A man who was one hundred and forty years old wanted a wife; but it was not for himself that he wanted this wife. It was for his forty year old son who was not yet married, was in no mood to get married or even to look for a wife, and whose father was filled with concern, and was extremely eager to see this son married to a child of God before he would leave this son and go the way of all flesh. For he, Abraham, had some very rich promises from God that centered in and revolved around his son, Isaac.
That son, Isaac, let it be said to his credit, and let it all be ascribed to the grace and providence of our covenant God, was not attracted to any of the flashy beauties in the land of Canaan. So often, it seems in the church today, young men see the grass on the other side of the fence to be so much greener. What is a worse tragedy is that our young people often do not even see that there is a fence! They seem to be completely oblivious to the truth of the Word of God that they must marry “in the Lord.” I Corinthians 7:39. There is no thought, or if there is it is quickly or ultimately brushed aside, of the truth that they are to marry to live for Him and out of Him. Paul’s words that the believer must not be un-equally yoked together with one who does not believe refers, in their minds, to other situations and to other circumstances.
Now Isaac does not appear to us on the pages of Holy Writ as a man very strong in his faith. And when the author of the epistle to the Hebrews reviews his whole life to find the clearest and richest manifestation of his faith in God, he refers to his deed on his deathbed—at least so Isaac himself thought—of blessing his two sons concerning things to come. Yet he does here in his younger days reveal that he had no interest in the young women of the heathen nations among whom they dwelt by God’s appointment. This was not a natural thing. There were spiritual reasons, and he had been trained carefully and thoroughly by his parents and in no uncertain terms been taught that they were pilgrims and strangers in the midst of a people that did not know God.
Of late—for God works out His counsel and preserves His people in many different and wonderful ways—there was a physical, natural reason. Isaac knew that he was not to take a Canaanite for a wife, but it is also very evident that he had no interest in having a wife. Why did he not go to his uncle Laban and look for one among those who feared God? It may be argued that in those days the parents picked the husbands and wives of their children. But Isaac did not pick Jacob’s wives. Jacob chose Rachel for her earthly beauty and took Leah only because he was deceived. But it certainly must be maintained that a young man could choose his own wife in that day. And that Isaac at the age of forty had no wife yet was not due to the fact that his father did not get him one up till that day.
The Scriptures reveal to us that Isaac mourned for three years for his mother, who had died when he was thirty seven years old. We read in Genesis 24:67 that “Isaac brought her (Rebekah) into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” It is, therefore, quite obvious that for three years he mourned over the death of his mother, and was in no mood to seek a wife. He must have been very strongly attached in love to his mother, for when Abraham presented him with Rebekah he took her into his mother’s tent. That tent had a strong attraction to him because it had been his mother’s. His heart beat for and still went out to her, and there was no thought or desire to go out and get a wife and have a family of his own. And, of course, God was behind all this and used this heaviness of heart in Isaac, in fact sent this mourning in his soul and kept it there those three years so that He would, in the way of Abraham’s zeal, provide him with a wife who feared God and with whom he could be married “in the Lord.”
We dare not say that Isaac had no covenant interest. We may not say that the covenant promises given his father did not concern him, and that he had no longing to see them fulfilled. Forty years is indeed more than half of our life today, except where there are those who are stronger than the strong of Moses’ Psalm, those who reach fourscore years or more. He undoubtedly had intentions of marrying some day. Of him also we read in Hebrews 11 that he had the hope of God’s promises. And at forty he, being relatively young, did not consign himself to a single life without thought of seed and of The Seed of the woman that was promised.
But while Abraham, the friend of God, the father of believers is still alive our attention is focused upon this man of faith and his endeavors to be sure that Isaac receives a wife that is spiritually compatible. And we see him call his most trusted servant, one that ruled over Abraham’s house and was trusted with all the earthly possessions that he had, to entrust now also the life of his son as a covenant parent. So serious is the matter that he demands an oath of him. He will not have it that this servant, to whom he had given rule over all things in his house, would take a wife of the Canaanites for Isaac. With Abraham it is a most serious matter. Today we hear so much about liberties and freedom. The present generation would throw up its hands in horror at the idea of a parent choosing a wife for his son!! Parents must keep their hands off. Children have rights too, and surely after they have become teenagers! But do not condemn Abraham. Do not accuse him of not loving his son and of ruling his son as though he were a slave. Instead, pray for the zeal and faith displayed in him, and take as much interest in your sons’ and daughters’ wives and husbands as Abraham did.
It is true that Isaac put up no opposition, and children today at very early ages put up strong opposition. Little children defy their parents today. Before they are even teenagers, sons and daughters tell their parents off and boldly and openly refuse to honour and obey them. And I am not talking about children in the world. Children in the church, young people, who hear the law of God tell them every Sunday that they must honour their father and mother, go their own way, and if the opposition gets to be greater than they can stand, they often leave home to be able to go their way without this “chain around their necks.”
But in all honesty it must be stated that parents do not show that same appreciation of the antithesis that Abraham revealed. And parents often send their children for social and carnal reasons where they will come in contact with the “beautiful, talented and handsome” of the world and become attracted to them. Instead of hiring a servant, or of instructing a servant and demanding an oath before God that these by no means take an unbelieving husband or wife for their daughter or son, they actually hire teachers and servants, and send their children away from the covenant sphere, with more interest in their earthly achievements than their antithetical walk as pilgrims and strangers here below. Parents can be far more interested in grandchildren than in covenant children. They do not manifest that sanctified joy of the Apostle John when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” John was speaking of his spiritual children. And should not a covenant parent be interested in his own flesh and blood and that these children walk in truth?
Abraham was. He wanted to see his children’s children; and that was certainly behind his act of sending his servant to get a wife for Isaac. But that does not explain the oath which he demanded of that servant and the fact that he sent him away from Canaan. It was not a command to go and get “Miss America” or “Miss Universe” for Isaac. That could have been done perhaps in Canaan. At least Abraham must not rule Canaan out, if he wants that; nor must he limit his servant to his own kinsmen and to his country. Such a wife might not even be physically compatible for this quiet unassuming son of Abraham. She might be far too vivacious and quickly discontented and bored with the life he wanted to live. No, no, Abraham wanted to see covenant children, children in whom God’s covenant promises would be fulfilled. Abraham was looking to the coming of Christ, The Seed to Whom God had given the covenant promises, and although it pleased God later; on to use a Rahab who had spent some of her early life as a harlot, and a Ruth who was of the unbelieving nations of whom God said that they should not enter into the congregation to the tenth generation, and a Bathsheba who deliberately tempted the king of Israel, Abraham very correctly seeks a wife for his son that will be an help meet for him in training the children in the fear of God’s name. Abraham knows that Isaac himself needs a wife who will help him in his walk as a pilgrim and stranger seeking the city which has foundation and looking for the promises of God to be fulfilled in them and in their children.
A young man must in the church of God have a believing wife; and a believing young woman in the church must have a husband who walks in the fear of the Lord, first of all for their own spiritual lives. Yes, the children may come, and for them there must be two parents who with their own different natures can, being spiritually one, lead the children in the way of God’s kingdom. But first, and before the children ever arrive, the husband needs for his own spiritual life one who walks with him and encourages him in his good tight of faith. And the wife in the church of God needs an husband who will strengthen her and help her in the walk of faith which must be hers. They must marry in the Lord in order that together they may live for Him and out of Him. Two lives must flow together that a stronger stream of worship and praise may result. They must be able to add to each other’s spiritual life, not take away from and detract from each other’s worship and service of the living God. Marriage, as is the case with all things, is and must be for God’s sake. And to be married in the Lord means to be married in the Consciousness of and willingness to honour him as Lord in a united life of spiritual dedication and separation from the world.
Abraham wanted to see that in Isaac. Abraham wanted that to be in Isaac. And he did not simply offer a prayer to God that He would give his son such an help that was spiritually meet for him. He did something about it. Indeed, we must make this our prayer to God for our children, and even after they are married, we are still to pray that God will be pleased to give them the grace, both of them, to be married in the Lord. It is not a matter of the moment of the ceremony with its vows. Their married life must be in the Lord. But we should do something about it as well as pray for it. We do not today pick out their husbands and wives. But we ought to give them good counsel and instruction as to what husbands and wives they choose for themselves, and as much as possible keep them from places where they will be tempted to look among the Canaanites instead of in the sphere of the Church of God.