24 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had…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, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” Genesis 24:1-4 ESV
Towards the end of his life, Abraham asked his trusted servant and steward to travel 500 miles in a caravan of 10 camels to find a bride for his precious son, Isaac. Isaac was around forty years old by this time, and Abraham was trusting God to make good on all his generational promises that would come through Isaac.
Abraham had waited twenty-five years for Isaac to be born. There had been many adventures and challenges during that time. His journey, like ours, had been truly blessed in all things. But even blessed lives are filled with trials, loss, mistakes and pain.
Our childhood years are filled with many blessings, but we also learn about fear, and perhaps mistreatment. Our middle years are surrounded by goodness, but also with troubles and difficulties. And in later years, we can often look back to see the blessings of our life, but these are often mingled with loss and pain. Along the way, we can be challenged at any time with loneliness, doubt, anxiety, depression or insecurity. We can easily lose sight of the blessings that surround us because of negative situations and experiences that may dominate our attention, thoughts and feelings. Only by the grace of God can we turn our hearts back to Him to experience the peace of mind that comes from his presence in our lives.
God is the Potter of Life, and we are his clay. He decides when and how to bless us. God’s perfect timing does not always meet with our approval at the time. But he is Sovereign God, and as the clay, we do not have sufficient knowledge and wisdom about his purposes to argue with the potter (although we are allowed to petition Him about it).
Jesus said that we would have trials in life. He certainly had them. Even though he healed people through miraculous means, people who had even sometimes suffered from birth, Jesus often met opposition, attack and the threat of death. Eventually, those threats would come to pass with his beating and crucifixion. But Jesus alone had the authority to lay down his life and to take it up again. He did this for us, as a sacrifice for our sins, in obedience to the Father, the Creator of all good things and the author of the journey of our life.
Despite his own difficulties and errors, Abraham, too, had faith in God. He expressed this faith to his servant upon sending him off to find a spouse for his son, Isaac:
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. Genesis 24:7 ESV
Abraham was correct, the Lord was leading the way for the servant to find Isaac’s bride and life mate, Rebekah. By this time, Abraham was well advanced in years, around 140 years old. He would live another thirty-five years. His life-mate, Sarah, was by now already deceased around three years. Abraham, after a season of grief, was now focused on finding the right life-mate for his son, Isaac. (Abraham himself would go on to additional marriages, but little comment is made on these in the scriptures, as they did not contribute further to the story of the Jewish people and the genealogy of Jesus Christ).
Abraham’s servant made the trip, and at the end of his journey, God answered the prayer of his heart before he was even finished asking the Lord. As the servant described when reaching his destination:
42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’
45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So, I drank, and she gave the camels drink also…48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Genesis 24:42-45,46,48 ESV
How quickly does the Lord answer our prayers? Sometimes very quickly. Other times, as with Isaac’s birth, very slowly. But He always gives an answer to prayer. The answer may be “yes”, “no”, “not yet”, or some other answer, but there will ultimately be an answer.
I have heard many different responses to the question of how God answers prayer. Some may say, “he doesn’t.” One even said, “every time I pray, something bad happens, so I don’t pray.” But most people do believe that good answers will come, with God’s will done in His perfect timing. Sometimes answers do not come until we have forgotten we had prayed about it. If we take the time to journal our prayers in writing and look back after a period of time, we often see that our prayers were answered, but we didn’t notice because we were focused elsewhere.
At the end of the servant’s journey, Rebekah and her family recognized that this was an opportunity from God. They all responded positively. This was the family through which God would continue the lineage of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a perfect family by any means, none are. But it was the chosen one. And though they couldn’t have known where it was headed at the time, they recognized it as a divine calling, and supported it.
It took faith for Rebekah to respond and follow the servant back to Isaac. She was not required to go along; it was strictly a voluntary journey of faith.
In Genesis 17:19, God told Abraham that he would establish an everlasting covenant, or agreement, with his and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Always true to his word, God did this. When later appearing to Isaac, God said:
4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Genesis 26:4-5 ESV
Isaac and Rebekah are an important part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Abraham’s servant played an important role by traveling the 500 miles and seeking out the one God had set aside for Isaac. And Rebekah exhibited faith by leaving her family and homeland to come to Canaan, sight unseen, just as Abraham had done over six decades earlier.
What happy times can you remember from your early days as a youth? What challenges? How would you characterize your life journey so far?
Can you see an event of your life that was a bad thing at the time but now you see God has used as a blessing?
Can you think of a time that God answered your prayer almost immediately? How about one that he answered only after you had forgotten you asked? Can you think of a request you had earnestly prayed to God, only to be thankful later that he did not fulfill your request?
It took faith for Isaac’s bride, Rebecca to leave her past and accompany Abraham’s servant to marry Isaac. Just as it takes faith for us to leave our past and join Jesus Christ as part of his bride, the Church. The rewards of faith in both cases are overwhelming. Where are you today on your faith journey?