Genesis 24 - Do You Seek the Lord's Guidance?
Do You Seek the Lord's Guidance?
Lesson Passage Outline
- Identify Your Tasks (Gen. 24:34-41)
- Rely on the Lord (Gen. 24:42-44)
- Praise the Lord (Gen. 24:45-48)
People are to seek the Lord's guidance as they carry out life's tasks.
To help you seek the Lord's guidance
Teachers sometimes joke about grading papers by throwing them down a flight of stairs. The heavier papers, supposedly the longer ones with the most research, fly farther down the stairs and earn an "A." The lighter papers, apparently the shorter ones with little research and thought, do not fly as far and thus earn a "D."
Although I have never done this and do not know anyone who has, I sometimes have made other decisions with about as little thought. Our decisions need to be made with careful thought and most importantly with God's guidance. We especially need God's guidance at significant points in our lives.
How have you involved God in your decision making?
This lesson will challenge individuals like Sean and Elise. They do not want to bother God but need to understand God wants to be part of their decision making. The lesson also will help people like Evan—who is not certain how to involve God in making decisions—discover ways to find God's guidance. Likewise, this lesson will encourage adults like Kaitlin—who turns to God for help in making decisions even when her friends tease her for not being self-reliant—continue to seek and follow God's guidance.
As you study about the servant of Abraham seeking God's guidance in finding a wife for Isaac, focus on ways you can encourage adult learners to experience the Life Impact of the lesson by seeking the Lord's guidance. As you continue your personal Bible study, prayerfully read the Background Passage and respond to the Study Questions as well as to the questions in the margins for the February 17 lesson in Explore the Bible: Adult Learner Guide.
The Bible in Context (Gen. 24:1-67)
Realizing he was getting old, Abraham planned for Isaac's future. Determined that Isaac would not marry a Canaanite woman, Abraham summoned a servant, perhaps Eliezer, and sent him to Abraham's old homeland to find a wife for Isaac from among his relatives. The servant asked what to do if the woman refused to come to Canaan. Abraham told the servant that God's angel would help him accomplish his task and instructed him never to allow Isaac to move to the old homeland. The servant journeyed to the town of Abraham's brother Nahor, arriving just as some women came to draw water (Gen. 24:1-11).
The servant prayed for God to help him find the one He had chosen to marry Isaac. While the servant still prayed, he looked up to see Rebekah, Nahor's granddaughter. When the servant asked Rebekah for a drink, she responded just as he had prayed God would lead the right woman to respond. After discovering Rebekah's ancestry, the servant worshiped God, thanking Him for answering his prayer (24:12-27).
Rebekah ran home to tell her family what had happened. When her brother Laban saw the gifts the servant had given her, he ran to invite the servant to stay with them. Before they ate together, the servant told his story. He described Abraham's wealth, Abraham's son Isaac, and his own assignment to find a wife for Isaac. The servant then told how God had answered his prayer through Rebekah and asked the family if they would allow Rebekah to marry Isaac (24:28-49).
Both Laban and Rebekah's father Bethuel realized God had selected Rebekah to marry Isaac and granted their permission. The servant worshiped God in thanksgiving and gave gifts to Rebekah and her family. Rebekah's family wanted her to stay with them longer, but the servant insisted he and Rebekah leave immediately. When Rebekah agreed, her family blessed her and sent her with the servant. The servant's task and God's plan came to a successful conclusion when Rebekah arrived in Canaan and married Isaac (24:50-67).
Identify Your Tasks (Gen. 24:34-41)
34 "I am Abraham's servant," he said. 35 "The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become rich. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys. 36 Sarah, my master's wife, bore a son to my master in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 My master put me under this oath: 'You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live 38 but will go to my father's household and to my family to take a wife for my son.' 39 But I said to my master, 'Suppose the woman will not come back with me?' 40 He said to me, 'The Lord before whom I have walked will send His angel with you and make your journey a success, and you will take a wife for my son from my family and from my father's household. 41 Then you will be free from my oath if you go to my family and they do not give [her] to you—you will be free from my oath.'
Verse 34. After receiving Abraham's instructions on finding a wife for Isaac, the servant immediately left. [See Exploration: "Marriage Customs in the Old Testament," p. 134.] When he arrived in Abraham's home country, he requested a sign from God to identify the woman He had chosen for Isaac. When Rebekah [reh BEK uh] responded as the servant had requested, he knew God had answered his prayers. Rebekah's brother Laban invited the servant to stay with the family.
Before eating with the family, Abraham's servant, perhaps Eliezer, insisted on telling Rebekah and her family why he had come. He identified himself as Abraham's servant and indicated the gifts his camels bore came not from him but from his master. The mention of Abraham also provided a connection to a respected family member who had left years before to follow God. The servant indicated Abraham still lived and that God had richly blessed him. The servant's words and gifts to Rebekah (24:22) had prepared the way for the request he would make.
Verse 35. The servant stated God had given Abraham great riches. He categorized Abraham's wealth in terms of domesticated animals, precious metals, servants, and animals used for transportation. The servant wanted to make Abraham's son and family as attractive to Rebekah and her family as possible.
Verse 36. Because Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham's brother while Isaac was Abraham's son, the servant had not immediately told the purpose of his visit. Mentioning that here might have raised concerns for Rebekah and Laban. They might not have understood that Isaac was the proper age for marriage to Rebekah.
The servant then explained the key point about Isaac's birth. Sarah had given birth to Isaac in her old age. Since the birth of a son to a woman past the normal time of conceiving further emphasized God's blessing, this detail still focused on Abraham and his blessings from God. More importantly for the servant's purpose, it meant Isaac was in the same age bracket as Rebekah. Thus if Rebekah agreed, she would not be marrying someone the age of her parents.
Isaac constituted Abraham's sole heir. Everything would come to him when his father died. Whoever became Isaac's wife would be well cared for and would enjoy the blessings of God. The servant portrayed Isaac as the ultimate catch!
Verse 37. Abraham's servant next emphasized Abraham's desire for Isaac not to marry a Canaanite woman. Marrying within one's extended family was common in this period (20:12; 29:16-18), since such marriages allowed the wealth to stay within the extended family and enabled the faith to be more easily and purely maintained. In part at least, Abraham did not want a Canaanite wife to share in God's material blessings and spread them to other unbelieving Canaanites.
Verse 38. Abraham wanted Isaac to marry someone from his father Terah's family line. Such a marriage not only would keep the wealth in the extended family, but it also would create a union between two people who shared a common tradition and faith. As Terah's great-granddaughter, Rebekah met Abraham's qualifications perfectly.
Verse 39. Seeing clearly what the servant desired of her, Rebekah may have become uneasy about leaving home to marry a man she had never seen and live in a land far from her home. Earlier, Abraham's servant had suggested the possibility that the woman would refuse to return with him (24:5).
While Rebekah certainly would have obeyed the wishes of her father to marry whomever he selected, the servant realized Rebekah needed to approve the decision. If she left her family and home reluctantly, purely out of obedience to her father, she might have a negative attitude that could affect her marriage. The servant wanted Rebekah to know Abraham had considered her feelings and wanted to honor them.
Some Bible students wonder why Abraham's servant even brought up the possibility that Rebekah might not return with him to marry Isaac. His comment could have jeopardized the success of his mission and given Rebekah an excuse for staying with her family. Abraham and his servant believed God would lead the servant to the woman whom He had selected. The servant did not plan to drag a woman to Isaac against her will. He planned to honor God's guidance and selection and the woman's choice.
Verse 40. Abraham had assured his servant God would send His angel before him to prepare the way so the woman He selected would be willing to leave her family and homeland and return with him (24:7). The servant told Rebekah and Laban of Abraham's faith in God's guidance and providence. As Abraham had trusted God throughout his life, so he trusted God to find a suitable wife for his son.
Rebekah's kinship with Isaac probably eased any fear she might have had about leaving home and entering the unknown. Since she and Isaac were related, Abraham and Isaac would care for her and honor her. She would be a treasured member of her new family.
The servant did not mention Abraham's insistence that Isaac never return to the old homeland. If Rebekah or Laban had raised the possibility of Isaac moving to their homeland with all his wealth, the servant would have discouraged such an idea. He likely would have informed them of God's promises to Abraham and Abraham's and his descendants' commitment to God to find the fulfillment of His promises in the promised land and not in the old homeland.
Verse 41. Abraham had told his servant that if the woman refused to return with him, he would be free of his oath to find a wife for Isaac from Abraham's relatives. The servant restated Abraham's words, repeating twice that her refusal to accompany him would relieve him of the oath he swore to Abraham.
The servant had reported clearly on the status of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. He had stated the mission Abraham had assigned him. He had not pressured Rebekah, Laban, or their father to force Rebekah to return with him. Instead, he had shown respect for her and for their decision. Whether Rebekah agreed or refused, the servant had faithfully obeyed his master. Rebekah would need to take the next step.
And Today. As we go through the stages of life, we need to understand our choices and seek God's guidance in making decisions and performing life tasks.
Marriages today are sometimes based purely on physical attraction or shared interests rather than on God's guidance or even the desire to love and care for the other and pursue godly goals together throughout a lifelong commitment.
Sometimes individuals choose a vocation more for financial rewards or attractive work schedule than for the satisfaction and fulfillment of using their God-given gifts in a career that can bless and serve others. Sometimes people make decisions regarding caring for the severely or chronically ill more for the convenience of the healthy individual than the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the sick individual.
Changes in our family status, work status, and health necessitate careful research into options; consultation with trusted, godly advisors; and commitment to following God's guidance through studying the Bible and listening to Him in prayer. Careful and thorough preparation and openness to God's direction help us identify and complete the tasks we need to perform.
How do you prepare to make major decisions in life?
Rely on the Lord (Gen. 24:42-44)
42 "Today when I came to the spring, I prayed: Lord, God of my master Abraham, if only You will make my journey successful! 43 I am standing here at a spring. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, and I say to her: Please let me drink a little water from your jug, 44 and who responds to me, 'Drink, and I'll draw water for your camels also'—let her be the woman the Lord has appointed for my master's son.
Verse 42. Clearly Abraham had shared his faith and trust in God with his household, and his servant had embraced his master's faith. The servant revealed that faith when he told of arriving outside the town where Abraham's brother Nahor [NAY hawr] lived: he had prayed that God would make his mission successful. Knowing how God had guided and blessed Abraham, the servant knew God would continue to be faithful to Abraham and find a suitable wife for Isaac.
And Today. When faced with decisions, we do not always respond as Abraham's servant. We want to make good decisions but sometimes fail to seek and rely on God's guidance. Too often we base our decisions solely on finances, personal desires, and the advice of others and then pray asking God to bless the path we have chosen.
While prayer needs to be a regular part of our daily life, prayer is critically important in the process of making decisions. Not involving God in our decision making does not mean we will make bad or wrong choices. We may still make good choices, but we are less likely to make the best choices we could have made with God's guidance.
Most of us as believers do not desire to choose evil, we simply fail to choose the best God desires for us. Conversation with God allows Him to help us sort through our ideas and feelings and make the best decision that allows us to serve Him effectively.
How do you use prayer in making your decisions?
Verse 43. As Abraham's servant stood at the spring outside the city, he had asked God to lead him to the woman He had selected to be Isaac's wife. Young women often came to springs or wells to draw water for the household's needs (1 Sam. 9:11), for travelers (John 4:7), and for animals (Gen. 29:7-10). The spring provided a good location for the servant to encounter a potential wife for Isaac. Although God surely had planned to provide a virgin bride for Isaac, the servant emphasized the need for such a woman for his beloved master's son.
The servant asked God to allow the woman He had selected to behave in a specific way. When a woman came to draw water, the servant would ask her for a drink. Since travelers often stopped at springs for water, requesting a drink from someone drawing water probably would not have constituted an unusual request.
Verse 44. While a request for a drink might not be unusual, the servant asked God to lead the woman He had chosen to make an unusually hospitable response. As a clear sign to indicate the right woman, the servant requested that she respond by adding she also would provide water for his camels. Such an action would identify God's choice, and it also would indicate the woman's character.
The servant was not testing God by demanding a sign but asking God to help him make the right decision. Abraham's servant had identified his task, developed a plan to enable him to accomplish his task, and sought God's guidance throughout the entire process. His prayer indicated he relied on God to accomplish his task.
Praise the Lord (Gen. 24:45-48)
45 "Before I had finished praying in my heart, there was Rebekah coming with her jug on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. So I said to her: Please let me have a drink. 46 She quickly lowered her jug from her [shoulder] and said, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels also.' So I drank, and she also watered the camels. 47 Then I asked her: Whose daughter are you? She responded, 'The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to him.' So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48 Then I bowed down, worshiped the Lord, and praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who guided me on the right way to take the daughter of my master's brother for his son.
Verse 45. While Abraham's servant was still praying, Rebekah had come to the spring balancing her water jug on her shoulder. After she filled her jug with water and turned to leave, the servant approached her and asked for a drink.
Verse 46. Rebekah had responded exactly as Abraham's servant requested. She lowered the water jug from her shoulder, told the servant to drink, and offered to water his camels as well. God had answered the servant's prayer exactly as he had requested. The servant then knew Rebekah was God's choice for Isaac.
And Today. God sometimes answers prayers exactly as we ask, just as He did for Abraham's servant. At other times God answers in unexpected ways. We need to listen carefully for His voice and look for His guidance in quiet ways as well as dramatic ways.
Verse 47. After Rebekah watered the servant's camels, the servant immediately had given her a gold ring and two gold bracelets and then asked from what family she came (Gen. 24:22-23). The servant reported these events to Rebekah's family because he realized Laban might not share his trust in God. Laban might have seen the giving of lavish gifts to a young, unmarried girl as inappropriate if the giver did not know the girl or her family. The servant wanted Laban to know neither he nor his master gave gifts indiscriminately. When Rebekah responded as the servant had prayed, he knew she came from the right family.
God had led Abraham's servant to exactly the right young woman. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel [beh THYOO uhl], the son of Abraham's brother Nahor by his wife Milcah [MIL kuh]. Rejoicing that he had found the right woman, the servant placed a gold ring on her nose and two bracelets on her wrists. The gifts could have been understood simply as gifts from her great uncle Abraham to his great niece or as gifts indicating Abraham's intent to provide a fitting dowry for his prospective daughter-in-law and her family.
Verse 48. Abraham's servant then had bowed down in joyous worship and praise, thanking God for leading him to the right woman for Isaac. The servant recognized God's guidance throughout his entire journey, not just in the incident at the spring. As God had been faithful to Abraham through the years, so here God had proven faithful to Abraham's servant. The servant realized the only appropriate response to God's faithfulness is worship and praise.
And Today. We like to celebrate! We have birthday parties to celebrate the gift of another year with one we love. We have bridal showers to help a young couple start out in life. We have baby showers to celebrate the excitement of God's gift of new life. We also celebrate transitions in life with parties for those turning fifty or sixty or for those retiring from a long career.
At special times, we also need to celebrate God's guidance and help as we perform life's tasks. God's strength brings us through difficult times and His love and grace enable us to find joy and fulfillment in life. Let us remember to include praise to God in our celebrations.
How can you praise God for his guidance and help?
Biblical Truths for Spiritual Transformation
- Inasmuch as possible, we are to strive to understand all that is involved in performing particular life tasks for which we need to seek God's guidance.
- We can prayerfully rely on the Lord to enable us to carry out life's tasks.
- We can praise the Lord for guiding us in carrying out life's tasks.
How will you seek God's guidance in the future?
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Copyright 2007, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee 37234