My Life Group lesson for Nov. 29, 2015, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...
Who here wouldn't be able to find a location if not for your smartphone's maps or your GPS?
Are you the one who follows their GPS no matter what, and ends up in a lake or 900 miles out of your way before you realize what happened?
Back before we had smartphones or GPS, when you were lost you either drove around or asked for help. Sometimes the help was great. Sometimes you had to figure out when to turn at the old farm, past the lake that may or may not have dried up, and the tree that wasn't there anymore.
Your confidence in the directions depended on your confidence in the person giving those directions.
God gave Abraham directions about his future and the future of his family. But there were still details left to work through—such as finding a wife for Isaac. Abraham and the servant he entrusted to find Isaac’s wife turned to God for directions. They had followed God’s directions in the past, and now they sought His guidance for the future. We can trust God to lead us down the right paths.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** This is our final lesson in Genesis this fall and our last look at Abraham, whom we've been learning about for several weeks.
*** We've followed Abraham as God established a covenant with him, promising that he would birth countless descendants. Abraham remarried after Sarah’s death. His second wife was named Keturah, and she gave birth to six sons. However, these children were not granted a portion of Abraham’s inheritance. Like his first son, Ishmael, they were sent away before Abraham’s death. Isaac would remain the sole heir (25:1-6).
*** In chapter 24, Isaac is now about 40 years old and in need of a wife who can birth him some kids to fulfill God's promise.
THE ASSIGNMENT (Gen. 24:1-9)
1 Abraham was now old, getting on in years, and the Lord had blessed him in everything. 2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his household who managed all he owned, “Place your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will have you swear by the Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, 4 but will go to my land and my family to take a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I have your son go back to the land you came from?” 6 Abraham answered him, “Make sure that you don’t take my son back there. 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your offspring’—He will send His angel before you, and you can take a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are free from this oath to me, but don’t let my son go back there.” 9 So the servant placed his hand under his master Abraham’s thigh and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
*** Your mission, should you choose to accept it.
--- Abraham's incredibly blessed and taken care of, so now he’s starting to wonder about Isaac, who hasn't married and hasn't had an heir. If God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled, Isaac needs to get with the program.
--- But Abraham's dead set on making sure Isaac doesn't marry a local girl in Canaan, who were all a bunch of pagan hussies. And he didn’t want Isaac traveling willy-nilly to find a bride, either. If Isaac goes to Haran and stays there, then he defies God’s will to establish a nation in Canaan.
Paul also commanded believers not to marry unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14 - Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?).
--- Abraham commissioned a trusted servant, possibly Eliezer (Gen. 15:2), who was heir before Ishmael and Isaac, to go back to Haran and obtain a wife from Abraham’s extended family.
--- Abraham told him that God would direct him to the right person, because he already had been told that God would “send His angel before” the servant. Once again, God’s got this. Success is God’s responsibility. He’s not going watching and hoping from a distance that His plan pulls through.
--- Abraham knew the servant would be successful, but to make him feel better he tells him that if a suitable mate wouldn’t come, then the servant can return home empty handed.
After all, the servant would be going to a foreign land to talk to people who didn’t know him. He would be asking her to leave her family and move to a distant land to marry a man she hadn’t seen. She and her family would allow this to happen solely on the servant’s word. (And a trust in God, which they may or may not have strong faith.)
*** The right reasons.
--- Abraham was not doing this for himself. He did this in God’s name, “The Lord, God of heaven and God of earth” who spoke to Abraham.
He was full on obedient to God’s wishes. Abraham once wavered in his faith, but now he’s unwilling to budge from God’s plan.
--- If the servant really was Eliezer, his devotion and humility is even more impressive. Isaac’s birth meant that he became Abraham’s heir, so Eliezer was no longer the steward who stood to gain a lot of wealth. A vengeful person might have used this assignment as payback.
*** Question - Abraham had to trust this person completely. Is there anyone you would trust to find your son (or daughter) a suitable mate?
THE PRAYER (Gen. 24:10-14)
10 The servant took 10 of his master’s camels and departed with all kinds of his master’s goods in hand. Then he set out for Nahor’s town Aram-naharaim. 11 He made the camels kneel beside a well of water outside the town at evening. This was the time when the women went out to draw water. 12 “Lord, God of my master Abraham,” he prayed, “give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 I am standing here at the spring where the daughters of the men of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the girl to whom I say, ‘Please lower your water jug so that I may drink,’ and who responds, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels also’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. By this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
*** A faithful journey.
--- The servant loaded up 10 camels with provisions and material possessions to give the family of the bride.
--- They traveled to Mesopotamia, where Abraham’s brother Nahor and his relatives lived.
--- The journey would have taken several weeks.
*** Praying for success.
--- The servant prays very specifically for a sign. He says, God, if you have this happen, then this and this, then we’ll all know I have found Isaac’s future bride.
Have you done that? “God, if this man is the one I’m supposed to date, have him walk up to me wearing a red shirt, with his right hand in his pocket, with a flag pin on his lapel and have him stop and pick up a penny from the ground.”
--- When we did that we were praying for God to do our will. God defines success as doing His will. This is what the servant was praying for.
--- Where did this servant learn to pray like this? From Abraham! Abraham passed along to his servants and to his son the importance of prayer.
*** A great wingman.
--- The servant has some smarts. He knows that if he goes to the well in the evening that he’ll find all the women of the area coming to get water for their homes. He goes where the ladies are!
*** Question – What was the point of the servant praying so specifically for the right woman?
(The exact words specified a mighty God working to achieve His purposes.)
THE ANSWER (Gen. 24:15-17)
15 Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah—daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor—coming with a jug on her shoulder. 16 Now the girl was very beautiful, a young woman who had not known a man intimately. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me have a little water from your jug.”
*** Servant: “Dear God …” God: "You got it."
--- Have you ever prayed so hard for someone or something that it feels like you are transmitting a signal straight through heaven?
--- Some of God's answers to our prayers may take a long time, but others are instantaneous.
--- Even before the servant had finished he saw Rebekah. She meets all the criteria: She descended from Abraham’s family, she’s a virgin, and for bonus points, she’s a total babe.
*** The servant closes the deal.
--- In the rest of the chapter, the servant goes to Rebekah’s home, details his prayerful mission, lavishes her with jewelry, and her family says if she wants to go, she can go. She indeed wants to leave immediately and she and Isaac were married.
*** Question – Have you ever met someone in an unusual circumstance who had a big influence in your life?
The servant had the best pickup line ever: "God sent me, and you're the one."
What does it say about Rebekah that she was willing to go with the servant, whom she had never met, to a land she didn’t know, to marry a guy she knew little about?
*** In any situation, God will provide guidance at our point of need. He has a plan for us as well. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.”
*** If anyone needs wisdom, it is readily available for the faithful. James 1:5-6 - Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
*** Apply faith in every decision you make by taking the decision directly to God.