God has a Purpose

Abraham knew that God had a special purpose for his son Isaac. He had been miraculously born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. The Lord had said that his covenant promises would be fulfilled through Isaac. When the Lord had tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice Isaac, he was pleased with Abraham’s obedient response and he kept him from following through with the sacrifice. Isaac was spared when the Lord provided a male sheep as a substitutionary offering. Even though Abraham had other children, Isaac was considered to be the “only” son, the beloved son, the son of promise.

It is not surprising, then, that when the time came for Isaac to marry, the aged patriarch Abraham wanted to do all he could to insure that a suitable bride could be found for his son. Isaac’s bride would be the mother of Abraham’s descendants who would occupy the promised land. In one of the most beautiful stories in the Old Testament, Abraham assigned to his personal servant the task of locating a bride for Isaac and bringing her to him (Genesis 24:1-67).

This story has important lessons for us about God’s purpose, and his providential care in accomplishing his purpose. That is why I want to explore it here in a few installments, beginning today.

Genesis 24 opens with the statement that “Abraham was now very old and the Lord had blessed him in every way.” This makes me think of all the ways the Lord has blessed me throughout my life. How about you? Let’s remember to thank him regularly for his protection, provision, for his guidance and care.

God had blessed Abraham with a beautiful wife, Sarah, with great wealth, with a beloved son, Isaac, and with a reputation among his neighbors as a “mighty prince.”

Abraham summoned his chief servant, the one who was in charge of his household. The servant was given the commission to find a bride for Isaac, Abraham’s heir. Derek Kidner points out that he is an attractive person because of “his quiet good sense, his piety and faith, his devotion to his employer, and his firmness in seeing the matter through.”

As he instructed his servant, Abraham asked him to swear in the name of God that he would fulfill the charge. What he said gives us an idea of his view of God (Genesis 24:3). He is the Lord, Yahweh, the God of the covenant, who keeps his promises. The Lord is the God of heaven. He is the ruler of the glorious invisible realm of heaven, reigning in power over the universe.

He is also the God of earth, who takes an interest in the concerns of all his people, guiding and providing. He spoke words of assurance and faith to his servant. “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and out of my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ — he will send his angel before you” (Genesis 24:7).

Here are a few thoughts in response to this. God has a purpose for our lives and he wants us to cooperate with his purpose. The New Testament gives us plenty of guidance about God’s purpose, what he wants us to know about him and how he wants us to live for him.

Our lives have significance and value. We matter to God. As we shall learn from this important story, God is willing to  hear our prayers and arrange circumstances so that our lives may accomplish his purpose. Abraham trusted the promise of God for his son Isaac. We may trust him too.

God is both the sovereign ruler of heaven, and the Lord of earth. He is both transcendent and immanent, distant and near. Worship and obedience are the correct responses to such a God.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Prayer and Providence

The twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis is the beautiful story of Abraham sending his servant to his homeland to find a bride for his son Isaac. It is full of fascinating cultural allusions, unique to the ancient near east, such features as a solemn vow, a caravan of camels, a town well, gifts of gold and a beautiful maiden.

The story is rich in spiritual symbolism. For a long time preachers have noticed the similarity of the events described here with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, whom God the Father sends forth to find a bride (the church) for his Son.

There are also practical lessons for Christian young people about the sanctity of marriage. It is a holy institution, important to God. There is much here to inform our understanding about preparation for marriage. But I am not writing today about marriage, or the church, or ancient history. I want to focus on the theme of Divine Providence and the believer’s dependence on the guidance of God.

I encourage you to pause now and read Genesis 24 in its entirety. Read it slowly and prayerfully because “everything that was written in the past (the Old Testament) was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15;4).

Abraham had prospered in his new land but he did not want his son to take a bride from the among the Canaanites. They did not worship the living “God of heaven and earth” (v.3). So he appointed his trusted servant to go to the Aramean town of Nahor where Abraham’s relatives lived. When the servant arrived, with his caravan of ten camels, he stopped at the town well.

He boldly prayed for a sign from God. There were several young women from the town coming to draw water from the well. How was he to know which of them might be the one God had singled out for Isaac? If you read the passage you know the answer. He prayed that when he asked a maiden for a drink of water, she would volunteer to water his camels also! That would be the sign that she was the one God had chosen.

Throughout the journey, the servant had been praying (v.12). He had surely embraced the faith of Abraham who had promised that God’s angel would guide him on his journey (v.7). May we pray for success and guidance from God? Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Before he finished praying (v.45), Rebekah appeared. Her actions and responses matched exactly his requests for a sign. He told her his story and the purpose of his journey. He gave her gifts of gold and asked for hospitality at her father’s home, the very family home he was seeking. This is Providence, not coincidence. There he received elaborate eastern hospitality.

The servant would not join the feast until he had explained everything to Rebekah’s family. He quoted Abraham’s promise to him: “The Lord, before whom I have walked . . . will make your journey a success” (v.40). He told how God had led him “on the right road” (v.48), to the right family, at exactly the right time. Rebekah’s father and brother could not deny that “this is from the Lord” and “the Lord has directed” (vv. 50-51). Abraham’s servant bowed prostrate before the Lord in worship, grateful for answered prayer.

After receiving more gifts from the servant, the family asked Rebekah if she was willing to go and marry Isaac. “I will go,” she said (v. 58). She evidently recognized the leading of God in this matter, as her family had done. Here is one more attractive characteristic of the young woman. In addition to her courtesy and energetic work for the stranger, she gave evidence of faith in God. If God was in this, she was prepared to agree with his will. It has been said that this response to God’s leading puts her directly in the line of Abraham, the father of the faithful.

This story speaks to me about trusting God for daily guidance. I need to “commit to the Lord whatever I do” and trust him for the right outcomes. It speaks to me about prayer. I may pray silently (v. 45) and privately, or in the presence of others (v.52). But for sure, my days should be punctuated by prayer, just as each step of the servant’s journey was saturated in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer brings our plans in line with God’s Providence.

Pastor Randy Faulkner