Genesis 24 presents Abraham as advanced in age. His life had been full, the Lord had blessed him in every way, yet Abraham had an unfulfilled responsibility. Isaac needed a bride. We aren’t told why this important arrangement had fallen off the family radar, but for Abraham to become the father of a multitude as his name implies, Isaac must wed and have children.
Abraham recognized the powerful influence a wife can exert on her husband and determined that Isaac needed a bride from among Abraham’s relatives back in Mesopotamia. Alas, the patriarch was too old to make the trip so how could the marriage arrangements be negotiated?
Abraham tasked his oldest servant to return to the homeland to secure a wife for Isaac. We aren’t given the servant’s name, but Bible scholars identify Eliezer as the most likely candidate. Genesis 15:2 states that before Isaac was born, Eliezer was the likely heir to the family fortune. Eliezer had risen to become Abraham’s right hand man, and he enjoyed a great deal of latitude managing the business. Eliezer in fact chose the goods to take on the wife-shopping journey (Genesis 24:10).
The assignment to choose a bride for Isaac shows the level of confidence Abraham had in his servant. As he had on so many previous tasks, Eliezer wanted to impress Abraham with a job well done.
Eliezer departed for Mesopotamia with a caravan of treasure. He had time to think as the camels swayed. How would he find the specific city, the correct family and the perfect girl? What betrothal details would be needed to convince her father to allow her to leave with a stranger? And if the mission proved successful, would Isaac be happy with the choice?
Most decision points are ripe with questions. Those questions help us recognize our need for advice, counsel, and wisdom from outside our personal collection.
Eliezer arrived in the town of Nahor and rested beside the town well. His was a strategic move because in that culture unattached maidens often visited the well to socialize with peers. Eliezer used his head and took up a position in the place where available ladies might pass by, but the choice of Isaac’s bride was beyond his decision-making capabilities. He needed help. Who better to ask than the God of Abraham?
Eliezer turned to God.
Often we find ourselves making choice after choice, digging the pit deeper and deeper, before we consider asking God for His help. Eliezer began with God. Read his prayer closely and pay attention to the evidences of his faith (Genesis 24:12-14).
- He recognized the Lord as Abraham’s one God.
- He drew on Abraham’s relationship with God as the basis for the request for help.
- He asked for a successful mission with confidence that God would answer.
- He acknowledged that finding the right bride for Isaac would be a demonstration of God’s loving-kindness for Abraham.
- He asked God to make the choice of bride crystal clear through a specific set of circumstances.
Eliezer recognized the hardships of nomadic life. Isaac needed a bride with a positive spirit who might work alongside Isaac in the face of adversity. How does one identify such a woman in short order? This wise and experienced man had an idea.
He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘’Drink, and I will water your camels also’—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.” Genesis 24:12-14 NASB
The camel count in Eliezer’s caravan was ten, and a thirsty camel might drink 30 gallons of water in a short time. The prospective bride would be offering to tote 300 gallons of water from the well to water the camels. At 8.3 pounds per gallon, the lady would be moving over a ton of water (2490 pounds) one jar at a time! Her actions would go above and beyond the demands of hospitality and would reflect both her kindness and her serving heart. Eliezer asked God for direction that could not be misinterpreted.
Is Eliezer giving us the pattern to follow in finding God’s will? Should we make such requests of God? Is it good practice to pray along the lines of “Lord, if the stoplight at the next corner is green then I will know that I should marry Sally because her eyes are green”?
Eliezer walked by faith even though he did not possess a completed copy of God’s Word and was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He had a genuine desire to please God and to please God’s servant, Abraham. Throughout the account, even before the arrangements were completed, Eliezer praised God for the answer. It is in the context of complete dependence on and confidence in God that Eliezer offered his by-faith request.
The story of Gideon (Judges 6-7) portrays a man who used a fleece in confirming his next steps. Gideon’s situation holds striking differences from Eliezer’s. Follow this link—What about fleeces?—for more information. That link will also reveal a free e-book offer from BibleBuildingBlocks.
Before Eliezer said “Amen”, Rebekah walked by. Something about the way she carried herself impressed Eliezer. The Bible states that she was very beautiful, and should not Abraham’s trusted servant seek out the best for Isaac, the boss’s son? Eliezer approached her, asked for a drink, and Rebekah returned the response Eliezer waited to hear. He was overjoyed. Had he found Isaac’s bride? Rebekah seemed a good choice, but Eliezer had more work to do.
Eliezer waited for God.
When we deliberate over choices we often pause, toss out a quickie prayer, and then jump back into decision-making mode. Do we not owe God the courtesy of waiting for Him to act after we’ve asked His help?
Waiting is hard work. God’s time schedule and ours may not mesh.
We’re usually in a rush, looking for resolution by a certain time, and when He delays his response panic arises. Have we considered that there may be circumstances He is orchestrating? Perhaps there’s a character trait He desires to hone inside us or a flaw He plans to dissolve away. We don’t always understand God’s purposes as Isaiah explains.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 NASB
As Rebekah hurried to draw water for the camels, Eliezer waited in silence (Genesis 24:21) to know if she was the answer to his prayer. He sensed God was at work, Rebekah gave the right answers, but Eliezer waited for God to confirm the matter.
While we wait for God’s direction we must avoid three actions.
- Don’t assume – Assuming requires no proof. We make a wild guess produced by our internal musings and off we go. We’ve convinced ourselves we know the answer though no data supports the position.
- Don’t presume – We gather tidbits of evidence then make an authoritative interpretation. For Eliezer the action of presuming might have followed this path – “I’m in Nahor. Isaac needs a wife. Rebekah’s a girl. She must be the one.”
- Don’t resume – When God delays His answer we may wrestle with anxiety. We may be tempted to charge ahead under our own steam. God loves to answer prayer, and He is honored when we seek His input. Proverbs 3:5-6 are well-used verses but believers are not close to wearing them out. Claim them for yourself and rest in the confidence that God hears our prayers.
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 make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
What should we do while we wait? Eliezer demonstrates the best course.
Eliezer worshipped God.
Eliezer praised God before the business was completed. Giving God thanks and praising His name before a matter is resolved takes faith. Eliezer blessed God and gave him credit for the needed guidance. He was certain God would bring the matter to closure (Genesis 24:27 and 48).
What does confident worship look like?
Genesis 24:27 (King James) “… I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren…”
Genesis 24:27 (Amplified) “…As for me, going on the way of obedience and faith the Lord led me to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”
Genesis 24:27 (The Message) “…You led me right to the door of my master’s brother!”
We often reach decision points in life where we need help. We should approach God for direction. We must wait for Him to act, and in the meantime, we need to praise Him for the completed transaction even though we aren’t sure how He will work.
Eliezer operated with confident belief in God’s power and expectantly asked for His guidance.
And by the way, Isaac loved his bride.