Summary: The lesson to be learned is not that we ought to be asking for signs but that we ought to be asking God for guidance and for success. In our prayers we ought to be appealing to the covenant relationship that he has made with our master, Jesus Christ.
Genesis 24:1-14 Answer to Prayer
6/19/16 D. Marion Clark
It is always interesting to hear how married couples met one another. There are childhood sweethearts, blind dates, falling for a friend’s date, co-workers, in a bar, even in a church. A growing trend is internet matching services. We had neighbors in Philadelphia who had connected through a classified ad. Few are as peculiar as the story of Isaac and Rebekah.
Sarah has died. Forty-year-old Isaac is still living at home with Dad. It evidently has not occurred to either man that Isaac should be finding a wife. (Makes it like a modern story, doesn’t it!) When the idea does occur to Abraham, instead of sending his son, he sends his servant to do the job. Remember the promotion of the sermon series – Genesis: The People…Their Problems…God’s Solutions. The People are Abraham and Isaac. Their Problem is finding a wife for Isaac. God’s Solution is to enable an old servant to pick her out and haul her back.
Reviewing sermons on Genesis 24, it appears that most preachers see the chapter as a kind of marriage manual – in particular, how to find a good wife or what a good wife should be like. What else to do with the longest chapter in Genesis that seems to serve little purpose other telling a good story of “How I Married Your Mother”? Let’s see what we can find.
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
He should be 140 years old. The point being made is that a transition is taking place in this chapter, from the story of Abraham to the story of Isaac. At the beginning of the chapter, Isaac is referred to but does not actually enter into the story. He comes in at the end of the chapter, where Abraham is not even mentioned.
Of particular significance is how Isaac is referred to. At the beginning and throughout the story, the servant refers to Abraham as “my master,” and to Isaac as son of “my master.” When he returns with Rebekah and they see Isaac, she asks the servant who he is. The servant replies, “It is my master.” The baton is being passed on.
That baton is the covenant promise which God first made with Abraham, as will be spelled out in Chapter 26. Remember, the promise was to be passed down through Isaac. Now the concern is for how Isaac will pass the promise down to the next generation. That is what this chapter is about. Ligon Duncan, in preaching on this passage, states, “This is the story of the continuation of the line of providence, of promise, and how God in his providence brought about that continuation of the line of promise.”
This, no doubt, is what’s driving Abraham to find the right wife – the continuation of the line of promise. God, of course, may choose whatever means he desires to achieve his promise. He could have chosen to do it through Hagar’s son Ishmael. But he did not. Evidently, the right bloodline mattered. And the right bloodline is evidently that of Terah, Abraham’s father. Terah was also Sarah’s father whom he had by another wife. (It’s complicated.)
Abraham understands that the bloodline is not, for now, to be mixed with Canaanites. Rather, Isaac’s wife needs to be kept in the family, and thus, we have the story of the servant wife-finder.
2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3 that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7 The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.