God’s Faithfulness to Broken People: Isaac and Rebekah | Genesis 24
Brian Hedges | January 17, 2021
I want to invite you to turn in God’s word to the book of Genesis. We’re going to be in Genesis 24 as we are beginning a new series today on the second half of the book of Genesis. This is really the fourth segment, the fourth leg of a series in Genesis. We’ve already looked at the creation and fall stories in Genesis 1-3, then some time after that we looked at the stories of Cain and Abel, all the way through the flood and the Tower of Babel; that was a series called “Salvation Through Judgment.” Then, about 18 months ago, we looked at the story of Abraham. That series was called “The God of Promise in the Life of Faith,” Genesis 12-22. You can hear all of those sermons online or read the transcripts if you want to get caught up, but this series, even though it builds on that, these messages are meant to stand alone as we dig into the stories of Abraham’s descendants Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
There are some real benefits, I think, that come into our lies as God’s people, as members of God’s church, when we sequentially study through Scripture like this, taking books of the Bible and working our way through them. For one thing, it gets us in different parts of the Bible, and we need both Old Testament and New Testament, all the different genres of Scripture, and that’s why we tend to alternate between the Testaments and different genres of Scripture. It gives us the full counsel of God, the whole counsel of God; we need all of God’s word for all of life.
I believe this could be helpful for you in your personal Bible reading. Many of you just started in January through the Bible-in-a-year reading plan, and you’re probably reading in the book of Genesis right now, so my hope is that a series like this will help you in developing your own skills and interpreting Scripture, just to be able to understand and apply what you’re reading.
Most importantly of all, we want to see Christ in all of Scriptures. The Old Testament Scriptures are given for us as believers in Jesus Christ, they point us to Christ, and one of my hopes in this series is that we will see how all of these stories in Genesis point to the greater story, the grand story, the story of God’s redemptive work in and through Jesus Christ.
This morning we’re looking at Genesis 24, and it’s a romance. It’s a love story. It’s the story of Isaac and Rebekah, and this story is developed in four scenes. Let me give you an overview of the chapter, and then we’ll read just a portion of the text this morning.
Scene one is Abraham’s charge to his servant to go find a wife for his son Isaac. That’s verses 1-9; we’ll read that in just a moment. Secondly, you have the servant’s question in verses 10-28, as the servant goes to Mesopotamia and there begins to search for a bride for Isaac. You have his prayer and then how the Lord answers that prayer and brings Rebekah into his life. Then, the third scene has to do with Rebekah’s family, verses 29-61; that’s the longest section. When you actually read this story (and I would encourage you to do that if you haven’t), this is the section that introduces some tension into the story. There are some obstacles to be overcome. Will she actually go? Will her family agree to it? ...and so on. They do, and then you have the fourth scene, which completes the story, in verses 62-67, where Rebekah is brought to Isaac and becomes his bride, and they are wed together in marriage.
That’s an overview of the chapter, but 67 verses is too long for us to read all at once this morning. Instead, what I want to do is read verses 1-21, which gets us the first scene and a half, really, and then I want to pick up in that last scene, verses 62-67. I’m going to read this, and then we’ll just refer back to certain verses, but reading it together here at the beginning will give us context. It will kind of give us the story and will help us understand what’s going on. Then I want to point out four important truths that we can learn from this passage. So, Genesis 24:1. You follow along in your own copy of God’s word. The word of God says,
“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.”
That completes scene one. Verse 10 begins scene two.
“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. 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. 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.’
“Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 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. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, ‘Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.’ She said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’ 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. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.”
As you read on in the story, you find that indeed the Lord did prosper his journey, and Rebekah was the one appointed for Isaac. That brings us, then, to verse 62.
“Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 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. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 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. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 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.”
This is God’s word.
This is a beautiful story—artfully told, perfectly narrated; a wonderful story from the Old Testament; and, as I said before, it’s a love story. But it’s not just a love story. This is a story that is an integral part of the unfolding drama of redemption in Scripture, and it’s a story as such that teaches us some very important things, theologically and practically, for our lives. I want to point out four important truths, and these are truths that have to do with God’s covenant, with marriage, with prayer, and with the providence of God. Four points that are going to take us through those four things.
1. Covenant Is Central to God’s Saving Plan
I want you to see, number one, that covenant is central to God’s saving plan. Now, if you’re familiar with Genesis you already know that the idea of covenant is a central idea in Genesis. While the word “covenant” doesn’t show up in this passage, this chapter really is all about the fulfillment and the continuance of God’s covenant with Abraham. God had made a promise with Abraham. That’s essentially what a covenant is; it’s a binding, solemn agreement where God makes promises to his people, and often where people are making promises to God.
God had made a promise to Abraham, and you have this all the way back in Genesis 12—you remember this—God essentially said, “Abraham, I’m going to do these three things for you: I’m going to give you land, I’m going to give you descendants, and I’m going to bless you. Through you and through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” That’s the essence of the Abrahamic covenant given in Genesis 12:1-3. That covenant then is ratified in a ceremony in Genesis 15, then God gives Abraham the covenant sign of circumcision in chapter 17. Again and again, the covenant gets reaffirmed to Abraham, and the rest of Genesis, and we might even say that the rest of the Old Testament is about how God is overcoming obstacles to the fulfillment of that promise to give Abraham and his descendants a land and to bring this promised seed, this promised son, through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Of course, we now know in hindsight that Jesus is the ultimate promised Son, the ultimate seed of Abraham.
That’s the background to this chapter, and it’s really the central motivating idea in this chapter: How will God overcome the obstacle to the covenant promise being fulfilled? Here’s the obstacle: Abraham is getting old, Isaac is the promised son, and Isaac doesn’t have a wife, and since he doesn’t have a wife he doesn’t have children, so how will the family line continue? That’s the issue, and it’s so important to Abraham and to the integrity of this covenant family and this developing covenant community, it’s so important that this bride not be one of the pagan Canaanites, but instead be someone from Abraham’s family back in Mesopotamia. So you have this whole journey.
That whole idea of covenant is just central here, and it really shows up in several places in the passage. Let me just show you two. First of all, in verse 7. If you have your Bible open, look at verse 7. I want you to see here the words that Abraham says to his servant. He’s speaking now. He says, “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.”
Now, note something. Those are the only direct words of God recorded in Genesis 24: “To your offspring I will give this land.” It’s a quotation from the promise that God had made to Abraham. It’s the covenant. There you have it, don’t you? You have land and you have offspring, descendants, right there. These are the things that are so central to God fulfilling his purpose to bring blessing to the nations. It will only come as Abraham and his descendants dwell in this land, and as this family, through whom the Messiah will come, is being built. So it’s really central to the story.
The other way in which you see this is in this phrase “steadfast love.” Now, this translates the Hebrew word hesed—it’s the word that means covenant love or faithful love or faithfulness, and it shows up several times in this passage, especially in verses 12 and 14, when the servant is praying for God to give him success, but he prays on the basis of God’s steadfast love. That phrase “steadfast love” shows up again and again and again in the Old Testament to signal God’s covenant faithfulness to his people. Indeed, God is showing his faithfulness to his people here. Covenant is central to the saving plan of God.
Now, that may seem theological and somewhat academic and somewhat remote from us, that may not seem immediately relevant to you, but here’s what you need to remember: You would not be a Christian this morning, and you would not be here worshipping this morning, if God had not fulfilled his promise to Abraham. It was through Abraham and through Abraham’s seed that all the families of the earth—that means Gentiles—were brought into the kingdom. The reason why we exist today as a worshipping community, worshipping God, is because of God’s faithfulness to his covenant, through Abraham and ultimately through his giving his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior.
All the promises of God are yes and are amen in Jesus Christ; that’s the truth we have to grasp, and the application for us is trust in the promises of God. Count on the steadfast love of God. Believe that God will be faithful to his promises.
So, covenant is central to God’s saving plan.
2. Marriage Is Foundational to the Covenant Family
Secondly, we learn in this passage that marriage is foundational to the covenant family. We see this in, first of all, the link that’s given to this story. This is the longest chapter in the book of Genesis, and it’s a chapter about marriage. It’s a love story. We see it in the detail and the detail and the urgency of Abraham’s instructions to his servant. There are very detailed instructions here of how he is to choose a bride for Isaac. We see it, of course, in the broader biblical teaching of marriage. Marriage is instituted by God in Genesis 1-2, the very first human institution. It is the building block of human society. We see marriage magnified and lifted up and extolled, especially in the wisdom literature of Scripture (read the book of Proverbs), and we see marriage affirmed in the ministry of Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, and in the teaching of the apostles. Marriage is foundational.
Now, there would be a wrong way to apply this passage, and I’ve actually seen this done, and that would be to look at the story of Isaac and Rebekah and derive from the details of this story detailed instructions on how to do dating and courtship and marriage, which would take us all the way back to arranged marriages. Now, I’ll confess that as a father of two daughters, I kind of like the idea of arranged marriages; but I don’t think that’s going to fly. We live in a different culture, and I don’t think that’s the right application of the passage.
Instead, I think there are some general truths that are illustrated in this passage that have abiding significance for us today, and I want to give you three of them related to marriage.
(1) Number one, marriage matters. Marriage is important. As I’ve already said, it’s God’s very first institution in human society, and it’s the building block of human society. Now, I don’t mean by this that marriage is essential to living a fulfilled life. The New Testament certainly singleness and the unique place that singles have in the kingdom of God and the unique contributions they make to the kingdom of God. But marriage and the creation and the formation and the substance of a family is essential to the propagation of the human race, and it’s central in God’s plan as well. It’s foundational.
This is important for us to just reaffirm because marriage is under attack in our culture today and because marriage is broadly in decline in the Western world. There’s a sociologist named Mark Regnerus who recently wrote a book called The Future of Christian Marriage. Regnerus, who’s using language from another sociologist, Andrew Turlin, says something that I think is very helpful in illustrating what has happened with marriage in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I want you to listen to this. This is a quotation.
Regnerus says, “Marriage is now widely perceived as a capstone rather than a foundation.” Think about the difference between a capstone in a building, the very last stone to go on an arch or on a building or whatever, versus a foundation, on which the whole building is built. “Marriage is now widely perceived as a capstone rather than a foundation. This means that marriage is now something individuals aspire to rather than something a couple enters in order to fulfill their aspirations. A capstone is the finishing touch of a structure. It is a moment in time. A foundation, however, is what a building rests upon. A foundation is essential; a capstone, not so much. A foundation is necessarily hard-wearing; a capstone is an accessory that can be replaced if necessary. Similarly, when people are building their lives, marriage is widely considered today as an achievement attained by each, not the beginning of constructing an adult life together.”
That is, I think, a very helpful analogy for explaining what we can see in society; namely, that single adults—and this is true, broadly speaking, even in the church—single adults are waiting longer to get married to get used to. People used to get married in their late teens, early 20s, and they would commit to one another for life and then build a life together. They kind of grew up together and built a life together. Now, single adults are often waiting until their late 20s or even into their 30s to get married; and marriage is receding, so that fewer and fewer people are getting married. There’s less marriage now than there was.
Now, there are all kinds of reasons to explain that phenomenon, and I’m certainly not advocating that every Christian single person should get married as soon as you can or rush into marriage haphazardly, or even that all singles should be married. I’m just trying to make the point here that marriage is receding in our culture. The place that marriage has in human society has now been reconceived, so that rather than being foundational, a foundational building block to human society, it’s now viewed as something of an accessory to a largely self-driven, individualistic life in which we’re seeking fulfillment for ourselves.
As the church, we need to safeguard this truth from Scripture that marriage is foundational. It is a building block to human society, it’s foundational to the covenant community. We need to promote marriage, we need to protect marriage, we need to defend marriage, we need to teach about marriage, we need to help married people keep their marriages. All of that, I think, is implied every time we come to the Scriptural teaching about marriage. Marriage matters.
(2) Number two, faith matters. That is, faith matters in marriage. You see this in verses 3-4, where Abraham is charging his servant, and he says, “Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of 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, to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Why is that so important to Abraham? Why is it not okay for Isaac to marry a Canaanite? It’s because at this point in unfolding history the Canaanites are not the people of God, it’s because they are pagans, they are idolaters. It was a vile, barbaric, wicked culture, and Abraham does not want God’s covenant promises to be compromised by intermarriage with nonbelievers. That gets violated, by the way, by the sons of Abraham who are outside the covenant community. Ishmael marries a Canaanite, as will Esau. But Isaac is not to, neither is Jacob.
This, again, I think, has relevance for us today, because Paul gives instructions to those who are getting married to marry “only in the Lord.” Believers are to marry believers. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Now, if you’re already a Christian and you’re married to a non-Christian, God wants you to keep your marriage. 1 Corinthians 7 gives instructions about that. But if you’re single and you’re thinking about marriage, it is imperative that you only marry a Christian, that you not marry a non-Christian. One of the saddest things that I have encountered as a pastor is when I have seen single people who are compromising their faith because of a love interest with someone who is not a Christian, who is not a believer. I’ve even had to counsel not to get married, although it’s generally not been followed. But when you marry a non-Christian, as a Christian, you are likely to invite a lot of pain and heartache into your life. Christians should marry fellow believers. Faith matters.
(3) Number three, character matters. In marriage, character matters. You see this in verses 18-20. I won’t reread it, but you remember that the servant prays this very detailed prayer, “Let the woman who comes to the well who I ask for water and then who offers to give water to my camels, let her be the one appointed for Isaac.”
That’s not arbitrary. Why is he praying that? Well, because this will indicate a certain kind of character; a certain kind of hospitality, of selflessness, a willingness to sacrifice for others.
You just have to remember—have any of you seen how much a camel can drink? Camels drink a lot of water! Camels drink 20-25 gallons of water apiece after a day’s journey, and the servant has ten of them. The typical water jar, or water bag at that time, would hold about three gallons of water. You know what that means? That means Rebekah, when she offers to water his camels, is committing herself to about two hours of hard work as she is carrying water from the well to this trough, something like 80-100 gallons of water that she is transporting. It shows something about who she is. It indicates her character, her hospitality, her kindness, her selflessness.
Again, just to address those who are Christian singles but also, I think, this is important for parents and grandparents as we give guidance to young people as they begin to seek marriage or think about marriage, it is important to look for character. Don’t think that you can change the fundamental character of someone after you get married. Look for good character in advance, and of course develop the kind of character that will make you a good spouse.
The story ends in verses 62-67 with a marriage and with the very first reference to love in connection to marriage in the Bible. Isaac loved Rebekah. We might add to everything I’ve said that love matters as well. Love matters in marriage. Marriage is foundational to the covenant; family covenant is central to God’s saving plan.
3 Prayer Is Vital to the Life of Faith
Here’s the third lesson: Prayer is vital to the life of faith. John Calvin said that “prayer is the chief exercise of faith.” By that he meant that prayer is the primary way in which we express our trust in God.. It’s one thing to say, “I trust God,” but how do you really know if you trust God? Well, do you talk to him? Do you pray? Do you seek him? Do you live in ongoing fellowship with him through prayer?
You see this exemplified in the life of the servant. The servant is a praying man. In fact, he prays three times in this passage: verses 12-14, where he asks for the Lord to work; then verses 26-27, where he thanks God for answering his prayer; and then also a word of praise in verse 52. Let me just read the first of those, verses 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. 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. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.’”
What we see here is that God in his providence is guiding this servant through specific and discerning prayer. The application for us is, pray. Develop a prayer life. That means we need to learn how to pray biblically. Let the Scriptures inform your prayer.
You say, “How do you do that?” Well, look at the model prayer, the disciples’ prayer, Jesus gives to his disciples, the Lord’s Prayer, as we call it, in Matthew 6. It gives us a pattern for prayer. Look at the examples of Paul and the apostles in Acts and in Paul’s letters, and pray accordingly.
We need to learn to pray regularly. Paul says, “Be devoted to prayer,” Romans 12. “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5. That means we should be continually praying, a regular, ongoing prayer life.
We need to pray about big decisions in our lives. It is right—in fact, it is imperative—that we pray about things like the choice of a marriage partner or taking a job or a major move or changing churches. All of those are big decisions that have life-changing ramifications, and certainly we should seek the Lord in prayer in those decisions.
Of course, the most important thing about prayer is that through prayer we cultivate a relationship with God. We develop friendship with God, we interact with God, we live in communion with God. All of us need that. So develop your prayer life, because prayer is vital to the life of faith. Without prayer, there’s no tangible expression of our faith. Prayer is the chief exercise of faith.
4. God is Faithful in Guiding His People
Then, lesson number four is about God’s providence, and I’ll state it this way, that God is faithful in guiding his people. Again, you see it in the passage, as the Lord directs and leads his servant, Abraham’s servant, through this whole scenario. There are a lot of passages we could point to that I think show us this, but let me read just the first one, in verse 27. This is after the servant has met Rebekah, the Lord has answered his prayer; he bows his head, worships the Lord, and in verse 27, “...and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the 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 kinsman.’”
Now, you see there the word “faithfulness,” God has been faithful, and this phrase, “The Lord has led me.” God was guiding this servant in answer to prayer, and it shows us that God is faithful in guiding his people. He repeats the phrase in verse 48, “The Lord has led me.”
Then you also see in verses 14 and 44 where he refers to Rebekah being the one appointed for Isaac; appointed. It’s kind of an unusual word to be used in this context, and it carries the idea that God is the one who had chosen Rebekah for Isaac. God had appointed Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife.
You also see the theme of success and prosperity as he is praying for God to prosper his journey, give him success in his quest; and then, in verses 50-51, when you really get through much that we’re skipping here—the servant’s interaction with the girl’s family and Laban, who will later turn out to be this conniving character in the book of Genesis; Jacob will have interaction with him, as we will see—there are obstacles that need to be overcome. But as the servant relates God’s providence and how God has led him, the family recognizes this. They recognize the hand of God, and they actually say, “This thing is from the Lord,” and it’s because God’s hand is so evidently at work that they agree, and indeed, Rebekah agrees to go to Isaac. The Lord had worked.
All of this is showing the faithfulness of God in guiding his people through his providence. I think it teaches us things about God’s providence as well. It shows us that God’s providential guidance in our lives works as we are faithful to him in the ordinary circumstances of life.
You see that especially in the servant’s faithfulness. That’s one of the things that’s stressed in this passage, is the servant just being faithful to obey what he had been charged to do by his master, Abraham.
Derek Kidner in his commentary says, “This chief steward is one of the most attractive minor characters of the Bible, with his quiet good sense, his piety and faith, his devotion to his employer, and his firmness in seeing the matter through. God’s providence in our lives often works in just those kinds of ways, as we exercise common sense, as we are faithful to our post in the details of life.”
We also see God’s providence here in the very ordinary circumstances of life. In some ways, while this passage shows us, for sure, the unseen hand of God at work, there’s nothing miraculous here. There’s no voice from heaven. There’s a couple of references to an angel, where Abraham says, “God’s angel will guide you,” but there are no visible angels, there are no angelic appearances; there’s nothing like that. There are no miracles. There is just God working in answer to prayer through the ordinary circumstances of life, and often that is how God’s providence works in our lives. It’s not that miracles are happening around us every day, it’s that we perceive the hand of God guiding through the ordinariness of our lives. All of this is in service to God’s covenant and the fulfillment of his promises.
The lesson for us, brothers and sisters, is that we too can trust in the providence of God. You know those words, Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” God will guide you. He will lead you as you seek him. He leads you with his unseen, invisible hand.
Have you ever heard the song the Gaithers used to sing about the unseen hand of God? Do you remember Bill Gaither and Gaither vocal band? There was a wonderful song called “The Unseen Hand.”
“There is an unseen hand to me
That leads through ways I cannot see.
While going through this world of woe,
This hand still leads me as I go.
“This hand has led through shadows drear,
And while it leads I have no fear.
I know ’twill lead me to that home
Where sin nor sorrow e’er can come.
“I’m trusting to the unseen hand
That guides me through this weary land,
And some sweet day I’ll reach that strand,
Still guided by the unseen hand.”
Are you confident in the unseen, invisible hand of God guiding you, guiding your family, directing your life, directing your paths? Brothers and sisters, trust in the providence of God.
We’ve seen four truths this morning. We’ve seen the centrality of God’s covenant promises, the foundational importance of marriage, the vital place of prayer, and the abiding faithfulness of God in his providence, in his guidance. All of that’s important, all of that’s practical, all of that should encourage us. But there’s one more thing that I want you to see in conclusion.
I said that I want this series to be a pointer to Christ, that all of Scripture is Christian Scripture; it all points to Christ. I think that’s true even in a passage like this. How does this passage point to Christ? I think it does so when you remember that Isaac is a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Isaac is the son of promise. He is given by a miracle to Abraham and to Sarah in their old age, he is the son through whom the covenant will be fulfilled. We know from Galatians 3 that the true seed of Abraham is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true and better Isaac, Jesus is the true Son of the covenant, the one through whom the nations of the earth are blessed.
You remember Genesis 22; it was the very last sermon, the last study we did when we looked at the life of Abraham. Genesis 22 is that famous story where God tells Abraham to offer his son, his only son Isaac, as a burnt sacrifice on a mountain that God will show him. Just at the last minute, when Abraham is willing to sacrifice everything—the substance of the covenant is in his son, and Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son in order to obey God—at the very last minute, God interrupts him, says, “No, don’t kill your son.” Instead, God provides a ram in the thicket who will be a substitute for Isaac.
But it’s a picture, isn’t it, of the Son who will be the substitute himself, the Son who will be sacrificed, Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, who gave himself as a substitute for our sins.
If Isaac is a type of Christ, it stands to reason that Rebekah is in some way a type of the church and of all those who belong to Christ. Just as Abraham sought out a bride for his son, so God the Father is seeking out a bride for his Son. Just as Abraham takes all the initiative here to send his servant to find Rebekah and to bring her to Isaac, so God the Father sends his Spirit to draw sinners, to bring them to himself. Just as Rebekah, as she is wooed and drawn into this family, comes to moment of decision where she is asked, “Will you go?” and she responds, “I will go”; in the same way, every one of us should respond to the call of God in our lives to follow Jesus with the words, “I will go.”
In other words, this story, one of the greatest romances in Scripture, is a story that points us to the greater romance. It points us to the divine romance. It points us to the truth that God our Father is pursuing a bride for his Son.
I want to end with some words from Ray Ortlund, a great pastor, preacher, writer of our generation. This is from one of his books; beautiful words, I can’t improve upon them. Listen to what Ortlund says.
“The biblical story lifts up before us a vision of God as our lover. The gospel is not an imperialistic human philosophy making overrated universal claims, the gospel sounds the voice of our husband, who has proven his love for us and who calls for our undivided love in return. The gospel reveals that as we look out into the universe, ultimately reality is not cold, dark, blank space; ultimate reality is romance. There is a God above with love in his eyes for us and infinite joy to offer us, and he has set himself upon winning our hearts for himself alone. The gospel tells the story of God’s pursuing, faithful, wounded, angry, overruling, transforming, triumphant love, and it calls us to answer him with... love.”
Are you part of the divine romance? Have you responded to the love of God with the words, “I will go. I will follow”? That’s the challenge for us this morning. Let’s pray.
Gracious God, we thank you that you did not leave us in our sins, but that you have pursued us with steadfast love and faithfulness. We thank you that you loved us so much that you sent your Son, Jesus, to die for his bride, to give his life as a sacrifice for the church. Lord, I pray this morning that we would respond to that love with love which answers in return, that as you have loved us we would love you, that we would see your grace, we would see your mercy, that it would seize our hearts, and that we would be changed.
Lord, I pray that as we come to the Lord’s table we would come in celebration and in memory of that love, that we would remember what Jesus Christ has done for us in giving his body and shedding his blood. As we take these emblems, the bread and the juice, may it remind us of the great sacrifice that Christ our Husband has made, and may we respond by giving ourselves this morning to the lover of our souls.
Draw near to us as we worship, as we come to the table, and apply your word to our hearts. We pray it in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.