I saw a bumper sticker once that read, “Help Lower the Divorce Rate: Stay Single!”
We all know that 50% of all marriages end in divorce and that the divorce rate among Christians is almost identical to that of non-Christians. Why is that?
One reason is that people fail to understand or believe what God’s Word teaches about divorce. Besides adultery and desertion, God’s Word clearly says that we should not divorce and remarry. But I think another reason for the high divorce rate is a failure to understand God’s principles for choosing a mate or, for that matter, making wise decisions at all.
Genesis 24 helps us discover some principles for finding the perfect mate for your child in the life of Abraham.
Now that the promised son, Isaac, has been born, Abraham begins to think about his legacy and the fulfillment of God’s promise that an entire nation would be created through Isaac. But if God’s promise of a great nation is to be fulfilled, then Abraham’s son Isaac must have a child. And if he is going to have a child, he first must have a wife. Thus, Genesis 24, the longest chapter in Genesis, relates how Abraham secured a bride for his son Isaac.
Except for the story of the flood, this story commands the greatest amount of space of any event in Genesis: more than creation, the fall, the tower of Babel, or any other event. Why?
First, God is intently interested in the marriages of His children. Sociologists have written about the growing apathy Generation X’ers feel toward the institution of marriage. Given the high divorce rate, why not just live together? And that is what many are doing. In the early 1980s, 39% of women under 44 said they had lived with someone before marriage. Today that number is 70%. By the way, studies show that couples who live together before marriage are much more prone to divorce later.
Although marriage is not held in high esteem today, God considers our mate choice extremely important. In Matthew 19, God has uniquely designed our mates for us and orchestrates every relationship. Our selection of a mate impacts our lives and the lives of generations to come.
If you are single, this chapter has obvious applications. But if you are already married and may wonder what relevance this passage has for you. Remember Deuteronomy 6? We saw that as parents, we are responsible for teaching our children the principles of God’s Word. As a parent or grandparent, you can and should help guide your child or grandchild in following the principles of this chapter in selecting a mate. That is one reason Genesis 24 is important. But this chapter also is significant because it gives us four key principles for making wise decisions about any issue in life.
1. The Story
- Abraham’s Charge to Eliezer (Genesis 24:1-9)
Verse one tells us that Abraham was old. He has just buried his wife Sarah, and as he contemplates the future, he calls in his trusted servant Eliezer and says he does not want his son to marry an unbeliever. He told Eliezer to go back to his home country and find someone there to be his bride. Over and over again in Scripture, we find this same principle. Believers are only to marry believers.
Key #1: Know God’s Principles
The first step in finding a mate or in making any decision is not prayer. It is a commitment to obey the principles that our Master has already given us in His word. And that is why it is so important that we know those principles. If we decide about our finances, career, or our children, we must know what God’s will says about those subjects.
That is why here in our church, we have these words as a part of our purpose statement: “To mature believers into obedient and reproducing disciples of Christ.” Our purpose is not just to win people to Christ but to help them know the principles of God’s Word.
(After Eliezer has made that commitment, he begins his 500-mile journey across the desert back to Mesopotamia).
Key #2: Engage in Prayer
Eliezer, faced with numerous choices, prays the first recorded prayer in the Bible (outside of Abraham’s conversation with God about Sodom).
Where did Eliezer learn to pray and trust God? He learned by observing the prayer life of his master Abraham. Don’t underestimate your faith’s impact on those around you, including those with whom you work. Eliezer asked that God would reveal to Him the one that he appointed. Over and over again, God promises to give us direction if we ask Him.
Key #3: Exercise Practicality
At first glance, it seems as if Eliezer is asking for a sign. Is it wise to use signs in determining God’s will? What does the Bible say about using signs to determine God’s will?
- God does not respect those who seek signs. Matthew 12:39: Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign.”
- Signs are a poor way to determine God’s will. Why? Because the sign is chosen by the person making the decision. And the sign can range from the improbable “If a tornado strikes Dallas tomorrow, I will sell my house” to 50-50: “Heads I sell, tails I don’t.”
- Signs can be wisdom in disguise. For example, say you have a used car you are trying to sell, the book value is $3000, and you say, “If someone offers me $3100 for my car, I will sell it.” That is not a sign; it is wisdom in disguise.
So, Eliezer asked for a sign that was really wisdom in disguise. He says the woman who offers him a drink and offers to go the second mile and water his camels is suited for the task.
Isn’t that just like us? We search the Scriptures, we pray, we ask for a sign, and when it comes, we say, “I wonder if this is God’s will or not?” But finally, Eliezer realizes what God has done and thanks God. So, Eliezer took Rebekah back to Mesopotamia, and she and Isaac lived happily ever after. Right? Not so fast.
- The Parents Respond (Genesis 24:28-53)
Eliezer must seek the permission of Rebekah’s parents. Imagine a man knocking on your door saying, “I have been sent to your country to find a wife for my boss’s son.”
But after Eliezer relates to Rebekah’s parents how God has led him through this whole process, everyone seems convinced except mom. Like any mom, she says in verse 55, “At least let her stay with us for ten more days since we will never see her again.” But Eliezer says God has spoken. We must obey immediately.
(Eliezer was ready to return right then, but one final step needed to be taken: Rebekah had to agree to go).
- Rebekah Responds (Genesis 24:54-67)
In trying to find a mate for Isaac, Eliezer had followed his master’s principles: he had engaged in prayer, and he had exercised practicality. He had done everything he knew to do, but ultimately it was Rebekah’s choice.
KEY #4: Trust in God’s Providence
Faith is not the hope that God will do what you want Him to do. It is the assurance that God will do what He wants to do in His time.
Eliezer had that kind of faith. Rebekah responded in verse 58 that she would go. After that 500-mile journey by camel over the desert, look at how the story ends. Verse 63 says that Isaac is out in the field anxiously awaiting the bride that Eliezer will bring.
(We could end the story here and have learned four important principles about making wise decisions, but we would miss one important element of this story: the picture it portrays).
Abraham, Isaac, Eliezer, and Rebekah were real people, but Hebrews 11:19 tells us that Isaac was a type, a picture, a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. And it is easy to see the picture in this story.
2. The Picture
- Abraham is a type of God the Father. He is seeking a bride for his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Isaac is a type of Jesus Christ. He is waiting in that distant land for the arrival of his bride.
- Eliezer is a type of the Holy Spirit. He is sent by the Father to secure a bride for his son. He does not draw attention to himself but to his master.
- Rebekah is a type of the Church. It is made up of individual believers. Although the Holy Spirit has chosen us, we can choose whether or not to respond. Just as Rebekah had to say, “I will,” we must also respond to the Spirit’s invitation.
And once we say yes, we begin that journey home to meet the groom.
Just as it was Eliezer’s responsibility to ensure the safe arrival of the bride to the groom, the Holy Spirit guarantees that we are sealed and secured until we arrive in heaven.
Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Full Passage: Genesis 24