A Marriage Made in Heaven

Genesis 24

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2015

Our topic for today is “A Marriage Made in Heaven”.  It actually raises a very provocative question.  Are marriages made in heaven?  Is there one special person that God has prepared for you that you should try to find or instead should we worry more about being the right person, rather than finding the right person?

Is the Soul Mate Theory Biblical?

That all depends on the meaning of “soul mate”.  There is a sense in which this theory is true and there is a sense in which it is false.  If you mean by this theory that there is one special person in the world that you will see eye-to-eye on everything, make you perfectly happy and fulfill all of your needs completely, the answer is no.

Many women fall into this trap.  They look for a Prince Charming, like all of the Fairy Tales and then become disappointed after marriage.  Many have had affairs or gotten divorced because of this theory. They married one person and then they found “their soul mate” and left their spouse.  That is what happened to Amy Grant.

However, there is a sense in which the soul mate theory is correct.  God had a soul mate for Adam.  There was one and only one woman for Adam.  Some say that was the only time.  God also had a soul mate for Isaac.  God had only one woman picked out for Isaac and the servant prays for God to reveal to him who this person was.

He prayed “let her be the one whom you have APPOINTED for your servant Isaac” (24:14).  The real question is this: Does God still do this kind of thing today?  Does God do for us what He did for Adam and for Isaac?  I believe that the answer to that question is yes.  God is a matchmaker.

If the emphasis is all about being the right person, then Isaac could have married anyone.  He could have married a Canaanite.  Who he married didn’t matter.  He just needed to be the right person.  The lesson here is that it does matter who we marry.  It is important to choose the right person.  Who you marry is one of the most important decisions you make in your life.

We can marry out of the will of God and that only leads to disaster. What if I already married the wrong person?  Some people marry complete morons.  If you married the wrong person, I have good news and bad news. The minute you get married, it is God’s will for you to stay married.  You just made a commitment that He expects you to keep.

Vows are made before God.  Solomon said, “It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and break it” (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:4-6).  There are consequences for bad decisions that we will have to live with but God is also sovereign over everything, including our bad decisions.  He can bring good out of it.

We come today to one of my favorite chapters of the Bible.  It happens to be the longest chapter in the Book of Genesis.  Thirty one verses are used to describe the six days of Genesis in chapter one.  This chapter is sixty-seven verses long.  It is more than twice as long as Genesis 1.  The longest chapter in Genesis tells the story of how Isaac got a bride.

We have been looking at the life of Isaac in the Book of Genesis.  So far, we have learned four things about the Patriarch Isaac.  The first thing we learn about him is that he had a miraculous birth.  He was born to parents who could not have kids and were too old to have kids.  The second thing we learned is that his birth caused a sibling rivalry.  It lead to a conflict between Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 21).

The third thing we learned is that his father offered him up on the altar as a burn offering but his life was spared (Genesis 22).  The fourth thing that we learned is that his mother died (Genesis 23).  In this chapter, we see how Isaac got his wife.  We see who he married and where she came from.

It is an old-fashioned love story. It is one of the greatest love stories ever told.  There are three love stories in the Book of Genesis.  There is the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.  God created Adam.  Adam was lonely.  God created Eve for Adam and then brought them together.  In Genesis 24, we have a love story between Isaac and Rebekah.

Isaac does not just get a wife.  It is the first time the Bible mentions the love of a husband or wife.  It specifically mentions the love of Isaac for Rebekah (24:67).  In Genesis 29, we have the love story between Isaac’s son Jacob and his wife Rachel.

We are told in that chapter that Jacob “served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (29:20).  I want to look at some lessons on finding a spouse from this chapter but first let’s summarize what happens in this chapter.

In the last chapter, Abraham’s wife died and he buried her.  We saw last week that Isaac was thirty seven when she died.  This chapter takes place three years later.  How do we know.  Genesis 25:20 says “Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah

After the death of his wife, Abraham is starting to think about his own mortality.  Genesis 24:1 says he was “very old”.  He is now 140 years old and he is starting to think that he might not have much more time to live.  Sarah’s death was a hint of his own.

That caused a big problem.  Isaac was forty years old and he was not married.  Abraham was very wealthy but he did not have anyone to inherit his estate.  All of the promises that God gave Abraham were to go through Isaac and his descendants but Isaac was not married.  Isaac didn’t have any kids and he is now forty years old.

In that day, it was the job of the parents to arrange marriages for their children and time was running out.  Abraham left that job to one of his servants but not any one of his servants.  He gave this job to his top servant.  He was his most responsible servant.  Abraham trusted him.  This servant “was in charge of everything that Abraham had” (24:3).

We do not know much about this servant.  We do not even know his name.  This was the most important thing that this servant was ever asked to do, to find a wife for Isaac.  It was a huge responsibility.  Even though he trusted this servant, he still made him take an oath and swear that he will do what Abraham wants him to do.  Genesis 24:1-14 says,

Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way.  He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh.  I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac” (NIV). 

These are actually the last words that Abraham speaks before he dies.  What does he tell the servant to do?  He tells him to get a wife for Isaac but not just anyone.  Abraham did not want a pagan bride for Isaac.  Abraham was very specific.  He wanted a wife from among his relatives.  He did NOT want a wife from among the Canaanites.  This meant that the servant had to do some traveling.  He had to travel five hundred miles north to Harran.  He had to go from Israel to modern Turkey.

This servant was to go but he was not to take Isaac with him, because he was not allowed to leave the Promised Land  for any reason, not even to find a wife (24:8).  When he got there, it was evening and he found Rebekah.  Who was Rebekah?  She was one of Abraham’s relatives.  She was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.  Abraham had a brother named Nahor.  Nahor lived in Harran.  He had a lot of kids. He had eight sons (22:20-23) from his wife and four from his concubine (22:24).

One of Nahor’s sons was Bethuel.  Rebekah was his daughter.  She would have been Abraham’s great niece and Isaac’s first cousin once removed.  She would also have been much younger than Isaac.  She was probably around fifteen or twenty.  She might have been twenty years younger than Isaac.  She invites the servant to her home.

He told them who he was and why he was there.  They knew all about Uncle Abraham and his trip to the Promised Land sixty years earlier.  It was part of their family history.  He gave gifts to Rebekah, Rebekah’s brother Laban and his mother. Nothing is said about her father Bethuel.  We do not know if he was still alive.  The servant pays the bride price.  She agreed to go back with them.  It was an incredible decision on her part.  This entire chapter is all about FAITH.

The chapter begins with a problem.  Abraham has faith in his servant to solve the problem.  He trusts him to find a wife for Isaac.  He was too old to travel five hundred miles to look for one.  He had faith that God would send an angel to help him find a wife (24:7).

The servant has faith.  The servant trusted God to guide him and angel to providence of God.  He asked for God’s help.  The servant trusted God to guide him.  He trusted God to show him which woman to approach. He had incredible faith in the providence of God.  He trusted that the right woman would come to the right well just after he prayed for her to show up.

Isaac has faith.  He trusts his father to make the most important decision of his life.  He does not go out in search of his own bride.  He has faith that one will be found for him.  That does not seem like a decision that we would want to leave to others to make for us.

Rebekah also shows incredible faith here.  She agrees to leave her family which she may never see again and go off with some strange man she just met the day before (who happens to be just a servant) and take a long dangerous journey to a land that she has never been to before in order to marry an older man that she has never met.  This was incredibly risky.  What is the man turned out to be really ugly.

She agrees to go.  They travel five hundred miles south back to the Promised Land.  It was a month long trip on camels.  She sees Isaac.  What was he doing?  He was out in the field praying meditating, and thinking (24:64).  What was he thinking about?  He was wondering if he would get a wife.  He was wondering if the servant would be successful or not.  He was wondering what his wife would look like.  He was wondering when they would get back.  The servant had been gone for a long time.

The text says that after she saw Isaac, she got off the camel, and got off the camel.  The KJV reading of Genesis 24:64 says that she “lighted off a camel” (which sounds like she was a smoker).  They were married and she became his wife.

How does this all apply to us today?  Much of this chapter does not seem to apply to us.  We have very different marriage customs than Abraham had in his day.  They had arranged marriages in Abraham’s day, as they do in other countries today but we do not arrange marriages in this country for our children.  Isaac did not get to decide who he married.  It was decided for him.  We do not have servants, like Abraham had.

We do not marry relatives today, like Isaac did.  Isaac married a cousin.  We do not make strange oaths like this.  The servant makes an oath under Abraham’s thigh which biblical scholars believe is a euphemism for genitals (cf. 46:26; Exodus 1:5).  It was a strange custom in those days for making a promise.  We fall in love with someone and then get married.  In this chapter, the order was reversed.  Isaac got married and then we are told that he loved Rebekah.

How does this chapter relate to us?  God’s Word transcends culture. This chapter gives us important principles for choosing a spouse. There are things we can learn from this chapter about finding a spouse, even in our culture.  What are some of those lessons?

Lessons on Finding a Spouse

1. Wait for the right time to marry.

There is a Russian proverb that says, “Before going to war, pray once. Before going to sea, pray twice.  Before getting married, pray three times”. One of the biggest mistakes that singles make is to rush into marry. That is a mistake some regret the rest of their life.  I see it all of the time.

There is a lot of pressure from many peers to be in a relationship with someone.  Marriage is a good thing.  Many young people think that it will make them happy.  They are anxious to get married.  They find someone and rush into marrying someone who they really shouldn’t marry, thinking it will solve all of their problems.

They get tired of waiting for a spouse, like Abraham got tired of waiting for a child and took matters into his own hands and we wonder why marriages today do not last.  Isaac does not rush into marriage.  He gets married at forty.  He waited for God to provide for his needs.  I am not saying everyone has to wait until they are forty to get married.  I didn’t do that but there is something we can learn from this.

Marriage was intended to be a permanent relationship.  It was intended to last for life.  It is something that we should be sure is God’s will for our life.  It is certainly not something that we should rush into.

2. Trust God to provide for a spouse.

Abraham did not just trust his servant, he believed an angel would help him find a wife for Isaac.  The servant did not trust his own persuasive abilities and matchmaking skills to find a wife.  He asked God to help him find the right person. He prayed and his prayer was very specific.  It wasn’t general.  Genesis 24 contains the first recorded prayer in divine guidance for selecting a wife. We see this prayer in Genesis 24:12-14.

“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” (ESV)

It was a prayer that God answered.  In fact, it was a prayer, he answered quickly.  Before he was even done praying, Rebekah appeared with a war jar on her shoulder to the well (24:15).  The servant did not just pray for a spouse.  He had to travel hundreds of miles and look for a wife.  Rebekah did not come to Isaac.  Someone had to go out looking for her.

Now in this case it was not Isaac who went out looking for a wife.  Someone else went looking for him, a matchmaker.  We do not have arranged marriages in our country but the principle remains the same.  To get a wife, you have to look for one but you also need to trust God to provide one.

3. Look for the right person to marry

There are certain people he could marry and certain people he could not marry.Abraham told this servant swear that he would not take Isaac out of the land and he would not pick a wife from among the Canaanites (24:3-4).  That is very interesting.

Isaac lived all of his life in the Promised Land.  He never left it, like Abraham did but he couldn’t marry anyone in the land.  He saw lots of women in forty years and he could not marry a single one, even though many of them were probably very attractive.  Isaac was not allowed to marry any of them.

The same is true of us today.  Isaac could not marry Canaanites and there are no more of them alive.  Are there races we should not marry today?  No. The Bible does not prohibit interracial marriages.  There are several examples in the Bible of saints who did this (Joseph, Moses).

It does not prohibit interracial marriages but it does prohibit interfaith marriages.  Isaac was not to marry the Canaanites, not for racial reason but for religious reasons.  Abraham was not a racist.  The Canaanites were idolaters.  They were pagans.

They worshiped false gods. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 says, “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods” (NIV).

We are not to marry unbelievers today. That means we have to go to the places where believers gather to find them.  That is what the servant did. He did not go to a bar but to a well in an area where there were more believers.  Lots of things happened at wells in biblical times.   It is where Moses found his wife Zipporah.  It is where Jacob kissed Rachel.  It is where Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman.

4. Look for important character traits in a future partner.

There are right qualities to look for in a spouse and wrong qualities to look for.  The problem is that most people do not know what to look for.  That is the biggest mistake that people make today.  What are some of the qualities should you look for in a future husband or wife?  The most important quality in our culture is physical beauty.  Western culture places a huge importance on physical beauty, especially for women.

What do we see in this chapter?  When the servant went looking for a wife, he was not looking for one that had certain physical traits. He did not pray that this woman would be good looking.  He did not pray that she would be a beauty queen.  It turns out that she was not just beautiful but “very beautiful” (24:16) but all he asked for was a girl who would be willing to water the camels of a complete stranger.

God gave him better than he asked.  She not only did what he asked but she also happened to be young, beautiful, sexually pure, unmarried, and a member of Abraham’s family.  He was looking for one that had moral traits instead.  He found those traits by his test that he designed.

What was the test? “May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master” (24:14 NIV). He used the old camel test (which sounds like a cigarette test).

When he asked for water, she offered to give water to all of his animals as well.  That is no small task.  He had ten camels and camels drink about twenty gallons of water.  She then later invited him to her home.  She could have said, “Do it yourself”.  This servant was probably an old man and she offered to give water to his camels as well.

Rebekah’s Character Traits

What did this tell him about this woman?  We learn several important character traits about Rebekah from this exchange.

1. She was friendly.

She engaged a complete stranger in conversation, even though he was just a servant.

2. She was respectful.

She called him “lord”.  She showed respect to Isaac when she veiled herself at the end of the chapter.

2. She was considerate.

She offered to give water to not only this servant but his animals as well.

She thought of others not just herself.

3. She was conscientious.

She went the extra mile.  She did much more than she needed to do.  He offered to do more than the servant asked to do by feeding his animals.

4. She was hard working.

She had a good work ethic.  She was not afraid to get her hands dirty.  It took a lot of work to give water to ten camels.  A camel can drink twenty gallons of water.

5. She was hospitable.

She invited this servant which she just met to stay at her home (24:25).

After passing the test, he still did not know if she was the one for Isaac (24:21).  This servant did not only use a TEST, he used TACT.  He did not tell her while he came into town.  He did not do that until he went to her home and talked to her family first.

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