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Genesis 24:21 - Homilies By F. Hastings

Eliezer, or a wife-seeker.

"And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his way prosperous or not." "The man" spoken of was probably the Eliezer of Damascus mentioned in Genesis 15:2 . He had been selected by Abraham to be his heir, but of course when Isaac was born he could not hold that position. He became honored and trusted as "the eldest servant of (Abraham's) house, who ruled over all that be had" ( Genesis 24:2 ). To him was committed the delicate business recorded in this chapter; and the way in which it was executed was just that which would be expected from one who had so won the confidence of Abraham as to be selected as heir. We cannot but admire the thoughtfulness of Abraham for his son. He sought to prevent Isaac from being brought under the polluting influence of the Canaanitish people in the midst of whom he dwelt. He also desired to prevent Isaac from going back to the country from which he had himself been Divinely led. Hence he sends his steward to select from among his kindred one who shall be a suitable life-companion for his son. He takes an oath of his steward that he will in no wise permit a wife to be taken from among the Canaanites, or lead Isaac to Mesopotamia again. The mission of Eliezer was indeed difficult and delicate. We must not think of it according to the customs of our land. In Oriental nations to this day it is the practice to employ a third person to negotiate a marriage between those who seem by report to be suitable for such relationship. Eliezer undertook the affair with every desire to gratify his master, and to serve well even the one who had supplanted him in heirship. We cannot too highly praise "the man" for his unselfishness, or too warmly admire the devoutness which characterized his whole conduct.

I. HE SEEKS BY PRAYER SUCCESS FROM GOD . The prayer recorded here was probably not the first offered with respect to the subject. His mission was not only delicate, but rather indefinite. He is sent to the relations of his master to choose from among them a wife for Isaac. He knows that much of the satisfaction of Abraham and welfare of Isaac will depend on his right performance of the duty. He feels the responsibility resting upon him, and makes every needful preparation for discharging it. He starts on the camels prepared, and carries with him presents suitable. After a long journey he arrives at a city in Mesopotamia where dwelt Nahor, his master's brother. It is eventide when he reaches the well outside the city. The graceful daughters of the city, with pitchers poised on their shoulders, are just coming forth to draw water for their households. The camels turn their long necks and weary eyes in the direction of the approaching maidens. They know that on their arrival the dry troughs, which only tantalized thirst, will be filled. The shade from the palms avails not now to break the fierce rays of the sun setting so rapidly in the west. Long shadows are over the landscape. Eliezer stands with the golden light about him. He feels that this may be the moment of great import. Clasping firmly his hands, and lifting fervently his face heavenward, he breathes the beautiful prayer, " O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham." It was—

1. Brief prayer, because there was not time to say much more, but it was most appropriate. He asked for what he felt he needed. He did not use prayer as a mere mystical method of pleasing God, but as the expression of a felt need. This is true prayer. God does not want fine words, long sentences, and wearying repetitions. None are heard for their much speaking. That is a heathenish notion. God is not glorified by the length of time we remain on our knees, or the number of things we can crowd into a certain time. The longest prayers are often the most unmeaning. This is true of prayers in the home and in the Church. Brief, earnest, sincere prayer is that which wings its way to heaven. When Peter was sinking in the waters his cry was brief and pointed enough: "Lord, save; I perish."

2. Eliezer did not hesitate to ask God's guidance in respect to a subject which many would have accounted as quite within the scope of their own judgment to decide. Many also would have thought it beneath the notice of God. Many would have made their way direct into the city to Nahor's house to choose for themselves. And many would have left the matter to be decided by chance; but Eliezer seeks guidance from God. Only those who are ignorant of the value of trifles, of their relative power, or who are ignorant of the fact that there are no trifles but which may become all-important circumstances, would think of such an affair as that Eliezer had in hand, as beneath God's notice. If not beneath God's notice, it may be the subject of prayer. Many who contemplate forming relationships might with the greatest advantage imitate the example of Eliezer in this case, and seek direction from God. Were this the practice there would be fewer unhappy marriages. Eliezer, in carrying out his master's wish, seeks success from God.

II. NOTICE HOW GOD OVERTAKES OUR PRAYERS . At the most opportune time the steward prays. He committed his way unto the Lord at the juncture when he felt he needed the guidance. God honors the man's trust. "It came to pass that before he had done speaking Rebekah came out." She was the very one whom God had appointed. She knew not that she was moving to fulfill the intention of God. In her acts and in her words she was doing that which was in harmony with the sign the man had asked. Courteously, on being asked for a draught from her vessel, she had offered even to draw for the camels also. In the first one addressed Eliezer had the answer to his prayer. Cf. Isaiah 60:1-22 :54: "Before ye call I will answer," &c.; and Daniel 9:23 : "At the beginning of thy supplication the commandment came forth." We lose much of the comfort of prayer because, after having put up a petition, we either forget to look for the answer, or because we have but a semi- belief in the power of prayer. If prayer be a reality to us, it is no less so in God's sight. Some put up prayers in the spirit which seems to say, "Now I will see whether God will answer that." God is not to be subject to mere testings. Christ showed that, when on earth he refused to gratify the curiosity or submit to the testings the Pharisees prepared for him. Where God is perfectly trusted the answer will, in some way or other, overtake, or even anticipate, the prayer.

III. SEE HOW THE RAPIDITY OF THE ANSWER STAGGERS BELIEF . "He, wondering at her, held his peace," waiting to know whether the "Lord had made his journey prosperous or not." God had not only answered speedily, but in the manner desired. Sometimes he sends the answer, but in away so different from that we expected, that we discern not the fact that we have an answer. But what heavenly telegraphy is here! No sooner the petition sent than the answer is given. The very correspondence between the sign desired and its rapid fulfillment only sets Eliezer speculating as to whether it may not have been simply a very remarkable coincidence rather than a Divine response. Meanwhile he acts as though he believed. He offers to Rebekah the gifts which indicated already his business. He offers such as shall become the character of his master, who was princely in his possessions as well as position. He offers and waifs. The man "held his peace." He knows that if God has answered in part be will also answer fully. God's dealings should always induce awe and patient waiting. He will often surprise us with the blessings of goodness. In our lives we have probably known like surprisingly-rapid answers to prayer. We have even disbelieved in the answer. What if God had withdrawn the help or blessing given because received in such unbelief! There are times when we, like Eliezer, and like the Israelites on the shores of the Red Sea, have to be still and know that the Lord is God. Then God's action staggers belief.

IV. SEE HOW GRACIOUSLY GOD CONFIRMS HIS SERVANT 'S WONDERING HOPE . Eliezer inquires of the maiden whether there is room in her father's house for him to lodge. After the manner of the Orientals, she readily replies, " We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in." He follows Rebekah. Laban acts as host in place of his father Bethuel. He welcomes Eliezer heartily. "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord," &c.; Eliezer enters and attends to the Wants of his men and camels, but will not attend to his own until he has unburdened his mind. He tells of his errand, of the meeting with Rebekah at the well, of his praying, of the speedy answer, and of the sign fulfilled. Laban and Bethuel are surprised, and see in it God's hand. They say, "The thing proceedeth from the Lord; we cannot speak unto thee good or ill." Then the man "bowed his head and worshipped." Rebekah consented to accompany him and become the wife of Isaac, his master's son. Everything fell out better than the steward could have expected; he could only see in it God's hand, God's mercy in guiding him and in confirming his hope.

1. God is as willing to answer us as to answer Eliezer of Damascus.

2. Prayer can overcome difficulties that seem insurmountable. When the cup of sorrow is not removed the strength is given to bear it, and so prayer is answered. If the way we expected does not open up in answer to our supplication, another and better is sure to be made plain. Prayer also "makes the darkened cloud withdraw."

3. When in the other world we look at our past life, we shall all see that God had answered all prayers that it would have been for our good to have answered, and that in others the withholdment has been kindliest response. There we shall "bow our heads and worship." him who made our earthly journey prosperous, and who had brought us to the "city which hath foundations." Whatever, then, our anxiety, trial, perplexity, let us lay all before God. If we are earnestly trying for the salvation of members of our own family, or for the advancement of God's kingdom, let us by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God, and he will send us an answer of peace, even as he did to Eliezer.— H .

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