another moment!
I’ll close with this quote from James Boice:
“If the Holy Spirit is wooing you now, may your response be as quick and positive as that of this girl who lived so long ago. ‘Will you go with this man?’ ‘I will go,’ she answered. May you respond as Rebekah did and start out joyfully for heaven, knowing that some day, at the end of your life journey, you—‘without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless’ (Eph. 5:27)—will meet Jesus face to face.”