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Abraham, My Friend The Making of a Praying Man_59 a bride for the son So we arrive at Genesis 24. It is a long chapter, more than twice the length of most others we have read together. If we were justified in asking why the Bible gave a whole chapter to a burial perhaps we should ask the same question about a wedding? If you are ever able to acquire a long ‘out of print’ book by Brownlow North; “Wilt thou go with this man?” I would heartily recommend it. It is a sermon written on the basis of this chapter, and very moving. Let’s remind ourselves of the chief characters in our story. Abraham means ‘the father of a multitude’ and in the later part of his life he begins, quite naturally, to reveal the character of God’s father-heart. The earlier chapter show the steps of his faith; the later chapters do the same but we see in Abraham thrilling pictures of God’s character and plan. Isaac, is the Father’s Laughter (His Joy) who has passed through sacrificial death at the father’s hand, and is now reunited with the father. Sarah’s lifeless body has been hidden from sight. The old has passed away, all things are becoming new. There is another character in this story who will become the main focus of our thoughts; it is Abraham’s ‘eldest steward’. It is likely that this is the same Eliezer of Damascus referred to in Genesis 15:2, but it is the servant’s role more than his specific identity which is our focus here. Perhaps there is a deeper significance in that the ‘servant’ remains anonymous. Then we shall meet too, the distant family of Abraham, and a particular young woman; Rebekah, whose name means either ‘captive’ or ‘captivating’; the words seem to come from ‘the loops of a cord’. We shall find that both derivations will suit our purpose. The Father pronounces His decree. A bride must be sought for the Son who has passed through death and is alive. The nameless agent of the Father and the Son must travel into distant parts on His commission; a Bride for the Son. In the cultural pattern of the day the Bride Seeker swears a solemn oath to the Father. The Son must abide by his Father’s side, and wait the endeavours of the Bride-Seeker. Again the imagery is breath-taking. Sent from the side of the Father and the Son, the divine executive, the anonymous Holy Spirit begins His journey to seek and to find, to woo and to win, a Bride for the Son. In that last sentence our story is told; all we need to do is to fill in the details. As Abraham receives the servant’s oath an unmentioned part of the story surfaces; The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence. (Gen 24:7 KJV) At some time in Abraham’s walk with God their had been a conversation about Isaac’s bride. I wonder when this could have been? Abraham was crystal clear that Jehovah who had triggered Abraham’s pilgrimage and also spoken that Isaac’s bride must not be from the land in which Abraham was a sojourner. Abraham’s understanding of this may be seen from his next words to his servant; And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again. (Gen 24:8 KJV) This is a remarkable statement when we consider the culture of the day in which every woman was ‘owned’ by someone; her father, her husband. The ‘woman’ had no say in her choice of Bridegroom; the woman just did as she was told. Others made all her significant decisions for her. Later on her promises and vows would only have validity if they were endorsed by the ‘man’ in her life. And yet here in the midst of that male dominated culture the Father insists that the Son’s partner must be consulted as to her ‘willingness’. If we follow the logic of Abraham’s statement we discover that the ‘woman’ has the final say in this matter. Theoretically, at least, this woman could frustrate the plans of the Father, Son and Holy Messenger. It will not be difficult to see where I stand on the Arminian/Calvinist divide in this; the most terrifying power that God ever placed into the hands of man, was the power to say ‘no’ to God. Irrespective of the father’s decree, and the son’s passage through sacrificial death to resurrection, and the Sent One’s most earnest entreaties, finally ‘the woman’ must make her choice. Of course she could never have chosen unless she had been given the opportunity. The ‘invitation’ originates with the Father and the Son, and is carried personally by the Sent One, but finally ‘the woman’ will choose. Let’s pause over another word; “if the woman will not be willing to follow thee”. (Gen 24:8) This woman in the far country cannot make her own way to Isaac’s side, she must be conducted step by step by the Sent One. She cannot come unless the Sent One brings her, but the Sent One will not overrule her choice. She will not come because she has made her choice but because the Sent One will conduct here safely to her Bridegroom’s side. What a beautiful balance we find here in this account. The Spirit will not coerce; but ‘the woman’ must consent. The ‘woman’ cannot make the journey, unless she is willing to ‘follow thee’. Oh that we would allow God to do His own work! She will not arrive at Isaac’s side because she has agreed to 4 spiritual laws, or because she has made a commitment, but because she allows the Sent One to bring her. One thing is certain; Isaac must continue to ‘rest’ where he is. He has passed through death into resurrection life and abides at his father’s right hand; there is nothing more that the son can add to this process. The work now is in the hands of the Sent One. The Sent One swears his oath and begins his journey. How can we express the relationship between the persons of the Godhead? It says, of God, “for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. “ (Psa 138:2b KJV) The Son has been given a name that is above every name. When the Son speaks however he says; “My Father is greater than I”. He says that it is in expedient that He go so that the Spirit can come, but when the Spirit arrives He only exalts the Son. There is no pride in the Godhead but mutual honour in three persons. Twice in these few verses it tells us that the Sent One has all the Father’s wealth at His disposal (Gen 24:2, 9) but when He speaks He says “And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.” (Gen 24:36 KJV) There are really quite remarkable links here; “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (Joh 16:14-15 KJV) The Sent One begins His journey, and subsequently we shall discover what he has in his baggage. If this is Eliezer of Damascus we can't help but observe the absolute lack of self interest too. If Isaac had not been born all Abraham’s riches would have been his. (Gen 15:3) Now he is taking the riches that might have been his as a betrothal gift for a son’s bride. As the crow flies, the distance between Beersheba and Haran is approximately 450 miles, but the Sent One was going by camel not by crow. This is a journey of several weeks through dangerous terrain, and perhaps months for the round journey. Meanwhile the Son waits by His Father’s side. He arrived just at the time of sunset and the day’s final visit to the local well. He prays for God’s superintendence of events, and waits; “Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:” (Gen 24:13 KJV) His prayer is that God will make ‘His choice’ clear by causing ‘the woman’ to behave in a particular way. The story is well known and well loved. He is looking for features which attract the eye, but a certain behaviour; “And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.” (Gen 24:14 KJV) He is looking for the woman whom God has appointed. There is mystery here; even the woman whom God had appointed would later have to give her consent to God’s plan. The Sent One’s sign was to be a woman whose generous spirit would offer water for him and his 10 camels. The dromedary has been known to drink 27 gallons of water in ten minutes! Potentially, he is looking for a woman who will offer to draw almost 300 gallons of water for a complete stranger. What induced this woman to offer to behave in this way “And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.” (Gen 24:19 KJV) “Until they have done drinking?”It is interesting how many strategic meetings in the Bible take place at wells. In the UK the place of general meeting was the village pump. I imagine the scene here. How many young women I wonder would have come to that place? But God’s appoint-ed had an appoint-ment although she was quite unaware of it. This first consciousness of meetings God’s messenger is something that she must have thought back over through the years. I would have loved to hear her testimony… of course I would have been there earlier but the goats had broken into the vegetable store… And through all the mundane and totally unimportant ingredients of the day, it just so happened, that she arrived there before the servant got to the ‘amen’ in his prayer. Synchronicity the hallmark of God at work. So we see the wonderful sovereignty of God at work, making all things work together; synergising. Looking back Rebekah would have seen a thousand significances; so do we. “I don’t usually come home down that road… we don’t usually… but God.” And what was it in the sound of this man’s voice which caught her attention. After all he was just a man like any other wasn’t he? Wasn’t he? I can’t read this passage without another coming to mind. All the details are different; a different well, in a different country at a different time of the day, but just enough in common to make us pause in our journey to wonder a while… “And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.” (Joh 4:4-7 KJV) How different these characters are: Rebekah the beautiful virgin daughter of Bethuel and the multi-used, multi-abused, nameless hussy of Samaria. Both going about their ordinary business oblivious to the approaching ‘appointment’. Don’t fear little Samaritan outcast, the One Sent from the Father and the Son has drawn near. Though all his expert followers ostracise you and your secret shames haunt you, it was necessary for Him to choose this route to meet you. This is no accident; it’s not too late and its not too soon, it’s His appointment. If you will hear His voice, and will ‘follow’ Him you may yet discover a truth beyond your wildest dreams; the Father has plan for you, and if you will ‘follow’ the One who speaks to you, you too may become part of His Son’s virgin Bride.

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