The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Men are what their mothers made them.” A Jewish Proverb states, “God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” Oliver Wendell Holmes also wrote, “Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” The history of the world is told through great books, great wars, and great leaders, but it could be told through the labor and love of mothers. The impact of mothers cannot be overestimated. As the impact of a mother is staggering in the world, the loss of a mother is just as powerful. The loss of a mother is devastating and the effects ripple throughout someone’s life.
Abraham just buried his wife Sarah and Isaac was left without his mother. There was now no mother in Israel. Sarah’s tent was empty. Sarah had the secret hope for her child, Isaac, that he was the promised seed that through him would come the blessing of all the families of the earth. Abraham was well advanced in years and Isaac was still without a wife. The promise could not continue without a mother. Isaac needed a wife and Israel needed a mother. Abraham has already learned that God will provide when he was on the mountain with Isaac. The question is not if God will provide, but how?
I pray that as you see God’s hand you will grow in your trust of the Lord and providential care for his people.
The Lord Goes Before
The narrator sets up the problem at the outset of this chapter. Genesis 24:1, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.” Abraham was old and he was wealthy and he was blessed with an heir Isaac. Although he had a son, he was yet without the blessing of grandchildren. Grandchildren were essential if his family would grow into a great nation. As Genesis unfolds, we have to keep Genesis 12:1-3 at the forefront of our minds. Genesis 12:1-3 is the great promise of God and the rests of the Bible is the unfolding of how God is going to fulfill that promise. After God has given Abraham his miracle Son of Laughter in his old age and then provided a lamb in the thicket, Abraham trusts that God will go before and appoint and/or preordain circumstances to meet the needs to fulfill the promise first uttered in Genesis 12. Genesis 24:2-4,
And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Abraham makes his servant take an oath that he will not take a daughter from the Canaanites, but go back to his kindred.
If you read the narrative of Abraham in one sitting, you would anticipate this request. After God provided the lamb for the sacrifice in Genesis 22:20-24,
Now after these things it was told to Abraham, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” (Bethuel fathered Rebekah.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother. Moreover, his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.”
If you are just focusing on Chapter 22 this ending seems out of place. What do Abraham’s relatives have to do with the sacrifice of Isaac? The narrative turns to the death of Sarah in the next chapter leaving Israel without a mother and leaving Sarah’s tent empty.
The goal of the narrative never breaks from the overarching promise of how God is going to fulfill his promise. The overarching narrative is key for us to interpret the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. How is God going to make Abraham a father of many nations to bless all the families of the earth; a nation as innumerable as the stars in the heaven and the sand on the seashore? If you are not regularly asking that question as you read the Bible, you are going to get lost in the interpretation. It is vital to approach the Bible as one story and approach each section a part in that one story.
For example, if we are focusing on that one story of God making Abraham a great nation and giving his descendants a land, we will see why it is so important to Abraham that Isaac take a wife from his kindred and not from the Canaanites. “The descendants of Canaan live under a curse while the descendants of Shem (and of Abraham) live under God’s blessing.” God promised to give the land of the Canaanites to Abraham and his offspring and remove the land from the Canaanites. Genesis 15:15-16, “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites (Canaanites) is not yet complete.” As one scholar notes, “If Isaac is to inherit the land, he must not marry among those who are destined to disinherit the land.” The story of Isaac finding a wife from his kindred only makes sense if place it in the context of overarching narrative.
The servant responds to Abraham with a potential problem he sees in the plan. The servant is going to travel 400 miles and a month’s journey to meet a stranger and invite her to travel 400 miles away from family to marry a man she has never met. “Um…Abraham…what if she doesn’t want to go?”
The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter. (Genesis 24:5-9)
Abraham replies, “God’s got this.” The Lord, the God of heaven, will go before to give success to the journey. Two important things to note: First, Abraham trusts in the covenant that God has made to him. Every time you see LORD (all caps) in the Bible is a reference to God being the covenant making and keeping God of Israel. Abraham trusts in God’s promise to him and his offspring. Secondly, he notes God is the creator of the earth. The Creator has both the power and sovereign control to orchestrate his world. God will do whatever He wills and there is nothing that can stop Him. (c.f. Romans 9:19-26)
We may bristle and/or debate the idea of God’s orchestration and sovereign control of the world, but the Scripture does not leave it to debate. The Bible rejoices and celebrates God’s ultimate control. When we bristle at the idea that God is in complete control of this world, it reveals that we do not fully understand our role as creatures in God’s world. We are creatures and God is the Creator. Do you trust God’s sovereign control of your life?
During the first battle of Bull Run, General Tom “Stonewall” Jackson earned his nickname for as the bullets and shells were flying around him, Jackson stayed on his house, calm and peaceful as if nothing was going on. General Bernard Bee saw Jackson and told his men, “There stands Jackson like a Stonewall. Men, let’s determine to die here with him.” Jackson had an unwavering trust in the sovereignty of God. Someone asked Jackson how he could remain calm in face of war, he answered, “My religious belief teaches me that I’m just as safe on the battlefield as I am in my bed. The Lord has already appointed the day of my death so I need not worry about that. I live my life and prepare myself so I will always be ready to meet my Lord, when death does overtake me.” Abraham, like Stonewall Jackson, trusted in God’s sovereignty. Will you?
The Lord Gives the Bride
The narrative continues as the servant heads towards his master’s homeland. He travels 400 miles and arrives at a well and prays to LORD to show steadfast faithfulness to fulfill his promise,
Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Genesis 24:10-14)
The servant prays for a sign to confirm God’s will for he wants to know the one God has appointed for Isaac. God is in charge of these events.
The test would show two things. First, it would show that the woman would be kind to strangers by offering them a drink. Second, it would show her persistence and work ethic for providing water for the 10 camels would have been difficult task. As one scholar notes, “A camel that has gone a few days without water usually can drink as much as 25 gallons. Ancient jars used for drawing water usually held no more than three gallons, in other words, this offer involves perhaps 80-100 drawings from the well.” The servant wanted to affirm God’s will rather than test his will. He wanted to see who God appointed. And of course, as promised, God gives a bride, Genesis, 24:15, “Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder.” This is no random meeting, but the orchestration of the God of heaven.
The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not. When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother's household about these things. (Genesis 24:16-28)
The servant gives all the credit to the LORD (all caps). The covenant-making God of Israel continues to show he is the covenant-keeping God of Israel. The LORD has appointed a bride.
The church should not be surprised that God has appointed a bride for Isaac for we know that God continues to appoint a Bride. The church is the bride of Christ and God is the one who appoints or elects or chooses people to be part of the Bride. God’s sovereign and appointing hand is woven throughout the New Testament, but let me draw attention to a few verses to explicitly show God electing love.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)
And when the Gentiles heard this (the gospel), they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
There is no controversy here. God is in complete sovereign control. He appointed a bride for Isaac and he appoints a Bride for the Messiah. The LORD shows steadfast love and faithfulness to his people, because of his promise which is why when the Bible speaks of God’s sovereign control it elicits praise to God, not controversy.
We were dead in our trespasses and sins and were made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:3-4). We were alienated and hostile in mind and we were reconciled through the body of Jesus on the cross. We were slaves to sin and were made slaves to righteousness. God would have been right to leave us in our sin, but he appointed his Son to redeem us from our sin and to bring us into his family. Galatians 4:3-5,
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:3-5)
The reason the doctrine of election elicits praise is because we know what we deserve. We know where we would be without God. We deserve hell, but God sent Jesus to experience hell for us on the cross. After bearing the wrath of God, Jesus was raised from the dead ascended to heaven to the right hand of God receiving the name that is above all names. He sent his Holy Spirit from heaven to call us to God so that we would be called the Bride of Christ. We were appointed by grace to believe. We did not earn it, but we received it. God appoints His Bride.
Non-Christian, God invites you to be part of his family. He invites you to be united or wedded with Christ. God invites all sinners to repent or turn from their sins and trust in Jesus death and resurrection for your salvation. Jesus is the perfect bridegroom who laid down his life for His bride. He pursues us with his love. The Christian life is an intimate relationship with God so much it is pictured as a Husband and Wife. Do not resist his call, turn from your sin and trust in his death on your behalf. He is the Redeemer and the Bridgegroom.
Rebekah ran home and told her family. The servant recounts Abraham’s story to Rebekah’s father, Bethuel and he brother Laban (who we will see later) of God’s covenant faithfulness. After retelling the story of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, the servant turns to the family and asks, will you do likewise? Genesis 24:47-49,
Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”
Will they see God’s hand? Will the accept or reject it?
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has spoken.” When Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the LORD. (Genesis 24:50-52)
It is clear to all involved that God appointed a bride for Isaac. After the family accepts God’s will, will the bride?
The Lord Guides the Bride
God has prospered the journey of the servant, but Rebekah still has not chosen to leave. Rebekah’s brother and mother ask for her to remain for 10 days before the journey, but the servant is adamant that they must not delay. “And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” Remember how difficult this decision would have been. She was being asked to leave her entire family and home and her life to go with a stranger. Will she leave it all for the promise of God? Will we? We know the end of the story, but in that moment, Rebekah is faced with the question, “Will you leave all for the LORD?” It’s a question that Rebekah had to answer, but it’s a question we all have to answer. Will you leave all for the LORD?
Rebekah responds, “I will go.” Rebekah trusted God’s promise as she left they blessed her saying, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” (Genesis 24:60) Rebekah was leaving all for the promise of God to become the mother in Israel.
God guided Rebekah. He enabled her to trust Him. God will always guide his people. Genesis 24:62-67,
Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
There was now a mother in Israel to continue the promised seed of the woman. Rebekah came into the tent of Sarah to continue the line of mothers who would bear offspring all the way to a young Jewish teenager, Mary. When God told her she was going to bear the promised seed, Mary, like Rebekah, before her, said, “I am your servant. (I will go) …let it be according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).
God used a long line of obedient mothers to bring forth the one and only Son of God who would save his people from their sins. And God will continue to use mothers to shape men and women to trust in the providential care of God. God has always guided his Bride and will always guide his Bride. Sarah’s hope for Isaac far exceeded her wildest imagination as Mary’s hope for her Son, Jesus, far exceeded the things she treasured and pondered in her heart. The world was saved through the seed of a woman. Let us always be reminded of the precious gift of mothers and the precious gift of life that comes through them. Mothers are an ever-present reminded not only of the gift of life we possess, but the gift of eternal life we can possess by trusting in the One born of woman and born of God. As God has provided a mother for us so also God has always provided a mother in Israel to bring forth the Son. Beloved, let the gift of mothers provide you a window to see the hand of God’s providential appointing gracious love.
 Greidanus, Sydney. 237.
 Hamilton, Genesis 18-50, 140.
 Walton, Genesis 530.