Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday, July 9th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 7-8, Psalm 119:137-144, 2 Corinthians 3
Today's scripture focus is Genesis 24

Genesis 24 English Standard Version (ESV)

Isaac and Rebekah

24 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 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.” 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.
10 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. 11 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. 12 And he said, “O LordGod of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 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.”
15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son ofMilcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder.16 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. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink.19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 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. 21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel,[d]and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.”25 She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.”26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lordthe 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.” 28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother's household about these things.
29 Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. 30 As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister's arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” 32 So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.33 Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.”
34 So he said, “I am Abraham's servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, 38 but you shall go to my father's house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The Lordbefore whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father's house. 41 Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’
42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now youare prospering the way that I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master's son.’
45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 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. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lordthe 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. 49 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.”
50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 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.”
52 When Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before theLord. 53 And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. 54 And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.” 55 Her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” 56 But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” 57 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” 58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham's servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you become
    thousands of ten thousands,
and may your offspring possess
    the gate of those who hate him!”
61 Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way.
62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 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. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 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. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 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.
Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon:  How to Find a Godly Wife
Accompanying Ray Stedman sermon:  Here Comes the Bride

I read through both of the above sermons and it was interesting to note how differently they approached the text.

Stedman first acknowledges that the telling of the story of Rebekah and Isaac is a picture of Pentecost:
Here is Abraham standing for God the Father sending his unnamed servant into the far country to take a bride for his son -- to invite her to come, to call, to woo, and to win her -- to bring her back at last to the Father's house where the son is waiting to claim his bride for himself. How beautifully that portrays how God, at the Day of Pentecost, sent his Spirit into the world! It is the Spirit's job to call out a people for God's name, to win a bride for Christ; he has been at this task for almost 2,000 years now, and the Son is waiting to receive that bride. We read in the book of Revelation of the wedding supper of the Lamb, and of the Lord coming to claim his bride for himself, (see Revelation 19:7-9).
However, he then points out that though this is a general application of this passage, there is an important individual application as well.  Every Christian is obviously the bride in this story, called by the Spirit of God into relationship with the Father.  But, as we read this story, we realize that Rebekah is not really the central character of this story, the servant is.  We've already recognized that the servant is a picture of the Spirit's work, but we also know that God very often chooses to work through human hands.  We are the servant in this passage, and this story becomes a picture of personal evangelism.

I confess that I have never thought of this story in that light before, but after reading through Stedman's sermon, it makes perfect sense.

In our passage, Abraham sends the servant to find the bride and binds him to the task with an oath.  From an evangelistic perspective, God has asked every Christian to commit to this task.  It is not optional, it is not a suggestion.  We are commanded by the Father to find a wife for His Son.

Abraham did not allow the servant to bring Isaac along, a restriction that definitely seems to increase the difficulty of the task at hand.  Similarly, Jesus is with the Father, and we are to evangelize in His absence.  We know, however, that this actually does not make the task more difficult - the disciples were often confused in the presence of Jesus and His teachings, but their hearts and minds were illuminated when the Spirit did His work in them.  Jesus is not coming back until the appointed time, and He has put His Spirit within us to empower us in this awesome responsibility.  God has given us a command, but He also given us the resources in the Spirit by which to do it.

We then see five stages in evangelism outlined for us.

First, there is the expectation that God will work in the hearts of those we are to minister to, just like the servant expected God to assist him in his task.

Second, there is the confirmation that God will indicate who it is that we are to minister to, just like the servant expected God to point out the right girl for Isaac.  We don't need to ask for a sign or put out a fleece, but if we pray expecting God to give us an opportunity to witness for Him, we know that He will give us that opportunity if we are willing to see it.

The third stage is preparation.  When the servant recognizes that Rebekah is the one, he doesn't immediately begin to list off Isaac's wonderful qualities and immediately press her for a commitment.  Instead, he arranges a private conversation, allowing some time to make proper contact.  Neither should we bash someone over the head with their sins and demand an immediate conversion.  First, we need to do at least some preparation, some small talk or "get to know you" questions on a plane, or an invitation to dinner for a neighbour, instead of a 5 minute gospel presentation the first time you yell hello over the fence.

The fourth stage is the presentation itself. The servant is forthright and candid, laying everything out on the table.  He starts by talking about the inheritance of the son, he gives his personal testimony along the way, and ends by presenting gifts from Isaac as samples of the riches she was being offered.  Similarly, our job is not to get people to stop sinning, our job is to win them to Christ and He will take care of the rest.

Finally, there is the actual invitation. This is not an easy choice for Rebekah.  She is being asked to leave her family, her home, her country; and go to a place she has not seen with a man she has only met a few days before to marry a man she has never met.  Similarly, becoming a Christian is no easy choice.  They need to be willing to give up the sinful life they know, and put their lives under the control of the Son whom they do not know.   It is a huge decision, and one we should not sugar coat.  They need to understand exactly what they are committing to in order for the decision to be genuine and result in a permanent life change.

In the end we need to bring them to the Son.  Personal testimony is good and has it's place, but we need to point them to the Son as it is Him with whom they will be relationship.

The work of the Trinity is evident throughout this story. It begins with the command of the Father, proceeds with the cooperation of the Spirit, and ends with the communion with the Son....

But look at the servant standing by. Can't you imagine him grinning from ear to ear, registering the joy in his heart at the fulfillment of his mission in bringing a bride for Isaac.....We can expect the same brimming of joy in our own hearts as we watch someone join together with his Lord in new life.

Deffinbaugh focuses more on the marriage aspect of the story and what we should look for, or teach our children to look for:

- only considering marriage when it seems to be God's purpose for us, He does call some to be single
- only considering marriage in God's timing, and not marrying just anyone in the mistaken belief that anyone is better than no one.  It would be far better to be single, than to choose wrongly for a lifetime.
- looking for a godly mate in the right place.  We are far more likely to find a godly mate at a Christian college or a church singles group than at a bar.
- if you're wanting a godly mate you need to look for godly qualities.  Attractiveness is all well and good, but godly character is far more important to a successful marriage.
- being willing to heed the counsel of older and wiser Christians.
- being willing to put emotional feelings last.
Do you notice that love came last, not first, in this chapter? Isaac learned to love his wife in time. Love came after marriage, not before it. That leads me to a principle which many Christian counselors often stress: ROMANTIC LOVE IS NEVER THE BASIS FOR MARRIAGE—MARRIAGE IS THE BASIS FOR ROMANTIC LOVE.

Here we see a good reason for a Christian making the decision never to date an unbeliever. A Christian should carefully screen any person before he or she would even consider going out on a date with them. Dating frequently leads to emotional involvement and physical attraction. Romantic love is a wonderful emotional feeling, but it will never sustain a marriage. Do not put yourself in a situation where romantic love can grow until you are certain that you want it to grow.

It is important to choose wisely when searching for a mate.  We want to marry "the right one" and we should absolutely encourage our children to marry "the right one", and have numerous discussions about what to look for in a spouse.  After all, aside from salvation, it is the most important choice we will ever make that will impact our lives the most.  But perhaps the most important thing to realize is that once you are married, your spouse now becomes the right one, regardless of whether or not it was originally the right choice.  If we choose wisely, and both parties are godly people who are determined to make the marriage work, it will.  But if we choose unwisely, we must not despair - there is still grace, and His grace is sufficient.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 25
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Chronicles 9-10, Psalm 119:145-152, 2 Corinthians 4

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Wow, those are two VERY different approaches, and both with some excellent points.