Sermon 1744 Genesis 24 May 9, 2021
This is a dangerous time of year for Seminary students ready to graduate. Oh, it’s not as bad as if we were Greek Orthodox. If you were Greek Orthodox and were married, no problem. You’d get your congregation. But if you were unmarried and got ordained, you stayed unmarried, and could become a bishop or more. No, the concerns of our unmarried seminarians this time of year is to get married before they head out to their first congregation. If you go out single, you will have forty-seven foster mothers in the congregation trying to set you up with a niece or daughter. It’s a little distracting and somebody’s bound to get hurt.
So there was kind of a rush among the last of the unmarried. Find a wife. I’m not saying they were hopeless, but eight years of living with a bunch of guys in a dorm hadn’t polished their manners. The patron saint of the unmarried was single himself with no prospect of tying the knot, at least in the current decade. Lumpy Gibbons. He consoled the fearful, confident of the Lord’s guidance. “There’s a lid for every pot.” The Lord even led Lumpy to a wife several years into his second congregation.
“There’s a lid for every pot” because the Lord is the matchmaker for his people. We’ve got an example of that in our Sunday School lesson for today, Isaac and Rebekah. But, you will agree with me, it’s more than a “lid for every pot” story.
1. Unflinching faith
2. Meet undaunted courage.
Life for nomadic herdsmen was lonely. While the LORD had blessed Abraham “in every way,” Isaac’s future weighed on Abraham’s heart. Isaac needed a wife. Abraham sends his chief servant to go to the ancestral homeland to find Isaac a wife.
The servant weighs the odds that something may go wrong. “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from (5)?” It is asking a lot for a gal to leave everything to come to a foreign land sight unseen. Maybe if she catches a glimpse of her future husband, maybe if he has a chance to show her what an interesting and romantic fellow he is, she would consider it.
Abraham will have none of it. “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there (7-8).”
If Isaac goes back north, he may stay. The future of Isaac and his people is in the south, Canaan. The LORD, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D had said so! The God who has promised to send the Savior into the world through the family tree of Abraham also promised Abraham that Canaan would be the land of his descendants. They would rule it. They would live in its cities and cultivate its fields. Abraham had unflinching faith in the LORD’s unfailing promises—a Savior, Isaac, Canaan, guarding Isaac as the apple of the LORD’s eye. And now with that same unflinching faith in the Lord’s explicit promises, Abraham trusted the LORD would be matchmaker for Isaac. No wife for Isaac, no family tree. No family tree from Abraham through Isaac, no Jesus, no Savior, no forgiveness of sins for all nations, no heaven for you and me and all who believe.
This is all fine and good for Abraham, but what about Isaac? Was he OK with this deal? Well, remember that when the LORD had commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, it was Isaac who had lain on that altar when the knife was raised in Abraham’s hand to slay him. Isaac, a teen, had to have consented to it, for even if he were not strong enough to overpower aged Abraham, he certainly was fast enough to outrun him. But he didn’t. Isaac had unflinching faith in the LORD, too. Isaac also saw how the LORD provided for his people, when he saw the ram caught in the thicket by its horns. Isaac had unflinching faith. Being single among all these unbelieving Canaanite women bore testimony to that. Isaac was looking for more than a pretty face. His unflinching faith demanded more in the heart of his beloved.
Faith runs with faith. The servant sent by Abraham also has unflinching faith. As the servant comes to his long journey’s end he prays, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 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 (12-14).”
His faith doesn’t flinch. He asks the LORD for a ridiculous sign. He will ask a girl who has come out to draw water for her family to give him a drink. But if she, of her own volition, volunteers to water his camels, too… He has ten of them, heavily laden, at the end of a long, dry journey. They can drink a lot. Only a very hospitable, caring, energetic and healthy young woman would volunteer to water a caravan of camels.
“Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder (15).” She is beautiful. She is virtuous. He asks her for a drink. She lowers her jar to give him a drink and volunteers, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking (19).”
The LORD had not disappointed the unflinching faith of his people.
This story speaks directly to the young men and women in college or recently graduated or those who are new to the job market and are looking to settle down. The Lord is your matchmaker. He will lead you to the one you are to live together with as husband and wife for as long as you both shall live. This story is far more comforting than Lumpy Gibbons’ assurance “there’s a lid for every pot.”
For the married and those bereaved, the story of Isaac and Rebekah holds great comfort, too. The Lord brought you two together. Keep working on that marriage. He will continue to make him or her your match for life. To those who have lost a spouse, rejoice in the seasons and years you had because the Lord brought you together. And keep the faith. You have an eternal reunion with your beloved and by the countless others who will love you with a love so pure it only exists in heaven.
Don’t listen to the devil, the unbelieving world or our own sinful human nature. Happiness is more than skin deep and we don’t know enough to look out for ourselves. The LORD will look out for us, so look to him for guidance instead of looking in all the wrong places. Settle for nothing less than what the LORD has in store for you. As he serves as our matchmaker, he will continue to arrange opportunities and challenges, rewards and obstacles in our lives in the right mixture to spur growth, accomplishment, satisfaction and happiness. No kismet, karma, serendipity or dumb luck for us. The Matchmaker rewards unflinching faith.
Unflinching faith, meet undaunted courage.
The girl, Rebekah, is a relative! The servant asks for a place to stay. She offers her father’s house. “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night (25).” Before the servant will eat, he has to tell them why he has come. He recounts the whole story. It sounds like a fairy tale, but they all know it is true. Rebekah has already filled them in. “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 (50).’”
You know as well as I it isn’t going to go as smoothly as that. After a good meal and a great night’s sleep, the servant is itching to return to Abraham with Isaac’s beautiful bride. “Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go (55).” I will let the cat out of the bag and tell you this is the same Laban who will keep Jacob, the future son of Rebekah, hanging around for 21 years, because Jacob is useful to Laban. Hanging around this gang is like letting your bet ride on the roulette table while you go to the bathroom!
The servant is unwilling. Laban thinks maybe this isn’t a good idea after all. “Then they said, ‘Let’s call the girl and ask her about it.’ So they called Rebekah and asked her, ‘Will you go with this man (57)?’”
The deck is stacked against the servant. They have made life-changing decisions without even asking Rebekah and only now they pop the question to her. Leave today or stay? Many dislike spur-of-the-moment, life-changing decisions. And they could have used something else besides, “this man” to refer to Abraham’s faithful servant. If she leaves with “this man,” she will never see family again.
Unflinching faith, meet undaunted courage.
“‘I will go,’ she said.”
And with that this little boat puts out to sea with all its hidden storms and dangers. “I will go.” I have seen this courage before. Ruth leaves her people to go with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem. Rahab shelters the spies in Jericho. It is interesting that all these women are members of the family tree of Jesus. Undaunted courage ran in that tree.
I remember someone else with this courage. He rode a little donkey colt into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, knowing he was riding to his death. Even when he could have twisted the truth a bit or claimed he was taken out of context to save his life, he showed undaunted courage. “Yes, it is as you say.” “I am a king. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And for all the times our courage has failed us, for all the times we were more worried about ourselves than about others, for all the times we were afraid, not of lions or tigers or bears, but afraid of looking uncool, foolish, goody two-shoes, oh, for all those times he turned his beaten and bloodied face to heaven in a triumphant cry, “It is finished!”
Jesus showed that undaunted courage in the face of the sin, death and hell. By his wounds, we are healed. By his spirit we are made strong. “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights (2 Samuel 22.34).”
What courage does the Holy Spirit fill believers with?
Rebekah says good-bye to her family that same day. After many days on the road, she looks up and sees a solitary figure in the deepening light of evening. “She got down from her camel and asked the servant, ‘Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?’ ‘He is my master,’ the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her (22.64-67).”
She has the courage to meet Isaac face to face, in person, rather than through intermediaries. She was veiled, as was the custom of the day, when meeting strangers. But she gets down from her camel to meet him. Unflinching faith, meet undaunted courage.
There are times when I am almost brought to tears when I think of the loose grip any of us have on our lives. When my little Elyse was delighted by a light blue Little Tykes rocking chair for a Christmas present and would rock for hours in it. What a trifle! What a little thing! When talking with a local pastor about getting a checkup and being told he would need stents, I thought afterwards, what are they, just straws we put inside veins so close to our stammering hearts! Our vaunted technology? What is that? A tsunami comes and so engulfs a nuclear power plant that a chain reaction almost takes place. A rocket launch into space depends on the elasticity of a rubber gasket to prevent a catastrophic explosion. We spend billions on a vaccine that a mindless virus develops variants to thwart. Take this sinking ship and set sail? What madness! O what made fatuous sunbeams toil to break earth’s sleep at all? The reckless put that skiff to sea. We see their shipwrecks every day.
The LORD is our matchmaker. The undaunted courage he gives us is the difference. Our boat is as frail as theirs. We sail into equally bad weather—no Christian is promised a bed of roses in this world. But we have undaunted courage. It comes from knowing the LORD. The LORD’s word makes us heroes when heroes are most needed. A mother is so insistent that something is wrong with her child, even though the ordinary tests suggest otherwise, that the urgent care doctor arranges an ambulance to get the child to the hospital where they find a rare condition hours away from taking the child’s life. A wife spends night after night in her husband’s hospital room as he, suffering from a stroke, lingers in a comma. Every waking moment she is praying that he opens his eyes and talks. A young grad has the presence of mind, when bumping into the billionaire boss in the hallway on her way to the HR interview to answer his challenge, “You up to working for somebody like me?” “I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t!” The Lord gives us the tools and abilities to meet the challenges he permits to come our way. He is our
1. Unflinching faith
2. Meet undaunted courage.
It wouldn’t surprise me, the evening Isaac met Rebekah, if the LORD matched the earthly fireworks between those two with heavenly fireworks, maybe a meteor shower, the Perseids or the Leonids. The family tree of the Savior just got a lot stronger.
That’s our family tree, too. By God’s grace, the same unflinching faith fills us and calls forth the same undaunted courage. LORD knows we need it.