The heart-stopping quest for Mrs Right

This week Rosi and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary >>>

When we started out in the ministry we ran marriage preparation programmes. There were enough couples looking to get married in our church for us to do it in groups. In each group there would be 3 or 4 engaged couples, Rosi and me and an ‘older couple’

They had been married nearly 30 years and I remember thinking what an impossibly long time that was – but they were still in love! It was a joy to work with them!

Now that’s us. And if the early days of finding a life’s partner seems a long time ago – it is!

Our own experience of finding our life’s partner is nearly 4 decades old. (On seeing the title, Rosi “If you got it wrong, it’s bit late!”)

Our passage is not just under 4 decades into history, it’s just under 4 millennia! Nevertheless,

Some things that haven’t changed

Film directors know that if you want to sell a film it usually needs to have a romantic element – and Genesis 24 is a romance.

  • It’s also packed with drama, suspense, and surprise.
  • It’s the longest chapter in Genesis – more space devoted to the findings of Isaac’s wife than to the whole of creation!

Human nature hasn’t changed

Our desire for stable, happy homes has never altered.

God’s will hasn’t changed

His will is still seen in families who put him first and reap the rewards of faithfully following him.

The needs of society which can be strong and stable only where the marriage bond is respected and cherished.

There are some things that have changed

Changed dramatically over the passage of time.

We tend to begin the process of finding a husband or wife with contact, which leads on to dating, which leads to courtship, engagement and marriage.

  • and for about 40% of marriages now, it starts on a dating site on the internet.

In Genesis 24, it was an eastern marriage / arranged marriage – and that arranging process was delegated to one of Abraham’s servants! No pressure, then!

  • (I’m glad I wasn’t him)

IN their society, parents guided the matchmaking process – and that’s a custom that has helped to stabilise whole civilisations

  • but by this time, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had just died

They lived in a society without rapid communication, without photographs, without so many of the things we take from granted

Abraham and his entourage were nomads living among a foreign people. The distance from where they were living now to Abraham’s homeland is about 500 miles. So this round trip is going to take several months.

  • but you don’t have to look very far before we discover principles emerging that are of great value to us.

Genesis 24 is about finding a life’s partner. It’s going to be a live issue to only a tiny handful of us here today – But it’s a relevant issue to all of us. Because here, embedded in this passage, are spiritual principles about relationships and God’s guidance that go far beyond the confines of a marriage – and that stand in sharp contrast to some of the assumptions our society expects us to follow.

Abraham was a remarkable man

  • he was determined that his heart would be set after the same things as God’s heart
  • that’s how to find God’s best in life!
  • Abraham had received a promise – numerous descendants ->>>

Several times the promise had almost run aground

  • In chapter 21, Abimelech took Sarah to be his wife and, had God not intervened, Abraham would not have had her back.
  • In the next scene (chapter 21) Sarah thought God couldn’t give her a son because she was too old, but God intervened and Isaac was born
  • IN chapter 22 Isaac is almost sacrificed by Abraham, but God intervened and provided a sacrifice for them
  • Here is chapter 24 Abraham knew that for God’s purposes to come into being Isaac must marry the right person. IN fact Isaac would have remained a single man had God not intervened

So all the way through this part of Abraham’s life, God is making sure his promise is being fulfilled.

As we read it through – in the light of the whole Bible – you find several spiritual principles emerging that apply to every culture, every century, every country.

Isn’t there urgent need for healthy ethics of marriage today?

  • marriage is under attack from variety of sources – especially the mass media with its focus on the sensational.
  • Extreme attitudes that are, by their nature exceptional are presented to us with such regularity that subtly we begin to believe that what we see in films and read about in the newspapers are the norms not the exceptions. “If everyone else behaves like this then it must be OK?”
  • (a fortnight ago I was preaching about pornography and this is one of its effects. It makes people who use it (and not just young people) think that what they see on the screen is the norm for life (and for marriage) – but it isn’t

Where the marriage bond is diluted, the home – which once was the cornerstone of society – is now the broken stone of society.

  • breakdown in family life

Christians! – pray for our land! – homes! – marriages!

Character of God

Can I say a couple of things about the dangers of preaching on this subject (and marriage in general)

I’m acutely aware that half or less of us are in a married relationship.

  • Some of us are single and wish we were married (some of us are married and wish we were single!)
  • some of us longed to find a life’s partner, but it never happened – for whatever reason (and we wrestle with God because of it).
  • some of us are single by choice and feel it’s a precious gift from God.
  • some of us are single because we’re separated, divorced or widowed. In fact every one of us who is married today may one day become single again >>>

The Christian church has always been at risk of saying – or at least implying – that to be happily married is a more acceptable way of life than to be something else – whatever the something happens to be.

I want you to know that if you’re not married, you’re just as much part of the church, in Christ, in the family of God as anyone else.

Chapter opens with Abraham giving specific instructions to his chief servant about how he is to find a wife for Isaac

  • so important that he has to swear an oath that he understood them and would carry them out.

his nature is to provide

  • in previous chapter, As Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac: ‘Jehovah Jireh’ – God will provide
  • same attitude underlay what Abraham did here >>>

When buying a car we reject 99% of the cars on the market because they simply aren’t right for our purposes

  • too expensive!
  • too many seats
  • too few seats for my family
  • left hand drive etc

Abraham illustrates his limited selection in v3

3 I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living,
4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

This instruction was based on Abraham’s conviction that the Lord had promised him descendants.

I think the main point to be learned about these two things is this: we can know God’s will and maintain trust in his help, if we are familiar with the trajectories of his Word.

  • The trajectory of a rocket is the path it will follow on the basis of its shape and speed and weight and direction. You can know ahead of time where it’s going if you understand its trajectory. That’s the way it is with God’s Word. The Bible does not give us a detailed description of God’s will for our lives. But if we listen carefully and study its shape, and speed, and weight, and direction, we will see trajectories that give guidance and strengthen faith. Let’s see how this worked for Abraham.

Abraham had a keen awareness of God’s promise

  • to marry an outsider would jeopardise the whole of God’s plan.
  • He knew that his son needed to find a woman of integrity, someone capable of understanding the significance of the covenant God had made with their family.

Principle found elsewhere in the Bible too

2Corinthians 6

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

This principle has a much wider application than marriage – but it includes marriage

  • it’s not there just to be difficult – it’s there for our good
  • when someone who does not follow Christ marries someone who doesn’t tension inevitable follows – because you’re heading in two different directions.

Abraham did not say “check to see if there’s a Canaanite woman who will follow our faith”

  • Abraham is effectively saying “if you can’t find a believer – better not find anyone!”

Our part

So what did the servant do to find God’s will?

He gave time to prayer

Servant got ready – ten camels and helpers

  • sets off for the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia
  • Burning question in his mind “how am I going to find this special woman”
  • arrives on outskirts of the city
11 He made the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; …
12 Then he prayed, (clearly the camels were expected to join in the prayer meeting!) “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.

Make your life’s partner (or any partnership for that matter) a matter for earnest prayer! >>>

He didn’t fall into the trap of compartmentalising life into the sacred and the secular

  • sacred – the Bible the church
  • secular – work home love sex etc

Everything was that Lord’s territory – to be ladi before him in prayer.

Missionary in Cairo wrote a prayer in his diary when he realised that he was falling in love

“Lord, may I come near to her, but draw me nearer to you than to her
Lord, may I know her, but make me know you more than I know her
Lord, may I love her with the perfect love of a perfectly whole heart, but cause me to love You more than her. Amen”

He looked out for divine guidance

The whole incident shows us a lot about how God guides.

Abraham knew it could happen

7 “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land … he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.

The servant wanted to be sure this was God’s guiding

14 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.”

He expected confirmation

Throughout Genesis 24 God graciously confirmed each step

was this the right woman?

  • simple test – When I ask for a drink, if she gives me one and my camels – then this is the girl.
20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels.

no small task! – 10 camels – 5 gals / camel

  • here is willing and industrious girl! This confirmed that she was the right one.

So the servant had his confirmation

  • so v26 he worshipped!

He worshipped when he saw God at work

When it all happened the servant could hardly believe it!

48 and I bowed down and worshipped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son.

There is always a fine balance between God’s sovereignty and my responsibility

Might appear out of place to say this about a society where arranged marriage was practised

  • but Rebekah had to make a big decision
  • whether to go or not!

… and finally

67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

He married her in the very tent where his mother had died not long before