When one of our young people begins to speak about marrying one whom he or she has known for only a few months, we frown and speak our disapproval. We counsel them to wait and not to rush into that which is for life.
We do not brush aside the words of Paul in Romans 7:1, 2: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.” Nor do we tear out of our Bible or obliterate the words of the same apostle in I Corinthians 7:39: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”
The “I do” spoken then in the marriage ceremony we understand to mean, “I promise to do this until I die, or the God, before Whose face I make this vow, takes my husband (wife) away from me by death.” And for that reason we warn against getting into situations and against establishing relationships out of which our young people cannot extricate themselves.
Our chief concern as covenant parents and faithful officebearers in the church of God is that our covenant seed, as Paul states in the verse quoted above, marry “in the Lord.” And that means that the parents give no approval of marriage for any other kind of marriage and warn their sons and daughters against even thinking of marrying any but those who are in the Lord and who manifest this by works of faith. It means that the one uniting in the bonds of matrimony must be convinced that he is serving to join together two who marry in the Lord. And therefore our young people ought not bypass him and go to the Justice of the Peace who has no such scruples and will marry for the fee he might get or demands for it. They should want the counsel of one who cares for their souls.
All this causes us to stand amazed when we read of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac took Rebekah the day he first saw her! Rebekah, when asked if she would marry Isaac, said, “I will go.” And, mind you, she said this ‘less than twenty four hours after being presented with the thought of marrying Isaac, and after hearing for the first time that there was an Isaac in the world whom she could marry. She was not even courted by him. His father’s servant, an aged man whom she never saw before, did the courting, if you can call it that. And, if you please, not much more than twelve hours had passed—if that much—from the moment that the idea of marrying Isaac had been made known to her to the moment that she gave her unequivocal answer, “I will go.”
We read in Genesis 24:11 that at eventide, when the day was well spent, this servant of Abraham sat down by a well and waited for a damsel to come and give him drink and his camels. A beautiful young virgin by the name of Rebekah came first and did exactly what he had prayed to God the woman of His choice would do. They went home. The servant made known his presence in that land as being for the purpose of getting a wife for his master Abraham’s son. Then we read in verse 54 that this servant and his men tarried there all night and rose up in the morning—around twelve hours after meeting Rebekah at the well—and spoke those startling words, “Send me away that I may go to my master.” All understood that this meant, “Send me with Rebekah to my master.” We likewise can understand the words of Rebekah’s brother and mother, “Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.” Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, put yourselves in their places. And, if you can, put yourself in Rebekah’s place; and examine your soul as to whether you would say (and indeed still today do say), “I will go.”
Before we give answer let us consider once what it means and costs. This was not the only offer of marriage that Rebekah could expect. She had not been passed by in her own land by its young men. She was not a choosey, fickle woman whose tastes were so finely drawn and exacting that she rejected this one and that one and played the field so that now, because all those of her own age in her own land were already married, she was left behind. She showed at the well that she was not a woman with a hard, troublesome nature with whom it was hard to get along, so that, in spite of her beauty—which we may believe from the account was in its degree so great that she stood out among all the young women in the area—she was passed by for the hope of a more peaceful and comfortable life. It was not a case with her that she should grab this “chance” to have a meal ticket for life, a home and social security. The Word of God gives not the slightest suggestion even of anything like that, but by mentioning her beauty indicates that she had more opportunities for marriage than the rest of the young women in the land. She was attractive. And that means that she attracted young men to her.
Then, too, she says, “I will go and be the wife of a husband who has shown an interest in me.” It could not be the personality of Isaac that attracted her. She could not and did not say, “I will go because there are such romantic overtones in this thing you suggest, Abraham’s servant.” It is a simple, “I will go.” She goes to learn to love this man and not because she already loves him. She goes because she loves God and has learned to love Him more richly and deeply because of the “sermon” she heard this servant of Abraham “preach” in her father’s house.
But before we get into this, let us also consider the fact that even if she loved Isaac with all her heart, even if this was the only opportunity for marriage she could expect, even if it did present a solution to the social-security-question of that day (when an unmarried woman had it hard financially) it was a costly proposition. It might seem too costly for one as kind and considerate as Rebekah, who did not hesitate to draw all that water even for his camels with their vast capacity to take in water. “I will go” means that she will leave father, mother, brother, and all her kin for good, as far as this life is concerned. There will be no going home for Thanksgiving Day or for the Christmas-New Years Day week of celebration between families. There will be no loading the kids into the camper or trailer and going back for a week or two in the summer. There will be no swift jet flight to be with a dying loved one back in Haran when the phone call or telegram reports a critical condition as far as the health of a loved one is concerned. There will be no phone call, no telegram, not even mail service. I will go, she said, and leave all this behind without any assurance of ever seeing any of you again on this earth!
She was aware of the difficult, wearisome journey. It is not a first class ticket on a modern jet with luxurious dining in the sky, attended by smiling stewardesses, who, whether they mean it or not, are paid to make you feel comfortable and happy. She goes with men, men she had seen and known less than twenty four hours! She rides on a camel through hot, dusty country over hill and mountain. And there will be no Holiday Inn to stay in at night and get a bit refreshed in a heated pool, on posturepedic mattresses in an air-conditioned room. It will be a hard, wearisome trip.
Should not her parents warn her against going with strangers? Is it really safe to travel that way, even though she has a few maids with her? Was not that exactly the way a man does things? Abraham, you meant well, but you were so crude, so unfeeling, so lacking in the finer touches of life. Why did you not send a woman servant along with this eldest servant? You do not go for a wife for your son like you go for an ox or another camel or two. Would you blame Rebekah if she had said, “I will not go under these conditions, and I am surprised that you, my brother, and you, my mother, dare even to suggest such a thing”? On second thought she could have said, “Since you have so little feeling for me, and apparently want to get rid of me, I might just as well go!”
No, none of this is true. It would have been and we would have a right to raise all these arguments and objections if it were not for that one important fact that the Word of God had been preached. And were it not for the fact that Rebekah is responding to that Word preached. There are covenant considerations here that must not be overlooked. It makes a nice story. It makes for interesting reading. But we must also hear the Word of God that Rebekah heard.
There was carnality here as well. Laban, Rebekah’s brother, saw the gold, the wealth, and wanted the servant to stay so he could get more of it. But this did not move Rebekah. She was a believing child of God, as is evident somewhat later when she expressed to Isaac her grief over her son Esau’s marrying women of the Hittites. And her “I will go” is an answer to a call she heard from God Who called and said, “Go to Isaac and become a mother in Israel.” And although Rebekah could not understand this as we do today it meant, “Go and serve to bring forth the promised Seed which is Christ.”
Laban and Rebekah’s mother blessed her with the prayer that she would be the mother “of thousands of millions.” They understood, and Rebekah understood, that to go to be the wife of Isaac she was going to be the mother of his children, that marriage has to do with bringing forth children. And when the servant of Abraham told how God had prospered his way she heard the Word of God in regard to His covenant, and proof of the fact that Isaac’s God was her God and that He is a covenant God Who fulfills all His promises and Works in wondrous ways to bless His Church.
“I will go” is then the response that God wrought in her soul to His call to go. “I will go” is the life of Christ that God had given her, speaking what He always spoke. It is the speech of obedience before God. It is the speech of a firm conviction but also of resolute purpose. “I will go” is equal to, “Let’s go in obedience to God.”
Yes, Rebekah, you are safe to go with these men. And you need have no fear of this man whom you never saw but whose faith you know and whose God you also serve. If you love God—and you do—and he loves God as you have heard, and His God and yours has arranged all these things so wonderfully, you can, but also must, say, “I will go.” And your sacrifices and hardships, your seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness will not be forgotten. You will serve in the coming of the Messiah, but you will also receive the blessings of His coming. His life is in you; and it is because He said to the Father, “I will go,” and went even to the cross and the bottom of hell for you that you could receive the grace to speak your unequivocal and blessed, “I will go.”
And you, my reader, will you go? You who have so much more revelation and hear God’s Word preached so much more clearly in the details of the coming of His Son in our flesh, will you go and be His bride? Will you forsake the world and every former friend to be dedicated and consecrated unto Him? He calls to His own. His own say, “I will go.” And they do so because He draws them with irresistible power and with cords of tender love. In His great love for us He makes us love Him. John says it so beautifully in I John 4:19: “We love Him because He first loved us.”