The duty that Abraham charged his eldest servant to perform is not one that one could be glad to be called to perform. If all goes well, there might be a word of thanks; but woe to that man who sets out to get a wife for someone else and then the marriage turns sour. Besides, Isaac had shown no interest in having a wife, and one could get his wrath and displeasure for having gone and gotten one for him.
The duty Abraham called his servant to perform is doubly difficult because of the qualifications which Abraham stipulated. To get a pretty face, to get a charming damsel by a display of trinkets and golden earrings and bracelets of gold was no harder in that day than it is today. Then, perhaps, even more than today when our standard of living is already so high, a young woman whose future, because of the social conditions of the day, was quite uncertain, would fall for such a display and gladly seek a life of wealth and abundance. But this servant must get a believing child of God for Isaac to marry. And she must be one who is willing to leave father and mother and all her household behind, never to see them again for God’s sake and His covenant’s sake.
The servant sees this clearly and raises that objection, “Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?” He sees that she must be a woman of Abraham’s kindred—and not because such were physically better, or for sentimental reasons, but because there he would find those that would be spiritually compatible for Isaac in whom and around whom the covenant promises centered; and revolved. He might, however, find one of that kindred who is nominally in the church of God of that day, a woman born to covenant parents; but she might not want to come, having no interest or not enough interest in God’s covenant and its promises to leave her land as Abraham had done. By faith Abraham had obeyed; but that she is born to covenant parents does not mean that she is going to have that faith and that strength of faith. And the man she will marry is completely a stranger to her. She has not even seen him. It is asking an awful lot of her. It will have to be a venture of faith in God and of firm conviction that this is His will, and thatHe calls her to close the door so completely on her family and leave the land so fully, not for a natural love that has tremendous drawing power, for the only thing she will know about this future husband is that he is a relative, but out of love for God and with a sincere interest in His covenant.
And Rebekah was no plain Jane and no unattractive young lass who most assuredly would be passed by and had better seize this one opportunity of a lifetime to be married. She was extremely beautiful and undoubtedly had the heads of many, many young men in the region turning. She did not need to seek ways to obtain suitors but to avoid them. She would have to have, and did have, faith in God to agree as she did. But by the same token Abraham’s servant’s task is not made easier when he has to pick out a woman—and quite naturally he would pick out an attractive woman, would choose as he would for himself—that would be spiritually compatible and willing to be a stranger in a strange land for God’s sake.
But he goes to perform this thankless duty and swears an oath that he will not take a wife for Isaac out of the daughters in Canaan, but would go to Abraham’s kindred and get one there. And do not say that this servant had no choice, being a servant. Yes, as a servant he had to go, and placed under an oath by his master, he had to swear. But he did not have to take an interest in all this, that is, Abraham could not make him love God and want to do all this for God’s sake. We likewise can and must command our children to love God and walk in His fear, but we cannot make them do so. And this servant of Abraham showed that he did have an interest, that he was a believing child of God who knew, God’s covenant promises and rejoiced in them. He, too, wanted a God-fearing wife for Isaac. He also wanted spiritual compatibility in Isaac’s wife. And all this becomes evident in the fact that he commits the whole matter in prayer to God instead of trying to get out of the difficult duty he had to perform.
Had he been an unbeliever—and let it be remembered that he had been circumcised, according to Genesis 17:26, 27, and had the covenant promises of God explained to him in connection with it—had he despised God’s covenant and called all this foolishness, he could have escaped his task. And his words, “What if she will not be willing to follow me?” would have been the words of a clever, carnal mind that was already devising a way out. He could make it so hard, could paint such an awful picture to the women in Abraham’s kindred that no one wanted to go along with him to be Isaac’s wife. He could have warned them that Isaac did not have interest in a wife and might not take to her, would shun her, insult her, and a bitter life of tears and frustrations lay ahead of her. But no, he has a keen interest himself and therefore goes to God in prayer for success upon his way.
When he says, “I being in the way the Lord led me,” inGenesis 24:27, he shows that he willingly walked in God’s way. This way was his way because he knew it was God’s way. He was in the way and not out of it. He walked faithfully where God wanted him to walk and was not complying with a command in which he had no interest. His walking was an act of love to God, and God led him successfully so that this servant himself declares in verse 56, “. . . the Lord has prospered my way.” Get that: he says, “my way.” God’s way as pointed out to him by Abraham had become his own way. He wanted it this way as well as Abraham and God Himself did.
This servant is also to be commended for the way in which he set out to perform his task. He began where we must always begin. He began with God. He did not begin with a woman. He sought a woman to be a wife for Isaac, but he began in this search with God. In prayer he came before the throne of grace and asked God to lead him and to prosper his journey. And this way is to be recommended to all our young people who quite naturally think of marriage. It applies to parents and all of us in all the situations and matters of our earthly lives. We must not, only after we fail, first begin to think of God and turn to Him for help, but, we ought to begin every project with the understanding and in the full knowledge that we will always fail unless God is pleased to prosper our way. He must not be an afterthought in our lives but be thought of as we begin the day, as we begin our work, as we finish our work, and as we close our eyes in sleep after, our work.
Now understand the situation. This servant has never seen any of Abraham’s kindred. Cameras to take and produce instant pictures were thousands of years away. Little, simple, inexpensive box cameras were not even in the minds of inventors yet; and Abraham’s kindred did not and could not supply him with pictures of the children and grandchildren. Consequently Abraham had no photos to show to this servant. He did not even have an address—surely not with a zip code—to tell him to look up. We read in Genesis 22:20 ff. that news reached Abraham about his brother’s family; but that is not the same as receiving pictures so that these can be identified by his servant. Yes, he could ask around where Nahor lived and be directed to his tent. But there is a better way. There is one Who knows them all by name and can never be deceived by looks or change of apparel or the like. To Him this servant goes in prayer and asks that, not the family, not the father and mother, but the exact woman be pointed out to him by God Himself.
And let us not overlook the humility, the strong love for Abraham, the deep interest in the cause of God’s kingdom when he prays, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.” Get that last part especially: He is not praying for self. He does not pray to be a successful servant that may get praise—and maybe a raise—from his master. It is kindness to his master from the living God Himself that he seeks. He is not looking merely to be prosperous in his own way. He desires that Abraham be prospered in his covenant way and desire that his son have a believing wife. He has interest in God’s covenant and wants a God-fearing wife for Isaac, the child of the covenant.
All this explains the way of which he speaks when he says, “I being in the way the Lord led me.” And we may note here also—that is, in verse 27—that being successful in finding a damsel that meets the qualification he sought in a wife for Isaac—he speaks again of that mercy of God for Abraham. We read, “And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my-master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and His truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” He prayed for the mercy of God upon his master—a master who had placed such a difficult task upon his shoulders—and now he thanks God for that mercy. We have here quite a different picture from that which characterizes the whole field of labor today. What a beautiful relationship between master and servant! But what an interest this man shows in God’s covenant! And that he calls God “The Lord God of my master Abraham” does not mean that Jehovah is not his own God. He means the God Who has given such wonderful and rich promises to Abraham, promises in which he also believes, promises which he also desires to see fulfilled in the mercy of God and in His truth.
Yes, Christ is here. He is in all the Old Testament. For He is everywhere in the Old Testament Scriptures where we find God’s mercy and His grace. All the blessings of the covenant come through Christ and His cross. That cross was there in the Old Testament under the symbols, the types, and shadows. He was there in the high priest, the altar, the lambs, and bullocks. And do we not exactly read of a mercy seat which was the covering of the ark of the covenant in the innermost part of the temple? On it the high priest sprinkled the blood of the lamb; and because of its; typical significance was able to go out to the people and bless them in God’s name and assure them that with God there is pardon for their sins.
But the point at the moment is that in the way of faithfulness before God, in the way of obedience and committing our way to God, we are prospered by Him.
God will not lead us to true prosperity in the way of sin. In His mercy He will lead his erring children back to the way of obedience and love, and then bless them while they are in the way that He demands of them, the way of faith and obedience. As Solomon in his wisdom said, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Indeed, “Trust and obey for there is no other way.”