GOD ESTABLISHES ISAAC'S FAMILY

Genesis 23:1-24:67
Key Verse: 24:58

"So they called Rebekah and asked her, 'Will you go with this man?' 'I will go,' she said."

In chapter 22 God tested Abraham*s faith and Abraham passed God*s final test by offering his son Isaac to God as a burnt offering. God knew how Abraham loved him more than his own son through his obedience. Then God swore by himself to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham, Jesus. Today*s passage shows the passing of one generation to another. Through the death of Sarah the curtain of Abraham*s times was drawing to a close and the new age of Isaac dawned. Abraham*s last act of faith was to establish Isaac*s family. Abraham made sure that his spiritual inheritance handed down to the next generation through Isaac. Isaac was a quiet and shy young man, and he needed a strong woman of faith to be his wife. He needed a wife who believed God's promises as he did, a woman who could help him be a steward of God's blessings. The main actors in chapter 24 are Abraham's servant and Rebekah, a woman of faith. But it was God who used their faith. Let*s learn how Abraham*s servant made "mission impossible" become "mission possible" and how Rebekah made a decision of faith to marry Isaac. May God raise up many faithful servants to advance the gospel of Jesus. I pray that God may raise up many families like Isaac to inherit the covenant promise.

PART I. THE DEATH OF SARAH (23)

Look at verses 1-2. Abraham's wife Sarah lived to be 127 years old, and she died at Hebron. Death comes to everyone. Death is like driving a car without a break. No one can stop death because there is no break in it. Abraham lived together with Sarah for a long time. So Abraham mourned for her, then he faced a very practical problem. He needed a place to bury his wife. Even though God had promised him the whole land of Canaan, he actually owned nothing--not even a foot of ground. (Acts 7:5) This shows that he lived as an alien and stranger in the promised land. Hebrews 11:13 say about Abraham and his descendants, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." Life is like a pilgrim*s journey and our life on earth is a transition from this world to our heavenly home. The earthly Canaan is just the shadow of what will come later. We should not forget that our eternal home is not in this world but in the heavenly kingdom whose architect and builder is God. Some people are only concerned about their coffins and burial sites for their dead body but neglect their life of faith to enter into their eternal home for their souls after death. We should not store treasure in the world but in heaven. Look at verse 4. "Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, `I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.'" He purchased the cave of Machpelah and the field around it for 400 shekels of silver. This became the burial place of the patriarchs--and the only piece of real estate which Abraham owned in the promised land. Abraham's faith did not depend on the tangible things in his hand. He trusted God and believed God's promises throughout his lifetime.

PART II. A WIFE FOR ISAAC (24:1-56)

Look at verse 1. "Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way possible." After the death of Sarah, Abraham was praying about a wife for Isaac. Like Abraham these days most senior missionaries are praying about marriages of their children. The spiritual legacy of Abraham must be preserved through Isaac. What was the number one criteria Abraham placed in finding Isaac*s wife? Was he looking for a winner of the Miss Canaan beauty contest to be Isaac*s wife? Was he looking for a career woman or a slim woman to be Isaac*s wife? No. His number one priority to be Isaac*s wife was faith. Let*s learn several spiritual lessons from Abraham and his servant about marriage in God.

First, Abraham*s faith that God will provide a wife for his son (1-9)

Look at verses 2-4. "He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, *Put your hand under my thigh.* (The way in which men made solemn promises to one another in those days) 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 among 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.*" Abraham called his chief servant, the man in charge of all that he had, and commissioned him to find a wife for Isaac. What was the main point in his charge for finding Isaac*s wife? He emphasized not to consider the daughters of the Canaanite to be a wife for Isaac. It makes more sense to find Isaac*s wife among local women because Abraham could choose the best qualified woman to be Isaac*s wife. Seeing is believing. He must have seen many attractive and wealthy women who might make good marriage candidates for Isaac. Isaac was a 37-year old handsome and eligible bachelor. There was no problem to find his wife among local women. But Abraham excluded the daughters of the Canaanite to be a wife for Isaac. Why? The Canaanite did not know God and they could not inherit the covenant of God. If Isaac married the Canaanite woman, he might have lost his identity as the covenant son. In Noah*s time the sons of God married the daughters of men due to their outward beauty. Then God*s people lost their identity and became flesh and invited the flood judgment. Deut. 7:3 says, "Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons." Samson in times of the Judges was a man of great strength and courage. (Judges 15-16) But he fell in love with a Gentile woman named Delilah. This union with the unbelieving woman brought Samson*s spiritual downfall when he revealed his secret to her. 2 Cor. 6:14 says, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers...." That*s the reason why Abraham refused to take the Canaanite woman to be Isaac*s wife. To God*s people marriage standard cannot be compromised. If Christian men and women cannot find their marriage candidates, they have to wait the right person until God provides in God*s time patiently. They should not seek a quick compromised solution which will end in divorce.

It is natural for sinful man not to think about a girl's inner beauty comes from faith, but to only look at her outward physical appearance when choosing a girl to marry. When a man chooses his wife because he is drawn by her outward appearance, he may try to satisfy his physical desire through his marriage and later he may find hardship to live by faith. One man married a foxy woman and later tried to make her into a woman of faith. But she subdued him to become a man of flesh like the men of Noah*s time. Do not try to convert unbelieving woman after marriage. It does not work. If a man marries a worldly woman, in most cases he will become a worldly man because man mostly listens to his wife after marriage like Adam and Abraham. Marriage is the measure of a man; it is the barometer of faith.

Abraham's decision to send his servant back to his far-distant home country to find a wife for Isaac, instead of introducing him to one of the near-by Canaanite girls seemed complicated and difficult and unrealistic. Abraham's servant was a thoughtful man who knew how to get things done. He immediately put his finger on the hardest part of Abraham's commission. "What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?" There were no pictures or Web pages at that time. Abraham*s servant thought his mission might be easier if he took Isaac in his journey. But Abraham did not bend his condition. The woman must have enough faith to come without seeing Isaac. This was his screening tool. How could such a woman be found? It seemed like "mission impossible." If the woman refused to come, then the servant would be released from his promise. He was not to take Isaac to that land. Abraham promised, "The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father's household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised to me on oath, saying,'To your offspring I will give this land--he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there." Abraham experienced God*s provision in everything. Why exclude this one? He had faith in God not in his servant. Abraham promised his servant that he would not be alone. God's angel would accompany him and give him success. Abraham*s decision not to send Isaac back to his own country was based on his faith that the Lord would provide Isaac*s wife as God provided a lamb for him before.

Second, Abraham*s servant, a faithful and prayerful man of mission (9-56)

Abraham's servant accepted the mission Abraham gave him. He made a vow to take responsibility for this task. As soon as he accepted this important mission, he began to prepare everything throughly. Preparation is important to have a successful mission. If prepared well, half of the mission would be done. His preparation was based on the success of the mission. So he took ten camels and loaded them with all kinds of good things and went to Padan Aram, to the town of Nahor. Look at his mission strategy. He did not go to the shopping mall or the local swimming pool. He went to the place where he would be most likely to meet the right girl--the village well. This well might be the same well where Jacob met his sweet heart Rachel. We need a right strategy to meet students on campus in our fishing mission. Abraham*s servant had made all the necessary human and material preparations with great thoroughness. But he did not depend on his human preparation nor did he depend on his wisdom and experience. He depended on God for his successful mission. He began his mission with prayer. A man of mission must be a man of prayer. Look at verses 12-14. He asked the God of Abraham to grant him success in his journey. Then he set a very improbable condition which the woman God had chosen for Isaac must meet. She must willingly volunteer to water his 10 thirsty camels! According to his prayer, he saw that God answered all of Abraham*s prayer. This means that he knew God of Abraham very personally. He knew how much God blessed Abraham. That*s reason why he prayed first for his success. He did not pray abstractly but prayed specifically. What kind of woman was he looking for? He was looking for a caring woman with love and compassion. He was looking for a diligent and hardworking woman willing to fetch enough water for ten camels.

What happened to his prayer? Look at verse 15. "Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham*s bother Nahor.." Before he had finished praying, a beautiful young girl balancing a jar on her shoulder came to the well. God was leading his mission journey step by step. Look at verses 16-20. When he asked her for a drink of water, she did not say, "Who are you old man? I am busy and you draw yourself with your own hands. Then get out of here." Rather, she said with a big smile, "Drink, my lord." She graciously drew water for him. She was quick in her action. After that, she said, "I*ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking." Wow! What a compassionate woman she was! Watering dumb not one or two but ten camels were not an easy task at all. More than anything else, she volunteered to do so. Where can we find a woman such as Rebekah today? Abraham's servant was speechless. He just stood there, carefully watching her (21). Perhaps he was transfixed by her graciousness and beauty. Even more than this, he was overcome by the fact that God is alive and God had heard and blessed his prayer. He realized that the event was developing right in front of his eyes just as he had prayed.

But he did not claim his success right away saying, "I found the right girl for Isaac. You are the right girl I was looking for. I was right. How smart I am!" Abraham's servant was not quick to conclude his success. Look at verse 21. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful." He waited on God. He had to be sure that this was really God's leading and not just his own wishful thinking. After Rebekah had finished watering the camels, he gave her a gift to show his appreciation and asked her about her family. When he learned that she was Abraham's great neice, he bowed his head and worshiped God. He said, "Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives." Instead of celebrating his own success, he first praised God for blessing his master Abraham. Thankfulness is the first step we acknowledge God*s leading in our life. When he obeyed by faith and prayed by faith, God blessed his prayer. His prayer also reveals his faithfulness to Abraham. Abraham loved and feared God. So he planted in his servant this same awesome respect for God. Abraham's servant believed the God of Abraham. He served Abraham as though he were serving God.

What was his attitude when his mission seemed to be a great success? Look at verse 33. "Then food was set before him, but he said, *I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say." Abraham's servant must have been tired and hungry after his long journey almost several hundred miles of traveling with donkeys. He was led to Rebekah's house and there received generous hospitality. But when the abundant feast was placed before him, he refused to eat. He said, "I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say." His stomach was making a strange sound and his men looked hungry and the food smelled enticing. When I am hungry, I only think about food. Everything looks like food. But he regarded his mission more important than his hungry stomach. He decided not to eat until he got their answer. Laban could not but let him speak. The old servant began to share a mini life testimony and told everything that had happened. He focused on how God had answered his prayers and led him each step of the way. As he told his long story, the food got cold, but he didn't care. This servant was an old man, but he was so intent on carrying out his mission that he forgot about being tired and hungry. Even a young man, if he has no sense of mission, cannot overcome his own physical desires. If he is tired and hungry, he only thinks about eating and sleeping.

We can learn from Abraham's servant that mission must be regarded as more precious than eating. Ordinarily, people work hard to make money and eat well. Eating is one of man*s sources of happiness. It is easy to regard eating more important than mission. But this old man did not think about himself. He believed in the God of Abraham, and he was willing to risk even his life in order to fulfill God's mission. Paul in the New Testament was such a man. He said in Acts 20:24, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me..." Originally, God created man for mission. He entrusted the stewardship of the earth to mankind (Ge 1:28). He created each of us for a purpose and has a mission for each of us (Eph 2:10). If a man is not faithul to the mission God has given him, he only thinks about pleasing his stomach. This man was faithful to Abraham to the end. This servant's faithfulness to Abraham was in reality faithfulness to God.

Abraham's servant pushed Laban and Bethuel to make a clear decision. The servant said, "...the Lord, the God of my master Abraham...led me...to get the granddaughter of my master's brother for his son. Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn." Laban and Betheul listened to the servant's account and were moved. They realized that God had indeed chosen Rebekah to be Isaac's wife. But just knowing God's will without any decision of faith is worth nothing. They said, "This is from the Lord; What can we say? Here is Rebekah. Take her and go." They respected the will of God in this marriage. Rebekah*s family was Godly family honoring the will of God in her life. Then they celebrated with a great feast.

Abraham's servant did not regard his mission as complete until he had actually escorted Rebekah back to Isaac in Canaan. He knew human nature well. People who make decisions of faith when they are thinking only about God and his will can have second thoughts when they began to calculate humanly. So the next morning Abraham's servant said, "Send me on my way to my master." Rebekah's family urged him to wait for ten days or so. They wanted to keep their lovely daughter for just a few days longer. It was a good chance for the old servant to take a short

vacation in the sun--after all, he had earned it. But he answered, "Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey." Send me on my way so that I may go to my master." He only thought about delivering this good news to Abraham. Nothing else was in his mind. He didn't even think about resting. He was free--he could have stayed, but he didn't. He only wanted to return quickly and finish his mission. Then he discovered that the final and most important matter had not been settled at all. No one had asked Rebekah yet. She was the one to make the final decision.

PART III. "I WILL GO" (24:57-67)

Rebekah was qualified in many ways to be the wife of the covenant son, Isaac. Verse 16a says, "The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her." She was pure and very beautiful. Purity is the most important virtue of a woman. These days many people think of virginity as a joke. But it is important for boys and girls to maintain purity before marriage. Rebekah was generous and broad minded and not afraid of hard work. She was not lazy but a hardworking and thoughtful woman. But her most important qualification was her faith. She had listened to the old man's long account of how God had led him to find a wife for Isaac. She realized that this was God's will. She had eyes to see how God was working and leading, and she had the courage to make a decision of faith to participate in God's great work of world salvation. Look at verses 57-58. So they called Rebekah and asked her, `Will you go with this man?' `I will go,* she said" She entrusted her life to God*s hand. She did not know how Isaac looked like. Did he look like the hunchback of Notre Dame? Did he look like Brad Pitt? She did not know Isaac. But she believed the promise of God. She was like Abraham who left his country and his father*s household and went to the promised land. She trusted God and left her home right away. She left everything behind. So she was willing to give her marriage to God. Surely a woman's marriage is most precious and personal to her. It is the content of her secret dreams. Most women will give everything else to God, but they reserve their marriage and their choice of a husband for themselves. Rebekah made a decision of faith to please God, not please herself in her marriage. People misunderstand marriage by faith these days. It simply means that our marriage standard must be based on faith in God. It means "marriage with Christians" These days many people use eharmony.com or matchmaker.com for finding their marriage candidates. How can we trust computer programs for finding a marriage candidate? We should trust God for our marriage not computers. Her family sent her off with this blessing: "Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies." (60) So God blessed her and used her to establish, with Isaac, God's covenant family. When M. Wynelle Nett was asked, "Will you go with this man Walter?" She said, "yes." God blessed her to become a source of blessing and a mother of faith for many German students. When Faith Sambuco gave her marriage to God, God blessed her to become a mother of faith for Baltimore UBF.

Rebekah went with Abraham's servant to Canaan. When she saw a young man in the distance, and found that he was Isaac, she quickly took her veil and covered herself (65). She was quick and active, but at the same time, she kept her womanly position. Isaac's mother had died. He was her only son, and he had received much love from her. He grieved for his mother. He needed a wife who could also give him a mother's love. God found such a woman. The servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah, and she became his wife. He loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. When she married by faith, romance followed her. Faith and romance, which one comes first? Faith first and romance follows.

In conclusion, today we cannot follow Abraham*s way of finding a wife for Isaac because we live in the Internet age. We can see pictures of our marriage candidate though we are far away from each other. But we can apply the same principle. God must be the master of our marriage. Man and woman of faith must seek the will of God in finding their marriage partner with much prayer. I pray that we may learn faithfulness in our mission life from Abraham*s servant and regard our mission more important than food and rest. May God bless us to be faithful servant of God for Jesus. May God raise many woman of faith like Rebekah. Let*s read the key verse 58.